Eric “The Butcher” Fairburn was among the founders of the Vinlanders Social Club, a racist skinhead group formed in 2003. He was a particularly violent participant in the skinhead movement until – after a stint in prison for beating a homeless black man in Indianapolis – he walked into a police station and confessed to a 2004 murder. He is now serving life in prison.
In the 1990s, when he was also known as Eric Wolf, this tall and brawny skinhead, unmistakable for having "MURDER" tattooed in large letters across the front of his neck, was the rhythm guitarist for the Church of the Creator hate rock band RAHOWA. He also dallied in the business side of hate rock as marketing director for Resistance Records when the nation's leading racist music label was still based in Detroit.
After Michigan tax authorities raided Resistance's offices in 1997, Fairburn moved to Washington, D.C., where he went to work for Holocaust denier Willis Carto's extreme-right political advocacy organization, Liberty Lobby. He also edited the white supremacist E-mail newsletter "Wolfreign Update."
Fairburn has always exhibited what criminologists term "poor impulse control." During his tenure at Liberty Lobby, he went to the home of Carto's business partner, Todd Blodgett, to collect a debt. Blodgett, who lived in a wealthy suburb in Virginia, wasn't home, so Fairburn broke into Blodgett's garage, stole a chainsaw and cut down every single tree and shrub on Blodgett's heavily wooded property.
In 1999, the neo-Nazi lumberjack moved to Florida, where he worked as a repo man and whiled away his off hours with Dungeons & Dragons, the popular role-playing game. In 2000, he turned up in Indiana and began associating with the newly formed Outlaw Hammerskins. In 2002, he joined the Hoosier State Skinheads.
That same year, after seeing the movie "Gangs of New York," Fairburn renamed himself the "Butcher" after the character in the film played by Daniel Day Lewis, William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting, a one-eyed crime lord and sadist who hates all non-whites and Irish immigrants. Fairburn also began carrying a large sledgehammer and cultivating a reputation for unpredictable and abusive conduct, especially toward women. In one instance, he tossed a female friend's dog out of a car window in heavy traffic during an argument.
"I threw her new dog out my car window at 70 mph on I-70 westbound," Fairburn boasted in an Internet posting. "It got really fucked up and died quickly as a truck behind me nailed it with its back tires after trying to avoid it. It exploded. Great stuff."
In 2003, Fairburn relocated to Springfield, Mo., and moved in with the ex-girlfriend of Midwestern Hammerskin leader Shane McCormick. When McCormick and another Hammerskin confronted Fairburn at the woman's home, Fairburn stabbed McCormick (he survived).
Animus had already been rising between Hammerskin Nation crews, including McCormick's, and independent, regional skinhead gangs like the Hoosier State Skinheads. Fallout from the stabbing brought a bitter feud that verged on open warfare. In a post to a skinhead message board in late 2003, Fairburn wrote: "To the shit talking Hammerskins out there or their leaders who mislead the other hammers under them: ... I am ready for Valhalla or prison to do what is right. ... We are sick of the lies, tired of the BS, we are calling you out: either listen to the truth or fight for your lives for the lie. YOUR CHOICE."
In 2003, Fairburn, James and several other skins formed the Vinlanders Social Club. In 2005, the Vinlanders hosted representatives of independent skinhead crews from around the country at the first official meeting of the Blood & Honour USA Council, which aimed to create a united front to challenge the waning authority of Hammerskin Nation. At the council meeting, 15 skinheads, including Fairburn, stood in a circle and passed the "mead horn," a ritual in the racist variant of the Odinist religion. Waiting his turn, Fairburn stood with a spare mead horn slung over his left shoulder, along with his trademark sledgehammer.
In March 2007, Fairburn and two other Vinlanders viciously beat a homeless black man in downtown Indianapolis. Fairburn, the ringleader in the attack, was sentenced in 2008 to five years in prison, with three years suspended. With time served, he was released in early 2009 and then appeared to distance himself from his former comrades – a move he promised when he told the judge at his sentencing: “I’m no longer a member ... and I no longer have any association or ties whatsoever. ... I haven’t been around those people in a year. I’m 34 years old and I’ve got too much going on in my life to waste any more of it.”
Then, in September 2010, in a move that shocked many, Fairburn walked into an Indianapolis police station and confessed to the 2004 murder of a man in Springfield, Mo. The man, William McDaniel, was allegedly responsible for the drunken-driving death of one of Fairburn’s friends. In June 2011, Fairburn was convicted of second-degree murder and is now serving life in prison.