PEARL, Miss. (CBS/AP) White supremacist lawyer and leader of the Nationalist Movement, Richard Barrett, was allegedly stabbed and beaten to death by a black neighbor who did yard work for him.
The Rankin County Sheriff's Department discovered Barrett's body Thursday after neighbors saw smoke coming from his house in a rural area of Jackson, Miss.
Rankin County Sheriff Ronnie Pennington said that preliminary autopsies showed Barrett, 67, suffered multiple stab wounds to the neck and had been bashed in the head. He also had burns covering 35% of his body; however, investigators believe that Barrett died as a result of the Wednesday night attack, and Thursday's house fire was an attempt to cover up the murder.
Pennington did not disclose a motive, but the suspect charged in Barrett's murder is a 22-year-old African American ex-con named Vincent McGee, who has tattoos linking him to the Vice Lords gang, reports the Clarion Ledger.
McGee had just been released from state prison in February after serving five years of a six-year sentence for simple assault on a police officer and grand larceny.
Deputies also arrested 42 year-old Alfred Lewis, Vincent's stepfather, who is being charged as an accessory after the fact, and 22-year-old Michael Dent and 38-year-old Vickie Dent. Both suspects are facing accessory after the fact and arson charges, says the Clarion Ledger.
Richard Barrett is the founder of the Nationalist Movement, a white supremacist organization based in Learned, Mississippi. Barrett had been able to attract a small but zealous following of aggressive skinheads, according to the Anti-Defamation League. He had a knack for publicity but little real influence, one expert said.
"Richard Barrett was a guy who ran around the country essentially pulling off publicity stunts," said Mark Potok, who monitors hate groups for the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center. "He really never amounted to any kind of leader in the white supremacist movement."