TACOMA, Wash. On Tuesday, convicted D.C. Sniper John Allen Muhammad is scheduled to be executed. That murder spree started in Tacoma and, in a twist of fate, the first intended victim is still alive.
Isa Nichols' family sanctuary on Tacoma's eastside was shattered nearly 9 years ago when Muhammad's accomplice, then 16-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo, approached her front door. Isa's 21-year-old niece, Keenya Cook, answered the knock at the door that day and was shot, point blank, in the head.
It was Isa's 14-year-old daughter who discovered the body.
That was the night that changed our lives, said Nichols.
Muhammad was the abusive ex-husband of Isa Nichols' best friend, Mildred. Nichols had helped Mildred escape Muhammad which, according to Nichols, sent him into a murderous rage.
Malvo testified that Muhammad sent him to the house to kill Nichols, but instead, Malvo fired at the first person he saw.
Keenya opened the door and took a bullet that was meant for me, said Nichols.
Muhammad and Malvo went on to murder ten more people in the fall of 2002. The official motive remains unclear, but some speculate he was planning to kill his ex-wife and use the murders as a smokescreen to cover it up.
John felt, at some point within himself, this was his only recourse to a very elaborate scheme to get his children back, said Nichols.
In the years since that first killing, Nichols has had to deal with the guilt and pain of her beloved niece being murdered instead of her.
There were times I just hemorrhaged inside, said Nichols.
She says she has put that all behind her. The final chapter is now at hand in the scheduled execution of John Allen Muhammad - a letter from the Commonwealth of Virginia, inviting Nichols to witness the death.
She plans to attend, at the insistence of her daughter.
She said, 'Mommy, I want closure. I want to be there,' said Nichols. I said, 'Well, if this is what you want to do then we'll be there together.'
Isa Nichols says she has no answer to why she survived Muhammad's wrath when so many others did not, but she hopes one day to find it.
There was a purpose and I'm hoping that I take my purpose and line it up with what God wants to do with sparing my life, said Nichols.
Isa Nichols has since moved from that Tacoma house. She has written a book about her experience called Genesis: The Bullet Was Meant For Me: D.C. Sniper Story Untold, which is due out in about two weeks.
She is also establishing a foundation to promote domestic violence intervention and prevention. Click here for more information.