Sniper Suspect's Ex-Wife Links Killings to Custody Fight

Sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad's ex-wife says she's certain the killing spree was part of a scheme to kill her and reclaim the couple's three children.

"I'm sure he had me in his scope," Mildred Muhammad, 42, said in an interview published in Friday's editions of The Washington Post. "This was an elaborate plan to make this look like I was a victim so he could come in as the grieving father and take the children."

For three years, she said she has been scanning her surroundings and glancing at the tops of buildings near her home in Clinton, Md., a Washington suburb, expecting to see her ex-husband with a gun trained on her. He had promised to kill her, and she knew he was a man of his word, she told the Post.

The night of Oct. 23 when John Muhammad's picture flashed on television in the hours before his arrest, his former wife said, "Oh my God, it's him. He found me."

John Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17, were arrested following a shooting spree that spanned five states and the District of Columbia. Thirteen people were killed and five wounded, and authorities are investigating whether Muhammad and Malvo may have been involved in more shootings.

Mildred Muhammad said she last saw her ex-husband in Washington state Sept. 4, 2001, when she was granted full custody of their three children.

Now she is convinced that his chief purpose in coming to the Washington area was to kill her.

She expressed her sorrow over the deaths of the victims.

"They all died because of me," she told the Post. She has been living in seclusion at an undisclosed location.

During the attacks, she said she thought of her ex-husband but dismissed the idea that he could be the shooter.

"I felt he was only coming after me, so why would he kill anybody else?"

But now, she sees messages she thinks may have been meant for her. Several of the shootings took place at stores, including Michaels and Home Depot, where she had frequently shopped in Tacoma, Wash. She also views the sniper's warning in a letter left near a shooting scene — "Your children are not safe anywhere at any time" — as a message to her.

John and Mildred Muhammad were married in 1988 at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he was stationed in the Army. He wanted to be a career soldier, but he returned from his tour of duty in the Gulf War a changed man, saying black soldiers like himself had been discriminated against, she said.

"When he got back, he was a very angry man," she said.

They later converted to Islam, but their domestic problems mounted and in September 1999 he moved out of their home. She filed for divorce three months later.

In March 2000, he told his wife he was taking their children shopping. She did not see the children again for a year and a half.

When authorities located the children and returned them to her, Mildred Muhammad secretly brought them to live with her in Maryland.

"You are not going to raise my children," she said he warned her. "You have become my enemy, and as my enemy, I will kill you."