PEARL, Miss. – PEARL, Miss -- A white supremacist lawyer known for riding his bicycle around his quiet, rural neighborhood was stabbed and beaten to death by a black neighbor who had done yard work for him, police said Friday.
A preliminary autopsy showed Richard Barrett, 67, was stabbed multiple times in the neck and bashed in the head, Rankin County Sheriff Ronnie Pennington said. He had burns over 35 percent of his body, though investigators believe he was killed Wednesday night and his house set on fire Thursday to cover up his death.
Pennington did not disclose a motive but said neighbor Vincent McGee, 22, was charged with murder Thursday and deputies charged three other people in the case Friday. Albert Lewis, McGee's stepfather, was charged with being an accessory after the fact, while Vicky and Michael Dent, who live nearby, are charged with being accessories after the fact and arson.
Pennington did not describe their involvement but said all three were being held at the county jail. He did not know if they had attorneys.
Barrett traveled the country to promote anti-black and anti-immigrant views and founded a supremacist group called the Nationalist Movement. He had a knack for publicity but little real influence, one expert said.
"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."
His body was found Thursday morning after neighbors saw smoke coming from his house in a rural area of Jackson.
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.
McGee was released from state prison in February after serving five years of a six-year sentence for simple assault on a police officer and grand larceny.
Barrett, a New York City native and Vietnam War veteran, moved to Mississippi in 1966, just before he founded the Nationalist Movement. He ran it from an office in the small rural town of Learned, about 20 miles southwest of Jackson, where he also ran a school for skinheads.
Barrett attracted about 50 supporters to a 2008 rally protesting 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.
His modest, one-story brick home with white columns and shutters sits off a winding rural road. Yellow police tape was stretched across the yard and investigators worked on the scene late into the day.
Residents described the neighborhood as quiet and safe. Henderson Craig, who lives a few houses down, said Barrett mainly kept to himself though he was often seen riding his bicycle.
In 1994, he spearheaded an unsuccessful movement to get then-Gov. Kirk Fordice to pardon Byron de la Beckwith, who was convicted of murdering Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers in 1963.
Evers' brother, Charles Evers of Jackson, said Thursday he has long thought that Barrett didn't really believe the things he said, but used them to entice people to donate money to his cause.
"I think it was just a way he had to live," Evers said. "He made a living talking all that racist talk."