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THE LIFE AND DEATH OF BILLY JACK GAITHER

billy jack gaither with his family


On February 19, 1999, Billy Jack Gaither, a thirty-nine-year-old gay man who worked at the Russell Athletics apparel company near Sylacauga, Alabama, was brutally beaten to death. His throat was cut, and his body was bludgeoned with an ax handle before being thrown on top of a pile of tires and set on fire. In the weeks following the killing, two men came forward to police as the killers: Steven Mullins and Charles Monroe Butler. Butler, the younger of the two, came forward to police first. He described the night of the murder in great detail: how he had never heard of Billy Jack Gaither prior to the night of the killing; how his friend Steve Mullins found him at a bar playing pool and asked him to take a ride into the woods with himself and Billy Jack; how Billy Jack started "talking queer stuff" that set off a violent reaction in Butler; and then how he stood by as Mullins beat Billy Jack to death. In June of 1999, Steven Mullins pled guilty to capital murder; Butler stood trial and was found guilty of the same charge by a jury. In August of 1999, both Mullins and Butler were sentenced to life in prison without parole.


BILLY JACK REMEMBERED
RICKY GAITHER

This is FRONTLINE's interview with him. Of Billy Jack's four brothers, Ricky was the only one to go on camera with FRONTLINE to talk about growing up as a man in the Gaither family. Ricky paints a portrait of his younger brother's early denials of his sexuality, his devotion to his parents, and his discretion about his romantic life. Ricky also offers his own reading of the evidence against his brother's killers, Mullins and Butler.

· "The Sad Death of Billy Jack"

Kathy GAITHER

This is FRONTLINE's interview with her. One of Billy Jack's two sisters, Kathy Gaither may have been closer to Billy than anyone because of the bond they shared as gay members of the family. Among other things, Kathy counseled Billy on how to weigh his personal sexual feelings with his father's views on homosexuality from the Bible. Kathy is adamant that the truth of why Mullins and Butler killed her brother has not yet come out.
Marion Hammond

This is FRONTLINE's interview with Hammond. The owner of The Tavern, the most popular hangout in Sylacauga, Alabama, Marion Hammond had been friends with Billy Jack Gaither for twenty years. He was the first gay person she ever knew. Marion was familiar with Billy Jack's killer, Steve Mullins.


Billy Jack's Killers Speak
STEVEN ERIC MULLINS' confession

This is Mullins' initial police confession from March of 1999. A former Skinhead who worked hard at appearing tough and sinister, Steve Mullins worked construction jobs occasionally, but was often unemployed and frequently relied on others to get by. On February 19, 1999, he says, he decided that Billy Jack Gaither "didn't need to live any longer." That night, he slit Billy Jack's throat, beat him to death, and set him on fire. "I had to 'cause he was a faggot," says Mullins. At trial, however, a number of witnesses came forward to allege that Steve Mullins himself had been involved in homosexual acts, and may have had a relationship with Billy Jack. Compare contradictory statements he made in later interviews and testimony.

· Witnesses testify to Mullins' homosexual behavior

Charles Butler

This is FRONTLINE's interview with Butler. Sometimes described as Steven Mullins' "sidekick," and always referred to as small and boyish, Charles Monroe Butler was shooting pool with his daddy at a bar when Steven Mullins approached him to take a ride into the Alabama woods. Did Butler know that the mission that night was to kill the other passenger, Billy Jack Gaither? He says he didn't know. Mullins says he did. Now, in prison, Butler says he is forced to deal with "prison sexuality."

· A scholarly article on "prison sexuality"


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