1999... Those were the bad ole days.

What Is the Summer of Terror?

The Summer of Terror refers to the tragic incidents that occurred over the summer of 1999. Two brothers, James and Benjamin Williams (seen on the right), began a string of hate crimes on June 18, 1999. They began their crimes spree by setting fire to three separate synagogues in Sacramento, California. The most heavily damaged synagogue was the B'Nai Israel Synagogue. Nearly a month later on July 1, 1999 the two brothers murder an openly gay couple, Gary Matson and Winferd Mauder, while they slept in their bed. The brothers were finally tracked down when they used Gary Matson's stolen credit card to purchase ammunition. They were ultimately arrested and charged with arson and murder.


There were three main crimes that were committed within a span of about a month. These crimes include...


- On June 18, 1999, Benajmin and James Williams set fire to three synagogues. Even though the fire set at the B'Nai Israel Synagogue did the most damage, it did not completely burn up. Fortunately, there was a lot of key evidence left behind.


- On July 1st, Gary Matson and Winfred Mauder were murdered in their beds as the slept. The two were in a homosexual relationship and were very open about their sexual orientation. Both Matson's and Winfred's wallets, IDs and credit cards were taken by the killers, who later, without thinking through their actions, used the credit cards of the dead men. It was Matson's credit card that ultimately linked the Williams brothers back to the murders of the two men.


- The Williams brothers also burned down a medical clinic that was owned and run by a Middle Eastern immigrant. Originally, the owner was suspected to have burned the building down in order to collect insurance money. However, later on, the two brothers were spotted fleeing in a car matching the description of the car seen at the scene.

What Kinds of Evidence Were Found?

All kinds of different types of trace evidence were found on the multiple scenes of these crimes! From hair to glass, almost every type of trace evidence was found!!

Evidence Found at the Medical Clinic


The discovery of the paint evidence was key in solving this case. There was transfer of paint onto the blade of a pry bar on the Williams' vehicle that was very similar to that of paint from the Medical Clinic. In the same way, there was also paint found on the broken glass from the Medical Clinic door that was similar to the paint from the Williams' vehicle.

These two examples of evidence in this case were very beneficial in confirming that the Williams' vehicle had run into the Medical Clinic door, thus linking them to the crime scene, which helped the case to be solved. They were essentially inverses of one another, which made it extra easy for the investigators to decide that the two were a match.


Glass was found on the Williams brother's vehicle's pry bar. Upon being tested, it was discovered that this glass had a very similar refractive index to the glass that was found at the Medical Clinic! On top of this, glass that also had a very similar refractive index to the glass of the Medical Clinic was found on a jumpsuit recovered from the Palo Cedro residence.

This evidence definitely helped to solve the case, because it helped the police to confirm that the jumpsuit found at the residence was directly linked to the crime that had occurred at the Medical Clinic!


There were two major instances of fiber being discovered in this case that helped to solve the case. Fibers similar to the upholstery of the Matson vehicle were found on the jumpsuit recovered from the Palo Cedro residence. Similarly, fibers similar to the jumpsuit were found on the front seats of the Matson vehicle.

This evidence was critical in solving this case. This helped the investigation to confirm that the person wearing the jumpsuit had, in fact, been in the front of the Matson vehicle, which further linked the jumpsuit-wearer to the crimes.


Upon testing the jumpsuit, the FBI lab was successful in finding DNA! The DNA, upon investigation, matched that of James Williams. This evidence was incredibly important to the case, for it determined that the younger brother of the two, James Williams, had worn the jumpsuit, and had therefore been in the front seat of the Matson vehicle and had been at the Medical Clinic (because of the glass shards found on the jumpsuit). This was a huge break in the case!!

Evidence Found at the Synagogue B'Nai Isreal


A Mobil oil jug was found at the synagogue that closely resembled the oil jug at the Palo Cedro residence. There were many examples of trace evidence found on the oil jugs, such as a red plastic chip, numerous white and brown dog hairs and feathers, numerous white and brown, miscellaneous fibers of various types and colors, white cotton strips of fabric, and paint chips with a light blue top coat over a red layer.

This evidence was extremely helpful in this case, because it had so many different types of evidence to offer! From the fibers to the feathers, all of the traces on this oil can were helpful in linking this oil can back to the Williams brothers.


There was a newspaper found in the bottom of a crate which was left at the synagogue arson. Because it had not been burned, the investigators were able to tell that the newspaper was from the Redding area.

This was important to the case, because it confirmed that the crate that had been brought into the synagogue had been carried in by an individual from the Redding area.


Another important piece of evidence found in this case was a palm print left on an Anti-Jewish flyer located at the synagogues. Upon investigating and testing it, the print was identified as being left by Benjamin Matson.

Because hand/finger prints can be linked back to an individual source, this was key evidence in this case. Linking Benjamin Matson, a specific individual, back to this building was critical in solving the case!


There were many traces of paint found on the broken glass from the B'Nai Israel Synagogue window. These traces of paint were very close matches to the wrenching bar paint from the Williams' vehicle.

The reason that this evidence is important is very similar to the other evidence; it helped to link the Williams brothers to the crime scene, for the paint on their car matched that found at the scene!


There was glass found on the black wrecking bar from the Williams' vehicle. It was similar in refractive index to the glass from a window that was broken at B'Nai Israel Synagogue.

This evidence lead the investigators to find that the Williams' vehicle had been near/had broken the window that had been broken at the synagogue, linking them (yet again!) back to the crime scene!

What is the Daubert Ruling?

This term comes from the Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals case, a 1993 Supreme Court Case. Essentially, this case resulted in the determination for the standard of admitting expert testimony in federal courts. This standard, the most significant result from this case, is commonly referred to as the Daubert Standard or the Daubert Ruling. The Daubert Ruling very much endorses the classical definition of the scientific method: testing a hypothesis, estimating the rates of errors, reviewing and evaluating one another's work, and generally accepting the results. Along with this, individuals may raise a motion to exclude the presentation of specific evidence that may be unqualified during trials.

How Was It Applied in This Case?

The Daubert Ruling came into play in this case when the Defense Attorney made a motion for a Daubert hearing in the analyses of multiple types of trace evidence found on the numerous crime scenes. These analyses include the analysis of hair, paint, glass, and fiber collected at the crime scenes. The attorneys claimed that technology used to analyze these pieces of evidence had changed so much over the years and was not accepted universally by the scientific community. These issues, raised by the defense in an attempt to have a Daubert hearing were quickly addressed. The end result of this is essentially that these issues were incorporated into the arguments by the prosecutioners to not have a Daubert hearing in the case. The request for a hearing was later denied by the judge, and shortly after, the Williams brothers pled guilty to their charges and were sentenced to a life in prison without parole, although Benjamin Williams committed suicide before having to serve the life sentence.
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Lindsay Stivers & Lee Porter (3rd Pd)