Killing Time: The Crime

Berry Describes A Night Of Aimless Driving

In November, before his sentencing, Berry talked with 60 Minutes II Correspondent Dan Rather about his role in the crime.

The crime began, Berry said, when he and his two companions picked up Byrd, who was hitchhiking.

"I had recognized him," Berry said. "But I didn't really know who he was. So I pulled over and asked him if he needed a ride."

Berry says that Byrd, then a 49-year-old father of three, asked if he could ride around with them for a while.

"I asked him if he wanted to go home, and he said he'd just ride around with us for a little while. Mr. Byrd asked me where we were going," Berry said.

"And I said, 'We're just riding. We're going to ride down this road, turn around and come back out,'" Berry said.

According to Berry, as Byrd got into the truck, King said, "Let's scare the hell out of him. Let's kick his ass." Berry said that he had "never experienced anything out of [King] like that."

"They ran around the side and they opened up Mr. Byrd's door and tried to pull him out," Berry said.

"He was hanging on the door with both hands to keep fromto keep himself inside the truck. And I'm going to tell you what was said. I don't feel comfortable saying it," Berry added.

"But I'm going tell you what was said. Mr. Byrd was fighting, trying to keep himself in the truck. And Bill said,...'Fuck it; let's kill this nigger,'" Berry added.

Berry said he was driving; Byrd was beside him in the front seat. Brewer and King were in the back; all four men were drinking beer. According to Berry, King told him to stop the truck, so he did.

Suddenly, Brewer and King were trying to pull Byrd from the truck. Berry said King shouted that he was going to kill Byrd, who was fighting to stay in the truck.

"I got in between Bill and him," Berry said. "And I told Bill,....'Stop.' And he said,...'Back off. The same thing can happen to a nigger lover.' And it scared me," Berry said.

"I mean, that's the only feeling I had. I mean, it scared me. I didn't know what was going on. I never saw anything like that so I backed away. And they grabbed him. Took him to the back of the truck," Berry said.

"And Mr. Byrd was pretty drunk. He was very drunk....There wasn't no problem for them to get him to the ground," Berry said.

"And Bill was stomping him with the bottom of his foot. And Russell was kicking, like straight outward, like a football or something. And they were laughing, joking, acting like they were having a good time," Berry added.

"He was down, but on all fours. They started kicking on him. And Russell got a can of spray paint out of the back, and he sprayed him in the face," Berry continued.

"Mr. Byrd didn't say anything.And Russell kicked him hard - in the head somewhere. And that was the last time I saw him move," Berry said.

Then, Berry said, King and rewer took a chain out of the back of his truck. At this point, Berry said, he was sitting on the doorjamb of the truck.

"I was petrified," he said. "I couldn't move.I've never seen anything like that happen before. And when Russell kicked him, and he didn't move anymore, I wet my pants."

Berry said he sat silently and didn't see how the other two chained Byrd to the truck. King got behind the wheel, and Brewer got in on the passenger side. Between them was Berry.

They started dragging Byrd down the road. Soon, Berry said, King noticed that Byrd had come undone. He put the truck in reverse, but backed up too far; the truck was over Byrd's body. King pulled the truck up, and they tied Byrd back up.

They pulled onto the pavement. Berry said that because his truck is so loud, he couldn't hear anything. "Russell had looked back one time and started laughing and said, 'Look, he's rolling.' Or 'He's bouncing around all over the place,'" Berry said.

"They were having fun. They had him. They were acting like they were having just a good old time," Berry said.

As the truck careened around a bend, the body swung off the road and struck a culvert. Byrd was decapitated. Berry says King kept on driving. After a little while King stopped the truck, got out and untied Byrd.

Then, Berry said, the three of them drove away.

Berry said he asked King about the crime as they drove away, leaving Byrd's body in the road. "He said he's starting The Turner Diaries early," Berry remembered.

The Turner Diaries has become something of a blueprint for disciples of hate, cited by investigators in cases like the Oklahoma City bombing.

"All I knew was that it was a book that he read in prison," Berry said. "I've never saw the book."

How does Berry feel about King and Brewer? "The Bible says not to hate anybody," he said, pausing. "It's hard to keep from hating them."

Berry said he knows his story will raise doubts. Why didn't he go to police? Why didn't he run? Why didn't he try to save Byrd's life? He pleaded cowardice.

Police say that the day after the crime, King and Brewer washed Berry's truck. The three men were arrested after tips from people who saw Byrd in the truck that night.

Berry didn't give his statement until hours after his arrest. Berry said he didn't go to the police because he was afraid that he would be arrested, that being on the scene made him guilty.

There are many things, said Berry, that he wishes he had done differently: "When they jumped out of the truck and opened his door, I wished I'd have just punched the gas and left them out there, Mr. Byrd with me. If I'd a done that, nothing would have happened."

"I wish I wouldn't have chickened out," he said. "I think I let a lot of people down."

The district attorney didn't agree and asked for the death penalty. No plea bargain was offered.

"I'sorry," Berry told Dan Rather. "I'm sorry it happened. And I wish I'd have jumped right in the middle and tried to do more to help him. The only thing I could...say to them is 'I'm sorry I couldn't help him more. I'm sorry I didn't.'"

Go back to part one.

Story produced by Mary Mapes; Web site produced by David Kohn;