Press Release

ADL Condemns Vicious Tennessee Hate Crime

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Atlanta, GA, August 28, 2018 … ADL today condemned a savage, brutal murder likely motivated by racism and white supremacist ideology.  The suspect, John Carothers, has apparent ties to the white supremacist movement.

Last March, he allegedly burned to death an African-American man, Robert Miller, at a VA assisted living facility.   Law enforcement recently uncovered a jailhouse letter penned by Carothers to a white supremacist group, in which he admits to the murder and indicates that his racist, white supremacist beliefs motivated the crime.

“ADL condemns in the strongest terms this vicious murder and the white supremacist ideology that likely motivated the suspect. No words can truly capture the savagery of this act.  We commend law enforcement for its diligent investigation which uncovered the apparent racist motive for this crime,” said Allison Padilla-Goodman, ADL Southeast Regional Director.

Carothers' beliefs seem to fall in line with the Christian Identity movement – an anti-Semitic, racist religious ideology which claims that white Europeans are the true Israelites, and non-whites are the “mud people.”

The letter that was intercepted by authorities was sent by Carothers to a long-standing, small Christian Identity group based in Arkansas, according to the Center on Extremism.

Padilla-Goodman stressed that “discovery of the letter intensifies the magnitude of an already brutal homicide.  The crime has undoubtedly inflicted deep wounds on the victim’s family, the African American community and beyond.  Justice demands that hate crime charges be brought.  Although Tennessee technically does not have a stand-alone hate crime law, it has a discretionary sentencing enhancement and civil rights intimidation law, which effectively serve the same purpose.” 

She urged that “as part of the healing process, the District Attorney should apply these laws because it would convey the critical message that targeting anyone in Tennessee for who they are is unacceptable."  And she “called on the state legislature to enact a comprehensive hate crime law in the victim’s honor mandating increased penalties for crimes committed because of hate, bias or bigotry.” 

Law enforcement recently uncovered a letter Carothers wrote from jail stating, “I believe the Bible is about white people and for white people. I am in the Rutherford County Jail for burning a black man I set on fire with lighter fluid poured on his head." 

It is reported that Rutherford County District Attorney Jennings Jones is considering the hate crime sentencing enhancement should Carothers be found guilty on the underlying murder and other charges.  The U.S. Department of Justice also could bring federal charges under the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).

*NOTE: We previously reported that John Carothers was the father of a convicted white supremacist, Michael Carothers, also known as Michael Weaver. We have corrected it to reflect that there is no relation between John Carothers and Michael Carothers.