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Crimes of the Century

Aired June 30, 2013 - 20:00   ET


NARRATOR: It was an unprecedented wave of terror that struck in and around our nation's capital.

ASST. CHIEF DREW TRACY, MONTGOMERY CO. POLICE DEPARTMENT (RET.): You had 9/11. This is one year later.

NARRATOR: Over 23 days 10 people are targeted for death.

CAPT. BARNEY FORSYTHE, MONTGOMERY CO. POLICE DEPARTMENT (RET.): There was always just a single shot.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody has been shot down our back lot. He is bleeding real bad.

NARRATOR: The victims are diverse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women, men, young, old, black, white.

NARRATOR: The motive is unknown.

TRACY: We're not sure if we had a terrorist operation.

NARRATOR: The panic is escalating.

DEL QUENTIN WILBER, REPORTER, THE BALTIMORE SUN, 1997-2004: They were striking at the heart of the suburbs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The guy is hit. And there was a white van just went by.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tomorrow I'm going to my fourth funeral in four days.

FORSYTHE: People were dying. They were dying right in front of us.


CHIEF J. THOMAS "TOM" MANGER, FAIRFAX COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: This, without a doubt, was the most intense three weeks of my career.

NARRATOR: It was one of the biggest manhunts in American history. "The Hunt for the D.C. Snipers." Next. It's known as the beltway. The growing metropolis that surrounds our nation's capital. Encompassing portions of Maryland and Virginia, the beltway is a sprawl of medium and small-sized towns. The kind of places where indiscriminate violence is rare.

For area residents October 2nd, 2002 began quietly enough. Nationally the big news was a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Category four hurricane.

NARRATOR: And the build-up to the invasion of Iraq.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: Because we know the awful nature of war.

NARRATOR: But a very different war was about to erupt.

FORSYTHE: I got a call from my deputy, Lt. Phil Raum.

LT. PHIL RAUM, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: A 55-year-old man was killed outside the store.

We had a gentleman who was shot in the parking lot at the Shoppers Food Warehouse.

FORSYTHE: I asked him what kind was it. Do we have a smoker? Do we have an argument between two people that we haven't answered to it right away?

NARRATOR: Barney Forsythe was the head of major crimes for Montgomery County.

FORSYTHE: He said no, not really. And we had a loud bang.

RAUM: It was directly across the street from a police station. In fact, the first police officers to arrive on the scene were those that heard the shot inside the police station and walked across the street.

NARRATOR: The victim is a 55-year-old government analyst named James D. Martin. Police have almost nothing to go on.

FORSYTHE: Security cameras are starting to become more popular. We were, of course, hoping that that was going to tell us something. And unfortunately, after we viewed it, the only thing we saw was the poor man basically getting shot and fallen to the ground.

RAUM: We talked about the unusual nature of that particular murder.

FORSYTHE: The thing that bothered us was that there was no obvious reason for the shooting.

RAUM: In Montgomery County somebody being killed with a rifle is something very unusual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A single shot crashed through a craft store window. No one was hit. NARRATOR: Oddly, less than an hour earlier, there had been a random shot fired just a few miles away. There were no injuries and no clues.

FORSYTHE: We weren't really sure what had he had at that point.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Tonight the mystery remains.

NARRATOR: That evening the two shootings were still just a local story. The next morning everything changed.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. We need police and ambulance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. What's the problem?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody has been shot down on our back lot. He's down on the ground. He's bleeding real bad.

FORSYTHE: We had a call for a subject who had been out mowing the lawn.

NARRATOR: The victim is 39-year-old Sonny Buchanan. A landscaper.

FORSYTHE: Immediately we were pretty sure it was going to be related to the previous evening's shooting.

NARRATOR: The two crime scenes are just over four miles apart.

FORSYTHE: We're reasonably sure that they were parked within several hundred yards of this location. They managed to sight the victim and take the shot.

