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20 years

November 5, 2002

By Jon Christian Ryter
Copyright 2002 - All Rights Reserved
To distribute this article, please post this web address or hyperlink

he Beltway Sniper terrorized approximately 2,000,000 Americans who live and work along the Washington, DC north-south corridor from Wheaton, a few short miles from Baltimore, Maryland to Ashland, a small peaceful community just outside the city limits of Richmond, Virginia. The Sniper struck as far west as Fairfax, Virginia. For twenty-two horror-filled days thirteen innocent people became the victims of the Sniper. Ten died. Three survived, but only one of them is out of the hospital. The other two survivors remain in stable but critical condition. The snipers would be apprehended before the fact that there were prior victims would be revealed.
     In the aftermath of this wanton slaughter of the innocent by the perverse, with John Allen Williams (aka John Allen Muhammad) and his 17-year old companion, John Lee Malvo (an illegal Jamaican immigrant from Antiqua whose real name is Lee Boyd Malvo) now in custody, more questions are raised by their capture than answered. Of course, the most pressing question is: why did they do it?
     With a demand for $10 million it appears, at least on the surface, that the question of “why” has been answered. But the money demand, which did not surface until victim #12 (who was actually victim #18, survived the attack) was shot down outside a Ponderosa Restaurant in Ashland, Virginia, suggests that money was an afterthought by two killers who felt they were entitled to be compensated because they spent much of the past three weeks living in their car, but that extortion was not the original objective. If that line of reasoning is true,then we are left with the unanswered question of what motivated John Muhammad and his young accomplice, Lee Malvo, to begin a killing spree that would rank them among the nations most deadly serial killers?
     At the Ponderosa crime scene, Malvo and Muhammad left a 3 page note in which they demanded $10 million. To make sure the police found their note, they wrapped it in Saran Wrap and nailed it--in plain sight--to a tree in the woods behind the restaurant expecting that investigators from local, State and federal police agencies would find it, contact them, and pay them the money they demanded. The Deadly Duo warned the police that if the cops did not pay up, they would not have enough body bags to contain the dead. It was in that note that Muhammad and Malvo warned that “...your children are not safe anywhere at any time.”
     Unfortunately, the astute officers of the law, whose eyes were glued to the ground in the search for evidence, did not see the eye-level message nailed to a tree. Malvo and Muhammad then made their first serious mistake that was followed by a series of strategic miscalculations based on greed that ultimately culminated in their capture and arrest six days later. It would seem, ironically, if anyone was entitled to share in the reward for providing police with information that led to the arrest and indictment of the Beltway Snipers, it would be Muhammad and Malvo since they would still be at large if they had not personally provided police with all the information needed to apprehend them. Over 107 thousand calls to the police “tip line” served to perpetuate the comedy of errors that had police looking for a white box truck, a white Astro van, and a white Dodge Caravan that did not exist, and further confused the police, taking them down a hundred false trails in search of a mythical white vehicle as authorities stopped Muhammad and Malvo ten times, ran their tags, and let them go.
     Over the three week ordeal every major TV network, both earthlinked and satellite-fed, brought on one crime profiler after another, or one psychiatrist or psychologist after another in an attempt to unravel the maze and piece together a realistic profile of the Beltway Sniper. All of the pundits were wrong. Myself included. And after Muhammad and Malvo were caught, CNN’s Judy Woodruff got the bright idea of bringing on crime scene forensic “experts” from the popular CBS drama, CSI, to offer their “expert” opinions on the Caprice with the modified back truck and the other forensic evidence that will be key in gaining a conviction of Malvo and Muhammad since there are no eye-witnesses that can physically place them at any of the crime scenes--even though witnesses did report to police that they had seen a dark blue or burgundy Chevrolet Caprice moving slowly away from the scene of at least four of the shootings.
     The killings of the Beltway Sniper were executed from a distance of 50 to 100 yards...and, they were very impersonal. One shot to the back, chest or head. Their victims were both male and female, young and old. They were black, white, Hispanic, Mideastern and Oriental. John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were “equal opportunity” killers.
     Muhammad and his partner, Malvo, fit no criminal profile because their motive for the killings appear to have changed as the terror they triggered intensified. They were “equal opportunity killers” in another sense as well. It appears that as the Washington, DC Metro area became gripped with fear because of the completely random nature of sniper attacks that put everyone at risk, Muhammad and Malvo saw an opportunity to profit from their crimes.
     It would not be until after they were caught that authorities realized how Muhammad managed to go undetected, and how he managed not to leave any evidence at the crime scenes. Muhammad cut two holes in the back truck of his 1990 dark blue Chevrolet Caprice and, lying on a board that stretched from the back seat to the floor of the trunk he pointed the barrel of the XM-15 Bushmaster rifle through the bottom hole as he sighted his scope through the top hole. Since the “sighting” hole (and not the “shooting” hole as we have been led to believe) was reported to be between 3” and 4” in diameter, we are forced to ponder why it was that ten different law enforcement officers who had to see the sniper port holes when they secured the license number of the 1990 Caprice didn’t think the holes were unusual enough to merit a look inside the back trunk of the Caprice.
     Quite likely it was because the talking heads had already convinced us that serial killers are white men. You will recall that when FBI employee Linda Franklin was killed in the parking garage of the Home Depot store at Seven Corners in Fairfax County, Virginia one of the “eye witnesses,” Matthew Dowdy, initially claimed to have been within 20 feet of the shooter whom, Dowdy claimed, stepped from his white van and calmly shot Franklin as he watched. Dowdy, whose recollections of what the shooter actually looked like was fuzzy, was convinced of only one thing: the sniper was not an African American. After releasing information to the media that the police got their first break in the case because they now had an eye witness who could identify the shooter, police learned that Dowdy was inside the Home Depot store when the shooting happened, and that he hadn’t seen anything. Dowdy was charged with giving a false report. He now faces six months in jail himself. And, of course, we now know that the sniper was not only an African American, he is a Muslim extremist who has expressed a contempt for the United States, even though he is a former serviceman who served in the Gulf War.
