Victims, relatives to witness sniper execution

RICHMOND, Va. - November 5, 2009

For those wounded by the D.C. snipers and for the relatives of those killed, the emotions leading up to the execution of the mastermind behind the 2002 attacks vary as widely as those who found themselves in the cross hairs.

John Allen Muhammad, 48, is set to die by injection in a Virginia prison Nov. 10, seven years after he and his teenage accomplice terrorized the area in and around the nation's capital for three weeks.

Some family members can't wait to see Muhammad take his final breath. Others plan to make the trip to Virginia but never step foot on prison grounds.

And there are those who plan to spend the night at home with their families, satisfied that Muhammad is paying for what he's done but indifferent as to how it will happen.


For Nelson M. Rivera and Marion Lewis, watching Muhammad's execution will be the closest they will ever come to revenge.

"I feel like it's going to be the last chapter of this book and I want to see what his expression on his face is. And I want to see if he says anything," the 38-year-old Rivera said. "I want to see his face and see how he likes that - confronting his death."

Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, who was Rivera's wife and Lewis' daughter, was killed as she vacuumed her van at a Kensington, Md., gas station.

Rivera, a Honduran immigrant who recently became a U.S. citizen, has remarried and had two more children since Lori was killed, leaving behind a 2-year-old daughter, Jocelin. He now works as a public-schools groundskeeper in the suburbs of Sacramento, Calif.

Still, "there is not one day I don't remember what happened and I don't remember my wife. This is going to be with me the rest of my life," Rivera said.

Lewis, 57, a laid-off construction worker, said he would like to tell Muhammad how losing his 25-year-old daughter devastated their family.

"For the hurt, the pain that he's caused my family, I'd like to be his executioner, period," Lewis said.


Robert Meyers takes some solace in knowing that Muhammad's execution is out of his hands.

He and his wife, Lori, plan to be in the witness booth, but not out of any bloodthirsty lust to watch his brother's killer meet his maker. Rather, he considers it justice being served, a sentence being carried out.

"The reason why this life is going to be taken has everything to do with choices that he made and the process that those choices took him through," said Meyers, 56, of Perkiomenville, Pa.

Executions in Virginia, home of the nation's second-busiest death chamber, usually are intimate affairs observed by a handful of lawyers, prison officials, the mandated six citizen witnesses, a few reporters and family members.

But the sheer number of victims — 10 killed and three injured in and around the nation's capital alone - has the state scrambling to accommodate all the people entitled to watch. Corrections officials are tightlipped about the arrangements, though relatives say each victim's family was offered two spots in the roughly 10-by-10 witness booth.

Meyers said he owed it to his brother, Dean Harold Meyers, to be there and that he also wanted to be there for other victims' families.

Dean Meyers, 53, a Vietnam vet and civil engineer, was the youngest of four brothers. He was shot in the head while filling up at a Manassas, Va., gas station. Muhammad's teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, later bragged to police, laughing that Dean Meyers "was hit good. Dead immediately."

It was Meyers' murder that sent Muhammad to death row.

"We're expecting justice being done, but not from a vengeful standpoint," Robert Meyers said. "It is more about the payment of his debt to society, because that was decided by others."


Charles Moore believes Muhammad deserves to die, and he's frustrated that Malvo will not be on a gurney beside him.

"The only thing that would give me closure would be if I knew that Lee Boyd Malvo was being punished properly," said Moore, 80, of Gainesville, Fla.

Malvo, who was 17 at the time of the shootings, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for killing Linda Franklin, a 47-year-old FBI analyst who was shot as she and her husband loaded supplies at a Home Depot in Falls Church, Va.

"I don't see how someone can plan and plot and commit murder, one right after the other, and get off with just life in prison, I don't care what their age is," Moore said.

Moore, a retired bioengineer at the University of Florida, said his daughter used to call him every morning "to tell me to get out of bed and start chasing my wife around the house or something."

He struggles with Parkinson's disease now, and says he can't afford the trip to Virginia to watch the execution. He's not really sure he would make the trip if he could, though.

"When my daughter was first killed, if I would have had a gun I would have been willing to kill him but right now I don't know how I feel," Moore said. "I don't want him turned loose on society, that's for sure."


Caroline Seawell has refused to live the last seven years as a victim.

Sure, her ribs are deformed and there's a piece of mesh covering a hole in her diaphragm. But Seawell has been blessed with no major medical problems since a sniper's bullet raced into her back and through a handful of organs as she loaded a scarecrow and other Halloween decorations into her minivan.

She and her family moved to South Carolina not long after the shooting outside a Fredericksburg, Va., Michael's craft store. Her youngest son, now 11, doesn't even know about the shooting.

"I've been really good about being able to kind of just put it behind me," Seawell said. "I've been able to just continue on with my life."

In that defiant spirit, Seawell said she will not travel to Virginia to watch Muhammad take his last breath. He deserves to die for what he's done, she said, but after watching both parents die from cancer, she has no desire to witness another death.

"There was enough killing already with all of us," she said.

If anything, Seawell says the shooting has made her a much stronger person. If given the chance, she'd like to tell Muhammad and Malvo just that.

"They didn't do what they set out to do because they haven't devastated my life," she said. "I've been able to move on and continue and raise my children, which is exactly what I wanted to do.

"I don't want them to have any satisfaction out of the fact that they shot me."


Associated Press Writer David Dishneau contributed to this report from Hagerstown, Md.

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