Wife of 'D.C. Sniper' inspires by sharing story
October 4, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- For years Mildred Muhammad battled her ex-husband, John Allen Muhammad.
When the former Army sergeant came home from Operation Desert Storm angry and confused, Mildred Muhammad tried to help him adjust. After he had numerous affairs, she kicked him out of the house.
"He said, 'You have become my enemy. I will kill you,'" said Mildred Muhammad, addressing a crowd of Soldiers during the Domestic Violence Awareness Month kickoff at the Elkhorn Conference Center, Sept. 28.
After he threatened to kill her, she changed the locks, her phone number and received a restraining order.
Still, he stalked her.
He kidnapped her three children, refusing to allow her to see them for 18 months.
And after she won custody of her children and moved them to the Washington, D.C., area, he went on a shooting spree, killing 10 people.
John Allen Muhammad, known as the D.C. Sniper, was put to death by lethal injection Nov. 10, 2009, bringing some closure to the years of agony Mildred Muhammad endured.
"Domestic violence does not have a race, creed or gender," she said. "Eighty percent of victims do not have physical scars. ... My friends didn't believe me, but the victim knows what the abuser will do."
Three years after her decade-long ordeal came to an end, Muhammad now reaches out to other victims of domestic abuse.
"(Soldiers) are different when they come home," she said. Muhammad told audience members to remain vigilant and watch out for each other. She also encouraged Soldiers to reach out for help, if needed.
Muhammad said before her husband deployed he was "jovial and the life of the party."
When he returned, she said, he was confused, sad and angry.
In her book, "Scared Silent," Muhammad wrote, "I was expecting him to be his old self -- full of stories and plans, as well as jokes. Instead, the John who returned from the Gulf acted like somebody had run over him and flattened him out."
Muhammad said the military had few resources for Soldiers returning from combat in the early 1990s. That, coupled with his not wanting anybody to know of his struggles, led to a downward spiral in his behavior, she said.
"I was still expecting that, any day now, John would become more like the man I married, but it wasn't happening," she wrote.
In her book, Muhammad wrote that her ex-husband's abusive behavior continued to escalate. After learning of his extramarital affairs, Muhammad said she asked him to move out Sept. 9, 1999, but he would return to their home at night, watching her as she slept.
"I had the locks changed, but he would have a key. I had the phone numbers changed, but he would call," she said.
Muhammad pursued a lifetime restraining order and agreed to allow her ex-husband to visit their three children, then ages 8, 9 and 11. During his second visitation with the children, however, John Allen Muhammad disappeared along with his son and two daughters, taking them to Antigua, an island in the Caribbean.
For 18 months, Muhammad said she tried to find her children.
"I called the police, but they said he had just as much right to the children as I did," she said.
Muhammad took matters into her own hands, filing for divorce and taking law classes, which resulted in obtaining a writ of habeas corpus to get her children back.
On Sept. 5, 2001, Muhammad was reunited with her children in Washington after local authorities detained John Allen Muhammad who had returned to the U.S. with the children. While the reunion was joyous, Muhammad said she remained fearful of her ex-husband.
"I knew it would be a head shot," she said. "One shot, one kill, never leave an enemy behind."
Muhammad moved with her children to the Washington, D.C., area, constantly weary of encountering her ex-husband.
More than a year later, authorities knocked on her door asking about John Allen Muhammad's whereabouts.
Ten people in the area had been killed by an unknown shooter.
"They told me they believed John was creating a diversion to kill me," she said.
Police arrested John Allen Muhammad, along with Lee Boyd Malvo, in connection with the attacks. He was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Muhammad said she and her children are doing well. Her daughters are in college and her son is pursuing a career as a professional football player. She now runs a nonprofit, After the Trauma, which advocates for survivors of domestic violence.
"Seek counseling," Muhammad said, encouraging survivors of domestic violence. "(You) don't
have to suffer in silence."