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William Dathan Holbert, who was arrested last week in Nicaragua along with his girlfriend, Laura Michelle Reese, has reportedly confessed to killing five Americans so he could take over their businesses and other properties in a Panamanian resort area. Holbert, a native North Carolinian, has so far been charged with a total of nine murders that took place in the Panamanian resort of Bocas del Toro.
A Panamanian official quoted Holbert, who was deported to Panama to face murder charges, as saying he established friendships with two of his victims by posing as a potential investor, then shot each in the head, buried them and took over their money and other property. The National Police in Panama said they found nine bodies on the property of Holbert and Reese, which included a hotel.
Holbert and his girlfriend had been on the run for more than two years, since they fled after being pulled over on Feb. 5, 2006, in Sheridan County, Wyo., for speeding in a stolen car.
Some of Holbert’s white supremacist history has been made public in news reports, including the fact that he has a swastika tattoo on his upper back and “Aryan Pride” on his arm. But a key piece of that history has not. In August 2002, Holbert joined the neo-Nazi National Alliance (NA), which at one time was the most important hate group in America. At the time, the Alliance was suffering from a leadership crisis caused by the death a month earlier of the group’s longtime leader, William Pierce. Under the leadership of Erich Gliebe, who followed Pierce, the NA would eventually fall apart, leaving only a few weak and scattered remnants.
Yesterday, on the racist online forum Stormfront, “whitegirl” posted that Holbert showed up at an NA meeting in 2003, saying he was the organization’s “Western Regional Coordinator.” “Whitegirl” said he tried “to take over the whole meeting” and tried to “get into a leadership position immediately.” She added that Holbert popped up a year later at a white nationalist cookout claiming to represent a new racist group.
Two years later, in 2005, Holbert, as has been reported, opened a racist store in Forest City, N.C., called Southern National Patriots, which sold books, CDs and pamphlets promoting his white supremacist views. On Stormfront, “whitegirl” wrote that Holbert tried to recruit local skinheads to frequent his store. The Southern National Patriots store was also the site of meetings where Holbert and others advocated for the rights of white Southerners.
Those meetings attracted extremists and a local leader in the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), an organization for the descendants of Confederate soldiers that has been roiled in the past decade by a power struggle between extremist members and those calling for the group to ban racists. Creighton Lovelace, who was in 2005 the commander of the local SCV chapter, Rutherford Rifles, spoke that year at an event held at Holbert’s store. During the rally, speakers reportedly praised the history of the South and repeatedly chanted, “Save the South.” According to a press report, Lovelace said in his speech that southern white Christians should be “separated from other peoples,” something he claimed the Bible demanded.
Lovelace was at the time pastor of the Danielton Baptist Church. Lovelace posted to LiveJournal in April 2005 that Holbert and Reese had joined his church. “It was a very happy day,” Lovelace proclaimed. He also referred to himself as having been for a time the couple’s “spiritual advisor.” But by May 2005, Lovelace had quit his association with Holbert and Southern National Patriots.
That same year, Lovelace and Danielton Baptist Church achieved national notoriety for placing provocative anti-Islam messages on the church’s sign. At one point, the church featured a sign that read, “The Koran needs to be flushed.” E-mails for comment about Holbert and Reese to Lovelace, who now runs Bible Defender Ministries, were not immediately returned.
Before fleeing the U.S., Holbert already had racked up a serious criminal history. In January 2006, a warrant had been issued for Holbert’s arrest for theft using false pretenses. In October 2005, while posing as a doctor and using a false driver’s license, Holbert opened a bank account in the name of Luke Gregory Kuhn. Holbert then allegedly sold a house he did not own in Oak Island, N.C., for more than $200,000. Over the following two months, he withdrew the proceeds from the illegal home sale from the bank account in small increments and then fled to Kentucky, where he obtained a false Kentucky’s driver’s license in the name of Donald Lee Bruckert. It was a just a few weeks later that Holbert and Reese fled the country.