On April 13, Frazier Glenn Miller was arrested after he allegedly shot and killed three people at a Jewish Community Center and a Jewish retirement center in suburban Kansas City. Within hours of the arrest, the media reported that Miller had a long history as a white supremacist and virulent anti-Semite who has spent time in prison and, more importantly, been freed in plea deals with the federal government.
Two defense attorneys tell Raw Story that Miller was working out his end of such a plea deal when he appeared as a witness for the prosecution in a murder trial nearly three decades ago. But they say it was obvious to them even then that Miller should have been considered the prime suspect in that crime -- a crime that, to this day, remains unsolved.
As Miller faces charges for killing three people in Kansas City, these attorneys say it’s fair to ask the federal government – why wasn’t Miller in prison many years before this?
Sometime shortly before midnight on January 17, 1987, three masked men entered the Shelby III Adult Bookstore located outside Shelby, North Carolina, a business known for attracting a gay clientele. The men ordered the store’s four customers and a clerk to the floor, and then shot them, execution style, in the back of their heads. The masked intruders took cash from the register and rigged up plastic gallon jugs filled with gasoline and detonation fuses, planning to burn the bookstore to the ground.
Of the five victims, only three – Travis Melton, 19, Kenneth Godfrey, 29, and Paul Weston -- died from the gunshot wounds. Two others — James Parris and John Anthony — were still alive. The bullet that wounded Parris exited his left eye socket, but he and Anthony both managed to get out of the building while it was catching fire.
“I was still knowing part of what was going on,” Parris testified later. “I felt the blood running over my hand. “
Parris stumbled from the store. Unable to see, he tried his keys in one car, then a second one, which started. He pulled the car away from the building and up U.S. 74. He flashed his headlights until a passing motorist stopped and phoned police.
In the months following the crime, investigators proposed numerous theories about the motive for the murders: a mob hit, a business dispute, perhaps even a homosexual relationship “gone sour.” But nothing produced any suspects.
Then in April 1987, authorities turned their eyes to the White Patriot Party. The WPP was founded in 1985 by Frazier Glenn Miller after Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center obtained a federal court order prohibiting Miller from organizing militia training with the Carolina Knights of the Klu Klux Klan. Dees and the federal government then obtained evidence that Miller had violated the terms of the federal consent agreement. In a federal trial in 1986, Miller was convicted of contempt of court. He was sentenced to one year in prison, with six months suspended. While his case was on appeal, Miller went on the lam.
Miller writes in his autobiography, A White Man Speaks Out, that he left his wife and children on March 18, 1987 to “go underground” and “wage war against the Jews and the federal government.” He went to Oklahoma to pick up Robert Eugene “Jack” Jackson, and Douglas Lawrence Sheets. A third man – Anthony Wydra – met the trio in Asheville, N.C. The quartet made thousands of copies of Miller’s “Declaration of War,” and mailed them to media outlets and white supremacy organizations across the nation. The declaration was also mailed to federal officials, including federal prosecutors.
Miller had declared war on “ni**ers, Jews, queers, assorted mongrels, white-race traitors and despicable informants,” and suggested awarding points as a kind of bounty system. "Ni**ers (1), other assorted mongrels (Mexicans, etc) (2), Jews (10), influential Jews (25), Queers (5), White Race traitors (10), Scalawags (10), Carpetbaggers (10), Abortionists (20), Race traitor politicians and Judges (50), Informants and government witnesses (50), Morris Segilman Dees (888)."
Miller’s uprising was short lived. On April 30, 1987 he and the three other men were arrested in Ozark, Missouri. Federal authorities found a weapons cache which included explosives, automatic weapons, and hand guns. Also seized in the raid were gloves and ski masks.
Miller says in his autobiography that the federal officials approached him with a plea deal.
“I was to plead guilty to one count of felony possession of a hand grenade and answer all questions posed to me by the authorities,” he writes. “In return, they would recommend a 5-year prison sentence, immunity from any further prosecution by either state or federal authorities, and entrance into the Federal Witness Protection Program which included the financial support of my family while I served my sentence.”
Miller claims the information he provided to authorities did not result in any indictments or prison sentences. (The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Miller testified against 14 white supremacy leaders on charges of sedition. None were convicted.)
One person Miller testified against was Doug Sheets, in a 1989 trial for the Shelby III bookstore killing.
Prosecutors had come to believe that Sheets and Jackson, two of Miller’s “Declaration of War” partners, had committed the murders at the adult bookstore as a result of their extremist views.
Sheets was tried in April and May 1989, and Jackson’s trial was scheduled to take place once it was done. News clippings of the time report that it was known Miller was testifying against former members of his White Patriot Party as part of a plea deal.
Miller told the court that Sheets and Jackson had told him they had committed the killings in Shelby. Three other witnesses also said they’d heard Sheets talk about the killings while they were incarcerated with him in prison. One was a former White Patriot Party member who had abandoned the Miller group in the Ozarks, allegedly after hearing the story of the bookstore murders from Sheets and Jackson. That witness, Robert Stoner, received $5,000 from the federal government for his role in the indictments against Sheets and Jackson, as well as entry into the witness protection program after a bounty was put on his head by members of the Tennessee KKK.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that gloves found in the weapons cache from the April 1987 Missouri raid were linked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to fibers found on the plastic jugs used to torch the bookstore.
But prosecutors couldn’t put Sheets or Jackson at the scene. In fact, they had alibis that put them in other states around the time of the bookstore killings. Sheets had evidence that he’d been in Kansas the day before the killings, and a blizzard that struck made it virtually impossible for him to have been in North Carolina to commit the crime.
