Summer of Terror

Nicolette Pianelli and Danielle Martinez

June 18, 1999

A synagogue in Sacramento, California was set on fire by arsonists and the library was destroyed and the sanctuary was damaged. About 45 minutes later 2 more synagogues were also set on fire but were not as badly ruined as the first. Found in the synagogue were 3 black one gallon Mobil oil jugs, a torn piece of fabric, and a wooden crate filled with newspaper from Redding, California. The trace evidence that was removed from the oil jugs were; paint chips with a light blue top coat over a red layer, a red plastic chip, white cotton, strips of fabric, white and brown dog hairs, numerous feather primarily white and brown, and numerous miscellaneous fibers of various types and colors.

July 1, 1999

In Happy Valley, California; Gary Matson and Winfred Mauder were murdered in their sleep. Their vehicle and credit cards were also stolen while the homicide was committed. Gary and Winfred were also a very happy openly gay couple. The next night the car belonging to the couple was found abandoned in the Oroville area which is located between Redding and Sacramento. The investigators also said that when they opened the door the vehicle had a strong odor of gasoline. The credit card belonging to Gary Matson was used to order ammunition from Arizona and shipped to a mailbox in Yuba City, California. When police went to the store to investigate this purchase they found brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams picking up the ammunition. When their cars were searched many weapons were found including the gun that was identified as the murder weapon that killed Gary Matson and Winfred Mauder. The brothers were then arrested.

July 2, 1999

An office clinic in Sacramento, California that performed abortions was burned by arsonists. Originally the crime was blamed on the owner of the clinic, but was later linked to the synagogue arson following more investigation.

More Trace Evidence

A black pry bar and a black wrecking bar were collected from the Williams vehicle. Receipts also showed that these had been purchased prior to the synagogue arsons. Both bars had powdered glass fragments and embedded in indentations on the surface of both bars. In addition, a large green paint on an aluminum metal shaving was present on the blade of the pry bar. Since this paint did not match any evidence from the synagogue arson the medical clinic case was revisited. The pry bar with the paint transfer was connected to the broken window at the clinic. Once a warrant was obtained the brothers parents house was searched and Mobil oil jugs were found similar to those that were found at the synagogues. Once the evidence was examined paint on the pry bar was similar to the door at the clinic, glass on the pry bar was similar to that of the window from the clinic, a jumpsuit was found at their parents residence and DNA matching the younger brother was found on the suit. More evidence found was glass on the wrecking bar and this was similar to the broken glass of a window at the synagogue, blue over red paint chips on the mouth of the oil jugs were similar to the paint chips found in their parents shed, the newspaper from the bottom of the crate was from the Redding area, and finally a palm print on an Anti-Jewish flyer that was left at the synagogue was identified as Benjamin Matson.

Daubert Ruling

When attorney's try to throw evidence out because it is not 100% backed by science. The attorney's defending the Williams' brothers most likely used this to try and throw away the matching of paint chips and glass since although they can be similar to each other they cannot be 100% matched like how DNA or a fingerprint can be.