A white supremacist inmate who was serving time for torching three synagogues and awaiting trial for allegedly killing a gay couple was found dead Sunday in California's Shasta County Jail. The body of Benjamin Williams, 34, was discovered, with cuts to his legs and arms, when he didn't respond to a call for breakfast at about 6:30 a.m., said Redding police sergeant Dan Kupsky. Williams had been seen reading at about 1:30 a.m. and was presumed to be asleep during subsequent hourly checks. He had apparently placed something under his blankets to make it appear as if he were in bed, Kupsky said. His body was found near the cell's toilet. An autopsy has been scheduled to determine cause of death. A weapon was found in Williams's single cell, but details were not immediately released. The Redding police department is leading the investigation into the death.
Since a failed escape attempt in June with another inmate, Williams had been housed in a section of the jail reserved for high-risk inmates. Williams was convicted earlier this month of attempted murder for bashing a corrections officer over the head with a handmade hatchet in the escape attempt. Officer Timothy Renault needed seven metal plates in his head and two in his jaw for his injuries. In September, Williams and his younger brother, James Williams, both white supremacists, pleaded guilty to federal charges of setting fire to three Sacramento synagogues and an abortion clinic in 1999. Williams was also awaiting trial for the 1999 murder of a gay Happy Valley couple found shot to death in their Shasta County home. Both he and his brother had pleaded innocent to murder charges in that case, which could carry the death penalty.