On December 8, 1984, Robert Jay Mathews, founder of the violent white-supremist group The Order, is killed in a house fire near Smuggler's Cove on Whidbey Island after a 35-hour standoff with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He has been the object of an intense manhunt since November 24, 1984, when he escaped from the FBI in Portland, Oregon, after wounding an agent in the leg. The Order's legacy of terror will end on April 15, 1985, when 23 members of the gang are indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle and arrested by the FBI. Twelve of the defendants will plead guilty before trial and many will become government witnesses. Ten of the defendants will go to trial and be found guilty of racketeering, conspiracy, and other offenses, including counterfeiting, armed robbery, and murder. They will be sentenced to terms ranging from 40 to 100 years in federal prison. The last defendant will go to trial in Missouri for murdering a state trooper. He will receive a life sentence.
Young and on the Right
Robert Jay Mathews (1953-1984), the son of a retired U.S. Air Force officer, was born in Marfa, Texas, and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. He developed an interest in conservative politics at a young age, joining the right-wing John Birch Society at age 11, the Mormon Church, and later, the Young Republicans. After dropping out of high school in his senior year, Mathews formed the Sons of Liberty, an anti-communist militia dominated by survivalists and fellow Mormons. Sons of Liberty had at its peak approximately 25 members.
Mathews also joined an income-tax-resistance movement. In 1973, he was arrested by IRS agents for submitting false information on his employer's W-4 (tax withholding) Form, claiming 10 dependents. The charge, a misdemeanor, was adjudicated in U.S. Magistrate Court. Mathews was sentenced to six months probation and told to pay his income taxes or next time he would be charged with tax evasion, a felony.
When Mathews's probation ended in July 1974, he moved to Metaline Falls, Washington, population 285, where he purchased 60 acres of wooded property he named Mathews Acres. He went to work for the Bunker Hill Mine Company as an electrician. When the mine closed in May 1977, he got a job with the Portland Lehigh Cement Company, the only other major industry in the area. During this time period, he became more interested in extreme right-wing politics.
In 1980, Mathews joined the National Alliance, a white-supremacist group founded by William Luther Pierce (1933-2002), a former Oregon State University physics professor and officer in the American Nazi Party led by George Lincoln Rockwell (1918-1967). Mathews read two books, published by the National Alliance, which had profound effects upon his life: Which Way Western Man? by William Gayley Simpson (1892-1991), which told of an insidious plot by the Jews to destroy the "white Christian race," and The Turner Diaries by William L. Pierce, a novel about the supposed violent takeover of America by white supremacists who then form an elite paramilitary underground, called The Order, and take control of the whole world, eradicating all Jews and non-whites.
In February 1982, Mathews began attending services at the Church of Jesus Christ Christian inside the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. The founder of the church and the leader of the Aryan Nations was Richard Girnt Butler (1918-2004), whose message combined an interpretation of Christianity with Nazism and the dream of a whites-only homeland centered in the pristine hills of North Idaho.
Shortly thereafter, Mathews founded the White American Bastion, a splinter group organized to attract white Christian families to the Northwest. In September 1983, he gave a short speech at a National Alliance convention in Arlington, Virginia, reporting on his efforts to recruit farmers and ranchers into the "white racialist movement." Ending with a call to arms, Mathew's speech received the only standing ovation of the convention.
While at the convention, Mathews renewed acquaintance with Robert Allan Martinez, a former Ku Klux Klansman from Philadelphia, whom he unsuccessfully tried to recruit into the White American Bastion. Their close friendship would eventually prove to be Mathews's undoing.
Founding of The Order
In late September 1983, Mathews invited eight men, whom he felt held beliefs similar to his own, to his property in Metaline Falls: Kenneth Loft, his neighbor and best friend; David Eden Lane, a former Ku Klux Klansman from Denver, Colorado; Daniel R. Bauer, Denver Daw Parmenter II, Randolph George Duey, and Bruce Carroll Pierce from the Aryan Nations; and Richard Harold Kemp and William Soderquist, recent recruits from the National Alliance. Although most of the men were known to law enforcement, none had yet committed a violent crime or been in prison.
