Ross Hack, the alleged neo-Nazi mastermind behind the ambush murders of two anti-racist skinheads 16 years ago, was found not guilty by a federal jury in Las Vegas in September despite his sister’s and ex-girlfriend’s dramatic testimony against him. Hack’s co-defendant, Leland Jones, was also acquitted after the two-week trial that included a parade of white supremacists and meth addicts, testifying for both the prosecution and the defense.
Hack’s sister, Melissa, 39, and his ex-girlfriend, Mandie Abels, 36, testified that they lured the anti-racist activists — Lin “Spit” Newborn, 24, and Daniel Shersty, 20 — to a rocky patch of desert about 20 miles from Las Vegas with the promise of a night of partying. Hack, Jones and John “Polar Bear” Butler gunned down Newborn, who was black, and Shersty, who was white, within minutes of their arrival in the desert in the early morning darkness of July 4, 1998, the women said.
The ambush, the women testified, was Hack’s idea.
“Why?” Melissa Hack shouted from the witness stand across the courtroom at her 42-year-old brother, sitting with Jones, 33, at the defense table. “Because of f------ hate. That’s why.”
For decades, racist and anti-racist skinheads have battled in the streets, often violently, though rarely has it come to double murder like the Shersty-Newborn slayings. Both men were shot multiple times.
Until the recent federal trial, only John Butler, the leader of a neo-Nazi skinhead gang in Las Vegas and the boyfriend of Melissa Hack at the time, had ever been tried for the double-murder. He was convicted in state court in 2000 and is serving two life sentences. But after his conviction, the case seemed to fall off the radar of law enforcement until Jones, Hack and his sister Melissa were arrested and charged by federal authorities with the slayings in 2012, some 14 years after the ambush.
Newborn and Shersty were killed on government land.
Melissa Hack pleaded guilty last spring and is expected to receive a prison sentence of up to 20 years in exchange for her testimony against her brother, whom she said started showing her videos of Hitler when she was 12. Abels, who pleaded guilty in 2012, is serving a 15-year sentence. Butler also testified against Hack and Jones. In exchange for his testimony, he has been moved to a secret prison location as part of the Witness Protection Program.
Hack’s defense lawyer, federal public defender William Kennedy, hammered away at Butler, Melissa Hack and Abels, attacking their credibility and calling them liars and meth addicts, willing to say anything to have their time behind bars reduced.
There was no physical evidence tying Hack or Jones to the killings. Neither defendant testified.
But Melissa Hack had plenty to say. She told the court that after Shersty was shot, he fell to the ground and asked for mercy.
“I can’t get the voice out of my head,” she said. “I kept hearing him crying, ‘God, please help me.’”