NARRATOR: Thirty minutes later the carnage continues.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What happened here at the gas station?

DR. CAROLINE NAMROW, EYEWITNESS: I had to fill the car up with gas. There was a gentleman filling his car. It was a taxi. And he looked at me and I looked at him, and then I looked down for a split second just to pick up my credit card, and then I heard a very loud bang.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The shot came from up here.

NAMROW: And then I looked up, and the taxi driver was walking towards my car. He said to me, call an ambulance, and he collapsed. I saw a lot of blood.

NARRATOR: The taxi driver is 54-year-old Prem Kumar Walekar. The witness is Caroline Namrow, an emergency room doctor.

NAMROW: I realized that he was having something called the aganal breathing, which is the last breath.

NARRATOR: When police arrive, Dr. Namrow is performing CPR on a dead man.

NAMROW: I started to feel a little worried when I saw everybody with the bullet proof vest on, and I didn't have one.

FORSYTHE: We all thought that there was a possibility that we could be targeted at that point. I remember Chief Moose specifically told me to get my vest on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me now introduce our chief of police, Charles Moose. Charles?

MOOSE: Thank you, sir. We are doing everything in our power to control our emotions as we deal with this situation. The challenge is to be back here to be accurate, to not get tunnel vision, to not go off on a tangent, to not put misinformation out there.

NARRATOR: Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose becomes the public face of the investigation. But behind the scenes Captain Barney Forsythe takes the lead.

RAUM: He was the right guy in the right place at the right time.

FORSYTHE: As we were down here there was also a call coming out, a person possibly committing suicide about a mile north of here.

NARRATOR: But this is no suicide. It's murder. And it's less than two miles away.

Dead at the scene is a 34-year-old babysitter and housekeeper, Sarah Ramos. Passersby thought she had shot herself.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The 34-year-old Sarah Ramos was sitting on a bench at a shopping center reading.

NARRATOR: It's another busy location. Another perplexing crime scene. Three fatal shootings in less than an hour in a four-mile radius.

FORSYTHE: We sensed they were related, but knowing and proving that they're related are certainly two different things. The rear of this parking lot provides a very good area. Take a shot. One shot. One loud shot. One fatal shot. And then move away without causing a great deal of distraction.

NARRATOR: A witness reports seeing a white box truck fleeing the scene. It's the first material clue for investigators.

FORSYTHE: The investigation really, really took on speed right here.

NARRATOR: An hour and 20 minutes later five and a half miles away Lori Ann Lewis Rivera has stopped at a self-service gas station vacuum stand to clean out her minivan.

CAPT. NANCY DEMME, MONTGOMERY CO. POLICE DEPARTMENT: Everyday people doing everyday things usually are not the victims.

NARRATOR: Rivera, mother of a young daughter, is just 25 years old.

NAMROW: Just the enormity of this huge sense of waste. This child lost her mother.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Another murder. Again, a single shot. Two people in a box type truck with a damaged tailgate.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So far they haven't found anybody, and that's the situation as we know it right now out here.

NARRATOR: It's quiet for the next 12 hours. Then just a few blocks from the Montgomery County line one more shot shatters the night. Seventy-two-year-old Pascal Charlotte, a retired carpenter, dies at the scene.

RAUM: Montgomery County, we average about 20 homicides a year. Now we've had five of them in the space of a 16-hour period.

TRACY: If you look at the victims in the first day, they were from all different aspects. Male, female, Indian, white, Hispanic, black. So basically that's telling you they're looking at random targets. They're not predetermined targets.

WILBER: This is Americana, right? Do they hate suburban America? We couldn't figure out why they were doing it, but they were striking kind of at the heart of the suburbs.

TRACY: You had 9/11. This is one year later. At first we're not sure if we had a terrorist operation.

JOSH WHITE, REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: There was no sense at all who was behind this, who the next victim might be, and when it would stop, if it would stop.

RAUM: We didn't know what the next 16 hours was going to bring.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The snipers began leaving notes.