The group Mathews founded that night became known variously as The Order, The Silent Brotherhood, and the White American Bastion. The Turner Diaries became their bible. The Order's fundamental aim was violent overthrow of the "Zionist Occupation Government," or "ZOG," a euphemism for the United States government, which they believed was controlled by a Jewish cabal. In the novel, The Order's revolution is financed by armed robberies, counterfeiting, and other violent crimes intended to disrupt the American economy. And that's exactly what Mathews and his gang of neo-Nazis decided to do.
Armed Robberies Begin
On October 28, 1983, Mathews, Pierce, Duey, and Bauer pulled their first armed robbery in Spokane at a World Wide Video store that peddled XXX-rated movies. The job netted The Order only $369. Mathews decided small robberies weren't worth the time and effort, and in November organized a trip to Seattle with the intention of robbing an armored car. They selected the Fred Meyer store at 18425 Aurora Avenue N in Shoreline as their first target.
Meanwhile, Lane was busy setting up a counterfeiting operation at Hayden Lake, utilizing the offset press in the Aryan Nations printshop and the assistance of new recruit Gary Lee Yarborough. On December 3, 1983, Bruce Pierce was arrested in Yakima for passing counterfeit $50's at the Valley Mall in Union Gap and for carrying a concealed weapon. A federal judge in Yakima set his bail at $25,000. Pierce was interviewed by a Secret Service agent from Spokane, but refused to give him any information.
Mathews worried that the longer Pierce sat in jail, the greater the likelihood he might talk to the police or another prisoner. Pierce was also making telephone calls from the jail that could link him to other members of The Order. To raise the money for Pierce's bail, Mathews decided to rob a bank. On December 18, 1983, Mathews, acting alone, robbed the Innis-Arden branch of Citybank, north of Seattle near the Snohomish County line. He escaped with $25,952, but a large portion of the loot was ruined by an exploding dye pack that turned the bills red. The court finally reduced Pierce's bail to $2,500 and he was released on December 23, after posting a $250 surety bond.
In mid-March 1984, Mathews, along with Pierce, Duey, and Yarborough, returned to the Seattle area to case the Fred Meyer store in Shoreline. On Friday afternoon, March 16, 1984, a Continental Armored Transport truck pulled up to the store's main entrance to collect the weekly receipts. They robbed the guard just as he was leaving the office with six large money bags and six coin boxes on a handcart. This time, the take was $43,345.
On April 3, 1984, Bruce Pierce appeared in U.S. District Court in Spokane where he pleaded guilty to passing counterfeit currency. Since it was his first offense, Pierce thought he would likely get a light sentence or probation. Because he showed no remorse for his actions by refusing to reveal the source of the counterfeit bills and his ties to the Aryan Nations, Judge Robert McNichols sentenced him to two years in federal prison. The judge gave Pierce three weeks to settle his affairs, ordering him to report to the U.S. Marshal Service before noon on April 24.
Pierce told the court he would be staying with Robert Mathews in Metaline Falls. When he failed to show up at the U.S. Marshal's office in Spokane, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest on April 26. Pierce, now a federal fugitive, had been busy elsewhere and had no intention of serving the prison sentence.
Hold-ups and Time-Bombs
On April 19, 1984, Mathews, accompanied by Pierce, Parmenter, Duey, Kemp, Yarborough, and Andrew Virgil Barnhill, a new recruit, returned to Seattle to carry out another armored car robbery, one they had scouted back in November 1983. Their plan was to hijack another Continental Armored Transport truck as it was leaving the Northgate Mall with the weekend receipts from several large stores.
In order to create a diversion for the robbery, Mathews told Yarborough to make a small time bomb. On Sunday afternoon, April 22, Yarborough entered the Embassy, a XXX-rated movie theater located on Union Street between 2nd and 3rd avenues in downtown Seattle, and slipped the bomb under some vacant seats. Then he left the theater and made a phone call to the cashier, warning of the bomb. Shortly thereafter it exploded. Damage to the theater was minimal and nobody was seriously injured. Mathews planned to phone the Embassy Theater with another bomb threat just before armed robbery on Monday, hoping to divert the attention of the police.
