Daughter, husband will control property when Aryan leader dies

The Spokesman-Review/January 23, 1999
By Bill Morlin

Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler has created a corporation whose directors could sell the North Idaho white supremacy compound after his death.

The corporation, Saphire Inc., now owns and controls the 19-acre Aryan headquarters that's been an epicenter of the white supremacy movement for a quarter century.

Directors of Saphire Inc. are Butler, who turns 81 next month, his daughter, Cindy Witherwax, and her husband, Howard ``Corky'' Witherwax, who live near the Aryan compound near Hayden Lake.

The Witherwaxes say they don't share Butler's neo-Nazi, white supremacy beliefs, embraced in a religion known as Christian Identity.

They say they intend to sell the Aryan headquarters property, worth an estimated $200,000, upon Butler's death and split the estate proceeds.

Another daughter, Barbara A. Hart, of Scottsdale, Ariz., also is an heir, but isn't a director of Saphire Inc. She couldn't be reached for comment.

``As far as my wife and I are concerned, when he passes away, we plan on putting it up for sale, and he knows that,'' Corky Witherwax said.

But if Butler knows his Aryan headquarters will be put up for sale upon his death, he didn't discuss it in an interview last week.

The Aryan leader said he hopes his legacy and church will continue operating right where it's at after his death.

``Our daughters will have part of (the estate), but they will keep the church going here,'' Butler said. Butler announced last summer that his successor would be Newman R. Britton, a longtime Aryan Nations follower who lives in Escondido, Calif.

In the past, Butler has named other successors, who later drifted away from Aryan Nations, usually over philosophical differences.

He said the new corporation was formed for estate planning and to keep his family assets ``away from the anti-Christ Jews.''

The initial corporation papers for Saphire Inc. were filed in 1991 with the Idaho Secretary of State's office and are public record.

Butler kept the filing quiet. Only a handful of his closest associates were told about the new corporation. Butler didn't say how the name Saphire Inc. was chosen. His late wife was born in September, and the gem sapphire is that month's birthstone.

``His wife, Betty, was the one, basically, who put it together,'' Corky Witherwax said.

``The main purpose is to try and get the property, which was bought and paid for with his retirement and money from his mother, to try and keep that inheritance in the family, to go to his two daughters,'' Witherwax said.

The new corporation papers were drafted and filed with the state after Betty Butler was diagnosed with cancer.

A close family friend, asking not to be identified, said it was Betty Butler's wish that the couple's assets end up in their daughters' hands.

Another family friend, Betty Tate, agreed.

``I think they probably made this decision together,'' she said of the creation of Saphire Inc. by Richard and Betty Butler.

Betty Butler mostly stayed in the background at the Aryan Nations. But she let it be known that she shared her husband's beliefs that whites are the true Israelites who must fight for the preservation of their race.

Former Aryan associate pastor Carl Franklin and security chief Wayne Jones, who at one time were Butler's closest confidants, signed a 1992 resolution transferring the property to Saphire.

Three months later, Franklin and Jones left the Aryan Nations to start their own Christian Identity church in Noxon, Mont.

Betty Tate, who was secretary of the Church of Jesus Christ Christian-Aryan Nations, also signed the resolution. She and her husband, Chuck Tate, later left Aryan Nations and are now affiliated with a white separatist legal foundation in Black Mountain, N.C.

The Spokesman-Review discovered Saphire Inc.'s link with the Aryan Nations after the newspaper reviewed records containing the names of the 10,000 corporations in Kootenai County.

Richard and Betty Butler initially were the only directors of the corporation, public records show.

After Betty Butler's death on Dec. 1, 1995, Howard and Cindy Witherwax became directors with Richard Butler. The three were listed as directors on the latest annual report, filed Sept. 28.

The property, once legally controlled by Christ's Rimrock Mission Inc. and the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, was transferred in separate quitclaim deeds, records show.

In April 1992, the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, which was the legal owner of the Aryan compound, quitclaimed 2.3 acres of the site to Saphire Inc.

In January 1996, a month after Betty Butler's death, the remaining 17.3 acres were legally transferred to Saphire Inc. ``It's his property and he still could change his mind and say, `I don't want you kids to have this property,''' Witherwax said.

``We respect his right to have his own beliefs -- we just don't share them,'' Witherwax said. ``But he is my wife's father, and she loves him as any daughter loves her father.''

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