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Benjamin Matthew Williams, Jr. and James Tyler Williams were two white supremacist brothers involved in the Christian Identity movement that were responsible for the murder of a gay couple, Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder.

Background

The Williams brothers, who were both known by their middle names, operated a landscaping and lawn service out of their parents' home in Palo Cedro, California. Neighbors said that the family was known for their fundamentalist Christianity, and that recordings of sermons and religious music were often heard from their house.

Prior to moving to Redding, the Williams lived in Gridley, California, a farming community in Butte County, California. According to neighbors, the family kept to themselves. They grew their own food, keeping chickens and an organic garden. The Williams boys, Matthew and Tyler, were homeschooled until they reached high school. The boys, both honor students, were not allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.

When the family moved to Redding, on what the father—Benjamin Williams Sr.—told neighbors were "God's orders"—mail from militia groups, addressed to the family, continued to arrive at their home. After the move, Matthew Williams briefly served in the Navy. While stationed in Bremerton, Washington, during his stint in the Navy, Matthew met and had a daughter with Kimberly Rodgers. Rodgers, however refused to marry Williams.

Matthew attended the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. While there he joined the charismatic Christian church, Living Faith Fellowship, in Pullman, Washington. He also became interested in purification diets, and during a visit from his brother, coached Tyler in achieving the "perfect bowel movement" to cleanse his body.

After becoming disillusioned with Living Faith Fellowship, Matthew Williams became fascinated with white supremacist and antisemitic literature he read on the Internet. In January 1998, Williams was selling literature at a speech by Militia of Montana founder John Trochmann. By the time Matthew moved back to California, he had developed in interest in Christian Identity.

Matthew Williams was also a substitute teacher. He briefly taught bible class and science at a k-12 private Christian school. The students noted Matthew as extreme in his beliefs and socially awkward.

The Williams family attended a Baptist church in Palo Cedro, California, but left after their request to have a bi-racial couple kicked out of the church was denied.

The murders

Matson and Mowder

Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder.

On the morning of July 1, Oscar Matson called his son, Gary, and heard a newly recorded outgoing answering machine message saying that the couple were both ill and were leaving to visit with a "specialist friend" of theirs in San Francisco for a week. Police said the man on the recording sounded distressed and seemed to be feigning illness. Detectives said they believed that the man in the recording was trying to send a message that a close acquaintance had forced him to make the recording.

Another male voice was heard in the background telling the man in the recording to "just calm down." Believing that the male voice did not sound like Matson or Mowder, Roger Matson drove to his brother's home and discovered their bodies. The couple's nude bodies were found in their bed. Shell casings from a .22 caliber gun littered the floor, and the walls and ceiling were stained with blood. There was no sign of forced entry, and no apparent signs of robbery or anything being taken from the house. Matson's Toyota Tercel station wagon was gone, and police recovered it 50 miles south near Yuba City.

Investigators said that, after being forced to make the recording, the couple was forced into their platform bed, which stood seven feet off the floor. The killers then stood on chairs at the foot of the bed and fired at the couple. Matson received five shots to the head and one to the back. Mowder was shot seven times in the head and once in the neck.

Arrest

The brothers were arrested after police found Matson's vehicle abandoned at the side of the road near Oroville, California. The brothers were arrested at about 4:30 p.m. on July 7, 1999, as they left a Yuba City shopping mall. Both carried handguns. Matthew wore a bulletproof vest.

Police were alerted by a phone call made two hours after Matson and Mowder were killed, to a company in Scottsdale, Arizona.The caller ordered ammunition and other equipment worth $2,276.09, and asked that the order be sent to a Yuba City private mailbox firm, care of Gary Matson. The order was paid for with Matson's credit card. Detectives traced the address and arrived just as the Williams brothers showed up.

Searches of the brothers' residences yielded finds of literature from white supremacist organizations, including the World Church of the Creator (now known as the Creativity Movement). The World Church of the Creator was a pantheistic white separatist, anti-Christian religion. Investigators examined whether the case was part of a conspiracy of hate crime violence by members of the World Church of the Creator. The Matson and Mowder murders took place just days before World Church of the Creator associate Benjamin Nathaniel Smith went on a shooting spree targeting racial and ethnic minorities in Illinois and Indiana. Unnamed federal resources were cited as having found a handwritten letter from Matthew Williams to National Alliance leader William Luther Pierce.

In addition, investigators also found .22 caliber shells and 13 lbs. of black powder, as well as a "hit list" of prominent Jewish civic leaders in the Sacramento, California area. The list was apparently compiled after the June 18, 1999 arson attacks against three synagogues in Sacramento -- Congregation B'nai Israel, Congregation Beth Shalom, and Knesset Israel Torah Center. The fires caused over $1 million in damage.

On March 17, the brothers were charged with setting the three synagogue fires and the July 2 fire at Country Club Medical Center, which housed an abortion clinic. The charges carried of up to 235 years in prison. Matthew Williams later admitted to reporters that he was one of eight or nine men who set fire to the synagogues and the clinic.

Aftermath

In September 2001, the brothers pleaded guilty to their 1999 arson attacks against synagogues and clinics. In December 2001, the brothers were sentenced for the arsons—Matthew Williams to 30 years, and Tyler Williams to 21 years, and were ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution.

On June 22, 2002, Matthew Williams and another inmate attacked prison guard Timothy Renault with a homemade hatchet. Renault suffered a skull fracture and a broken jaw. Matthew Williams was kept in a segregation unit following the attack.

At 6:30 a.m. on November 17, 2002, Matthew Williams was found dead in his cell, an apparent suicide. It is believed that he killed himself sometime late the previous night, November 16, or early in the morning on the 17th. Williams jammed his cell door with a piece of cardboard, and then spread a blanket between his cell toilet and the wall, so that he would not be seen by his jailers. He bled to death from multiple self-inflicted slash wounds to his arms, legs, and neck from a disposable jail-issue razor he had modified to expose the blade, attached to a handle fashioned from a ballpoint pen, and fastened to his wrist with dental floss.

In March 2003 Tyler Williams pleaded guilty to the murders of Matson and Mowder. Under a plea agreement, Williams was sentenced to 29 years to life, to be served after a 21-year sentence in the synagogue and clinic arsons. If he had gone to trial, Williams could have received the death penalty.

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