An Alabama inmate convicted of killing Billy Jack Gaither during a brutal hate crime over two decades ago has been murdered in prison. The incident happened just days after the 20th anniversary of Gaither's death.
Steven Eric Mullins was found unresponsive with multiple stab wounds on February 26 at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, according to AL.com. He was transported to an area hospital, where he died last week.
The Alabama Department of Corrections plans to file murder charges against Christopher Scott Jones, who is already serving a 25-year sentence for killing five men in an Alabama apartment in 2008. Authorities say Jones carried those killings out as part of a murder-for-hire job tied to drug cartel money.
No motive has been reported on why Jones wanted to kill Mullins.
As for Mullins, he was serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for the kidnapping and murder of Gaither, a hate crime that shocked the state and nation.
Mullins and his accomplice, Charles Monroe Butler, told Coosa County investigators at the time that Gaither previously made a pass at Butler. "Billy Jack started talking about some gay issues. . . wanting to have a threesome, or whatever," Butler told PBS Frontline."
A week later, the men lured Gaither from a bar to a dock, stabbed and beat him to death with an ax handle. The two men then took Gaither to a creek and beat him again before putting him on kerosene-drenched tires.
Mullins confessed to the crime in video broadcast a year later by PBS Frontline.
"I was still beating him and when I gave out of energy and couldn't do it anymore, um, the fire got to going and the tires started burning real well and I drug him into the flame and uh, we stood there for a few minutes and then we left," Mullins told investigators.
Alabamans just last month honored the anniversary of Gaither's death with remembrance events around the state.
AL.com said the movement promoted a push to include sexual orientation in state hate crime statute, but that never happened.
Butler remains in prison at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility and was not attacked during the anniversary of the death.