The heist took place on Monday afternoon, April 23, 1984, after the armored truck had made pickups at Nordstrom, the Bon Marche, and J. K. Gill, an office supply store. The robbery was much more complicated and dangerous because it took place inside the Northgate Mall, but the gang made off with $536,000. However, $301,000 was in checks, which had to be destroyed. Mathews used some of the money for a buying spree in Missoula, Montana, where he and Barnhill bought several firearms, ammunition, miscellaneous weapons, and a state-of-the-art computer system.
On Sunday afternoon, April 29, 1984, Pierce and Kemp decided to plant a small time-bomb underneath the Congregation Ahavath Israel Synagogue, located at N 27th and W Bannock streets, in Boise, Idaho. It was the first bomb Pierce had ever assembled and the blast did little damage. There were no injuries, but the message to the Jewish community was clear. Mathews was angry, not because the action was "unauthorized," but because Pierce should have made the bomb powerful enough to destroy the building.
On May 27, 1984, Duey and Kemp, accompanied by two new recruits, David Charles Tate from the Aryan Nations and James Dye from the National Alliance, murdered Walter Edward West, age 42, from Athol, Idaho. When Mathews heard that West, an Aryan Nations member, had been getting drunk in bars around Hayden Lake and gossiping about The Order's recent exploits, he ordered him killed. The men picked up West at his home and then drove deep into the Kaniksu National Forest where Duey hit him in the head with a hammer and shot him in the face with a rifle. Afterwards, they dragged his body into the woods and dumped it unceremoniously into a previously prepared grave.
Ironically, The Order's first victim of terror turned out to be one of their own people. But their second victim was Alan Berg, age 50, a controversial Jewish talk-show host on radio station KOA 850 AM in Denver, Colorado. Berg had a contentious style, which he used to bait callers, getting the show's phones ringing. He especially liked to agitate right-wing extremist groups such as Denver's Ku Klux Klan, and for this reason, Mathews put Berg his hit-list.
On May 17, 1984, Mathews sent Jean Margaret Craig, a female associate, to Denver to observe Berg's movements and to confirm that he would be a viable target. On Friday, June 15, Mathews, Pierce, and Richard Joseph Scutari, a new recruit, headed for Colorado. David Lane had left for Denver a day earlier.
On Monday afternoon, June 18, 1984, the group assembled at a Motel 6 in Denver to review plans for Berg's assassination. Pierce had insisted on being the triggerman and brought along a .45-caliber, Ingram MAC-10 submachine gun for the job. At about 7:00 p.m. the hit team established surveillance on Berg's townhouse located at 1445 Adams Street. When Berg pulled his Volkswagen beetle into the driveway at 9:21 p.m., Lane pulled in behind him. Mathews jumped out of the front passenger-side door, opening the rear door for Pierce who ran up the driveway. When Berg exited his car with a bag of groceries, Pierce opened fire, point-blank, with the MAC-10, hitting Berg 12 times before the gun jammed. The group rushed back to the Motel 6, gathered their belongings and headed out of town.
Robert Martinez's Role
On Sunday, June 24, 1984, David Lane delivered $30,000 in counterfeit money to Robert Martinez in Philadelphia, which he had reluctantly agreed to pass for The Order. Lane told him to pass the bills in New Jersey, not in his own neighborhood, and then proceeded to teach him the art. Ignoring Lane's instructions, Martinez passed $1,500 on the first day in his own Philadelphia neighborhood. On the second day, Thursday, June 28, Martinez revisited a liquor store where he had purchased a lottery ticket with a phony $10 bill and was caught by the owner, who jotted down his car's license number.
That evening, Martinez was arrested by the U.S. Secret Service and taken to the Federal Building for questioning. Through conversation with Mathews, Martinez was aware of all of crimes committed by The Order, but kept the information to himself -- temporarily. The following day, he was charged in U.S. District Court with passing counterfeit currency, and released on his own recognizance. When Martinez called Mathews, asking him for $1,600 to hire an attorney, he was told to sit tight, the gang was planning another big robbery and money would soon be on the way.