     In the end we were all wrong because, I believe, the real motive for this crime changed as Muhammad and Malvo began to realize the extent they had been able to terrorize the people along the Washington-Baltimore beltway. Generally, psychopaths and sociopaths act upon long term anger triggered by events that affect their lives, bringing up old traumas that act as catalysts to trigger abhorrent behavior. When crimes are committed by true psychopaths or sociopaths, patterns emerge that remain consistent and allow authorities to construct reasonably accurate character profiles from which the likely habits of the psychopath can be gleaned. Most serial killers go after a certain type of victim. Serial killers are also creatures of habit. They tend to strike at the same approximate time of the day or night. In the case of David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam), he killed couples on Lovers’ Lanes. He would walk up to the car in which his prey was necking and kill them. Ted Bundy strangled his victims--all of whom were attractive young females that he raped before killing. The killings were close and very personal.
     Conversely, from the onset, the shootings of the Beltway Sniper, were very impersonal. The first shooting attributed to the Beltway sniper occurred on September 14, 2002. A 22-year Pakistani employee of the Hill And Dale Beer & Wine Store in Silver Spring, Maryland, Rupinder Oberoi, was shot when he and the store owner stood in the store’s parking lot shortly after 10 p.m. While the bullet was not recovered, an employee of the Safeway Supermarket across the street reported to police that he saw a dark colored Chevy Caprice pull slowly away as the shooting occurred. The fifth Sniper shooting (which was referred to by police for some time as the first shooting) occurred when a shot was fired through the window of a Michael’s Craft Store in Aspen Hill, Maryland at 5:20 p.m. on October 2. This time, no one was hit. Forty-four minutes later the sniper claimed the life of James D. Martin as the 55-year old program analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration loaded groceries purchased at Shoppers Food Warehouse in nearby Wheaton into the trunk of his car. While it now appears that Martin was probably the sixth victim of Muhammad and Malvo, he was the first victim attributed to what the media quickly dubbed “The Beltway Sniper.”
     The following day, Thursday, October 3 was the day of death. Five victims fell to the sniper in one day, creating the wave of terror along the Baltimore-Washington, DC-Richmond corridor that did not abate until Muhammad and Malvo were arrested at the Meyersville exit rest area on Interstate 70 a few miles from Frederick, Maryland at 3:19 a.m. on Friday, October 25. At 7:41 a.m. on October 3, James L. “Sonny” Buchanan, a 39-year old landscaper was shot and killed as he mowed the grass in front of Fitzgerald Auto Mall in White Flint. Thirty-one minutes later, Premkumar A. Walekar, a 54-year old taxi driver was shot as he filled his gas tank at a filling station in Aspen Hill. Fifteen minutes later, at 8:37 a.m. 34-year old Sarah Ramos, was shot as she waited for a bus in Silver Spring. One hour and twenty-one minutes later, Lori Lewis Rivera was shot and killed as she filled her gas tank in a Shell station in Kensington, Maryland.
     The residents of Montgomery County, Maryland were stunned. Never in the history of that area had a crime so senseless ever taken place. But the Beltway Sniper was not through for the day. As the local DC television stations reported on the day of tragedy, Muhammad and Malvo struck again. This time, they struck in Washington, DC. At 9:20 p.m. Pascal Charlot, a 72-year old handyman from Haiti was standing at a crosswalk in Northwest Washington, waiting for the light to change. Charlot would never get across that street, and an invalid wife who was waiting for him at home would never again see her husband alive. One shot took his life. He collapsed in a pool of blood, the fifth victim to die that day, and the sixth known victim of the Beltway Sniper at that time.
     The following afternoon, at 2:30 p.m. a mother of two was shot in the parking lot of a Michaels Craft Store in Spotsylvania, Virginia. The .223 bullet struck her in the lower right back and exited from the left side of her chest. The slug became embedded in the rear seat of her minivan. This unidentified victim was the second Beltway Sniper to return home after being shot.
     Friday, Saturday and Sunday passed without incident. At 8:08 a.m. on Monday, three days after Montgomery County Police Chief Raymond Moose and Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan assured Montgomery County parents that their children were safe in the county’s schools, Muhammad and Malvo shot a 13-year old boy as his aunt dropped him off at the Benjamin Trasker Middle School in Bowie. Fortunately for the youth, his aunt was a nurse. Noting the extreme loss of blood, the aunt had her nephew placed in her car and rushed him to closest medical facility rather than wait on an ambulance. The 13-year old became the second survivor. Had his aunt waited on the ambulance, there is no doubt he would have been “dead-on-arrival” at whatever hospital he arrived. She saved his life.
     The Beltway Sniper was now the nation’s top news story.
     Out of the woodwork crawled enough criminal profilers, psychologists and psychiatrists to fill the news desks of every television network and local TV station in the nation. When they ran out of profilers, psychiatrists and psychologists, the TV networks called on “big city” cops who had worked on other serial killer cases, and Fox News even interviewed serial killer David Berkowitz for his view on the Beltway Sniper. As it turned out, Berkowitz turned out to be closer than anyone else in creating an accurate profile of the Beltway Sniper.
     My own “profile” of the sniper changed three times as the tragedy evolved over three weeks. Initially, because of the senselessness of the act, and its apparent complete randomness, I saw what I believed was an attempt to do nothing more than create mass terror along the Corridor. And even though it has been the experience in the Mideast was for terrorist groups to immediately take credit for their terrorist acts, I felt that if Muslim extremists (even “converted” extremists) were behind the sniper attacks, it was not likely that, in “White America,” olive-skinned or black Muslims in the United States would take credit for their actions since it would bring even more attention on the Muslim community--and, if the shooter was a Muslim, it would help profilers identify and catch him.