FORSYTHE: It was sort of like getting punched in the face.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: An entire community of suburban Maryland is living in fear.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As police spread out --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A massive manhunt is under way.

NARRATOR: In a single day the D.C. sniper murder spree became the top story across the nation.

MOOSE: I don't know what the thought process is. What the plan is. But yes, people need to continue with life.

NAMROW: It was really terrifying to be in an area where there's a crazy person with a gun.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Suburban Maryland is living in fear.

TRACY: Fear was just -- I mean, not perception of fear. This is reality fear.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A massive manhunt is underway with still no clues as to who killed five people.

WHITE: The reality was they were mobile. They were willing to go anywhere at any time.

NARRATOR: But who were they? After six murders in 27 hours, police had just one common thread.

FORSYTHE: It was a single shot and it was a very loud single shot.

NARRATOR: Victim number seven, a 43-year-old mother of two, is shot outside a second Michael's Craft Store. More than 50 miles south of where the previous attacks were clustered.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Police say that the bullet passed through her body.

NARRATOR: She is the first victim to survive.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is there any connection between the shooting that occurred in Virginia and the ones that have occurred here in Montgomery County?

MOOSE: At this point the fragments from the shooting are in the lab and the comparison test is being conducted right now.

MICHAEL BOUCHARD, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, ATF (RET.): By the second day we had a good idea the type of caliber. We were also able to tell that all the shots were fired from the same weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Maryland investigators narrowing their search for these weapons by starting with the killer's bullets.

TRACY: So right away just about within 24 hours we knew we were dealing with an assault rifle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you seen anybody who may have weapons similar to this? Call Chief Moose and his department on the hotline.

TRACY: We had to look at the elevation of how the round hit the body, and we noticed that we did not have a high entry elevation, meaning being shot from a high angle. That led us to believe they could be shooting from a bench location or we even thought earlier they could be shooting from a platform maybe like a van or a truck.

NARRATOR: The ballistics report provoked a chilling conclusion for investigators. They weren't dealing with just any killer. This was the work of a highly motivated sniper. TRACY: I'm a trained sniper myself. I went through sniper school. Each one of these individuals was shot with one rifle round, which scared me.

FORSYTHE: The "oh shit" moment is when you realized that this is not an ordinary investigation. We knew that we had a public safety crisis.

NARRATOR: The sniper realization fueled even greater urgency. The witness' report of a white van or truck fleeing one of the early murder scenes began to drive the investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We just have new information now on the box truck. It does have lettering. Police say two lines of block lettering on the side and on the back.

TRACY: The media was basically all over the story.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They say the vehicle has six wheels, four wheels in the rear.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They may have spotted two people in a box type truck with a damaged tailgate.

TRACY: And they started putting out white box trucks. White box truck. White box truck.

MOOSE: The witness talked about two people in it.

BOUCHARD: And group think took over.

MOOSE: Graphics will be available. We think it will help people prompt their memories.

NAMROW: White vans were everywhere.

NANCY GRACE, TV HOST: There are white vans similar to the other white van.

NAMROW: Then all of a sudden there were millions of white vans and everybody would say, did you see? I saw a white van.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Police say they're still looking for a white box truck.

RAUM: They've got a life of its own that it shouldn't have gotten.


RAUM: Unfortunately, it was the only game in town at that point.

NARRATOR: Lost in the hysteria of the white box truck lead was an alert put out by D.C. Police. After the last shooting of the previous day. October 3rd.

WILBER: The homicide detectives investigating the shootings on George Avenue, just inside the D.C. line had a description of a Chevy Caprice leaving the scene. It was not a big story. It was kind of buried in the news coverage.

NARRATOR: The white truck theory simply dominated the discussion. Along with media experts who came forward with profiles of the sniper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This had all the markings of an all American crime spree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is somebody who actually is trying to taunt the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The message is getting out there that no one is safe.