Mathews decided to hijack another armored car, this time in California. He had a contact, Charles E. Ostrout, a supervisor at the Brink's Armored Car Service depot in San Francisco. Ostrout had visited the White American Bastion in 1982, complaining that minorities were getting all the jobs and promotions at Brink's. On July 1, 1984, Mathews headed to San Francisco, hoping to get inside information about the best and most lucrative Brink's vehicle to rob. Ostrout selected the Brink's run to Eureka, at a place north of Ukiah, as the perfect armored truck to hijack.
On Thursday, July 19, 1984, Mathews and six members of The Order -- Parmenter, Soderquist, Scutari, Duey, Pierce, Barnhill -- stopped the Brink's armored truck on Highway 101, robbing the guards of more than $3.6 million. The gang escaped and drove to Reno, Nevada, where they split up into several cars and then drove north to Boise to divide the money. During the robbery, Mathews lost a 9mm Smith and Wesson semi-automatic pistol registered to Andrew V. Barnhill, providing the FBI with its first solid lead in the string of armored car robberies.
Emboldened by their success, Mathews decided to use Ostrout's inside information for another Brink's robbery. This time he set his sights on the vault at the Brink's Armored Car Service depot in San Francisco where they periodically handled shipments of money from Hawaii, ranging from $30 million to $50 million. Ostrout recruited Ronald Allan King, an operations manager at the Brink's depot, to assist in planning and carrying out the heist. If successful, it would be the biggest robbery in U.S. history, but it never came to fruition.
Using information obtained from the serial numbers on the handgun left behind at the robbery, the FBI began zeroing in on the members of The Order, and by August, had compiled a list of many of its members and had identified Robert Mathews as the leader. By September, FBI agents had accumulated enough substantive information to convince Bureau headquarters to mount a major offensive against this militant racist gang. It wasn't long before the presence of some 40 federal agents roaming around in rural Northern Idaho, known for its anti-government attitudes, was noticed.
When word filtered down to The Order that the FBI had been around, asking questions, most of the gang left the area and went into hiding. They split into two groups: Mathews and his cadre preferred cheap motels and safe houses, while Pierce's tribe preferred a mobile lifestyle, moving from town to town in campers and travel trailers. Gary Yarborough moved his belongings from Sandpoint to a remote mountain cabin near Samuels, Idaho, as an FBI airplane watched. Mathews asked an associate, Ardie McBrearty, to establish a message center, so the group could stay connected. He rented an office in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and installed an answering machine where messages could be picked up and left.
On Monday, October 1, 1984, the first day of his scheduled trial in Philadelphia, Thomas Martinez decided to become an FBI informant. His attorney told him that the FBI had him linked to The Order and he would most likely be named as a co-conspirator in any future indictments. To protect himself and his family, Martinez gave the authorities detailed information about The Order and his knowledge of their crimes. He also agreed to collect more information about the gang's current activities.
On Thursday morning, October 18, 1984, three FBI agents in a green U.S. Forest Service truck drove onto Yarborough's property in Samuels, and were met with gunfire. They hastily retreated, returning that evening with a search warrant. Inside the cabin, agents found a treasure trove of evidence, including documents, explosives, gas grenades, cases of ammunition, an alarming collection of pistols, shotguns, and rifles and two Ingram MAC-10 submachine guns with silencers. There were also gas masks, knives, crossbows, assault vests, radio frequency scanners, and other equipment. Yarborough, however, managed to escape into the woods. The search warrant provided the second major break in the investigation when the FBI Laboratory identified one of the MAC-10's as the weapon used to kill Alan Berg in Denver. It was time to start rounding up the suspects.
As Pierce's group roamed the Southwest, staying mainly in trailer parks, Mathews's group, now including fugitive Gary Yarborough, rented five houses in small rural communities near Mount Hood, 35 miles east of Portland, Oregon. George Duey and a few members migrated to the Puget Sound region, where they rented three secluded vacation homes on Smuggler's Cove near Greenbank on Whidbey Island.
