MURFREESBORO — Mildred D. Muhammad could be called the first target of the so-called “D.C. Sniper.”
The former wife of John Allen Muhammad, one of two men convicted in a series of killings that took place in the greater Washington, D.C., area in 2002, will be the keynote speaker for MTSU’s observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Mildred Muhammad will speak at 3:20 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, in the MTSU Student Union ballroom, Room 250. Her address is free and open to the public.
She is the author of “Scared Silent: The Mildred Muhammad Story” and founder of After the Trauma Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Clinton, Md., that provides survivors of domestic violence with the resources to rebuild their lives.
In keeping with MTSU’s theme, “To Stop the Violence, Stop the Silence,” Mildred Muhammad will address what she contends is society’s failure to help domestic violence victims who don’t know how to explain their partners’ capacity for violence.
“I jumped at the opportunity to hear from Mildred Muhammad,” said Barbara Scales, director of the June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students. “So many times, victims of domestic violence and people closest to them are scared into silence.”
Ten people were shot to death and three others injured in the killings referred to collectively as the “Beltway sniper attacks,” most of which occurred in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia over a 23-day period in October 2002. Three victims were murdered in Louisiana and Alabama the previous month.
John Muhammad was put to death in Virginia in 2009 after his 2003 conviction for one of the murders there. Muhammad’s then-teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, is imprisoned in Virginia, serving six consecutive life sentences without parole for the Maryland slayings and two life terms from Virginia.
“I was thankful he had not killed me, and I grieved over those whose lives he had taken,” Mildred Muhammad wrote in “Scared Silent.”
“I cried for those families, too. But the silencer on John’s gun had silenced me in another way. Shame cut off my tongue. Fear paralyzed my throat. Surely people hated me, I thought. I was the reason innocent people were killed.”
Mildred Muhammad said her husband emptied their bank accounts and kidnapped their children in 1999 and disappeared for 18 months. Without a job or money in the bank, she moved into a shelter for abused women and started trying to find her three children.
Eventually, a judge in Washington state awarded her full custody. She got her children back and moved with them to avoid detection by her former husband.
She asserts that John Muhammad stalked her before, during and after their divorce and intended to kill her as he and Malvo roamed throughout the greater D.C. area, shooting innocent people apparently at random.
The judge would not allow prosecutors to present that theory at trial, however, claiming that they hadn’t clearly established a link between the shootings and Muhammad’s issues with his ex-wife.
Mildred Muhammad will sign copies of her book at a table outside the ballroom before her address. Organizations that combat domestic violence and aid survivors will be on hand to provide free literature.
Around 4:45 p.m., participants will release balloons into the air outside the Student Union Building in memory of domestic violence victims.
MTSU’s observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month is sponsored by the university’s Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students, Department of Athletics, Department of Criminal Justice, Office of Public Safety, MTSU School of Social Work, Sociology Club and Alpha Chi Omega and Gamma Sigma Sigma sororities, along with the Murfreesboro Domestic Violence Program.