HOUSTON VOICE • DECEMBER 10, 1999
Gaither's murder was a hate crime, killer admits
by LAURA BROWN
The convicted killer of gay Alabama resident Billy Jack Gaither insists he has been forgiven by God, while Gaither himself has not.
"1 repented, and he is in hell," Steven Eric
Mullins told interviewer Connie Chung.
Chung's segment on Gaither's murder,
titled "Blinded by Hate," aired Monday
night on ABC's "20/20" news program.
In June, Mullins pled guilty to the Feb. 19
murder to avoid the death penalty. He is
now serving a sentence of life without parole
in Alabama's Kilby Correctional Center,
along with Charles Monroe Butler, the other
young man charged in Gaither's death.
Butler pleaded not guilty to the crime, but
a jury in Rockford, Ala., convicted him Aug.
5. During the trial, Mullins testified that he
became angry with Gaither after Gaither
Mullins said he called Gaither and asked
for a ride to a local bar. The two men picked
up Butler and then went to a local watershed, where Mullins said he lured Gaither
by promising him "a threesome."
Butler testified that he knocked Gaither to
the ground after Gaither "started talking
queer stuff," but then walked away and let
him get up. Mullins then stabbed and beat
Gaither, and forced him to get into the back
of the hatchback car.
With Gaither alive and bleeding in the
car, Mullins and Butler went to a trailer
where Mullins lived, picking up kerosene,
an ax handle, and old tires. They then drove
to a secluded creek bank where local residents dumped trash.
Mullins admitted he beat Gaither to death
with the ax handle, then the two men
burned Gaither's body on a pyre of tires.
Police broke the case when Butler confessed
the incident to his father, who told a family
friend who then contacted law enforcement.
During Butler's trial, Coosa County District
Attorney Fred Thompson Jr. consistently
described the crime as motivated by hate.
Butler and Mullins "knew that Billy Jack
Gaither was homosexual, and that is the
only reason Billy Jack Gaither was killed,"
Mullins confirmed the motive in the
"20/20" interview. Asked by Chung if the
killing was a hate crime, "yes, at the time,"
Mullins repeatedly said that being gay is
"not right," an opinion Chung then
described as a "twisted moral belief" that
resulted in Gaither becoming "a man
Mullins lynched because of his lifestyle."
Handcuffed and wearing a prison uniform,
Mullins told Chung he wasn't bothered by
Gaither's homosexuality when the two first
met. "I could respect him being gay if he
could respect me being straight," he said.
Mullins said his feelings changed when
Gaither "broke the respect line with me"
when "he called me on the phone and
Mullins said he woke up on Feb. 19
knowing he would kill Gaither, and said the
feeling "wasn't any different than waiting up
and saying 'I'm going to the grocery store.'"
Asked why he decided to kill Gaither, "I
really don't know," Mullins said. "It just
seemed like the thing to do.... I didn't think
he needed to live any longer."
Mullins said Gaither begged for his life,
"but I told him it was too late."
"Did you tell him why?" Chung asked.
"I told him because he was a faggot,"
Mullins said he thought he would "get
away" with the crime, and he felt guilty
about killing Gaither for "a couple of
days," but then he prayed and asked God
to forgive him.
"Did you get an answer?" Chung asked.
"Yes, I was forgiven," Mullins replied.
Chung then asked why Mullins believes
Gaither is "in hell."
"Because he is a homosexual," Mullins
said. "It tells you in the New Testament that
is wrong, and if 1 had a Bible I could show
you. Liars and adulterers and homosexuals
and murderers are all going to hell unless
you ask for forgiveness, and I did."
Breaking down in tears, Mullins said
later in the interview that he regretted the
murder. "It just never should have happened," he said.
Butler also cried when briefly interviewed by Chung about the crime, which he
continued to say was committed totally by
Mullins. Butler said he didn't save Gaither
when Mullins went inside the trailer to get
the tires and other items because "I was like
a chicken with his head cut off, and I didn't
know what to do."
With tears streaming down his face,
Butler said life in prison was "very hard,"
and "I just pray to the Lord to give me the
strength to carry on."
Steven Mullins, convicted of murdering Billy
Jock Gaither, now claims he has been forgiven
while Gaither is In hell.'
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