It was Mathews who inadvertently put the FBI back on their trail, by contacting Thomas Martinez and asking him to fly to Portland, Oregon, for a short meeting. On Friday evening, November 23, 1984, Mathews and Yarborough picked up Martinez at the Portland International Airport and then drove to the Capri Motel, located at 82nd and Halsey streets, where they had rented two rooms. Martinez had reservations on a Saturday morning flight back to Philadelphia. The FBI planned to follow Mathews to his new safe house after the meeting, but when they saw Yarborough, their plans immediately changed.
Early Saturday morning, November 24, the FBI surrounded the motel, waiting for the two fugitives to emerge. Martinez had been contacted by phone and told stay in his room and not answer the door. When Mathews left his room on second floor, he spotted the surveillance, and then, shouting a warning to Yarborough, ran across the walkway, down the stairs and across the parking lot. In an exchange of gunfire, Mathews shot one agent in the leg and was wounded in the right hand, but managed to escape on foot.
Yarborough tried to escape through the bathroom window at the rear of the building, but fell 15 feet into a tangle of bushes and was captured. Mathews left behind his car, various weapons, including a silencer-equipped MAC-10 machine gun and a hand grenade, $30,000 in cash from the Brink's robbery in Ukiah, rental agreements for the houses near Mount Hood, and a book of names and phone numbers in code.
That same morning, Mathews hitched two rides to his hideout in the Mount Hood area, wearing a makeshift bandage on his right hand. He told people that he had injured his hand while working on his car. After recounting the shoot-out with the FBI, Mathews told his group they were leaving Oregon immediately and heading to their safe houses on Whidbey Island to regroup. While recuperating there, Mathews penned a four-page "Declaration of War" against the "Zionist Occupation Government of North America," which he planned to send to all major newspapers, calling for the elimination of politicians, judges, and anyone else in authority who got in their way, and concluding with, "Let the battle begin."
On Monday, December 3, 1984, the FBI's Seattle office received an anonymous call from a pay telephone, in which the person said that Mathews and other members of The Order were hiding on Whidbey Island and were heavily armed. When the tip proved to be true, the FBI dispatched 150 agents to the island to make sure that none of the fugitives escaped.
By Friday morning, December 7, 1984, the FBI had all three hideouts surrounded. Agents arrested four members of the gang without incident, including Duey, but Mathews refused to surrender. A 35-hour standoff ensued, during which Mathews fired at the agents numerous times with a submachine gun. On Saturday, negotiations stalled and about 6:30 p.m., the FBI fired three M-79 Starburst illumination flares into the house, knowing it would likely catch on fire and end the standoff. Mathews still did not surrender. On Sunday morning, agents found his charred remains, confirmed later by dental records, inside the burned-out building. News reports about the siege on Whidbey Island was the first time the American public learned about The Order and their war against the ZOG.
The death of Robert Jay Mathews signaled the end of The Order as a viable group. Authorities speculated that Bruce Pierce would assume leadership, but most of the gang remained in hiding, scattered across the country. The FBI immediately forged ahead, hunting down and arresting every member and affiliate of The Order they could find. In late December 1984, federal prosecutors from six states met secretly in Seattle and formulated a plan to put an end to The Order's terror campaign. They decided to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), created in 1970 to combat organized crime.
The Order on Trial
Under the RICO statute, all the defendants are considered co-conspirators, responsible for all the crimes committed by the group. Each defendant must be found guilty of at least two "predicate acts" (specified crimes) for the defendant to be found guilty of the racketeering counts. Upon conviction, the maximum penalty is 20 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine. It also allows the government to seize and forfeit all property and assets used by the criminal organization to further its goals.
Over the next four months, the Department of Justice built a massive conspiracy case against The Order, which they decided to prosecute in the Western District of Washington under the experienced leadership of assistant U.S. Attorney Gene Wilson. On Friday, April 15, 1985, the federal grand jury in Seattle returned a sweeping 20-count indictment, charging 23 members of The Order with racketeering, conspiracy, and 67 separate offenses. The FBI had 17 of the defendants already in custody, including Alan Berg's killers, Bruce Pierce and David Lane. By the end of April, all but one defendant, Richard Scutari, the gang's security chief, had been captured.
