Summer of Terror

By: Lisette Casillas & Bryan Waters

Summary

Two brothers, James and Benjamin Williams began to commit hate crimes against different religions and homosexuals. They only had a short run where they lit a synagogue on fire, brutally murdered a gay couple, and set fire to an abortion clinic. The brothers were eventually caught due to large amounts of trace evidence and a key witness. They both were charged with several counts of arson, hate crimes, and murder. Benjamin Williams committed suicide and his brother James Williams pled guilty to murder with life in prison without parole.

Evidence

  • Three black 1 gallon Mobil oil jugs where they found in multiple locations, including their parents home, and the stolen car that also smelled like gasoline.
  • They found a blue jumpsuit in their parents home which reflected the eye witness' statement saying he saw two men in jumpsuits.
  • White and brown dog hairs were found at the first fire which they also found at their parents home. They also found feathers which were similar to the animals found at Palo Cedro residence.
  • Gary Matson's credit card which was used to purchase ammunition which was traced back to a P.O box where James and Benjamin were picking up the ammunition.
  • They found several paint chips similar to the paint from the abortion clinic connecting to the pry bar in Williams' car.
  • They found DNA in the blue jumpsuit indicating who wore the suit. They also found traces of the blue jumpsuit in the stolen car which placed them in the car.

Daubert Ruling

A Daubert hearing is when all of the analysis experts of the evidence have their time to tell the judge of the case their findings. The hair, paint, glass, and fiber forensic analysis shared what they found in the Daubert hearing to help lead to the conviction of the Williams brothers.

Synagogue B'Nai Israel

On June 18, 1999 the Williams brothers destroyed the library and the sanctuary in the synagogue. They were not able to burn down the whole synagogue so there was more evidence found then they thought. They found several paint chips and gas cans that they were able to place with the brothers in several other encounters. This is also where the found the animal hairs/feathers that helped connect the brothers to the fire.

Gary Matson & Winfred Mauder Murders

An openly gay couple was murdered in their bed and the double homicide was deemed as a hate crime. The Williams brothers stole Gary Matson's car and credit card which ended up being traced back to the brothers who were using the credit card to buy ammunition.

Abortion Clinic

On July 2, 1999 an medical clinic that performed abortions was linked to the Williams brothers through almost assumed hate crimes from the fire set at the synagogue.