     I was convinced that the shooters were Islamic extremists who would likely be sympathetic to the Saudi and Egyptian Muslim extremists who destroyed the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. I was not convinced the shooters were foreign nationals like Mohammad Atta but felt, most likely, they would prove to be philosophical turncoats like Jihad Johnny Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla or Charles Bishop. However, that opinion was barely formed in my mind when I was forced to reject it out-of-hand because of the first “message” the snipers--who apparently did not like being called the Beltway Sniper (since it restricted them to the Washington, DC metro area). They decided another name was much more ominous--the Tarot Card Sniper--but that name never caught on with the media. They remained the Beltway Sniper until they were captured.
     On October 7 when Muhammad and Malvo decided to raise the stakes by shooting a child, they left behind their first message. It was a tarot card. Written on it were the words: “Mr. Policeman: Call me God.”
     The tarot card completely derailed my thinking. Tarot cards are associated with witchcraft. New Agers who practice the religion of the New World Order use tarot cards and Ouji boards; and they communicate with the Earth goddess Gaia. Muslims don’t. Muslims pray to Allah. They believe the prophet Mohammad was Allah’s only emissary on Earth. And, no faithful Muslim would commit a blasphemy by suggesting that he was God.
Forced to cast aside my initial reasoning, I examined other elements and “coincidences”--among them the fact that the sniper was dormant on Tuesday and on the weekends. Because of the senselessness of the crimes and what appeared to be time frames in which the snipers were prevented from acting it began to appear that it was possible that the snipers were “players” of a real life virtual reality sniper game that perhaps started in cyberspace and was now being carried out on the center stage of life.
     If that scenario was true, then it was likely that there were two snipers, and that they were probably between 19 to 23 years of age, living at home. Then, assuming there was a reason the snipers did not “play” their deadly game on Tuesdays or on the weekends, it logically followed that they did not because those with whom they resided did not work on Tuesday or on the weekend and their “absence” would have been conspicuous on those days.
     Many of the talking heads saw what I saw, but assumed the Beltway Sniper was a lone killer who was a 35 to 45 year-old angry white male who was likely laid off from his “real” job, and worked part-time on the weekend. They even went so far as to claim that the white van or panel or box truck probably belonged to the company he worked for, and that ultimately he would be revealed when someone from the company where he worked discovered that he had been using the company’s truck.
     Of course, once Muhammad and Malvo were caught, authorities were forced to concede that the white van was the figment of the imagination of their witnesses. The three or four people who reported seeing a blue or burgundy Chevrolet Caprice were drowned out as the police and the media had the public put their blinders on to search for a truck that did not exist. It is very likely that the Caprice was stopped in most of the road blocks. Since the authorities were convinced that the Beltway Sniper was [a] a middle-aged angry white male, and [b] a lifelong resident of the area (explaining why he was able to get around the area--and the roadblocks--so easily) no one was interested in the 41-year old African American male and his stepson heading back to their home in New Jersey. As it turned out, Muhammad used a very expensive, very sophisticated GPS system to guide him through the congested areas to escape apprehension.
     I just couldn’t buy the “angry white male” argument. Nor could I buy the angry white “right-winger” argument. Angry white males kill adults and angry white right-wingers would likely be prone to shoot angry but well-armed left-wingers who would also likely be working for the government in some type of a confiscator role. Granted, occasionally mentally disturbed people--both male and female--have killed their own children fits of rage, but they generally end their murderous acts by killing themselves or forcing the police to kill them. Only those wanting to create terror shoot or threaten to shoot children.
     Had the shooters fit my revised “profile,” there would have been no demand for $10 million. Under my scenario, this was a virtual reality game. And, even though those who were “killed” were really killed, I believed the players were completely detached from the reality of their acts. It was a game. And, as a game, I feared that when one of the players “won,” the game would end and the players would vanish, never to be caught. Or, perhaps they would be caught one or two or five years from now when they repeated their deadly virtual reality game.
     But once again, when the premises are wrong, the conclusions we draw from those conjectures will be just as wrong. When the 12th known victim, an unidentified 37-year old male, was shot as he and his wife left the Ponderosa Steakhousse in Ashland, Virginia, Muhammad and Malvo left behind a 3-page note that caused me to reject my second premise. The shooters were not virtual reality sniper game players. They demanded $10 million to stop shooting people--and threatened a blood bath if they were ignored. I was now convinced the police were looking for a middle-aged man who was likely being assisted by one or more other people. Even farther from my mind than ever before was the thought that the sniper might be a terrorist. Once again, the tarot card loomed largely in my thinking.
     The mental flip flops I was doing were no different that the mental gyrations of the “experts” who earn their living profiling criminals. The only thing consistent about the Beltway Sniper was the fact that there was nothing consistent about him (or them). Law enforcement agencies were bewildered. Over 107 thousand calls had already come in on their tip line, yet they remained clueless. On Day-20 the police were no closer to Muhammad than they were on Day-1. Except, they had stopped his 1990 Chevrolet Caprice no less than ten times and had let him go without even noticing the gun ports that had been cut into the back trunk of his car when they ran his license plate.