WILBER: Everyone thought it was white guys. White guys being involved. Just because that seemed to be the predominant serial killer motif.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what, you want to profile? Here's a guy who's going to turn out, I believe, to be a white middle aged male.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd be looking for an individual who has a high degree of anxiety at work.

BOUCHARD: It was very bad for the witness pollution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a typology of mass murder called the pseudocommando.

MOOSE: We're still waiting on the psychological profile piece from the FBI. We don't expect it will be exact, that it will cause us to have tunnel visions.


NARRATOR: To calm the public, satisfy the media, and keep the facts straight, Chief Moose, backed by members of the sniper task force, holds daily press conferences. One a day every day.

BOUCHARD: Early on we determined that the snipers were listening to things that we were saying. Several of us feared they were actually in the background watching this press conference.

MOOSE: The question about the schools and their status tomorrow, who is going to open, that decision clearly has been made.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There is no reason to believe that the shooter is targeting schoolchildren.

DEMME: The public had been afraid that their kids were safe so People were afraid their kids weren't safe so we said, OK, we'll send police. Every school in Montgomery County had an officer at it.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A 13-year-old boy shot and wounded as he arrives at his suburban Maryland school. NARRATOR: The victim is a student at Benjamin Tasker Middle School. He is critically wounded, but survives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right over there right over my right shoulder is where the boy was shot.

WHITE: The idea that a shooter would target an innocent child on his way to school was alarming in a way that the previous shootings hadn't been.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What they're now saying is that there is a connection between the shooting here and the other ones that have really caused quite the jitters throughout the Washington area.

NARRATOR: The school shooting occurs 70 odd miles from the previous in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The sniper zone seems to be growing.

Once again, witnesses report seeing a white van leaving the scene. It was a consistent detail that would nearly untrack the entire investigation.

CARMETA ALBARUS, CO-AUTHOR, THE MAKING OF LEE BOYD MALVO: I think they were looking for, you know, a white man in a box truck. I don't think anyone was expecting that they were blacks, I think.

WILBER: Well, if you are two black guys in kind of a beat-up car during this, no one would ever notice you.

NARRATOR: Only much later would anyone realize that the witnesses and the media experts were wrong on both of the crucial points. There was no box truck and the snipers were not white.


NARRATOR: Six dead. Two wounded. Millions terrorized. Almost a week has passed since the D.C. snipers first struck. And now the school attack has elevated the stakes dramatically.

TRACY: Everybody working this detail knew someone who was in the schools whether this was neighbors, whether it was relatives or whether it was their own children, and it was kind of like, where are we safe?

NARRATOR: Even though witnesses had reported seeing a white van at the school, authorities quickly determined that the shot actually came from the adjacent woods. Police find two pieces of evidence. A single spent shell casing and a disturbing communique.

BOUCHARD: There are people recovered a tarot card. It was the death card.

NARRATOR: Michael Bouchard believes the tarot card confirms that the snipers had listened to the previous press conference.

BOUCHARD: One of my words was I don't know why on god's earth somebody would do something like this. And sure enough, it said, Mr. Police, call me god, do not release to the press.

NARRATOR: Word of the tarot card was closely guarded by the sniper task force, but not closely enough. It leaks on October 9th.

WHITE: When the news media got ahold of the tarot card and the information on it, law enforcement was extremely upset.

DEMME: You really want to get that piece of information and put it out while we're still doing this investigation?

WILBER: There was some discussion amongst all of us in the newsroom. Do we report this or not?

MOOSE: I don't think there's anybody that hasn't experienced the hindrance of leaks in the past. We have not been thrown off track.

BOUCHARD: They claim they shot other people because we didn't do what they asked us to do.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Dean Myers shot at this Manassas, Virginia, gas station.

