PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) — Before Washington, D.C., sniper John Allen Muhammad went on a killing spree for three weeks in October 2002, he had already terrorized his wife for years.
Mildred Muhammad said he had intimidated her.
He cheated with other women even as he grew more possessive.
Finally, he threatened to kill her.
“You have become my enemy, and as my enemy I’m going to kill you,” Muhammad recalled her former husband telling her.
Muhammad, 52, told her harrowing tale Wednesday to an audience of about 100 military and civilian personnel at a domestic violence program at Fort Lee, less than 30 miles from the Virginia death chamber where her ex-husband was executed in November 2009.
Muhammad said investigators closing in on her former husband’s trail told her they believed she was his ultimate target, but she assured their three children only he and his accomplice were to blame for the 10 people they killed in the district, Virginia and Maryland.
“I’ve told them we are not going to take responsibility for his actions because he made a conscious decision,” she said. “I’m completely healed from this.”
Of his execution, she said, “I had no compassion. I had no feelings.”
Muhammad and his teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, paralyzed the nation’s capital as they shot people at random — at gas stations, shopping malls, going to school.
They used a high-powered rifle, firing from the trunk of a modified Chevy Caprice until they were tracked down at a Maryland rest stop.
Malvo is serving six life terms in a Virginia prison with no chance of parole.
Muhammad described her husband as the “life of the party” in the early years of their marriage until he was deployed to Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War.
He returned three months later sullen, distant and threatening.
“The man that I married didn’t come back from Saudi,” she said.
“I don’t know what happened to him,” Muhammad said.
She said he was ultimately diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, but resources were not available to properly treat him.
When he started cheating on her, Muhammad kicked him out of their house.
But he tampered with the locks and she propped a chair against the door and held a knife while she lay in bed.
One night he entered and silently circled her bed.
Muhammad said she avoided being a target in her own home because she feared her husband, a trained Army marksman, would kill her with a “head shot.”
She slumped in her seat while driving, fearful he would see her profile.
“I was terrified of John. I knew what he could do,” she said.
Muhammad ultimately took their three children to Antigua for 18 months until a judge ordered their return in 2001.
During their absence she struggled financially and spent time in a shelter.
She recalls one fearful encounter in a courtroom with Muhammad,despite assurances by advocates she would be safe.
She told them, “By the time you think about it, he’s done it –he’s going to snap my neck.”
Their marriage, which spanned 12 years, ended in 2001.
Muhammad, who lives in Prince George’s County in Maryland, said her children have thrived despite the trauma in their lives.
They are pursuing their passion for music and computers.
The journals she kept during the marriage became the basis for her memoir, “Scared Silent: When the One You Love… Becomes the One You Fear.”
She has used those experiences to build a new life, forming a nonprofit called After the Trauma Inc. to support domestic violence victims.
Malvo and Muhammad have been linked to as many as 27 shootings resulting in 17 deaths in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
Authorities involved with the massive hunt and prosecution of the pair are reluctant to say how many shootings they may have been involved in as they drove across the country to the nation’s capital.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)