MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — A Tennessee jail has intercepted a letter from an inmate to a white supremacist group in which he confesses to dousing a black man with lighter fluid and burning him to death.
The Daily News Journal reports 53-year-old John Daniel Carothers is charged with murder in the death of 40-year-old Robert Miller, who was set ablaze at a Veterans' Affairs assisted living home in March. The letter has Rutherford County prosecutors considering further investigation to determine if hate crime sentencing enhancement could be applied, the newspaper reports.
In the letter addressed to the American Institute of Theology in Arkansas, Carothers requested a study Bible and says he believes the Bible is "about white people and for white people" and says he is in jail "for burning a black man I set him on fire with lighter fluid poured on his head."
Murfreesboro police detective Jacob Fountain testified at an Aug. 8 court hearing that jailers decided to intercept the letter after researching the organization to which the mail was addressed.
"They saw it was what they believed to be like a white supremacist type deal," Fountain told the court last month when describing jail staff's research into the AIT.
The Anti-Defamation League describes AIT as a small but longstanding group in the Christian Identity movement, which espouses a racist and anti-Semitic religious doctrine.
The Anti-Defamation League also called on the Republican-led Tennessee legislature to pass a comprehensive hate crime law that mandates tougher penalties for crimes committed because of hate, bias or bigotry.
"ADL condemns in the strongest terms this vicious murder and the white supremacist ideology that likely motivated the suspect," Allison Padilla-Goodman, ADL southeast regional director, said in a statement. "No words can truly capture the savagery of this act."
District Attorney Jennings Jones said local officials don't see many racially motivated crimes in Rutherford County.
"We have our share of crime, but we really have not seen this style of crime driven by racial animus," Jennings said. "This deviates from what we normally see in Rutherford County."
It's unclear whether U.S. prosecutors will seek to charge Carothers with a federal hate crime. A U.S. attorney's office spokesman in Nashville referred questions about Carothers to a local Federal Bureau of Investigation office, whose spokeswoman said the FBI has a standard rule of not confirming or denying the existence of an investigation.