Slaying of gay couple brings
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Tuesday April 1, 2003
Sacramento Bee, via The Contra Costa Times, Mar. 28, 2003
REDDING – James Tyler Williams was sentenced to 29 years to life Thursday for the July 1999 double murder of gay couple Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder.
Williams sat shackled throughout the 90-minute proceeding. His sentence includes a four-year enhancement because of the viciousness of the crime.
Williams, 32, will serve a 19-year federal sentence first, which he received for bombing three Sacramento-area synagogues.
In June 1999, Matthew and Tyler Williams set fires at Congregation B’nai Israel, Congregation Beth Shalom and the Kenesset Israel Torah Center.
Two weeks later, the pair set a blaze at an abortion clinic near Watt and El Camino avenues.
The two men, who were from the Redding suburb of Palo Cedro and ran a landscaping business, also were suspected in the July 1, 1999 slayings of Matson, 50, and Mowder, 40.
The couple, who were prominent in Redding for their civic activism, were shotgunned to death late at night while they were sleeping in their Happy Valley home in a rural area near Anderson.
The Williams brothers were arrested six days later in downtown Yuba City, where they were trying to pick up a package at a mail drop that had been ordered using one of the victim’s credit cards.
The arrests spread relief throughout the Sacramento region, especially in the Jewish community, after the brothers were found to have had a list of nearly three dozen Jewish leaders that one official characterized as a “hit list.”
Prosecutors in Redding announced at the time that they would seek the death penalty in the case, but federal officials moved first, indicting the pair in the firebombings and eventually winning a plea deal from both.
The brothers then were returned to Shasta County to await trial for the two murders. Tyler Williams maintained his silence and lived in the jail without incident.
In a Nov. 4, 1999, jailhouse interview, he admitted killing Matson and Mowder, saying he did it because he believed God viewed homosexuality as a mortal sin.
“I’m not guilty of murder,” Matthew Williams said at the time. “I’m guilty of obeying the laws of the Creator.”
He later would confess to an associate that he also was gay, something many of his former friends had long suspected, and was in anguish over the realization.
Matthew Williams was 34 when he killed himself Nov. 17 while being held in an isolation cell at the Shasta County Jail.
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