VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Crowded into a single courtroom bench, relatives of sniper victims held hands, some sobbing, as the court clerk announced Monday that John Allen Muhammad (search) was guilty.
And as they gathered outside the courthouse afterward, they said they hoped the jury would recommend death for the 42-year-old defendant.
"Capital punishment is an appropriate response in certain crimes and I must say that I can't think of too many more heinous crimes than this one," said Robert Meyers, brother of victim Dean Harold Meyers (search).
Muhammad was convicted of two capital murder charges for killing Dean Meyers while he pumped gas at a Manassas gas station.
"I'm glad they found him guilty," Kwang Im Szuszka told reporters. She testified against Muhammad about the death of her sister, Hong Im Ballenger (search), 45, who was killed during a robbery in Baton Rouge, La.
"I'm still looking for the death penalty," Szuszka said.
The jury deliberated 6 hours after hearing nearly four weeks of often emotional testimony about last year's series of shootings that killed 13 people and wounded six from Louisiana to Maryland. The jurors still must decide whether to recommend execution or life in prison, following a sentencing hearing that began Monday afternoon.
Deborah Cox shouted "Yes!" when she heard the verdict on her car radio more than 200 miles away in Maryland.
"I was elated," said Cox, whose brother, Sonny Buchanan, was killed while he mowed the lawn at a Bethesda, Md., car dealership.
Sonia Wills, mother of bus driver and final sniper victim Conrad Johnson, saw the verdict as divine justice. "The Bible tells us, 'God's will be done,' and God's will has been done," she said.
"Execution will not bring my son back, nor will it give me the quality of life I had before he left, but I leave everything in the hands of God," said Wills, of Accokeek, Md.
Muhammad Rashid, who was shot in the abdomen outside a Brandywine, Md., liquor store, said he trusts the jury to recommend the right penalty.
"For me and the family survivors, we just need to finish off the story, you know?"
Paul J. LaRuffa, who was shot in the chest, said at his restaurant in Clinton, Md., that he wants Muhammad removed from society forever, and "if they rule that that's the death penalty, I won't object to that."