MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — If Marion Lewis had his way, he'd take Washington, D.C.-area sniper John Allen Muhammad into the Idaho desert near his home and kill him slowly, over three days.
"He would be screaming the whole time. That's why I can't claim to be a good Christian," said Lewis, whose 25-year-old daughter was killed in Maryland in the 2002 sniper spree.
But instead of personal retribution, Lewis would settle for being present in the Virginia death chamber Nov. 10 when Muhammad is scheduled to die.
He doesn't have the money for the trip to see his daughter's killer breathe his last breath. The 57-year-old construction worker says he has been waylaid by the recession, hasn't held a steady job for two years and has been collecting unemployment on-and-off since 2007. He's trying to unload a house near Boise in a short sale.
Though Lewis acknowledges he feels "a little ghoulish," he called syndicated news program "Inside Edition" looking for help to pay for a journey he believes will put some semblance of closure on his daughter's murder. He has learned that justice has its price.
On Thursday morning, he said the New York-based show has agreed to finance a four-day trip to Virginia, in exchange for interviews before and after Muhammad's execution. Lewis says he'll return about $900 in donations he received from private citizens since his story started getting attention this week, along with sending the donors thank-you notes.
"There's never been any question about watching that animal die, for me," said Lewis, who lives with his wife, Jo, and two beagles in a scruffy home two miles from the tidy cemetery where his daughter is buried.
Reminders of tragedy
His daughter, Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, was vacuuming her minivan Oct. 3, 2002 at a gas station near where she lived in Silver Spring, Md., when Muhammad and his young accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, gunned her down. She was one of 10 people killed in the three-week killing spree.
Lewis' living room walls are covered in pictures reminding him of the tragedy: Lori on her wedding day; Lori and Nelson Rivera, the Honduran landscaper she met at a Mormon church and married; their daughter, Jocelin, now 10.
And the Virginia Department of Corrections doesn't provide financial assistance to victims' families to attend executions. Officials there have been in contact with relatives of Muhammad's and Malvo's victims, including those killed in Maryland and Washington, in part because the facility in rural southern Virginia where the execution will take place has limited capacity for those wanting to watch Muhammad die.
Larry Traylor, a prisons spokesman, said his agency does help families like Lewis' with logistics: directions to the execution spot, nearby hotels, details about how family members enter execution viewing rooms after other witnesses, then leave first after it's over, to protect their privacy.
"We try to chat with them, to explain what the process is, to put their mind at ease and help them make the decision as to whether they want to attend," Traylor said. "Then, it's really up to them."
Fearful he'd miss the execution, Lewis called Inside Edition, a 20-year-old news program that mixes celebrity news, investigations and human-interest stories.
The show will pay for Lewis to fly to Virginia on Nov. 8, attend the execution two days later, and then return to Idaho after Muhammad is dead. Lewis said he isn't quite sure what attending will bring, but he doesn't want to miss it.
"As far as closure, this will never be closed," he said.
Lewis said his daughter's death has changed his family in ways both big and small. Jocelin, Lori's daughter, lives with her father and his new wife in Northern California. Her mother was murdered when the then 3-year-old was too young to understand she was never coming back, Lewis said.
Lewis quit a job four years ago working at a gravel pit near Boise. The lulls between each new load of rock into the crusher he was operating gave him too much time to think about his daughter.
The only thing better than being in the death chamber Nov. 10 would be to personally execute Muhammad, he said.
"Pushing the button, yeah," Lewis said. "During the trial, I never went to the court because I didn't figure I needed to end up in jail. His guards wouldn't have been able to keep him from me."
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