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Muhammad told ex-wife, 'I will kill you,' she says

Death penalty argued for man convicted in sniper killing

Mildred Muhammad
Mildred Muhammad

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CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports that prosecutors rested their death-penalty case against John Allen Muhammad after his ex-wife told jurors that Muhammad threatened to kill her.
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CNN's Patty Davis reports that jurors in sniper suspect Lee Malvo's trial heard his voice on a police tape describing some of the shootings.
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Virginia prosecutors make their case for the death penalty for convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad.
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VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia (CNN) -- Prosecutors rested their death-penalty case against John Allen Muhammad on Wednesday after his ex-wife told jurors that Muhammad threatened to kill her when their marriage collapsed in 1999.

" 'Just know this -- you have become my enemy, and as my enemy, I will kill you,' " Mildred Muhammad quoted her ex-husband as saying.

Mildred Muhammad also read letters to her ex-husband from their three children in court Wednesday as prosecutors sought to persuade a jury that Muhammad should be sentenced to death in the October 2002 killing spree that gripped Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

His defense will now attempt to convince the same jury that found him guilty earlier this week to spare his life.

During Wednesday's testimony, Mildred Muhammad described one letter in which the defendant's 10-year-old daughter Tallibah asked her father, "Why did you do all those shooting [sic]?"

Wearing a black dress and a blue print shawl, Mildred Muhammad testified that John Allen Muhammad took her children during a weekend visit in March 2000 and she did not see them again for 18 months.

During that time, she received several phone calls from Muhammad in which he threatened to "destroy" her, she testified.

The children were found with their father in September 2001. By that time, Mildred Muhammad had moved to her sister's home in Clinton, Maryland.

John Allen Muhammad, 42, was convicted Monday of capital murder, murder committed during an act of terrorism, conspiracy, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in the October 9, 2002, killing of Dean Harold Meyers outside a Manassas, Virginia, service station.

The murder and terrorism convictions carry a possible death sentence.

Meyers' brother, Larry Meyers, tearfully told the jury Wednesday his brother was "kind, gentle, generous, considerate -- he was a model son, brother, uncle and great uncle."

Dean Harold Meyers was one of 10 people killed in shooting spree. Another three people were wounded but survived.

A longtime friend, Jane Przygocki, wept openly as she testified about her memories of Meyers.

"Dean was kind of a quiet guy, but very warm and friendly, easygoing and considerate," she said. "Always respectful. Dedicated worker. Always was there to get the job done."

Prosecutors have said the three-week spree was part of Muhammad's plan to kill his ex-wife and regain custody of his children.

Judge LeRoy Millette Jr. prevented prosecutors from presenting that theory during the trial, saying they had not firmly established a link between the sniper shootings and that motive.

But the prosecution used Mildred Muhammad's testimony to argue that Muhammad would be a threat in the future if his life is spared -- a factor the jury could consider in deciding whether Muhammad should be sentenced to death or life in prison.

'I love you so much'

Tallibah Muhammad asked her father four questions in her letter, Mildred Muhammad said -- including why he was involved in the shootings and whether he did most of them. But the other two children appeared to avoid the topic.

Muhammad's 11-year-old daughter Selena told her father that she plays the violin "like [Nation of Islam leader] Louis Farrakhan."

"I am in the sixth grade and have good grades. I am happy that I get to write a letter to you. I am in the chorus," she wrote.

And 13-year-old John Jr. wrote, "Hey Dad, this is your son. Doing good. Wish you were here with me. ... I love you so much and nothing will ever change that ever. I'm in 8th grade. ... That's pretty much it."

Prosecutors argued Muhammad and his alleged accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, acted as a team in the killings, but they did not accuse Muhammad of pulling the trigger in any of them.

Malvo, now 18, is on trial in nearby Chesapeake in another sniper killing -- the October 14, 2002, slaying of Linda Franklin outside a Fairfax, Virginia, store.

Testimony in his trial resumed Wednesday morning, with prosecutors calling witnesses to recount several of the shootings.

Muhammad, left, sits with his attorneys and listens to the testimony from his former wife Mildred as a photo of him in military camouflage holding an M-16 rifle is displayed on a screen.
Muhammad, left, sits with his attorneys and listens to the testimony from his former wife Mildred as a photo of him in military camouflage holding an M-16 rifle is displayed on a screen.

In a statement to police, played for jurors Tuesday, Malvo said he was "basically" the triggerman. Asked whether it mattered to Malvo if some of the victims survived, the youth said, "I intended to kill them all."

Muhammad served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and got out of the Army in 1994. He started a mobile car repair business in Tacoma, Washington, sending mechanics to customers' homes to repair cars, Mildred Muhammad said.

Under defense questioning, she said Muhammad was a changed man when he returned from the war. She he had problems beyond physical injuries, but mental health services available to them were limited.

Mildred Muhammad said her then-husband learned about hand-to-hand combat, explosives and firearms while in the Army, and she testified that Muhammad had tried unsuccessfully to obtain plastic explosives while stationed in California.

But under cross-examination, she said she did not question him about the attempt because he had related it in a "joking" manner.

CNN's Mike M. Ahlers contributed to this report.



Copyright 2003 CNN. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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