Snipers Provided All of the Clues
     Greed proved to be their downfall. When law enforcement authorities failed to spot the cellophane-wrapped note that had been tacked to a tree behind the Ponderosa, Lee Malvo called the Ponderosa and left a message for the police, telling them where the crucial piece of evidence could be found. In the note, Muhammad complained about the stupidity of the police who cut Malvo off when he called the tipline trying to reach Chief Moose at the task force control center with his demands. The note began: “For you, Mr. Police. Call me God...” The message continued: “Do not release to the press. We have tried to contact you to start negotiation, But the incompetence [sic] of your forces in (i) Mongomary [sic] Police ‘Officer Derrick’ at 240-773-5000 Friday (ii) Rockville Police Department ‘female officer’ at 301-309-3100. (iii) Task force ‘FBI’ ‘female’ at 1-888-324-9800 (four times). (iv) Priest at Ashland. (v) And Washington, DC at (number redacted). These people took of calls [sic] for a Hoax or Joke, as your failure to respond has cost you five lives. If stopping the killing is more important than catching us now, then you will accept our demand which are [sic] nonnegotiable. (i) You will place ten million dollar [sic] in Bank of America account no (number redacted), activation date (redacted), pin no. (redacted), Exp. date (redacted), Name: (redacted), member since (redacted). Platinum Visa account. We will have unlimited withdrawal at any ATM worldwide. You will activate the bank account, credit card and pin number. We will contact you at (Ashland, VA) Ponderosa Buffet, Tel # (redacted) 6:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. You have until 9:00 a.m. Monday morning to complete transaction. Try to catch us withdrawing at least you will have less body bags [sic] (BUT) (ii) If trying to catch us now [sic] more important then prepare you [sic] body bags. If we give you our word that is what takes place. ‘Word is Bond.’ P.S. Your children are not safe anywhere at any time.”
     The letter was neatly printed on lined paper and carefully wrapped in cellophane and tacked to the tree behind the Ponderosa. The police missed their deadline because, when the final victim, Metro bus driver Conrad Johnson was shot at a school bus and Metro bus stop in Aspen Hills on Tuesday, October 22, the task force had not yet opened the letter. They were still running forensic tests on the cellophane wrapper--and making certain the package did not contain anthrax spores. At the moment Johnson was killed, Chief Moose did not know he had missed Muhammad’s deadline.
     In that note the Beltway Snipers provided law enforcement with the first clue to capturing them. Then, with a second note left at the Metro stop crime scene in Aspen Hills, Muhammad and Malvo provided the remainder of the clues needed by the police to catch the Deadly Duo. By that time, the final victim of the Beltway Snipers had died. But the Deadly Duo, angered because they felt Chief Moose and the task force was not taking them seriously, wanted to prove to the Montgomery County police chief that they were as every bit as dangerous as they claimed to be.
     In the final note Muhammad and Malvo suggested that the task force check with Montgomery, Alabama authorities where they had shot two women. On October 17--five days before the shooting of Conrad Johnson--Malvo called the Task Force for the first time. According to police, the caller was visibly upset and frustrated because he was not being taken seriously. He advised the task force that he had killed some people in Alabama, so they needed to take him more serious...and treat him with respect. On Sunday, October 20, the Task Force received a telephone call from a Catholic priest in Ashland, Virginia who told police that he received a call from a man identifying himself as the Beltway Sniper who wanted him to act as a liaison with the Task Force since they wouldn’t listen to him. The priest revealed key pieces of information that only the Sniper would have known. Now the Task Force swung into full gear. A call was placed to J.H. Wilson, chief of police of Montgomery, Alabama. Wilson was in a local Montgomery restaurant finishing a steak dinner when he received a call from one of his detectives.
     “You’re not going to believe this,” the detective said. He had just received a call from the FBI asking if they had any recent unsolved murders in Montgomery.
     On September 21, 2002 a gunman killed 52-year old Claudine Lee Parker, the manager of a Montgomery ABC store just off Interstate 85, and wounded a female employee in a botched robbery attempt. The aftermath of the crime was witnessed by two police officers who happened on the scene. One stayed at the store to perform emergency CPR until an ambulance arrived. The second officer, a rookie patrolman gave foot chase of the only suspect they saw. The killer escaped because of a bizarre event that caused the officer to lose his prey. The killer--who has now been positively identified as Muhammad--ran around a fast food restaurant in his attempt to elude the officer who was in foot pursuit. The patrolman started to round the corner by the drive-thru when he was almost hit by blue Chevrolet coming out of the drive-thru. Ignoring the driver of the blue car whom the patrolman thought was merely purchasing burgers at the fast food restaurant, the officer--delayed only a moment--continued around the building but the suspect had vanished.
     Left behind on the ground by Parker’s body was a magazine that police believed was dropped by the killer. The magazine was a copy of GUNS & AMMO. On one of its pages was a very clear fingerprint--possibly that of the killer. After running it through the local and State fingerprint file without finding a match, Wilson sent the print to the FBI lab in Washington, DC. But, because the Montgomery police department is not a member of the FBI network, there was no priority on the part of the Feds to run the print to help Wilson catch a killer. It would not be until the FBI showed up in Montgomery, Alabama on Monday, October 21 that the feds had a priority interest in running the fingerprint. On Tuesday, October 22 the FBI matched the print on the magazine at the shooting scene in Montgomery with an illegal immigrant known as Lee Boyd Malvo, AKA John Lee Malvo. It was the first name associated with the shootings...and it was the link that led the police to John Allen Muhammad AKA John Allen and John Allen Williams.
     The third victim of the murder spree was 45-year old Hong Im Ballenger, a beauty supply store employee who was shot to death and robbed as she locked up the Beauty Depot store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at 6:40 p.m. on September 23, 2002, two days after the brutal murder of Claudine Parker in Montgomery. Ballenger’s death resulted from a single shot fired from Muhammad’s .223 XM-15 Bushmaster rifle. After the arrest of Muhammad and Malvo, and after it was learned that Muhammad had “family” in Baton Rouge, Jim Ballenger, 55, the husband of the murder victim suggested to Baton Rouge police that his wife was likely killed by the Beltway Snipers. The Baton Rouge police department rejected Ballenger’s hypothesis out-of-hand, declaring that the murder of Hong Ballenger did not fit the M.O. of the Beltway Snipers. Angered by the brush off, Ballenger called the FBI who decided that the only thing consistent about Muhammad and Malvo’s “MO” was its inconsistency.
