Scholarship of hatred

Suspect has history of anti-gay, antisemitic thinking

San Jose Mercury News/July 14, 1999
By Dan Reed and Tracy Seipel

Redding -- Steeped in the classics of virulent antisemitism, Benjamin Matthew Williams, a suspect in a double homicide and the firebombing of three synagogues, had tried to proselytize friends to his new way of thinking.

His life had become a journey into the scholarship of hate. And he delivered it wrapped in the trappings of biblical King James English.

The man who, along with his younger brother, Tyler, is suspected of slaying a gay couple in Shasta County and firebombing three Jewish temples in Sacramento wrote a telling multipage screed to an unconvinced friend in Idaho, Jeff Monroe, in October.

"Dearly Beloved," began his letter -- which he called an epistle, in the manner of a missive from one of Jesus Christ's apostles. In it, he tells of his epiphany of Jewish history, or, at least, history as he perceives it.

"I reckon that thee shall be blessed by it greatly," wrote the 31-year-old man, who, with his brother, spent his working hours in the more mundane world of a self-run landscaping company in Palo Cedro.

The letter included a cartoon showing a skeleton dressed as Uncle Sam watching a television set. Rays emanated from the set; on its side was a Star of David.

Williams, who, friends say, held great sway over his brother, had been attending a local church in Moscow, Idaho, before returning to his parents' home in Redding in 1995. Monroe said the Idaho church was anti-gay.

Neither Williams brother has been charged yet in the shooting deaths of a gay couple in their home near Redding on July 1, nor have they been charged with the firebombings of three Sacramento synagogues last month.

They are being held in a Shasta County jail in lieu of $150,000 bail for alleged possession of stolen property -- including a credit card of one of the slain men, his wallet, driver's license and Social Security card.

A subsequent search of the brothers' residences and a storage locker led to a break in the FBI's Sacramento arson case, yielding a large amount of whit supremacist literature, a notebook filled with the names of at least 30 people related to the three torched synagogues and stashes of ammunition an weapons, authorities said.

On Tuesday, four search warrants issued in the homicide case were returned to the Shasta County court clerk's office but were sealed. Sheriff's Capt. Ron Richardson said they were kept secret because of "the spinoff and connection to the Sacramento case."

"We're being careful not to cross over and step on their case," Richardson said.

Much of the hate literature the police found may have been the same that Monroe remembers seeing a few years ago.

"I'd gone over to his house one day," he said, "and he had a huge stack of Aryan Nation stuff, probably two feet tall."

Stockpiling white supremacist literature marks a step in a disturbing spiritual journey the brothers took, led by Matthew. Current and former acquaintances have described the brothers as one-time devout Christians who followed the Bible in the footsteps of their father, a retired land-line survey worker with the Shasta-Trinity National Forests.

Much of the material Monroe saw came from the Sandpoint, Idaho-based America's Promise Ministries, a Christian Identity church. Historically, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, the central thesis of Christian Identity is that Jews descended from the sexual union of Eve and the Serpent, whites are progeny of Adam and Eve, and non-whites are soul-less "mud people."

Although some literature from the World Church of the Creator was found near the bombed Sacramento temples, at least one expert believes the brothers are more likely aligned with Christian Identity. The World Church of the Creator does not believe in Christianity, God or the Bible.

The Identity movement supports antisemitism, white supremacy and violence toward gays, said Michael Reynolds, a senior analyst at the law center. Like the Williams brothers, he said, members often come from rural areas and have strict fundamentalist backgrounds.

They might have also adopted a stew of beliefs, said another expert.

"I would label these guys more as independents," said T.J. Leyden, an ex-neo-Nazi skinhead who is now a consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Task Force Against Hate.

"I wouldn't like to label them into one group, such as the World Church of the Creator or Christian Identity, Leyden said. I heard they have World Church of the Creator literature, but also stuff to do with the Masons. Christian Identity believes that the Masons are part of the whole `Jew world conspiracy.' "

To be sure, said Michael Godbold, a friend of Matthew Williams, the older Williams did "church hop." His latest beliefs, mixed with his white supremacist leanings, included a devotion to King James Onlyism, a belief that only the King James version of the Bible is the infallible word of God. Other versions are seen as inspired by Satan.

In his October letter, Williams tells his friend that he'd had the "integrity to examine the Jewish question."

He refers to the United States as the "new JerUSAlem." And he gives his doubting friend a list of "must reads," which includes several classic antisemitic books.

They include The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion," a forgery that supposedly revealed a Jewish plot to rule the world. Also recommended were the tract by car-maker Henry Ford Sr., entitled The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem," and, by Theodore Winston Pike, "Israel: Our Duty

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