Son of Infamous 'D.C. Sniper' John Allen Muhammad Lives in Dad's Shadow

Childhood Marked by Father's Absence

Aside from a summer Williams spent with Muhammad as a boy, he says he barely knew his father. All he has now are three tokens from his father: two photos taken when Williams was a baby, and a simple white box with his father's name on it.

"I haven't had time to actually get an urn yet, but my father's ashes sit in my house," Williams said.

No matter how hard he's tried to distance himself from his father's actions, Williams won't deny that he wishes he had a chance to know his dad.

"He couldn't deny his history if he wanted to. So he's engaged it. And he's figured out how to put some kind of container around it, like a radioactive and very toxic part of his life, but something that he can put on a shelf, and deal with it on terms of a history he's comfortable with," Welner said. "The healthiest thing one can do under the circumstances of a notorious father who has done unthinkable things is to acknowledge in children, this is a part of us, but you're different."

Son of Murderous Cult Leader: 'I Hated My Father'

Stephan Jones, the son of cult leader Jim Jones, who, in 1978, was responsible for one of history's largest mass suicides in Jonestown, Guyana, has struggled to come to terms with his roots.

"I hated my father when he was alive and for years after his death. I know now that a lot of that was to keep from having to face my own shame and my own self-hatred," Jones, 50, said.

Jim Jones died the day of the massacre along with 900 temple members, but his teenage son Stephan -- who was in Guyana and desperately wanted to escape his father's cult -- was away from the compound at the time.

"At that time, I felt horrible that I was not there when my loved ones needed me most," he said.

Father-Son Forgiveness and Similarities

For Stephan Jones, the tragedy at Guyana almost seems like a lifetime ago.

"I have been anything but peaceful in my life. And I've certainly spent plenty of time in hell on Earth," he said. "I was fortunate to have good people in my life that could be an example for me and be guides to me about a better way of doing things. For me, the greatest fear always resides in what the people think of me."

Still, he is always on guard -- watchful that the same poison that made his father a mass murderer could be within him. He admits that he's seen the same tendencies his father had in himself.

"I've had my own struggle with narcissism," he said. "My experience is that I've got it all going on inside of me -- some of the really good stuff going on and I've got a shadow that will rival anyone's."

At the same time, beneath so many conflicted feelings, he's learned to forgive his father.

"I also remember what a character he was, what an incredibly intelligent man he was, and how he could really be very loving. That got messier as time went on but, he was a mixed bag," Jones said.

Like Jones, Williams says that being like his father -- not the criminal, but the person -- isn't bad at all.

"I'm very independent. I don't like handouts," he said, citing the similarities with his dad. "I have the same mentality that he has by 'no such thing as can't.' There's no such thing that you can't do anything. If you think you can jump to the moon, try your hardest to jump and grab the moon."

"These men know this is a part of them," Welner said. "The sons of the fathers will always be the sons of the fathers and they can't walk away from whom their fathers are."

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