     The FBI ran a ballistics check on the .223 slug that killed Ballenger. It was fired was Muhammad’s Bushmaster. Muhammad and Malvo are also suspected of being the shooters in another nonfatal shooting that took place in Baton Rouge the same day. Now the FBI is asking police agencies nationwide to reexamine any unsolved sniper-style killings in their jurisdictions, particularly if the victims were killed with a .44 or .45 caliber bullet, or from a .223 slug.

The Malvo-INS Flap
     Malvo and his Jamaican mother, Uma James, were illegal immigrants from Antigua. Muhammad, who earned his living counterfeiting passports, drivers’ licenses and other forms of ID, and from smuggling illegals from Canada, Jamaica and Antigua into the United States, was instrumental in smuggling them into the country. Muhammad was detained by the INS in Miami a year ago when he attempted to smuggle two Jamaican women into the United States. For some unknown reason, the INS decided it did not have enough evidence to convict Muhammad and decided not to prosecute him after they verified that he was an American citizen.
     In the late fall of 2001 police were called to Muhammad’s residence in Bellingham, Washington over a domestic dispute between Uma James and John Muhammad. The police suspected that James and her son, Lee Boyd Malvo, might be in the country illegally and called the INS. The INS did nothing. In December, the U.S. Border Patrol was called to Bellingham High School by a school administrator. When Malvo’s transcripts failed to arrive from Malvo’s “former” school in Tacoma, the employees in the office at Bellingham High called the Tacoma school and learned that Malvo had never attended there. At that point, the Bellingham school official became convinced that Malvo was an illegal and called the US Border Patrol.
     Based on statements made by James to the Border Patrol, Malvo and his mother were arrested and held as “illegal stowaways” on December 19. Classified as “illegal stowaways” meant the Jamaicans could be deported without a hearing. Later, encouraged to do so by a senior-level bureaucrat in the INS office in Seattle, Malvo’s mother signed an affidavit claiming that she paid for her passage to the United States on a container ship, and entered the country through the Miami port of entry. Clearly the “fee” paid by James was the price charged by the smugglers much the same way Muhammad was helping two Jamaican women get into the United States when he was detained, but never charged, by the INS at an airport in Miami when he was caught attempting to smuggle the women into the country.
     The INS changed James’ classification from “illegal stowaway” to “illegal entry without inspection.” That reclassification afforded James and Malvo the legal right to petition the federal court in Seattle and challenge the Border Patrol’s deportation. James was jailed in December, 2001 and Malvo was sent to a youth detention center in Seattle. A federal magistrate set a hearing date of November 20, 2002—eleven months later. When an INS background check revealed that neither Malvo nor James had a criminal record in Jamaica, bond was set at $1,500 for James. Within three weeks James, who knew no one in the United States except Muhammad, raised the bail money and was released from jail. Malvo was released into her custody. Within a week of being released, Malvo was on the road with Muhammad. The killing spree began shortly after Malvo was released from the juvenile detention center, with the first killing taking place on February 16, 2002 in Tacoma, Washington.
     The first victim of the killing spree was 21-year old Keenya Cook, an acquaintance of Muhammad’s in Tacoma. The media believes the killing resulted from a dispute Muhammad was having with Cook’s aunt, Isa Nichols, who was the bookkeeper of a defunct auto repair business Muhammad owned in the mid-1990s. Nichols became close friends with Muhammad’s ex-wife Mildred during that period, and testified for Mildred Williams in her divorce from Muhammad. It is more likely that the death resulted from a personal conflict was between Muhammad and Cook, and that Muhammad intended to kill Cook and not Nichols. Cook was home alone at her aunt’s residence when she was shot in the face with a .45 caliber slug. Ballistics has proven conclusively that the .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol Muhammad had in his possession at the time of his arrest was the murder weapon. (Police initially suspected an abusive former boyfriend of Cook’s, but he was able to supply an alibi for his whereabouts when the killing took place.)
     In May, 2002 a .44 Magnum pistol (which was “borrowed” from a friend of Muhammad’s in Tacoma along with two other handguns and one rifle) and the .223 XM-15 Bushmaster was used to shoot up the Temple Beth El synagogue between May 1 and May 4. Two shots were fired. One slug was fired into an exterior wall of the synagogue. The other lodged in an interior wall. No one was in the building at the time. But the synagogue shooting supports the view that the Beltway sniper was fueled by racial hatred against the United States and Israel. (It was unclear when the shooting of the synagogue happened because no one was at the Temple between May 1 and May 4. No one reported shots fired.) But while the Montgomery, Alabama police officers who stumbled on the shooting outside the ABC store on I-85 saw Muhammad standing over Parker’s body with the .45 caliber pistol in his hand, Parker was actually killed with the .223 Bushmaster rifle.
     Once Malvo was identified by his fingerprint on the GUNS & AMMO magazine, Muhammad’s Tacoma address (which was listed by Malvo as his former address) popped up in the INS computer. Muhammad surfaced for the first time. FBI agents showed the photo of Muhammad (on the left) to the Montgomery, Alabama police officer who did the foot chase. The officer claimed he got within two feet of Muhammad. Muhammad was positively identified as the man who was standing over the body of Claudine Parker, the store manager.
