Williams Brothers

The Crime and Investigation

Brothers Benjamin and James Williams, who openly declared themselves as anti-Semitic, anti-gay white supremacists, went on a murderous spree in the summer of 1999. They murdered two gay men and burned three Sacramento, California area synagogues and a medical building housing a women's clinic. The damage totaled $3 million.

ATF was part of an investigative task force that included the Sacramento Sheriff's Office Police and Fire Departments, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Evidence recovered from the fire scenes pointed to the Williams brothers. In addition, Shasta County, California, investigators arrested the brothers on suspicion of murder after tracing a victim's stolen credit cards to them. While the suspects were in custody, ATF obtained incriminating evidence relating to the fires and murders. Forensic evidence developed by the ATF National Laboratory Center, along with other federal and state labs sealed the Williams' fate.

Images of Burned Churches


The Arrest

Benjamin and James Williams were indicted on the federal charges of arson, conspiracy and destruction of religious property. Benjamin, the duo's leader, confessed to the murders and arsons. He hoped his eventual execution would make him a "Christian martyr" and inspire others to hate minorities.


A sketch of the suspected perpetrator.


The Adjudication

Benjamin Williams pled guilty to the arsons in 2001, receiving a 30-year sentence. He committed suicide while awaiting trial on the murders. James Williams also pled guilty and received a sentence of 19 to 21 years and a $1 million fine.


Picture of Williams Brothers.

Last Reviewed September 22, 2016