NARRATOR: Dean Harold Myers, a civil engineer, is the ninth victim, shot in the chest and killed while pumping gas near Manassas, Virginia. He was 53 years old. In a parking lot across from the crime scene a police officer interviews potential witnesses. One of them is a man driving the same 12-year-old Chevy Caprice that had been spotted near the sixth murder scene. When police wave him on, they have no idea they've just interviewed the sniper mastermind.

John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were an unlikely pair, joined by unlikely circumstances. Muhammad, age 41, was definitely the alpha. His devoted follower and more than willing accomplice Malvo was just 17.

ALBARUS: One of the things that struck me was his devotion and commitment to John Allen Muhammad, who he referred to as dad.

NARRATOR: Muhammad, a father of three, was an ex-Army engineer who received the normal training in marksmanship. He saw action in the first Gulf War, but returned home a changed man.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Desert Storm, the first Iraq war, flipped a switch in John Muhammad. To this day his ex-wife isn't sure what happened.

MILDRED MUHAMMAD, EX-WIFE: It was like his spirit had been broken. He looked like just a broken man.

NARRATOR: That's the man who befriended Lee Malvo in 2000. Muhammad met the teen while on a trip to Antigua where Malvo's mother had all but abandoned him. Muhammad eventually brought Malvo to Tacoma, Washington, as his informally adopted son.

ALBARUS: His true personality I think is a soft, warm, loving child. It is very, very important that one recognize that Lee did not attach to a killer. He actually attached to a loving and caring father.

NARRATOR: At the time Muhammad was in a bitter and complicated custody battle for his own biological children whom he had stolen away from his estranged wife. When a Tacoma court gave her full and permanent custody, Muhammad vowed revenge.

ALBARUS: The children were given to his wife and he would no longer have any connection with his children. And he was outraged.

M. MUHAMMAD: He said, do not raise my children on your own. You have become my enemy, and as my enemy I will kill you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you believe him?

M. MUHAMMAD: Totally.

NARRATOR: The outrage became anger and hatred fueling an inner war against a racist society which Muhammad in turn fed to young Lee Malvo.

ALBARUS: He was being conditioned to be a soldier. We're talking about a child soldier. He was actually having Lee go to sleep with taped extracts from the "Art of War," from books talking about war and revolution, et cetera. And that was how he started the whole brainwashing process.

NARRATOR: The pair's murderous journey actually started in Tacoma nearly 3,000 miles from D.C. At Muhammad's direction, Malvo shot and killed the niece of a woman who had testified against Muhammad at the custody hearing.

ALBARUS: Lee was trained not to feel. Whenever he would feel and Muhammad saw that there was a flinch of feelings, he would tell him to slap his chest and say, heart be still. Heart be still. After a while he didn't have to tell him heart to be still because he had, if I could use the word, monsterized him.

NARRATOR: No one ever linked Muhammad and Malvo to the girl's murder. Now eight months later they're driving around the nation's capital in an old Chevy Caprice shooting innocent citizens while everyone is looking for a white man in a white truck.

WHITE: Law enforcement knew that the shooters had a distinct advantage. I think to them it was quite frustrating. They all knew more people were going to die.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We've just received word of another shooting.

FORSYTHE: You know you just have to keep plowing through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the parking lot.

FORSYTHE: You just cannot throw your hands up and walk away and say, well, this is too hard.

BOUCHARD: You knew that as fast as they were shooting people, there would probably be another one before we caught them.


NARRATOR: As the D.C. sniper death toll mounted, the public fear grew accordingly. The attacks had completely altered everyone's daily routine.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Millions of vehicles on these roads every day. Again, it's great video there. Look at this. Look at that. White van with a ladder on top.

MANGER: Certainly the public was on edge. Parking your car and running into the grocery store. Ducking down next to your car while you're putting gas in.

WHITE: I'm not exaggerating. People were zigzagging through parking lots.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who would have ever thought you would do that? Walking in a zigzag pattern when you're going to fill up your tank?

NAMROW: We didn't go to parks. We didn't let the kids play outside the front of the house.

