Police investigate inmate's suicide

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 20 2002 1:00 AM ET

Police in Redding, Calif., are investigating how a convicted arsonist and white supremacist found dead in his jail cell this weekend obtained the disposable razor he apparently used to kill himself. Benjamin Williams's body was found on the floor of his Shasta County Jail cell Sunday morning with severe cuts to his arms, legs, and neck from a disposable razor. Authorities said their preliminary investigation indicated that his death was apparently a suicide. Williams, 34, had been serving time for torching three Sacramento-area synagogues in 1999 and was awaiting trial on charges of killing a gay couple in Happy Valley later that year. He was already housed in a section of the jail reserved for high-risk inmates after he and another inmate tried and failed to escape in June. Inmates in that section of the jail "used electric razors to shave, and disposable razors would be contraband," said Redding police sergeant Dan Kupsky.

Williams was seen reading in his cell at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday and was presumed to be asleep during the following hourly checks. He had apparently stuffed bedding under his blankets to make it appear he was in bed, Kupsky said. He then placed a wool blanket on his cell floor behind the sink and toilet, where he apparently inflicted the fatal wounds on himself. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday morning.

Williams and his younger brother, both white supremacists who pleaded guilty to torching the synagogues as well as an abortion clinic, were awaiting trial on charges of killing two gay men who were found shot to death in their Shasta County home. District Attorney McGregor Scott said Williams's suicide will not affect the other brother's murder trial, which is scheduled to begin in January.