Steven Eric Mullins (right), who was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the 1999 hate crime murder of Billy Jack Gaither, has been killed in prison.
From a Frontline story about the case: “On February 19, 1999, Billy Jack Gaither, a thirty-nine-year-old gay man who worked at the Russell Athletics apparel company near Sylacauga, Alabama, was brutally beaten to death. His throat was cut, and his body was bludgeoned with an ax handle before being thrown on top of a pile of tires and set on fire. In the weeks following the killing, two men came forward to police as the killers: Steven Mullins and Charles Monroe Butler. Butler, the younger of the two, came forward to police first. He described the night of the murder in great detail: how he had never heard of Billy Jack Gaither prior to the night of the killing; how his friend Steve Mullins found him at a bar playing pool and asked him to take a ride into the woods with himself and Billy Jack; how Billy Jack started “talking queer stuff” that set off a violent reaction in Butler; and then how he stood by as Mullins beat Billy Jack to death. In June of 1999, Steven Mullins pled guilty to capital murder; Butler stood trial and was found guilty of the same charge by a jury. In August of 1999, both Mullins and Butler were sentenced to life in prison without parole. “
Gaither’s murder drew nationwide attention and a call for hate crime laws in Alabama. The state’s hate crime laws still do not cover sexual orientation or gender identity.
The suspect in Mullins’ death is Christopher Scott Jones, who is serving a 25-year-sentence and was convicted in the killings of five others, according to AL.com.