     The link was complete. Because of information supplied by the shooters themselves, Malvo and Muhammad had been successfully identified as the Beltway Snipers--and the Montgomery, Alabama police department solved both the September 21 local shooting and the Beltway Sniper killings. Alabama, like Virginia, Maryland, and Washington State, has filed murder charges against Muhammad and Malvo. Washington police agencies are examining some 1,400 unsolved murders in that State to see if any of them can be forensically-linked to Malvo and Muhammad, and if any of the three handguns and two rifles found in their possession when they were arrested were used to commit any of those crimes. Now police are investigating a sniper killing in Lansing, Michigan as a possible “Beltway Sniper” shooting even though there is no direct evidence to suggest that Muhammad and Malvo were in Michigan. In June, 2001 Bernita White was shot to death in a sniper shooting outside the Lansing Zoo. While investigators of that killing believe White was killed with a rifle shot, they admit that they “...don’t have the details, such as ballistic evidence.” What led them to believe the killing of Bernita White may be related to the Beltway Sniper shootings is that Nathaniel Osbourne, the man whose name also appears on the registration of the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice, had a girl friend in Flint, and that was where he was taken into custody. After he was arrested as a material witness, Osbourne claimed that his name appears on the Caprice’s registration only because Muhammad did not have car insurance and by placing his name on the registration, Osbourne was able to cover the Caprice with his own car insurance policy, allowing Muhammad to drive the car off the lot after he paid $250 for it. However, if that was the only link between Muhammad and Osbourne, there would be no logical reason for Osbourne to flee the Camden-Trenton, New Jersey area and hide at his girl friend’s house in Flint, Michigan after the police broadcast his name, asking him to come forward so they could talk to him. It is because Osbourne had personal ties that close to Lansing that police are now examining the White murder as a possible sniper shooting.

Muhammad in Antigua
     When John Allen Williams divorced his second wife, Mildred, he was already a practicing Muslim. Williams fell under the spell of Nation of Islam guru Louis Farahkhan. After his “conversion” to Allah, Muhammad, like most Black Muslim inductees, spent his time hawking the Black Muslim newspaper, “The Final Call” on street corners and in the medians of the busy thoroughfares in Tacoma, Bellingham and Seattle. When he wasn’t hustling motorists to buy Farahkhan’s anti-white hate message, he was distributing pro-Islamic pamphlets. Through the Nation of Islam, Muhammad met frequently with fellow Muslim extremists in Seattle.
     Alternately, Muhammad has used the names John Allen Williams and John Allen. According to the FBI, federal agents found several drivers’ licenses containing a photo of Muhammad in the Chevrolet Caprice. Each of them had different names. Muhammad already had a history of domestic disturbances that would have kept him from legally purchasing a firearm under the terms of a 1997 federal law that banned those accused of domestic violence from owning guns. However, there were no domestic disputes recorded under the newly acquired name which means an instant background check on John Mohammad at the Bullseye Gun Shop in Tacoma, Washington would not have turned up anything that would have kept the recently “born” Muhammad from “legally” buying the XM-15 .223 Bushmaster rifle. However, the Bullseye Gun Shop in Tacoma, which received the XM-15 Bushmaster from the manufacturer, has no record of it ever being sold—to anyone. Nor was there a record of the sale of some 300 other handguns and rifles that turned up missing when the ATF inventoried the merchandise of that store.
     Because of Muhammad’s short-fused temper and a documented history of domestic violence, a family court judge in Tacoma, Washington gave Mildred Williams full and permanent custody of their three children—Selena, Taliba and John Williams, Jr. (Williams had also engaged in a previous custody battle with his first wife, Carol Williams, over their only son, Lindbergh in 1995.) In the case of his second wife, in the spring of 2000, Muhammad took his children all the way to Antigua in the Caribbean to escape the clutches of the court.
     Mildred Williams fought Muhammad from the divorce in 2000 until August, 2001 when authorities in Antigua, pressured to do so by the US State Department, took Muhammad’s children into custody and returned them to Mildred Williams (who has since disappeared out of fear of Muhammad). Muhammad, who had served in the US Army for 12-years suddenly felt betrayed by his country which, he decided, had stolen his children from him. Whatever hard feelings Muhammad had towards the United States were greatly intensified during that period of his life. Did Muhammad feel he was entitled to extract revenge against the United States? Yes.
Muhammad met Uma James and her 15-year old son Lee Boyd Malvo in Antigua sometime during the late summer of 2000. As the threads are meticulously run and all the knots are tied, it will likely be established by the media that James sought out Muhammad in the late summer or early fall of 2000, to see how much it would cost to be smuggled into the United States.
     Within a few months of Muhammad’s first encounter with James, Malvo took up residency with the man who would become his mentor of murder. When Muhammad first arrived in Antigua, he lived in the upscale village of English Arbor on the southern part of the island where his children reportedly attended a very expensive private school. However, within a few months, Muhammad was forced to move to more economical quarters on Rose Street in Autos, just outside the capital. His children, until they were taken from him, attended the Granule Primary School. Malvo, on the other hand, attended the Seventh Day Adventist School. It was there, even before he met Muhammad, that Malvo began to debate the tenets of Islam to his Adventist teachers. The teachers did not view Malvo as a troublemaker because his “debates” with his teachers was respectful. School records indicated no record of disruptive behavior.
     Muhammad “mentally” adopted Malvo during that period, and that is likely why he decided to help Uma James get into the United States since they made their way—together—to Bellingham, Washington once they got into the country. Dr. Cajole Liberian, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist hired by a tabloid newspaper to explore the possibility that Muhammad and Malvo were engaged in a homosexual relationship raised the argument that the “profile” she had built on Muhammad suggests their relationship was based on a man-boy sex relationship and not any paternal instinct on the part of Muhammad. The tabloids even found an anonymous source to confirm that there were a lot of “gay guys” who hung out at the YMCA in Bellingham and, if any of them looked at Malvo, Muhammad would get mad (implying jealousy, not a paternal instinct to protect a family member or ward in your custody). Then in a contradictory statement, the “pal” who demanded anonymity because, he said, he feared reprisals from from the Islamic extremists Muhammad hung out with, the “source” said that Muhammad was a hard core Islamic extremist with links to al Qaeda who wanted to terrorize America.” In point of fact, a dedicated Islamic extremist would have the same theological contempt for homosexuals as the hardline Christian who recognizes sodomy as an abomination in the eyes of God.
