By: Kyle Miller
On the night of June 18, 1999, arsonists destroyed the library and damaged the sanctuary
at the B’Nai Israel Synagogue in Sacramento, California. Within the next 45 minutes,
fires were set at two other synagogues, Beth Shalom and Kennesset Israel.
The following items of trace evidence were removed for the oil jugs.
Paint chips with a light blue top coat over a red layer
Red plastic chip
White cotton strips of fabric
White and brown dog hairs
Numerous feathers primarily white and brown in color
Numerous miscellaneous fibers of various types and colors
gay couple murdered
On the evening of July 1, 1999, Gary Matson and Winfred Mauder were murdered in bed
while they asleep. They died in the town of Happy Valley, a small community located in
the Redding area of California. Gary and Winfred were an openly gay couple. Their
vehicle and some credit cards were also stolen during the commission of the homicide.
Synagogue B’Nai Israel Evidence
o Glass on the black wrecking bar recovered from the Williams’
vehicle was similar in re fractive index to the glass from a broken
window at B’Nai Israel.
o Paint on the broken glass of the window at B’Nai Israel was
similar to the wrenching bar paint from the Williams’ vehicle .
o Oil jugs similar to the Mobil oil jug from Williams’ Palo Cedro
o Dog hairs and feathers on the mouth of the oil jugs and rags tied to
the oil jugs were similar to animals at the Palo Cedro residence.
o Blue over red paint chips on the mouth of the oil jugs were similar
to the paint from the shed at the Palo Cedro residence.
o Newspaper in the bottom of a crate left at the synagogue arson was
from the Redding area.
o A palm print on one Anti-Jewish flyer left at the synagogues was
identified as from (Benjamin) Matson.
On July 3, the vehicle belonging to Matson and Mauder was found abandoned in the
Oroville area. Oroville is located between Redding and Sacramento. When the
investigators opened the door to search inside, they noticed a strong odor of gasoline.
The break in these cases came when the credit card of Gary Matson was used to order
ammunition from Arizona. The ammunition had been shipped to a mailbox or UPS store
in Yuba City, California. Yuba City is just South of Oroville. On July 7, as the police
arrived at the store in Yuba City to investigate this lead, they observed brothers Benjamin
Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams picking up the ammunition. Both were
arrested at this time for possession of a stolen credit card. Numerous weapons and
thousands of rounds of ammunition were recovered in subsequent searches of their
vehicle and residence. One of the recovered weapons was identified as the murder
weapon that killed Gary Matson and Winfred Mauder. The Williams brothers were then
arrested for murder.
Investigators from Sacramento became interested in the Williams brothers because of the
newspaper from Redding that was found at the synagogue fire scenes and the recognition
that the homicide case in Redding may not be the only crime that the brothers had
A black pry bar and a black wrecking bar were collected from the Williams’ vehicle.
Receipts showed that they had been purchased just prior to the synagogue arsons. Both
bars had powdered glass fragments 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. None of the paint samples collected from any of the synagogue had green
paint. After a discussion with investigators as to possible sources of this paint, the arson
scene at the building with the medical in Sacramento was revisited on July 28. This was
a white stucco building with green trim. The building was in the process of
reconstruction. All the broken fixed windows had been repaired. One of the o riginal
metal framed doors with glass inserts located at the front entrance was boarded up
between two sheets of plywood. The glass in the upper portion of the door had been struck by a linear shaped object. It did not fall out of the door because the glass was a
laminate. The frame of the door was aluminum that had been painted green. A black
paint transfer was present on the broken edges of the glass. A comparison of the green
paint chip on the pry bar and the black paint on the glass established that this pry bar
most likely broke this window. Some of the glass on the prybar was similar in refractive
index to the only existing broken window of the clinic. Other glass on the two bars was
not similar to the broken glass in the recovered door. The other windows that were
broken in order to gain entry into the building had since been replaced. So this was not
an unexpected finding.
A garbage truck driver, who was picking up trash early that morning from the clinic, saw
the fire, and two men in jumpsuits speed away from the scene in a small dark colored
box-like car. The description of the vehicle was similar to Gary Matson’s car.
With this additional information and the information developed from the physical
evidence left at the synagogue arsons, Sacramento FBI agents and ATF agents served an
additional search warrant on the residences of the Williams brothers including their
parents house in Palo Cedro outside of Redding, California , and the suspects’ vehicle. In
a prior search of the Palo Cedro residence, Mobil Oil bottles similar to those found at
B’Nai Israel synagogue had been recovered. This suggested that the Palo Cedro
residence was the place at which the arson devices were constructed. The warrants
included collection of reference materials such as paint, animal hairs, feathers, and
fabrics for comparison to the trace evidence already isolated from the arson devices used
in setting the fires. A blue jumpsuit from a bedroom in the house and additional Mobil
oil bottles from a shed outside the house were collected. Reference materials and
additional trace evidence was collected from the Williams’ vehicle and the Matson
vehicle in order to link the Williams vehicle to the synagogue fires and Matson’s vehicle
to the medical clinic fire in Sacramento.
Medical Clinic Evidence
o Paint on the blade of the Black Pry bar in the Williams’ vehicle
similar to the door from the medical clinic
o Paint on the broken glass of the door of the medical clinic similar
to the pry bar paint
o Glass on the pry bar similar in refractive index and semi
quantitative elemental analysis to the glass from the window in the
door of the medical clinic
o Glass on the floor of Matson vehicle similar in refractive index and
semi quantitative elemental analysis to the glass from the medical
o Glass on the jumpsuit recovered from the Palo Cedro residence
similar in refractive index and semi qualitative elemental analysis
to glass from the medical clinic o Fibers on the jumpsuit recovered from Palo Cedro residue was
were similar to the upholstery of the Matson vehicle
o Fibers on the front seats of the Matson vehicle similar to the fabric
of the jumpsuit
o DNA (analyzed by FBI laboratory) on the jumpsuit matching the
younger brother James Williams indicating that the younger
Williams brother wore this jumpsuit.
The daubert ruling was The Daubert standard provides a rule of evidence regarding the admissibility of expert witnesses' testimony during United States federal legal proceedings. Pursuant to this standard, a party may raise a Daubert motion, which is a special case of motion in limine raised before or during trial to exclude the presentation of unqualified evidence to the jury. The Daubert trilogy refers to the three United States Supreme Court cases that articulated the Daubert standard:
This affected the case because it would have excluded the trace evidence which convicted the brothers