Domestic violence is often a private torment, but Mildred Muhammad’s issues with her ex-husband developed into national headlines in the fall of 2002.
The public knows John Allen Muhammad as one of two snipers who killed 10 people and injured three during a shooting spree in and around Washington, D.C. But the back story of how he got to that point and the fear he inflicted on his wife along the way was revealed Wednesday during a presentation at Fort Gordon.
Mildred Muhammad spoke at the Gordon Club as part of Social Work Month, which recognized all the social workers at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center who provide services and therapy to service members and their families.
Muhammad had several encounters with social workers during the struggle to regain custody of her children and separate herself from her husband of 12 years. It was particularly poignant for the setting because John Muhammad was an Army veteran.
“Your work is vital,” Mildred Muhammad said. “Don’t ever think for one minute it is not.”
Muhammad gave a detailed account of the John Muhammad she married and the husband who returned from the first Gulf War. It’s obvious today that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but that wasn’t as widely recognized in the early 1990s, Mildred Muhammad said.
John Muhammad eventually left the Army and started an auto repair business, but his wife suspected he was cheating on her with the female customers. When she filed for divorce, “he moved out and that’s when the madness started,” she said.
For more than a year, John Muhammad stalked his wife and eventually kidnapped his three children. His ex-wife finally got her children back after 18 months and moved around the country to hide from him. She was living in Washington during the panic caused by the snipers, but didn’t suspect it was her ex-husband because investigators said they were looking for two white men.
When an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives turned up on her doorstep, she was incredulous at first. But agents said she was Muhammad’s primary target and placed her in protective custody. Muhammad was later caught, convicted and executed by lethal injection in 2009.
Mildred Muhammad used her experience to write a book and create a Web site with resources for victims of domestic violence searching for escape. She tailored her message Wednesday specifically for social workers.
“Don’t move out in front of the victim, move along with them,” Muhammad said.