TRACY: You have an area around here with several million people who are basically held hostage by who knows what.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At this point forward we sit and we wait.

NARRATOR: Meanwhile, the media continues to speculate about the snipers and the snipers apparently continue to monitor the press conferences and the media.

DEMME: It just got more huge, more huge, more huge. It was just monstrous.

BOUCHARD: I was being interviewed, and the newscasts are asked a lot of the information is that this person is a trained military sniper. And basically what I said is, it doesn't take a specialized expert to fire these shots. The next victim was shot in the head.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Officials here confirming that a man was shot in an Exxon station along Route 1 here in Spotsylvania. He died shortly after that.

NARRATOR: Kenneth Bridges, a prominent social activist and businessman from Philadelphia, is the tenth victim. The eighth to die. He was shot while pumping gas.

MANGER: A lot of these shootings, especially ones in Virginia would occur right off the interstate. So one of the ideas that we had was that if we get a shooting, we're going to get on the interstate and do roadblocks. Just stop everybody as they come through.

It's a pretty drastic action. I guess a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. But we needed to pull out all the stops. NARRATOR: Among those stopped at one of the roadblocks, a dark blue Chevy Caprice carrying none other than John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. Once more, the sniper car is given a pass.

TRACY: Their vehicle, which was queried several times by law enforcement over several days in several states, was legally registered. There was no warrants out for these individuals at that point in time.

WHITE: I don't know how anyone could have stopped that vehicle and known that it was the sniper's vehicle.

NARRATOR: Much later when the authorities finally get a look at the Chevy Caprice, they are stunned by what they find. The vehicle had been utilized in most of the shootings. Outside it looks perfectly ordinary. Inside it's anything but.

BOUCHARD: The seat back would lift up, and that's where the gun was stored.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It was a customized killing machine.

BOUCHARD: And by lifting up the backseat, the shooter could crawl into the trunk.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's darker than normal tinting on the back windows.

BOUCHARD: They had cut an opening in the trunk above the license plate.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: This is the view when they pulled the trigger.

BOUCHARD: They can stick the barrel out of the back of the trunk. Fire was shot. Nobody would see where the shot came from.

MANGER: At about 9:15 this evening. A female was shot in the upper body in the parking garage of the Home Depot at Seven Corners. She was pronounced dead on the scene.

NARRATOR: The victim is 47-year-old Linda Franklin, shot while she and her husband loaded packages into their car. Franklin is an FBI analyst. It's the first shooting in Fairfax County, Virginia, and takes place 50 miles from the previous shooting in Spotsylvania County. A witness claims to have seen the shooter flee the scene in a white van.

MANGER: It's been determined through further investigation that the information is not credible.

NARRATOR: But the damage is done. The sniper hotline, already inundated, is again flooded with sightings of white vans.

BOUCHARD: I believe we got over 115,000 tips, 16,000 of those were viable leads that needed to be followed up on.

NARRATOR: Almost lost among all the phone calls are several from the snipers to the police.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't say anything. Just listen.

TRACY: They were calling the task force. They were calling Rockville City Police, and they also called Montgomery County Police.

NARRATOR: In one, the caller says, "We've called three times trying to set up negotiations. We've gotten no response. People have died. The lady didn't have to die."

TRACY: I think they wanted to get a message across to us.

NARRATOR: The 12th victim and third to survive is a 37-year-old musician from Florida. He is shot outside a steakhouse in Ashland, Virginia. Once again, a white van is seen leaving the area.

TRACY: They used that to their advantage. They were looking to find a white box style vehicle in close proximity to their shootings because that would add to their anonymity.

NARRATOR: The snipers later confirmed that rather than flee, they often stayed at the crime scenes.

WHITE: They were very deliberate about that. They were going up talking to law enforcement officials. Hunting them in the sense that, well, here I am and I'm the guy you're looking for.

