When the bodies of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder were discovered in the couple’s home in Redding, California, in July 1999, authorities immediately suspected they had more than a simple home invasion on their hands.
“The number of shots fired indicated a certain level of rage, …” criminalist Thomas Vasquez told the producers of “Killer Siblings” on Oxygen. “That’s why they over-kill them — they make sure they’re dead. They don’t want them coming back.”
The 15 spent .22-caliber bullet casings on the floor of the openly gay couple’s home, however, wouldn’t even come close to indicating the hatred that led to the murders.
Matson and Mowder were killed in their bed by a pair of brothers they’d met before, and with whom they were friendly, according to “Killer Siblings.”
Matthew Williams, 31, and his brother Tyler, 29, were raised in a devoutly fundamentalist home. Their father, Ben, was known to shout scripture while walking on the street and believed strongly that God would punish those who failed to obey his laws, according to “Killer Siblings.”
Still, there were few outward signs that the brothers’ beliefs had veered into hatred or violence. A local nursery owner, who worked with Matthew, was shocked when he heard the brothers were being held by police on suspicion of murder.
“The guy has got a million-dollar smile. He is as charming as anybody you’d want to see — when he wants to be,” Ed Smith told the Los Angeles Times. “I feel like I’ve been used, if indeed he’s been doing this stuff that’s come out.”
Even though he was friendly with Matson and Mowder from the local farmers market the couple founded, Matthew’s beliefs had taken a dark turn. Mowder and Matson’s open homosexuality was eating at him.
Former friends of the brothers told “Killer Couples” that Matthew may well have been wrestling with his own sexuality. Todd Bethell, who served with Matthew during a brief stint stateside in the Navy, said that people often asked Matthew if he was gay. When asked, he would “crank up the volume on his masculine characteristics,” he told LGBT news magazine Planetout.
After leaving the Navy, Matthew became deeply involved with a church called the Living Faith Fellowship, according to Salon. The church’s beliefs couldn’t match the extremism of Matthew’s, however. He had become obsessed with “purification,” according to his former friend Jeff Monroe.
Apparently, the idea of purification for Matthew eventually grew to encompass cleansing the world of the sinful. And his younger brother became his “congregation of one, while he’s hoping for many,” former Shasta County District Attorney McGregor Scott told “Killer Siblings.”
Although Matson and Mowder’s home wasn’t burglarized, Matson’s credit card was taken. Authorities tracked down the Williams brothers when they used his card to buy $2,000 worth of ammunition and firearms accessories. They were having the arsenal delivered to a drop box in Yuba City, about 100 miles from their home, and the law was there to meet them.
The Williams brothers were armed and wearing bulletproof vests, making for a tense standoff before they surrendered. In the brothers’ vehicle, authorities found damning evidence, including a sprinkler head that had been turned into a homemade silencer. The device also had what appeared to be a speck of blood on it.
What authorities found in the Williams’ home was even more disturbing. They had literature from white supremacist group World Church of the Creator, news clippings of nearby synagogue fires and even more guns and ammunition. There was also a list of 30 prominent Jewish citizens associated with area synagogues — the same ones that had recently come under attack.
The brothers sat in the county jail on receiving stolen property charges while authorities scrambled to bring murder charges down on them and determine if they had been involved in the synagogue fires.
In jailhouse audio obtained by “Killer Siblings,” Matthew proclaimed he was not guilty of murder during an interview. Rather, he said he was just “removing abominations from the land.”
“I’m not guilty of murder … I’m guilty of obedience to laws of the creator,” he said.
The brothers pleaded guilty in December 2001 to burning three synagogues, as well as an abortion clinic. Matthew was sentenced to 30 years in prison, and Tyler got 21 years and three months, according to the Record Searchlight Newspaper. They were also ordered to collectively pay $1 million in restitution.
Two years later, Tyler would plead guilty to killing Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, earning him 29 more years to life after his arson sentences, according to the New York Times.
For more shocking details of this story, including why Matthew Williams would never see trial for the murders, tune into “Killer Siblings,” airing Sundays at 8/7c on Oxygen.
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