Click to view image: '0836f41ec81f-41651_logo.jpg'MONTGOMERY | On Tuesday, Virginia authorities are scheduled to execute the mastermind of sniper attacks that terrorized the Washington, D.C., area in October 2002.
John Allen Muhammad, 48, was sentenced to die by injection for the murder of civil engineer Dean Meyers, 53, who was shot in the head while filling up at a Manassas, Va., gas station on Oct. 9, 2002. Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, killed nine other people and wounded three during the three-week rampage in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
But they are also suspects in the shooting of two employees at a state-run liquor store in Montgomery that preceded the D.C.-area attacks.
Muhammad and Malvo were indicted on capital murder and attempted murder charges in the shooting death of Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board employee Claudine Parker in an attack that also wounded employee Kellie
Adams on Sept. 21, 2002.
The Montgomery shootings occurred as Parker and Adams were closing their ABC store on a street just off Interstate 85. A month later, based on evidence from the Montgomery case, authorities identified Muhammad and Malvo, then 17, as suspects. They were arrested on Oct. 24, 2002, while sleeping in a car at a Maryland rest stop.
The crucial break in the sniper case occurred when Malvo’s fingerprints were lifted from a firearms publication found near the Montgomery ABC store. A police officer who chased a suspect from the shooting scene later picked Muhammad out of a lineup, authorities said. Police said a second suspect fled in a different direction.
Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks said this week that the charges against Muhammad and Malvo are still in effect should either man somehow win release in Virginia. Muhammad and Malvo are linked to several other shooting deaths in 2002 in Washington state, Arizona, Georgia and Louisiana.
The decision was made to try Muhammad first in Virginia, which has a strong death penalty law, Brooks said. Muhammad and Malvo were both convicted, but because Malvo was a juvenile at the time, he is not subject to the death penalty.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Bright,
D-Ala., was Montgomery’s mayor at the time of the crime.
“Without question, justice is being served to John Allen Muhammad,” Bright said in a statement. “Though nothing can bring back those who lost their lives over seven years ago, I hope next week’s scheduled execution will bring some closure to the families of the victims of those heinous acts.”
Requests for interviews were left with the Adams and Parker families. Montgomery police officials said they will wait until after Muhammad’s execution before commenting.
“The key to this is to get this over for all families,” Brooks said.
Although authorities first believed Malvo shot and wounded Adams and then killed Parker, Muhammad became the target after a police officer who chased him on foot picked him from a photo lineup, police said.
Montgomery police officers on a normal afternoon patrol near the liquor store heard gunshots, drove into the parking lot, and saw a black male going through a purse while two women lay wounded on the sidewalk.
The two women were shot at point-blank range as they were closing the liquor store for the night, police said.
Officer Dwight Johnson began chasing a suspect but lost him a quarter of a mile away when a blue car accidentally or purposely interfered in the chase, then-Montgomery police Chief John Wilson said.
Wilson said “we know that now” the fleeing suspect was Muhammad.
A second person near the scene was spotted running in a different direction and Wilson believed it was Malvo.
Someone apparently dropped the firearms publication near the scene, Wilson said. Malvo’s fingerprints led authorities to Washington state and a link to Muhammad.
Malvo and Muhammad were caught in a blue, 1990 Chevrolet Caprice. It had a hole in the trunk lid that authorities suspected the shooter used as a portal to shoot at victims while remaining hidden.
Police speculated Muhammad and Malvo were financing their cross-country trip between Washington state, where they were from, and the nation’s capital by robbing stores near interstate highways.