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May 4th, 2010
05:20 PM ET

Reporter's Notebook: "Murder in Mississippi: Not exactly black and white"

Randi Kaye | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Program Note: Watch Randi’s full report tonight on Anderson Cooper 360° at 10pm eastern.

We just finished up in court here in Jackson, Mississippi. We came here to attend the hearing for Vincent McGee. He’s the 22- year-old African American man accused of murdering 67-year-old Richard Barrett, a well-known white supremacist. Barrett rallied across the country in support of segregation. He believed non-whites, especially African Americans, were inferior. He was the leader of the “Nationalist Movement” and would often invite fellow white supremacists and skin heads to his home for “warrior weekends” during which they would take target practice at photos of Martin Luther King.

Barrett was found stabbed and beaten in his home outside Pearl, Mississippi on April 22nd. Police say he had 16 stab wounds and 35 percent of his body had been burned. Plus, he had suffered blunt trauma to his head. We learned in court a neighbor had seen smoke coming from the home and when firefighters arrived they found Barrett’s body in the kitchen, with his head severely burned and several stab wounds around his neck. Police say he had been killed first, then the house set on fire to cover up the crime.

Richard Barrett, a well-known white supremacist, was found murdered in his home.

Richard Barrett, a well-known white supremacist, was found murdered in his home.

In court, Deputy Sheriff Brent Bailey said Vincent McGee confessed to killing Barrett and taking a knife from his house. McGee was in court today dressed in a bright yellow jumpsuit, bullet proof vest, and shackles on his hands and feet.

In his first statement, Deputy Bailey said McGee told him he went to use his Facebook account at Barrett’s house and Barrett made a sexual advance toward him so he killed him. But in his second statement, the Deputy said McGee told him, “he went to confront Barrett about some money… they got into an argument about the money and Barrett dropped his pants and asked him to perform a sexual act. He hit him with a radio… grabbed a knife, wrapped a belt around his hands, and kept stabbing him until he quit moving.”
Police say Barrett had hired McGee to mow the lawn.

So if it’s true and Barrett did proposition McGee for sex, how ironic is it that a white supremacist who railed against blacks and homosexuality for decades would then ask a young black man for sex? Or is this just a way to try and get out of a capital murder charge? We’ll ask the defense attorney.

Barrett and McGee had known each other for years. They lived in the same mixed-race neighborhood, just a few houses apart. What you should know about McGee is that he has a history. He was in prison for five years for assaulting a police officer and was just released in February. His face is covered with tattoos connecting him to the Vice Lords street gang. Police arrested him after they say they found sneakers with soot on them and the top to a gas can in the carport at McGee’s parents’ home, where he lives. The gas can top matched the gas can found at the scene of the crime. Investigators also later recoverd a bloody knife.

Mark Potok with the Southern Poverty Law Center, who follows hate crimes and the white supremaicst movement, told us “if in fact McGee was propositioned, approached in that way, by Barrett, he might have been beyond shocked, he might have been repelled in a way that went beyond some kind of shock.”

But Potok says nobody should be surprised that a white supremacist would proposition an African American. He says being gay is one of the greatest hypocracy among white supremacists. “It is unbelievably common in the white supremacist world to find people who are desperately anti-gay but secretly gay….We’ve seen a good number of white supremacist leaders who have actually been tossed out of the movement when it was found that they were in fact engaged in gay relationships with men,” Potok said.

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