In the fall of 2002, Washington DC and the surrounding areas were held in the grip of fear of the so-called Beltway Sniper.
As it turned at the area was under attack by not one but two serial killers who murdered people seemingly at random and left millions in fear. Their spree triggered one of the largest manhunts in American history, which eventually led to the capture of John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo.
The series of coordinated shootings occurred in a three-week period which left 10 people dead and 3 critically injured.
The crime spree started earlier in the year, in February, when the pair engaged in murders and robberies in various states across the US, resulting in seven deaths. In just ten months, the snipers killed 17 people and injured 10 others.
The killings all seemed like random acts of violence until recently, an even more terrifying motivation for the crimes came to light.
Once the killers were identified, the question on everyone’s mind was why would two individuals take a high-powered rifle and engage in a series of senseless killings. They must be mentally unstable.
Various theories were thrown about, even one that linked the snipers to Al Qaeda and the 9-11 attacks that had occurred almost exactly one year earlier.
But, no, as it turns out that John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were not terrorists and were perfectly sane individuals who had planned their swath of death for a deep and dark reason.
The killing spree was a plan to cover up the murder of Muhammad’s wife. Muhammad was devastated when he lost his children to his ex-wife, Mildred. He was furious and threatened to kill his ex-wife, which forced her to flee to the Washington DC area with their kids.
It is a strong belief by many that the sniper killings were orchestrated as a twisted plot by John Muhammad to kill his ex-wife and get his children back. He intended to kill her and make her one of the murder victims. Muhammad believed that the police would not focus on an estranged ex-husband as a suspect if she looked like a random victim of a serial killer.
Mildred never became a victim of the snipers, yet it was she he put forth this theory, and to this day, she insists that she was the ultimate intended target of Muhammad.
After years of escalating abuse, Mildred finally escaped her husband, who she said parted with a chilling vow, “You have become my enemy, and as my enemy, I will kill you.”
Mildred believes the attacks were designed to confuse police so that when he finally came for her, they would assume she was another randomly chosen victim of the sniper.
“The theory was that he was killing innocent people to cover up my murder so that he could come in as the grieving father and get custody of our children,” she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in October of 2021.
“It was a domestic violence, child custody issue.”
Muhammad was sentenced to death for his role in the killings. Malvo received a total of 10 life sentences without parole for shootings committed in Virginia and Maryland.
Now a domestic violence campaigner and educator, Mildred Muhammed said she has faced blame for her ex-husband’s crimes.
“I’m so sorry that so many people were killed. It’s not my fault. I was afraid of him like everyone else,”
“I stopped being afraid, I guess, when they executed him on November 10, 2009.”