School records in Bellingham show that Malvo said that Muhammad was his step-father. Malvo, like Muhammad, had evolved into an advocate for Palestinian rights, and viewed the Jews as the terrorists of the Mideast. Malvo was outspoken in his Muslim views at Bellingham High School, and eagerly debated his views with his teachers. While Malvo made no attempt to make friends with any of the other students in the school, his outspokeness was admired by many of his classmates. “You don’t get that from many high school students,” said Chrissie Greenawalt, who attended a writing class with Malvo. “I thought it was cool.”
     When Malvo and his mother were arrested by the Border Patrol, Muhammad moved from the rented house he shared with James and Malvo back to Tacoma. When Muhammad bailed James out of jail and secured the release of Malvo from the juvenile detention center in Bellingham, Malvo joined Muhammad in Tacoma. It is unclear where Uma James went, but she seems to have vanished at that point. It may be that she became a victim of Muhammad or it may be that, sensing her life was in danger or that she was going to be deported back to either Antigua or Jamaica, she chose to disappear. Rumor has it that she returned to Jamaica without her son. That is a debatable theory since the initial domestic disputes between Muhammad and James that resulted in Bellingham police going to their home were centered over Muhammad’s control of her son and his alienating him from her. In any event, ultimately, Muhammad and Malvo moved into the Lighthouse Mission in Bellingham. The Lighthouse Mission is a Christian shelter for adult homeless men who are down on their luck. At the same time, it was reported that James sought sanctuary at the Agape Christian Women’s & Children’s Home, also in Bellingham.
     Then in August, 2002, Muhammad and Malvo vanished from Washington State.
Other than to notice he was no longer around, nobody missed the man with the violent temper.

Were the crimes ideologically-motivated?
     In August, 2002 Muhammad and Malvo showed up in Camden, New Jersey at Muhammad’s former haunt at 1400 Sheridan Street. In years past, the building at that address was known as the All Nation’s Lounge. The business was owned by Michael Clarke. The All Nation’s Lounge was a trouble spot with a nasty reputation that the city of Camden was finally able to close down by revoking its liquor license. Undaunted, Clarke re-opened it a year later as a restaurant called All Nation’s Cuisine. When the address on the title of Muhammad’s Caprice led police to Clarke, he insisted that while he knew who Muhammad was, he knew him only “in passing” because, every now and then, Muhammad frequented the All Nation’s Louge whenever he was “in town.”
     Asked specifically by police if Muhammad had ever resided at that address, Clarke insisted he had not. Clarke admitted that, in August, 2002, Muhammad did come to to the restaurant “three or four times with a teenager,” but that, contrary to statements made to the FBI by a neighborhood woman who frequented the restaurant, he did not live upstairs. However, the woman to the FBI signed an affidavit that she overheard Clarke telling Muhammad not to use the upstairs shower because it had a leak. Clarke denied making that remark to Muhammad, insisting that Muhammad never stayed there. When the media questioned Clarke about his interview with the FBI, Clarke replied that “...it doesn’t bother me...I had nothing to do with this.”
     On September 10, 2002 Muhammad and his 24-year old friend, Nathaniel Osbourne went to Sure Shot Sales in Trenton where he bought the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice. While the media has made a point of noting that Muhammad bought the late model Chevrolet for $250, it is more likely that he paid much more for it and the price, $250, that was provided to the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles between “friends” was provided to reduce the amount of sales tax Muhammad would be required to pay to tag the car and had little to do with the actual price Muhammad paid for the vehicle.
     When they arrived at the DMV, it was one day before the anniversary of 9-11, and the people working at the DMV had created a patriotic display for the memorial that would take place the next day. Harsh words were exchanged between Muhammad and DMV personnel as Muhammad attempted to justify the actions of the suicide terrorists who slammed two 757 airliners into the World Trade Center directly across the Hudson River and a third 757 that crashed into the Pentagon. At 8:45 a.m. someone, calling from a pay phone a few blocks away, called in a bomb threat at the DMV. Muhammad completed his transaction with the DMV at 8:52 a.m., and was in the building when the Trenton bomb squad arrived and evacuated the building.
Since the arrest of Muhammad and Malvo at a Meyersville, Maryland rest area at 3:19 a.m. on Friday, October 25, 2002 one key question has loomed larger than any other: were the Beltway Snipers connected, in any way, to the al Qaeda or to any underground Islamic terrorist groups in the United States? To date that question has not been answered, and because it has not, it is more likely than not that Muhammad and Malvo were lone wolf terrorists and not agents of an Islamic conspiracy to disrupt the economy of the United States.
     While there has been no conclusive evidence to support that there was an organized terrorist link, there is no doubt that Muhammad and Malvo were domestic terrorists with an extremist Islamic bias.
     Long before he arrived in the United States, young Lee Boyd Malvo (whose childish photo as a 13-year old is now used by the liberal media to elicit sympathy from death penalty advocates) expressed pro-Palestinian, anti-Jewish sentiment in both Jamaica and Antigua long before John Muhammad brought him under his extremist wing. Muhammad fell under the influence of black separatists when he joined Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam. It was at that time that John Allen Williams had his name legally changed to John Allen Muhammad.