Before the trial began, 11 defendants decided to plead guilty and several agreed to testify as government witnesses. The trial commenced on Monday, September 9, 1985, in U.S. District Court, Seattle, before Judge Walter T. McGovern. The trial lasted three months, during which time 338 prosecution and defense witnesses testified and approximately 1,500 exhibits were introduced. During closing arguments, the defense attempted to discredit those former members of The Order who became government witnesses, accusing them of creating a 'self-serving fabric of lies," and the prosecution of 'trial by gossip.'Later, jurors told news reporters that the most compelling evidence in the trial was testimony from former members of The Order.
The case went to the all-white jury of eight women and four men on Tuesday morning, December 17, 1985. After deliberating for almost two weeks, the jury finally reached a verdict. On Monday morning, December 30, 1984, the jury foreman announced that all 10 defendants were guilty of racketeering and conspiracy. Six defendants were also convicted of additional federal crimes. In early February 1986, Judge McGovern sentenced all 10 defendants to terms ranging from 40 to 100 years in federal prison.
David Tate and Richard Scutari
The two defendants missing from the Seattle trial were David Tate and Richard Scutari. On April 15, 1985, Tate was stopped by two Missouri state troopers, conducting random checks of vehicles and inspecting driver's licenses. He opened fire on the troopers with a silenced MAC-11 submachine gun, killing one and critically wounding the other. Tate escaped but was captured five days later, hiding in a city park in Harrison, Arkansas. He went to trial in November 1985, was found guilty of assault and murder, and sentenced to life without parole in a Missouri state prison.
On March 19, 1986, Richard J. Scutari, the last Seattle fugitive, was arrested without incident at a brake shop in San Antonio, Texas, where he had worked for several months. He had been on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List since September 1985. Scutari was armed with a .45-caliber pistol, but didn't resist the arresting agents. He was removed to Seattle where he pleaded guilty on April 30, 1986, to racketeering, conspiracy and participating in the $3.6 million Brink's robbery in Ukiah. On June 5, Judge McGovern sentenced Scutari to 60 years in federal prison.
Members of The Order indicted on April 15, 1985.
Found guilty at trial:
- Andrew Virgil Barnhill, age 29, sentence: 40 years.
- Jean Margaret Craig, age 52, sentence: 40 years.
- Randolph George Duey, age 35 sentence: 100 years.
- Randall Paul Evans, age 30, sentence: 40 years.
- Richard Harold Kemp, age 23, sentence: 60 years.
- David Eden Lane, age 48, sentence: 40 years.
- Ardie McBrearty, age 58, sentence: 40 years.
- Bruce Carroll Pierce, age 31,sentence: 100 years.
- Frank Lee Silva, age 27, sentence: 40 years.
- David Charles Tate, age 22, sentence: life without parole (Missouri).
- Gary Lee Yarbrough, age 30, sentence: 60 years.
Pleaded guilty before trial:
- Thomas Bentley, age 58, sentence: seven and-a-half years.
- James Sherman Dye, age 37, government witness, sentence: 20 years.
- Ronald Allen King, age 46, sentence: five years.
- Kenneth Joseph Loff, age 34, government witness, sentence: five years.
- Robert E. Merki, age 51, government witness, sentence: 30 years.
- Sharon K. Merki, age 48, sentence: 25 years.
- William Anthony Nash, age 48, sentence: six months plus five years probation.
- Jackie Lee Norton, age 29, government witness, sentence: six months plus five years probation.
- Denver Daw Parmenter II, age 33, government witness, sentence: 20 years.
- Randall Eugene Rader, age 28, government witness, sentence: six years probation.
- Richard Joseph Scutari, age 39, sentence: 60 years.
- George Franklin Zaengle, age 38, sentence: five years probation.
Unindicted co-conspirators/government witnesses:
- Daniel R. Bauer, government witness, pleaded guilty in Boise, Idaho, to being a accessory and receiving stolen money, sentence: five years.
- Mark Frank Jones, government witness, witness protection program.
- Thomas Allen Martinez, government witness, pleaded guilty in Philadelphia to passing counterfeit money, sentence: three years probation.
- Charles E. Ostrout, age 51, government witness, pleaded guilty in San Francisco to bank robbery, sentence: five years.
- William Soderquist, government witness, witness protection program.