The Beltway Sniper…

by Bella Rum…was executed by lethal injection in my state last night. While Maryland and D.C. both had reason to lay claim to the dispensing of justice to John Allen Muhammad, Virginia is less squeamish about executing folks. So this is where it all ended.

Capital punishment – I hate writing about controversial things because I’m a pleaser and a wimp, but even the most mealy-mouthed among us is not without an opinion about the taking of a man’s life when there is certainty that he took the life of another.  I stand with those who believe that until we come up with a way to remove human error and prejudice from the system, we should suspend executions by the state. Even if hell froze over, and we suddenly found ourselves in a world in which human error no longer existed, I still say lock ’em up till the sun don’t shine. The state should not be in the business of executing people.

If you believe that I harbor sympathy for John Allen Muhammad, you are profoundly wrong. On an otherwise uneventful fall evening in October of 2002, he terrorized my neighborhood by shooting a gentleman as he left a steakhouse just a couple of miles from my house.

H and I had only moved into our house a few months earlier. It had been the hottest and driest summer in recent memory. It was miserable. The heat bugs screamed for rain every night, air conditioners chugged along trying to keep ahead of the unbearable temperatures, and everyone held their breath in anticipation of fall.

But when fall arrived, there was no relief. The heat bowed only marginally to the season, the rain never materialized, and we watched in disappointment as a large percentage of our leaves shriveled up and dropped to the ground before they could turn red and gold and orange. The root waterer was hunted down in hopes of saving a few of the most threatened trees.

Then he showed up, and for three weeks we were drawn to our televisions as unbelievable events unfolded. The first victim was shot at a Michael’s craft store on October 2, and the last shooting took place on October 22. As details were revealed daily and the number of shootings grew, some began to speculate about where the next shooting would take place – especially after the shooting in Fredericksburg. He was moving in our direction. Patrol cars took up permanent positions at the exits and entrances to I 95, and a noticeable increase in general police presence was obvious.

Then it happened. Helicopters swarmed over our houses, and spot lights roamed the neighborhood throughout the night. Finally we learned that the Beltway Sniper had shot a man only a few miles away. Even with all the preparation, he escaped apprehension, but not for long. On October 24, police captured him and his teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo. They were at a rest stop northwest of Washington D.C.

John Allen Muhammad caused immeasurable anguish, and he took the lives of innocents – something he was not. I do not weep for him, but rather for those he harmed and their loved ones.

Paul Ebert, the Virginia prosecutor who won the death penalty conviction, said…

“He died very peacefully, much more than most of his victims.”

While I have other reservations about his execution, I can not argue with that.