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Brothers Accused of Synagogue Arsons

Wednesday March 22, 2000
Steve Lawrence

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Two white supremacist brothers charged with murdering a gay couple were accused Friday of setting fire to three synagogues and a medical center that houses an abortion clinic.

Benjamin Matthew Williams, 31, and James Tyler Williams, 29, have been in jail since July, when they were arrested in the shootings that month of Winfield Mowder and Gary Matson. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty on the murder charges.

The latest indictment accuses the brothers of conspiracy, arson and destruction of religious property. The charges carry up to 235 years behind bars.

“The object of the conspiracy was to destroy and close synagogues and reproductive health services facilities and to thereby provoke further incidents of violence and to intimidate, terrorize and harm Jews, providers of reproductive health services and other groups of persons whom the defendants regarded as inferior or undesirable,” the indictment says.

The June 18 synagogue fires caused more than $1 million in damage. The brothers, who are from Palo Cedro, were also charged in a July 2 arson at the Country Club Medical Center, which houses an abortion clinic.

No one was injured in the fires.

Benjamin Williams, who uses the name Matthew, has told news organizations that he alone was responsible for the slayings and fires. Investigators said Tyler Williams’ handprint was on the pistol used to kill Matson and Mowder on July 1 at the couple’s home in Happy Valley.

Since the arrest, Matthew Williams has repeatedly professed anti-Semitic, anti-gay and white supremacist beliefs. He recently grew a Hitler-style mustache and has said he wants to wear a Nazi-style uniform in court.

Matthew Williams said his defense in the murder case will be based on his belief that the Bible condemns homosexuality. His brother has not talked to the media.

© 2000. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.