The Killers, Matthew and Tyler Williams

The Murder of Gary Matson and Winfield Scott Mowder

Killers: Matthew and Tyler Williams

This Week’s Friday Blog

Killers Matthew and Tyler Williams

On July 1, 1999, Matthew and Tyler Williams broke into the country home of Gary Matson and Winfield Scott Mowder, a well-known and much-loved northern California couple. The Williams brothers tortured and killed these two innocent men for one reason and one reason alone: they were gay. The men’s nude bodies were found the next day riddled with bullets. Investigators determined that the Williams brothers had stood on chairs at the end of the bed and “blasted away at the gay men.”

When Sally Williams asked her son, Matthew, why he had killed “the two homos,” his answer was recorded by prison officials: “I had to obey God’s law rather than man’s law. I didn’t want to do this. I felt I was supposed to…I have followed a higher law…I see a lot of parallels between this and a lot of other incidents in the Old Testament…They threw our Savior in jail…Our forefathers have been in prison a lot. Prophets…Christ…My brother and I are incarcerated for our work in cleansing a sick society…I just plan to defend myself from the Scriptures.”

On Sunday morning, November 17, 2002, while still awaiting trial, Matthew Williams, who once vowed to become “a Christian martyr,” wedged himself between the toilet and the far wall of his cell, slashed open his femoral arteries, his arms and his neck with a razor and bled to death. On March 3, 2003, Tyler Williams pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder. Facing a life in prison, Tyler apologized to the families and friends of the gay couple he had murdered. “I have repented to the Lamb of God for attempting to take His place of leadership in dealing with the world’s evils and in not patiently waiting for His timing.”

Compared to the horror of Matthew Sheperd’s execution felt by millions around the world, few people even noticed the life and death of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder let alone the suicide of Matthew Williams or Tyler William’s sentence to life in prison. And yet this untold story of four wasted lives is just one more smoking gun found at the scene of another crime caused directly by fundamentalist Christian leaders whose obsessive anti-homosexual campaign leads to tragic consequences they will not admit.
Go back a few paragraphs and re-read the words Matthew Williams used to defend his heinous crime. This Bible-based fear and loathing of homosexuals was shaped in William’s mind—just as it is being shaped in the minds of tens of millions of Americans—by the anti-homosexual teachings of the radio and television fundavangelists, the Southern Baptists, Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints (Mormons), fundamentalist leaders in every Protestant denomination and priests, bishops, and cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church, especially Benedict XVI, whose antigay obsession has led to the current inquisition against innocent gay priests and seminarians. To young Williams, if homosexuals are such a “threat to the family, to the church and to the nation,” it only seemed natural to eliminate that threat.
At his trial, Williams made the connection between the fundamentalist Christian teachers and preachers who had influenced his life to the murder of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder. “You obey a government of man until there is a conflict,” he explained. “Then you obey a higher law. So many people claim to be Christians,” Williams added, “They complain about all these things their religion says are a sin, but they’re not willing to do anything about it. They don’t have the guts.”
How long will it take for gay-bashing fundamentalists, Protestant and Catholic alike, to realize that their anti-homosexual campaign leads directly to suffering and death? At the trial of the men who killed his brother, Mark Matson, who holds a doctorate in New Testament studies and teaches at a Christian college, admitted to a reporter that “Gary saw the danger of the religious right.” Apparently, it was the one thing the two brothers disagreed on. “It is ironic to me,” Dr. Matson admits, “that his reaction was correct. For him Christianity or at least a perverse segment of it was dangerous.”
It took the torture and murder of his brother for Mark Matson to realize that “a perverse segment” of Christianity is dangerous. What will it take for the rest of us to realize that fundamentalist Christianity, that “perverse segment” of the Christian church, is a threat—not just to lesbian and gay Americans but to all Americans who refuse to support their so-called “absolute values” or join them in making this “a Christian nation”?


[1][1] From the Preface to Mel White’s “Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tells to Deny Gay Equality”
[1] “Poster boys for the summer of hate,” an article by Sam Stanton and Gary Delsohn for Salon.com, October 6, 1999,  http://archive.salon.com/news/feature/1999/10/06/redding/print.html
[1] Although the tape of Matthew Williams conversation with his mother has not been released to the public, a summary of his reasons for killing the gay men can be found at Affirmation General Conference News Letter, May 8, 2000, http://www.umaffirm.org/tm0508.html.  That summary is pieced together from articles written by reporters who actually heard the tape replayed and quoted from it.  Those articles include: Maline Hazle, a reporter for the Record Searchlight, Redding, California, who covered the story extensively at www.redding.com; and reporters from the Sacramento Bee at http:///www.sacbee.com; http://www.salon.com/news/feature/1999/10/06/redding;  http://gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories/00Mar24.htm; http://www.pbs.org/niot/citizens_respond/redding.html; http://www.rickross.com/reference/supremacists/supremacists102.html;
[1] Maline Hazle, op.cit.
[1] Eric Resnick, “Williams admits killing couple; says he ‘obeyed God’s law,’ Gay People’s Chronicle, November 12, 1999,  http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories/99nov12.htm
[1] Ibid.