PEARL, Mississippi (AP) — A white supremacist lawyer found dead in his house had been stabbed, beaten and his body set afire, authorities said Friday.
A neighbor has been charged with murder in the case.
Rankin County Sheriff Ronnie Pennington said lawyer Richard Barrett’s body was found Thursday morning after residents reported smoke coming from his house in a rural area outside Jackson, Mississippi.
Pennington said Vincent McGee, 22, has been charged with murder. Additional charges could be forthcoming, Pennington said, including arson.
The sheriff said McGee had not yet hired a lawyer and the suspect’s mother had no comment when she went to the jail where her son was being held.
Pennington said Friday that a preliminary autopsy showed Barrett, 67, had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and had blunt force trauma to the head. The sheriff said 35 percent of Barrett’s body had been burned.
McGee, a black man, lived nearby and had done yard work for Barrett in the past, Pennington said.
The sheriff didn’t have a possible motive.
McGee was released from state prison in February after serving five years of a six-year sentence for assault on a police officer and grand larceny.
Barrett, a New York City native and Vietnam War veteran, moved to Mississippi in 1966. Soon after, he began traveling the country to promote anti-black and anti-immigrant views and founded a supremacist group called the Nationalist Movement.
One expert on hate groups said Barrett was well known for his news conferences and protests in places having racial strife, but he had mustered little real clout in the white power movement.
“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.”
Barrett attracted about 50 supporters to his 2008 rally in protest of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the Louisiana town of Jena, where six black teenagers were charged with beating a white classmate. Years earlier, he sued over a ban on Confederate flags at University of Mississippi football games.
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