DALLAS — After killing a drug customer they suspected could be an informant, Aryan Brotherhood gang members wrapped the man’s body in chain-link fencing, weighed it down with cinder blocks and threw it in a murky pond along the Trinity River bottoms, a witness has told police.
Fortunately for authorities, sinking a corpse is more difficult than people think.
“Gases build up, so it floats unless you use a lot of weight,” said Sgt. Gene Reyes, a Dallas police homicide supervisor. “Ours stayed down only four days.”
The discovery of the body early last month opened an investigation that has led to seven arrests linked with two homicides and two armed robberies in a case that has put a spotlight on a Dallas-area unit of the notorious Aryan Brotherhood.
Authorities say the 20-member subgroup of the white prison gang, which has an estimated 15,000 U.S. members, brought a new level of violence to the sale and distribution of methamphetamine in the area.
Gang members also are suspected in a second killing last month — that of a woman who witnesses said had once been the crew leader’s girlfriend. Her death was preceded by a torture session in which she was beaten, sexually assaulted and electrocuted through the genitals with a battery charger before being slowly strangled with a plastic “zip-tie,” according to a Mesquite police affidavit.
“This was internal discipline,” said Lt. Steve Callarman, a Mesquite police spokesman. “These are some ruthless killers. In order to keep everyone in line, they want to be feared.”
A witness told police the woman, whose body has not yet been found and has been identified only by the first name Briona, “had been talking bad about the Aryan Brotherhood.”
The other victim, 43-year-old Anthony Clark, whom police say had a history of chronic drug use, made the mistake of boasting to the crew that he owned a nightclub.
“They actually knew the owner of the club so they started thinking he was a snitch,” Reyes said. Clark was beaten unconscious before he was killed, a police report relates.
The group’s leader, Jason “Trooper” Hankins, was arrested in Las Cruces, N.M., and charged with capital murder in Clark’s slaying. Two other men and a woman face the same charge, including a man police describe as Hankins’ top lieutenant, 28-year-old Clayton Dale “Tiger” Jameton. Along with the two other men, Jameton is charged in “Briona’s” death.
On Aug. 25, as officers swept down on two houses used by the crew, Jameton and two accomplices allegedly were busy robbing two Mesquite men who apparently owed them money for drugs, police said.
“Methamphetamine sales run all through this,” Callarman said.
After gathering $700 and a plasma screen TV from their victims, they drove them to an automated teller machine, police said. When their withdrawal limits turned out to be just $300 a day, the gang placed tape and sunglasses over their eyes and hung “zip-ties” around their necks, police said.
According to a police affidavit, Jameton told them, “If you act up, I’m going to pull the zip tie and choke you to death.” The pair was released unharmed in a Mesquite park after the crew drove by their house and discovered police searching it.
“These aren’t the kind of people you like to see move onto the block,” a neighbor said of the Mesquite house the group had occupied since June and where both killings allegedly took place.
With their tattoos and shaved heads, the gang’s members cut a tough profile in the subdivision of modest, 25-year-old brick homes. Confirming the fears of several neighbors, most had Texas prison records.
Hankins was released in 2005 after serving 10 years on two burglary convictions. Jameton got out of prison in June after serving six years for drug convictions, state records show.
The Brotherhood is one of the largest of 12 known prison gangs in the state system, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesperson said. Officials keep track of membership but don’t release numbers to discourage gangs from competing with each other.
The Aryan Brotherhood formed in 1964 at the San Quentin Maximum Security Prison in California as a racially oriented, self-protection organization.
“It formed as the prisons were going from majority white to majority black,” said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which monitors hate groups.
“We keep track of them because they have a racial ideology, but mostly they’re a criminal organization,” Potok said.
He said the gang “looms large” for local and federal law enforcement because at least half of its members are out of prison.
A massive federal prosecution against the group’s national leadership — the so-called shotcallers — is under way in Orange County, Calif. The U.S. Justice Department is seeking an unprecedented 23 death penalties in its 110-page indictment. The gang, which is being pursued under federal racketeering laws, is alleged to have ordered 32 murders inside and outside the federal prison system, with about a 50 percent success rate.
Last month, a jury convicted gang leader Barry Mills, 57, and his right-hand man, Tyler Bingham, 58, of murder, racketeering and conspiracy, all crimes committed while the two men were incarcerated in some of the nation’s highest-security prisons. The sentencing phase, in which the government is seeking death, began Aug. 28.