Inside The Abusive Home Of The DC Sniper, John Allen Muhammad

Lee Boyd Malvo was still young when John Allen Muhammad turned him into "a monster," as he would later allege (via CNN).

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, in October 2002, Muhammad and Malvo committed a string of sniper attacks. On October 2, the two men targetted and shot their first victim in a Maryland parking lot. By October 3, five more people had died from sniper fire. For the next several weeks, people continued to be injured and killed not only in Maryland but also in Washington D.C. and Virginia, seemingly at random.

Muhammad and Malvo were finally apprehended and taken into custody on October 24. The reason they got away with it for so long? The two killers had fashioned their Chevy Caprice into a sniper's nest on wheels, making them all but invisible to passersby. Per Biography, Muhammad drove while Malvo lay in the truck and shot at random people. As the case went on, the public learned more about Muhammad and Malvo — who were these two men, and what were their lives together like?

A magnetic connection to children

According to Biography, John Allen Muhammad had three children with his now ex-wife, Mildred Muhammad. Mildred divorced him in 1999, and after Muhammad threatened her, Mildred requested a restraining order against him in 2000. But upon finding out about the restraining order, Muhammad took their three children to Antigua. It didn't last long — police officers showed up to remove the children from his custody and return them to the United States with Mildred.

As CNN reports, Mildred described the magnetic connection that Muhammed seemed to have with children. He appeared to be a father figure to the kids who met him, as well as to their three biological children. Mildred testified in court that Muhammed ruled authoritatively and had to be in complete control of his kids at all times. She alleged an abusive living situation with Muhammad after the 42-year-old threatened to "destroy" her.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

A restrictive diet

After they were separated, John Allen Muhammad continued to keep a close eye on Mildred (via CNN). He sat outside her house in his car, staring at her. She had to call the police to get him to leave.

Lee Boyd Malvo's parents separated when he was just 3 years old, and he was only able to see his father on occasion until he was 6 years old (via CNN). Malvo later met Muhammad at age 15. According to Biography, the two met around the time of Mildred's restraining order. Upset about the removal of his biological children, Muhammad instead focused his energy on Malvo. They started talking at a shop in Tacoma, Washington, where Malvo liked to play video games, and they instantly connected. Over time, as the two bonded, Malvo came to see Muhammad as his father.

Muhammad put Malvo on a very restrictive diet. He was allowed to eat just once per day, and that meal often consisted of soy burgers, soup, and vitamins. Biography reports that for other meals, Malvo was only given honey and crackers. Muhammad created a militant exercise program for his son, too.

Unable to say no

In an interview on the Today in 2012, Lee Boyd Malvo said that John Allen Muhammad was a great listener, and he divulged lots of personal information to his father figure. But Malvo also added that Muhammad wouldn't take no for an answer. And, Malvo said, he lacked the willpower to say no to anything Muhammad asked him to do (via AP).

One thing that Muhammad asked of Malvo, then 16 years old, was to prove himself by shooting someone. Malvo did as he was asked. He went to the house of a 21-year-old woman and shot her in the face at point-blank range. Malvo claimed that Muhammad also sexually abused him while they lived together, starting from age 15 – and the young man had already been experiencing sexual abuse by family members and a babysitter starting from a young age. Malvo felt ashamed of the abuse and didn't tell anyone about his experiences for years. He claimed the sexual conduct continued until he and Muhammad were arrested.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Planning the DC sniper attack

John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo eventually moved into a homeless encampment together (via Biography). Muhammad also continued to stalk Mildred and his three biological children. But after the two men were briefly arrested in December 2001, an enraged Muhammad taught Malvo how to shoot a gun.

So when Muhammad plotted the sniper attacks, planning to murder Mildred to regain custody of his biological children, Malvo agreed (via CNN). Malvo was so desperate for love that he never wanted to upset Muhammad in any way (via Today). He felt protective over his "father" and insisted that he wanted to be the sniper. He mistakenly believed that his young age would keep him out of prison and remove the blame from Muhammad.

Even after the two men were arrested while hiding out in the sniper vehicle, Malvo was more afraid of letting down his father than he was of death, reports Today.

Life in prison

The Federal Bureau of Investigations reports that the two D.C. snipers, John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, were both sentenced to life in prison without parole, and Muhammad received the death penalty. He died in November 2009.

As for Malvo, he has had lots of time for personal reflection in a solitary confinement cell in prison and has come to terms with the abusive living situation that Muhammad put him in (via Today). He is currently appealing his six life sentences without parole — one for each person he murdered — since he was a juvenile when he committed the crimes (via NPR). 

Malvo has since reached out to the families of his victims in order to apologize for his and Muhammad's crimes, according to Today. He forgives himself for his past actions under the influence of Muhammad, his overbearing and abusive father figure.