As the trial went on, Sheets and his attorneys pointed out that it was Glenn Miller who didn’t have an alibi for the night of January 17, 1987.
On the stand, Sheets said that Miller had told him that “he damn sure made a big boom in Shelby.” Miller, meanwhile, in pretrial statements had referred to a feature in the bookstore – a two-way mirror – that suggested he might have taken part in the killings himself.
Don Bridges, one of Sheets’ attorneys, also recounted to jurors a conversation between Miller, Sheets, and Jackson. “Don’t worry boys,” Bridges said Miller told them, “I’m going to be pointing the finger at you, but don’t worry. You can’t be convicted because it’s all hearsay evidence.”
That turned out to be true. With no way to put Sheets at the scene of the murders, he was acquitted. Jackson’s trial was then canceled. To this day, there’s been no other trial or conviction for the murder of the three men at Shelby.
And now, two of the attorneys who helped defend Sheets say they believe that Glenn Miller should have been the one prosecuted.
“I still believe Miller was involved with those murders. I do,” says Kirk D. Lyons, an attorney known for defending white nationalists. “And, I’ve got a lot more proof than I’ve ever had because he’s done it again — killed more people.”
Lyons was brought in to assist the defense team because Sheets – based on his sovereign citizen beliefs – was reluctant to work with the assigned defense team.
The chief counsel of Sheets’ defense team was Leslie ‘Les’ Farfour, and he also believes Miller was responsible for the 1987 murders.
"I definitely believe that," he tells Raw Story, and adds that about a year after the trial, the White Patriot Party published a pamphlet claiming credit for burning an adult bookstore in Shelby.
"I can’t imagine if this was actually a hit by the White Patriot Party that Miller was not personally involved and directed it somehow," he says.
Lyons notes that Miller was in Raleigh the day after the Shelby murders, while Sheets and Jackson had alibis placing them in other states.
“The day after the bookstore murders, he was in Raleigh at a march for the White Patriot Party for Robert E. Lee’s birthday,” Lyons says. “Now, granted the storm comes in and makes travel impossible if you’re in Oklahoma, but, come on, I think somebody from Raleigh could have gotten to Shelby that night in a car.”
A May 25, 1989 report on the Sheets’ trial in the Charlotte Observer notes that Raleigh Police Lt. Randy Deaton testified that Miller was in that city on January 18, 1987 “watching a parade by members of the Southern National Front, formerly the White Patriots.”
Lyons believes that federal authorities – and their plea deal with Miller – prevented them from looking at Miller more closely.
“If they thought [the prosecutor] had screwed up somehow, they had the right to come in behind him and file civil rights charges, by virtue of depriving the people in the bookstore of their civil rights by murdering them,” Lyons says. “That was never attempted. The problem was — and what comes back to me is — Miller got to them first and they kind of took him for all they could get out of him. My thinking is that it is very possible they just looked the other way and were not very interested in following the path to Miller and I think they should have.”
After we interviewed him, Lyons contacted Raw Story with a statement from the Sheets and Jackson families.
“We mourn for the tragic victims of the recent murderous rampage in Kansas. Our prayers go out to their grieving families,” the statement reads. “If the federal government and their intel partner, the Southern Poverty Law Center, had acted responsibly in bringing Frazier Glenn Miller to justice for masterminding and participating in the Shelby Bookstore Murders back in the 1980s, this Kansas tragedy could never have taken place.”
Lyons also suggests another reason federal authorities didn’t pursue Miller for the Shelby III murders. He says there were rumors at the courthouse during the trial that Miller had been an informant for the federal government long before he was arrested in Missouri on April 30, 1987.
“I spent of lot of time talking to the [State Bureau of Investigation] guys,” Lyons says. “Several said Glenn Miller was picked up in downtown Raleigh, I’m going to say, I don’t remember the date, a couple years before all this, before the bookstore murders. And apparently he was caught in the back seat of his car with a black male prostitute. I was told they didn’t arrest him, but the cops brought him in, photographed him and turned him loose without an arrest. That allegation had been suggested as to why Glenn Miller might have been turned by the feds. Jackson surmised that he basically became a federal asset at that time and all the things he did were used to entrap people and in their view start a shooting war.”
That account is buttressed by a 2013 phone conversation with Miller recorded by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Heidi Beirich. During the call, Beirich asks him about being arrested at one point in the company of a “black transvestite.” Miller bragged that he had a “violent history of going around picking up ni**ers and beating the hell out of ‘em, particularly ni**er f**gots.” When he was arrested with the transvestite, he claimed he was planning to “whip his ass.”
Lyons believes it was that arrest that convinced Miller to become a federal informant, and that he was already working for the feds when he went on his 1987 “Declaration of War” rampage, hoping to get his fellow White Patriot Party extremists arrested and convicted. Once they were, Miller was released, and Sheets and Jackson received 20-year sentences. Miller then tried to help get them convicted for the Shelby bookstore murders, but that case fell apart. And ever since, the attorneys for Sheets have wondered if it was Miller who should have been prosecuted for the gruesome killings.
The Shelby bookstore murders remain unsolved. We reached out to Cleveland County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office Detective Tim Adams, who runs the agency’s cold case squad, hoping to ask him if Frazier Glenn Miller had been taken seriously as a suspect, or might now that he’s killed people in Kansas City. We’re still waiting for a call back.