Report: Two jailed men may be linked to Sacramento synagogue fires

Associated Press/July 10, 1999
By Noah Isackson

Sacramento, Calif. -- Two brothers held on stolen property charges related to the slaying of a gay couple are being investigated in the arson attacks at three synagogues, The Sacramento Bee reported Saturday.

Their arrest led officials to discover a list of 32 names linking the brothers to last month's arson attacks, unidentified sources close to the investigation told the newspaper.

Benjamin Matthew Williams, 31, and James Tyler Williams, 29, were arrested late Wednesday in a shopping mall parking lot in Yuba City, Shasta County sheriff's Capt. Ron Richardson said Friday. Both were armed and one was wearing a bulletproof vest.

They were arraigned Friday on charges of receiving stolen property. Prosecutors did not identify the alleged stolen property, but said it was connected to the killings of Gary Matson and Winfield Scott Mowder

Matson, 50, and Mowder, 40, were found shot July 1 in their home on five acres in tiny Happy Valley, about 180 miles north of San Francisco.

Police said the victims and the suspects knew each other.

FBI spokesman Nick Rossi declined to say Friday night whether there is a connection between the deaths and the synagogue fires in Sacramento.

"We can't confirm that," Rossi said. "We have acknowledged that the individuals discussed at today's press conference are in custody in Shasta County but ... we are not prepared to name the individuals at this time."

At the Friday afternoon news conference, the FBI said two men arrested in Shasta County may have a connection to the synagogue fires. Shasta County is 160 miles north of Sacramento.

The men arrested had access to "substantial armament and ammunition" and kept a list of names of people associated with the synagogues, said James Maddock, head of the Sacramento FBI office.

"At present we don't know the purpose of collecting these names but obviously we are concerned about their safety and the public safety," Maddock said. "We have no evidence of any specific plan of any violent action against any specific individual or group."

The fires, all set within minutes of each other early June 18, caused more than $1 million in damage. They are being investigated as hate crimes. A leaflet blaming the "International Jew World Order" for the war in Kosovo was left behind at one of the synagogues.

The newspaper also reported that investigators are examining whether the case is part of a wide hate-crime conspiracy and whether the Williams brothers were linked to the World Church of the Creator, based in East Peoria, Ill.

A former World Church member killed himself last weekend after targeting minorities in a shooting spree in Indiana and Illinois that left two dead and nine wounded.

Sheriff's Capt. Richardson said officers found "extremist type publications" at the brothers' home, indicating a belief in white supremacy.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.

Educational DVDs and Videos