For three weeks in the fall of 2002, people in Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland were terrorized by what seemed like random shootings.

The then-unknown assailants were dubbed as the D.C. Snipers.

By the time 41-year-old John Allen Muhammed and 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo were caught at an Interstate-70 Myersville rest stop on Oct. 24, 2002, 10 people had died and three were wounded.

The first named victim on Oct. 2, 2002, was James D. Martin, a program analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 55-year-old was in the parking lot of Shoppers Food Warehouse in Wheaton, when he was gunned down.

Officials later pieced together that the actual first Maryland victim was Paula LaRaffa who had been shot outside of her Clifton, Maryland, restaurant Sept. 5, 2002. Muhammed and Malvo made off with $3,000, that they later used to purchase the car and finance their rampage. LaRaffa survived.

Each day another victim was shot — in Rockville, Aspen Hill, Silver Spring — all doing mundane daily tasks. The youngest victim, 13-year-old Iran Brown, was shot and critically wounded outside of his middle school in Prince George’s County.

People in all three states were fearful of being outside, to shop for groceries or to pump gas. Afterschool activities were canceled, and local schools were placed on lockdowns during the school day.

But as the killings pulled away from Maryland to Virginia — Oct. 9 in Manassas, Oct. 11 in Fredericksburg, Oct. 14 in Falls Church, Oct. 19 in Ashland, Oct. 21 in Richmond — there was a small feeling of relief in Maryland.

That was until Oct. 22 when 35-year-old bus driver Conrad Johnson was shot in Aspen Hill while standing on the steps of his bus. He died the next day and authorities confirmed he was a victim of the D.C. Snipers.

An alert was sent out to look for the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice with New Jersey tags. Less than an hour later, police received a tip that the car was spotted in Frederick County. On Oct. 24, Muhammed and Malvo were found at the rest stop sleeping in the car and arrested without incident.

Muhammed and Malvo were later tied to several killings beginning Feb. 16, 2002, from which they zig-zagged across the U.S. from Arizona to Washington state, to Maryland, to Georgia, Texas and Alabama before making their way back to Maryland.

In September 2004, Muhammed was sentenced to death. He was executed on Nov. 10, 2009. Malvo’s two life sentences were overturned stating he was a juvenile at the time and the laws did not allow for such sentencing for someone under 18.

In March 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Malvo’s case. Arguments were heard in October 2019. Now 34, he still remains in prison. 

Until the closing of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., a portion of the trunk of the Caprice the D.C. Snipers used was on display. A small hole in the trunk is where officials said the sniper would lay in wait with a M-16 military assault rifle to shoot victims.

Follow Crystal Schelle on Twitter: @crystalschelle

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