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Charles Monroe BUTLER Jr.





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Hate crime - Try to cover up the crime by burning the body
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 19, 1999
Date of birth: 1978
Victim profile: Billy Jack Gaither, 39 (gay man)
Method of murder: Cracked his skull with an ax handle
Location: Rockford, Alabama, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on August 3, 1999

Accomplice Convicted in Killing

The New York Times

August 6, 1999

ROCKFORD, Ala. A man was convicted today of helping to kill a homosexual because of what he called an unwanted advance and sentenced to life without parole.

The defendant, Charles M. Butler Jr., 21, was convicted of capital murder in the killing of Billy Jack Gaither, 39, who had his throat slashed and was beaten to death and his body burned on a pile of old tires.

The victim's father, Marion Gaither, had asked that Mr. Butler not be sentenced to death, saying, ''I can't see taking another human beings life, no matter what.''

Mr. Gaither said he hoped his son would not be remembered as a gay murder victim, but as ''one of the finest sons a man could want.''

The case drew national attention after the authorities said the younger Mr. Gaither was killed because of his sexual orientation.

President Clinton compared the case to the dragging death of a black man in Texas and the fatal beating of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual college student who was lashed to a fence in Wyoming.

The man who actually killed Mr. Gaither, Steven Mullins, pleaded guilty earlier and testified against Mr. Butler. Mr. Mullins, 25, is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, and the prosecution said it would recommend that he get life without parole.

Mr. Butler said he had no idea that Mr. Mullins planned to kill Mr. Gaither when he was asked to meet the two men on a February night.

Mr. Mullins testified that he decided to kill Mr. Gaither because Mr. Gaither had made a pass. He said that he asked Mr. Butler along, and that Mr. Butler understood what was to happen.

Mr. Mullins cut Mr. Gaither's throat, and when Mr. Gaither fought back, Mr. Mullins cracked his skull with an ax handle.

Asked today about his reaction to the killing, Mr. Butler, said, wiping away tears, ''I was in shock and didn't know what to do.''


Co-defendant in Alabama gay slaying guilty of murder, gets life without parole

By Bryan Robinson -

August 5, 1999

ROCKFORD, Ala. (Court TV) Although he insisted he did not help plan the brutal slaying of an Alabama gay man last February, Charles Butler, Jr. was convicted Thursday of capital murder in the beating and burning death of Billy Jack Gaither. However, at the request of Gaither's family, Butler was spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Though they acknowledged he did not deliver the fatal blows to Gaither, prosecutors sought the death penalty against Butler. On the stand Thursday, the defendant insisted he had not committed capital murder because he did not kill Gaither nor initiated the murderous plan.

He blamed the murder on his former friend, Steven Mullins, a skinhead who testified against Butler and told jurors Wednesday that he killed Gaither because the victim had made a pass at him. Mullins told jurors he set Gaither up by luring him to a remote area with a promise of sex. He recruited Butler because they had a mutual hatred of homosexuals. Butler, Mullins said, did not participate in the actual murder but helped plan it.

However, Butler testified he was "shocked and dismayed" when he saw Mullins kill Billy Jack Gaither on Feb. 19. That was why, Butler insisted, he helped Mullins try to cover up the crime by burning the body atop Gaither's car and a pile of tires.

"I was in shock and didn't know what to do," Butler said tearfully.

His defense argued that Gaither's murder began and ended with Mullins and suggested that the skinhead intimidated Butler into participating in his plan. But Butler's own police statement "Well, sir, he started talking, you know, queer stuff, you know, and I just didn't want no part of it," seemingly revealed his own hostility towards homosexuals and suggested he was more than an unwilling participant in the events leading to Gaither's death.

In addition, Mullins told jurors that Butler suggested the location where Gaither's throat was slit and even offered him a pocketknife to further cut the victim.

Despite his role in the slaying, Mullins avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to capital murder last month in exchange for a life sentence without parole. He will be sentenced Friday. Alabama prosecutors will recommend the life sentence, but the judge can still put aside the request and impose the death penalty on Mullins.

Gaither's father said the family was pleased with the verdict and had requested leniency for Butler.

"I can't see taking another human being's life, no matter what," Marion Gaither said.


The victim

Billy Jack Gaither, 39



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