Program Note: Tune in tonight for a special AC360° report on the DC sniper case. 10 p.m. ET
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/11/03/beltway.sniper.appeal/story.sniper.gi.jpg caption="John Allen Muhammad was convicted in an October 2002 sniper-style shooting." width=300 height=169]
CNN Homeland Security Correspondent
The hour I spent with John Allen Muhammad was, without a doubt, bizarre.
I had written to Muhammad in prison after his conviction. To my surprise he agreed to a meeting – but without cameras.
His attorney, alerted to the situation by the jail, appeared and tried to stop Muhammad from talking to me. Muhammad not only wouldn't take his advice, he asked the guards to remove the attorney, leaving Muhammad and me alone to talk face-to-face.
Muhammad was in shackles and handcuffs. I was nervous at the outset of our session, but never scared – though perhaps I should have been. At one point Muhammad rose from his chair and started to circle around behind me. The guards outside the room immediately entered and barked at him to sit back down.
Muhammad told me he was not going to die for crimes he did not commit, but beyond that would say nothing about the beltway sniper spree or his relationship with his accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo.
Throughout our session I had the sensation that Muhammad was testing me, gaming me, trying to gain the upper-hand intellectually and emotionally, though he made leaps of logic which left me confused. At one point, for instance, he quizzed me about my knowledge of Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. He seemed dissatisfied with my responses but returned to the subject several times during our conversation, apparently to discern how much of his "teaching" I had absorbed.
He used facial expressions to let me know if he approved or disapproved of my answers, delivering a look of disdain particularly effectively. I couldn't help but wonder how a young Lee Malvo would have coped with this kind of intellectual bullying.
Muhammad asked me to bring a certain woman to the prison so he could meet with her. He said that any future meetings with me would hinge on whether I delivered her to the jail. I told him I could not, and would not, do any such thing.
Later, however, my producer Mike Ahlers and I did try to find the woman to determine her relationship with Muhammad and any possible connection to the sniper shootings. But Muhammad's description of her, and even his recollection of her name, was vague. We never were able to track her down and put this piece of the puzzle in place.
There are so many questions. Why did he kill? Why hasn't he owned up to the crimes? Why hasn't he expressed remorse? With his execution scheduled for Tuesday night, it looks like none of them will be answered.
But those questions will be uppermost in my mind when I stand outside the prison in Jarratt, Virginia, when John Muhammad is slated to die.
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