Survivor of Beltway Sniper Wants Justice, but Won't Witness Execution

Paul LaRuffa, snipers' victim, need not watch John Allen Muhammad put to death.

November 9, 2009, 4:45 PM

Nov. 10, 2009— -- Paul LaRuffa wants to know justice will be carried out tonight at 9 p.m. in the "Death Chamber" at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va. – he just doesn't want to see it.

LaRuffa, who, by most accounts, was the first victim of the D.C. snipers, who carried out a weeks-long rampage of terror and murder in and around Washington, D.C., in 2002, says the first question he was asked after John Allen Muhammadwas sentenced to death in 2003, was whether he planned to attend his assailant's execution.

"I've given every day of the past seven years to thinking about what he did to me. I don't need to give up another day for him. It's enough to know justice is being done," he said of his decision not to attend Tuesday's planned execution of Muhammad.

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to grant Muhammad a stay of execution, and today Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine denied his last appeal for clemency.

LaRuffa, 62, miraculously survived five gunshots at close range to his chest, spine, diaphragm and stomach, when Muhammad and his 17-year-old accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo robbed him of $3,500 and a laptop computer on Sept. 5, 2002.

The computer, later found in Muhammad's car, linked the assailants to LaRuffa. The money they stole funded a barbarous campaign that October, in which the two men shot innocent people at random while they carried out the most prosaic of tasks: pumping gas, leaving a restaurant, or arriving at middle school – which left 10 people dead.

"What started with me on Sept. 5, 2002, finally ends in that cell on Tuesday," LaRuffa said.

It took a surprisingly short time for LaRuffa to heal physically, but it took much longer for him mend psychically and get over the desire to see – with his own eyes – his assailant executed.

"The difference is time. If I could have killed him with my bare hands when they captured him, I would have. But you can't hold that anger for seven years. I'm satisfied justice will be done. It satisfies those families in worse shape than me – the families of those who lost loved ones," he said.

LaRuffa was shot sitting in his car outside the pizzeria he owned in Clinton, Md. Through the driver side window, Malvo shot him five times with a .22 caliber pistol at close range.

The now retired the restaurateur said he thinks about the shooting every day, "but it doesn't haunt me."

"I'm not Superman. It was tough. Just recovering mentally was hell in the beginning," said LaRuffa, who temporarily lost use of his left arm following the attack.

The shooters' spree began in earnest on Oct. 2, 2002, when Muhammad, then 41, and his young accomplice began randomly shooting people using a sniper rifle, from behind a hole cut in the trunk of their 1990 blue Chevy.

Within the next 27 hours, six people would be picked off at random and killed, the deadliest stretch of the month-long spree.

After leaving behind an array of dizzying clues and messages to police, including tarot cards, Muhammad, a former soldier, and Malvo were found sleeping in their car at a rest stop in Virginia on Oct. 24, 2002.

Malvo was sentenced to life without parole following Muhammad's trial in 2003.

"At the time I didn't think Malvo got what he deserved. Muhammad got death and Malvo got life. Many of the victims and their families believed Malvo should have gotten death, too," said LaRuffa who testified at Malvo's trial.

"It is a moot point because the Supreme Court ruled you can't execute someone who committed the crime when they were a minor and Malvo was 17 at the time. It would have been more frustrating if Malvo was given death and then it was overturned. I think life without parole is justice under the circumstances," he said.

Muhammad has, in his last days, continued to profess his innocence, making delusional, conspiratorial claims "that, frankly, just don't make any sense," said Muhammad's lawyerJonathan Sheldon.

"You would get yourself ready to meet your maker. You'd pray," Sheldon said of a person of sound mind facing execution. "That's just not happening in this case, and that's an illustration of his mental illness."

According to an official at the Virginia Department of Corrections, condemned inmates are allowed to meet with family or clergy on the day of their scheduled executions. Inmates can choose a last meal – or combination of dishes -- off the prison's menu. Wearing denim jeans and a unique short sleeve shirt – issued only to the condemned to make inserting the IV easier -- the inmate is escorted to the death chamber. A gallery of witnesses will watch the execution.

Once inside the chamber, the condemned is given a cocktail of injections that numb his pain, stop his breathing and ultimately stop his heart.

Officials would not say which of the victims' family members planned to watch the execution.

Though LaRuffa does not wish to see Muhammad die, Charles Moore, the father of victim Linda Franklin wishes he could.

Moore, from Gainesville, Fla., is 80 years old, suffers from Parkinson's disease and says he is unable to travel to the execution.

"I think to have someone sit in jail for seven years before being executed – after he confessed to what he did – is a waste of time," said Moore.

Franklin, then a 47-year-old FBI analyst, was killed in a Home Depot parking lot in Fairfax, Va., on Oct. 14, 2009.

"I wish I could see that son of a bitch killed for what he did," said Moore. "That would be justice."

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