D.C. Sniper’s 1st Target Says Killing Spree Grew From Domestic Violence

Supreme Court Rejects Muhammad’s Plea for Stay of Execution

Isa Farrington Nichols, the first target of John Allen Muhammad, known as the D.C. Sniper, is using her experience to combat an issue that laid the foundation for Muhammad’s reign of terror: domestic abuse.

Nichols is attempting to make Americans aware of domestic abuse and domestic violence through her new memoir, “Genesis: The Bullet Was Meant for Me; the D.C. Sniper Story Untold,” which was published by Eloquent Books. Muhammad sought vengeance, Nichols explained, after she helped to provide shelter for his then wife, Mildred Muhammad, and their children.

“It began as a domestic dispute between a man and his wife,” Nichols said of Muhammad’s shooting spree. Nichols plans to attend Muhammad’s execution by lethal injection on Tuesday at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Va. The U.S. Supreme Court today denied his request for a stay of execution. He also petitioned Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine for clemency.

“What I want in terms of ‘Genesis’ was that this memoir would be the opening to some dialogue and critical conversation that needs to go on about domestic abuse, which is emotional and psychological, and domestic violence, which is physical,” Nichols said.

Nichols was not at home when Muhammad and his teen accomplice, Lee Malvo, came looking for her seven years ago. However, Malvo mistook her niece, Keenya Cook, for Nichols and shot the 21-year-old in the head. Cook was living with her aunt to escape a domestic violence situation with her child’s father. She was the first to die in the three-week sniper attacks that left 10 people dead throughout Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

Nichols relationship with the Muhammads began after they sought her tax services through a Washington-area advertisement. Nichols was unaware of the problems brewing in their household until she decided to stop by one day.

“I stopped by the house to say ‘hi’ to the whole family,” Nichols recalled. “I did not know that they were estranged. It just happened to be the day that he abducted the children, took them to Antigua, and she never saw them for the 18 months.”

As a victim of domestic abuse, Nichols offered support and shelter to Mildred Muhammad and the children once they returned. Even though her intervention jeopardized her life and brought about the death of her niece, Nichols has no regrets and has forgiven both men. Malvo has apologized; Muhammad has not.

“John is still in denial. He has not apologized to any of the family members nor is he accepting any responsibility, and he is still proclaiming his innocence as of today but I’ve already forgiven John,” Nichols said. “If John was to acknowledge and accept responsibility for his actions, it would benefit his soul.”

Nichols’ daughter, Tamara, also wants to attend Muhammad’s execution. “She told me that attending the execution would bring closure for her,” said Nichols, who now lives in Tacoma, Wash.

“Once John is executed and he dies, what’s next?” Nichols asked. “How do we gain and take this situation and the message and discuss the critical problems necessary so that there is law enforcement, family court, prevention and support for victims who are going through domestic violence situations such as Mildred, myself and my niece Keenya?”

“Domestic violence needs to have a transparency of women coming and showing their stories and some men, too,” Nichols said, answering her questions. “We need to put legislation in place and hold all of our legislators accountable to make sure there are programs that can bring about restoration, that can bring about intervention, as well as prevention.

“We need to also get help for the aggressor. There needs to be something to where they can get some support as to why they are abusing.”

Nichols has started the Jireh-Shalom Foundation, which is a support center for victims of domestic abuse and domestic violence. She has also teamed up with Brave New World, an entertainment company that produces cause-related material, to create a documentary, “The D.C. Sniper Story Untold,” based on her memoir.

“We wanted to offer her a chance to help spread her message,” said Shyan Selah, Brave New World’s president and CEO. Selah has known Nichols since her days as a tax consultant and also her niece. The documentary is scheduled to be released in January.

The Discovery Channel is also airing a documentary, “Anatomy of a Takedown: The Washington Sniper,” at 9 p.m. today. Mildred Muhammad has also written a book, “Scared Silent.”