Over 20 years ago, 39-year-old Billy Jack Gaither was killed in a bar altercation after Steven Eric Mullins claims he made a pass at his friend. Along with his accomplice, Charles Monroe Butler, Mullins lured Gaither to a dock where they beat him and stabbed him to death before lighting him on fire.
Butler shared details of that night with PBS Frontline:
…We go out to the Watersheds–this little public place where everybody goes out to have a good time. But it wound up different. Billy Jack started talking about some gay issues…wanting to have a threesome, or whatever. Tempers flared up. Steve jumped on him, and cut his throat there…
When asked how Gaither had disrespected them, Butler responded:
Well, sir, I don't know. It's not like I'm some gay tramp out there, waiting to be corn-holed by some prick.
During the interview, Butler also shared that he felt Mullins was using the murder as a cover up for having some dark secrets:
There were rumors. One of Billy Jack's brothers stated in a newspaper that he knew that Billy and Steve was together. My attorney found another gay man that Steve was involved with. So I don't know…My attorneys discovered that Steve is flat broke, and wanted some money in exchange for sex. He lured the both of us out there–promised him sex with the both of us. Instead, it just blew up in his face, and he just didn't know how to handle it. I don't know.
In 1999, Gaither’s death was deemed a hate crime in Alabama and Mullins, at the age of 25, and Butler, 21, were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for kidnapping and capital murder.
Now, just days after the 20th anniversary of the hate crime against Billy Jack Gaither, AL.com reports that 45-year-old Steven Eric Mullins was killed in an Alabama prison.
On February 26th, Mullins was found unresponsive at the St. Clair Correctional Facility. Mullins was treated for multiple stab wounds and died a couple of days later.
Inmate Christopher Scott Jones is a suspect in the fatal stabbing. Jones is already serving a 25-year sentence for a 2011 murder conviction of five men in 2008.
The murder of Billy Jack Gaither was pivotal in the inclusion of sexuality and gender identity part of Alabama’s hate crime law.