NARRATOR: Behind the steakhouse in the woods police find the spent .223 shell and another note from the snipers. A four-page handwritten ransom letter. In the letter the snipers wrote, "If stopping the killing is more important than catching us, then you will accept our demand. You will place $10 million in a bank account."

BOUCHARD: I never thought money was the motive. I think that was just their arrogance to see how far they could push the government and see what they can get us to do.

NARRATOR: But there is a chilling postscript on the note that gets everyone's attention.

FORSYTHE: The money should be in a position where you are responsible for the safety of your community and then somebody says, your children aren't safe, and they've already got proof that that's true because they've shot one.

BOUCHARD: There is no playbook, there's no parenting guide to tell your kids everything is going to be OK.


NARRATOR: As the sniper crisis enters its third week, nerves in the D.C. area are frayed. Frustrations mount for police and the media.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can a lack of information, public information possibly in peril of the public? MOOSE: Sir, I appreciate the question, but I am personally insulted if you would think that I would hold something from you or anybody else that would keep you safe.

NARRATOR: After a three-day lull, the snipers strike again. Conrad "C.J." Johnson, a 35-year-old Montgomery County bus driver, is shot in his first stop. Johnson is the 13th victim in three weeks. The tenth to die.

FORSYTHE: Mr. Johnson had pulled up to this location right directly across from us at which point he was shot and killed almost instantly. It was a single shot. We know that the shot came back from the wood line no more than 30 to 50 yards away.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As can you see, the forward most bus up there is the one where the shoot --

NARRATOR: Johnson's death brings the entire case home to Montgomery County.

FORSYTHE: I can remember just thinking they're back.

NARRATOR: Police find another note in the woods.

BOUCHARD: We knew that if we could engage them, we would be that much closer to them either screwing up or making another mistake that would help us catch them. They did exactly what we asked them to do. They started writing us letters. They started calling.

RAUM: One of the phone calls basically told us we needed to look at a robbery that had occurred in Montgomery, Alabama.

NARRATOR: The call, it later turned out, was from Lee Boyd Malvo. Was he just bragging or hoping to get caught? No one knows, but it was a critical break.

TRACY: He didn't identify himself as the sniper or he says, you just got to look at that. I called Montgomery, Alabama. I said, did you have a shooting at a liquor store, and they said, yes, one individual was killed. One was seriously wounded.

NARRATOR: The only evidence is a set of fingerprints.

BOUCHARD: They ran it against the national database, including immigration records, and found Malvo's print.

RAUM: That around the same time we got a phone call from a gentleman who lived out in Washington who said we need to take a look at these two guys, and he named the two guys. A Muhammad and Malvo. And he said the kid's nickname out here is Sniper. Sniper.

FORSYTHE: And all of a sudden it all started falling into place.

NARRATOR: The tipster says the two practiced shooting at a tree stump in his backyard. ATF and FBI immediately sent field agents to retrieve the stump. BOUCHARD: We asked our people to do it low key, keep it very quiet, don't tell anybody. About an hour later someone came into the Chief Moose's office and said take a look on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Agents from the FBI and ATF have just finished up their search.

BOUCHARD: The helicopters and the news media were out there watching our people, and this backyard in Tacoma, Washington.

MOOSE: A federal arrest warrant has been issued for John Allen Muhammad, also known as John Allen Williams.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The end came around 1:00 a.m. at a rest stop outside Frederick, Maryland, about 50 miles northwest of Washington. A sharp-eyed motorist who'd heard the police lookout just over an hour earlier spotted the blue 1990 Chevrolet Caprice with two men sleeping inside.

TRACY: It was a six-person assault element. We had three on the driver's side, three on the passenger side. They assaulted and pulled both individuals out of John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo in less than three seconds. I looked down and I saw Lee Boyd Malvo and you could see the sweat coming down his face. And this is a cold October night. And you could see he was just scared. And then John Muhammad was on the other side and he was more defiant.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Police lined up in the cold rain to say that after three weeks they believe they caught the snipers and found the gun.