     While he was in the Washington, D.C. area in 1995-96, Muhammad was connected with the Islamic Community Center in Laurel, Maryland (just above Silver Spring) where he was a guard. Muhammad was also a security guard for Farrakhan’s Million Man March even though Farrakhan denied that Muhammad had any close association with his organization. The FBI has connected Muhammad with an Islamic extremist group in Falls Church, Virginia that they believe will provide them with a clear trail to al Qaeda. That remains to be seen.
     The FBI has had Muhammad's Sony laptop computer since October 25. (It now appears that the Sony computer belonged to a Clinton, Maryland business owner
who was robbed by Muhammad on September 5, and was shot six times but did
survive the attack.) If there were email links to terrorist organizations on
his computer (which there would be if Muhammad was connected and was
operating under their guidelines), the Justice Department would have already revealed them since it would have benefited the Bush Administration’s efforts to force Congress to legislate a definitive cabinet level Homeland Security Department.
     What exists is, in reality, much more fearsome than an organized al Qaeda link. What exists is the very real possibility that native born-American Muslims from a variety of ethnicentricities ranging from Caucasian to African American to Hispanic to Middle Easterner to Oriental--caught up in fanatical religious fervor--might act on their own to wage a personal Jihad against the United States for its support of Israel against the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole. The home-grown ideological terrorist generally does not give much, if any, warning. Because they are American born and bred, they speak our language flawlessly and walk unnoticed in our communities. They do not look any different than the guy next door or from around the corner or down the street. He has the ability, like Muhammad, to remain largely invisible even as he commits his ugly deeds, and is generally apprehended only when he dies committing his atrocities, or when he gets greedy or arrogant like Muhammad and Malvo and, deliberately or accidentally, provides authorities with enough clues to find him.
     When it was revealed that the Beltway Snipers were African American Muslims who had expressed contempt for the United States, and because the crimes they committed were so senselessly ruthless, Islamic groups--incuding Farrakhan--took pains to quickly distance themselves from them. Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations was quick to appear on CNN to tell the American people not to stereotype Islam “...because of the last name of this suspect...We are concerned,” he said, “that because a suspect in this case has the last name of Muhammad, American Muslims will now face scapegoating and bias. Police reports indicate the suspects acted alone, based on their own motivations. There is no indication that this case is related to Islam or Muslims. We therefore ask journalist and media commentators to avoid speculation based on stereotyping or prejudice. The American Muslim community should not be held accountable for the alleged criminal actions of what appears to be troubled and deranged individuals.”
Quannel X, a New Black Panther minister told Fox News that “...just like there’s Christian extremists who taint the Christian faith, there are Muslims who degrade their faith by cloaking terrorist activity in Islam. We would never condone attacking innocent men, women and children.
     Imam Hassan Qazwini, the Shi’ite leader of the Islamic Center of America, based in Detroit, admitted that the possibility of the sniper being a Muslim never crossed his mind because of the appearance of the tarot card at the site of the October 7 shooting outside the Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Maryland. Muslims do not believe in tarot mythology just as Muslims abhor homosexuality. In strict Shi’ite communities, homosexuals, like murderers and rapists, are beheaded. “I am amazed that this has happened,” Qazwini said, “and I am shocked to find out that he is a Muslim. That’s very difficult, very disturbing to find this out.”
     What was disturbing to Qazwini was not that a Muslim, acting on his own, would instigate his own Jihad and kill innocent men, women and children, but that a practicing Muslim would be associated with tarot mythology.
     Likewise, I am forced to wonder that when Nihad Awad demanded that the American people not judge the Muslim community for the actions of Muhammad and Malvo without evidence that their crimes were motivated by their religion, would he have made the same request if the Beltway Snipers had proven to be either right wing extremists like Timothy McVeigh or extremists like David Koresh, or Jewish extremists like Rabbi Meir Kahane who was assassinated by CIA recruited, and protected, Muslim terrorists (see Lord of the Martyrs). It goes without saying he would not. If the shooter or shooters were white middle class males (as the media insisted they would prove to be), its likely that ethnic advocacy groups would have insisted that since a majority of the victims belonged to ethnic minorities, that racism, not terrorism, played a role in the killings. And, gun rights foes like Hillary Clinton, Charles Schumer, Barney Franks, Charles Rangel and the other pro-communist members of the House and Senate would be demanding that all guns be taken out of the hands of the right-wing 2nd Amendment freaks. If the shooter or shooters proved to be Jewish, Islamic apologists would have insisted that they did it solely to blame the Muslims in order to help George W. Bush justify his evil, unmerited war against Iraq.
     But when all of the apologists finish with their arguments, and all of the criminal profilers pack up their opinions and go home, one fact remains: two Muslim extremists, who eagerly and ardently expressed their contempt for the United States of America, using weapons they obtained illegally (which means no additional gun laws could have prevented them from getting them--only enforcing existing gun laws could) went on a killing spree for two reasons and two reasons only. First, they enjoyed killing. Before they made their demand for money, they had already shot at least 17 people, and had already killed at least 14. Four of those shootings are not linked to the Beltway shootings and were not part of their extortion demands. Second, they were greedy. They were convinced they could extort money from the various State and federal jurisdictions, and somehow escape the country and live to spend their ill-gotten gain.
     Fortunately they have been caught. But had they not provided the Beltway Sniper Task Force with ALL of the clues needed to apprehend them, it is quite clear they would still be at large, and the death toll would now be much larger. Or worse yet, frustrated by the increasing number of filled body bags, I shudder to even consider the notion that the government might have actually contemplated paying off the Snipers in the hope of catching them spending their ill-gotten loot. Had that happened, the beltways around every major urban center in the nation would have become a killing field as more and more copycat snipers would have tried their luck on the roulette wheel of fate.

 

 

Just Say No
Copyright 2009 Jon Christian Ryter.
All rights reserved
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