MOOSE: Sir, we feel very positive about being here. We have the weapon. It is off the street.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Apprehended, 41-year-old John Allen Muhammad, a Gulf War army veteran, and 17-year-old John Lee Malvo.

NARRATOR: Muhammad's ex-wife Mildred, who had moved to the D.C. area almost two years earlier was stunned when she saw his face on television.

M. MUHAMMAD: I walked over to the screen and put mu hand on it and said, what happened to you?



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Two individuals were taken into custody.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We can only hope this is the end of it, but we don't know that yet.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Local, state and federal prosecutors are meeting to discuss charges and some jurisdictional issues.

NARRATOR: For the residents of Washington, D.C. and the beltway area, three weeks of living on edge in constant fear is over.

WILBER: Everyone was so glad it was over and this mayhem had stopped. But there was also a lot of, like, confusion of who these two guys were. You know, they weren't what people were expecting.

NARRATOR: The confusion is compounded by disbelief as other disturbing revelations emerge about John Muhammad and Lee Malvo. The two snipers are eventually connected to dozens of shootings and robberies in at least five different states.

FORSYTHE: They killed people in Washington, worked their way, I think, through Texas down to Louisiana and Alabama. I think they were in Georgia, so it's not just the homicides here.

John Muhammad is clearly the mastermind, but people are stunned to find out his accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo is just a 17-year-old boy.

NAMROW: It was a huge sense of horror that such a young person could have been involved in such horrendous crimes. That was very shocking.

FORSYTHE: I guess you shake your head a little bit and you think what could bring a person to do something like this?

WHITE: It's complex for Malvo. He was a teen when he met Muhammad and he was in dire straits. He was suicidal. He was very unhappy with his family situation. He did not have a father figure in his life and was desperately seeking one. Muhammad filled all of those needs for Malvo.

ALBARUS: Lee was told that the shootings were designed to create a society, a society of 70 boys and 70 girls that Mr. Muhammad was going to be lord over, and Lee would be one of his soldiers. And Lee really believed that.

WHITE: He was so enamored of John Allen Muhammad that he would have done anything. And what Muhammad was asking him to do was to kill over and over and over again.



NARRATOR: Two years after the shooting, Lee Boyd Malvo was convicted on two counts of capital murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Three years later, he wrote from his cell, "I'm still grappling with shame, guilt, remorse and my own healing if that will ever be possible."

As for John Allen Muhammad, he, too, was convicted of capital murder. The sentence, death by lethal injection. His own motive for the killing spree remains a mystery.

WHITE: All we know about Muhammad's approach to these shootings is largely what other people have theorized, because Muhammad never really explained why it happened. There are theories that he was randomly shooting people in that area so that perhaps he could kill his ex-wife and then swoop in as the grieving ex-husband and take the children away and disappear.

BOUCHARD: If he wanted to kill her, he could have killed her randomly. I don't think that had anything to do with it.

M. MUHAMMAD: I was fearful for my life, but I never ever thought that he would go to this length, never. Ever. It still boggles my mind.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yet it made sense to you?

M. MUHAMMAD: Because we were watching a movie. I don't remember the name of it, but he said, I can take a small city and terrorize it. They would think it will be a group of people and it would only be me.

NARRATOR: At 9:06 p.m. on November 10th, 2009, John Allen Muhammad was executed. His final meal included chicken with red sauce and strawberry cake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Muhammad was asked to be -- wished to make a last statement. He did not acknowledge us or make any statement whatsoever. He seemed very unemotional.



I'm still on death row fighting.

NARRATOR: Prior to his execution however, Muhammad did speak. This short video was made after his conviction and aired on CNN in 2007. It included what seemed to be an oddly upbeat farewell.

J. MUHAMMAD: Thanks for your patience, kindness and the sacrifice that you will always make. Peace. And may God be with you always. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will not forget. We will never know your pain, and we only wish that we would have stopped this to reduce the number of victims.