By Friday, jurors are expected to begin weighing the evidence against a Texas murder suspect allegedly linked to Kingdom Identity Ministries, a racist, anti-Semitic group that opposes mixing of the races. Defendant Mark Simmons of Buda told an investigating officer that the victim, his friend Steven Woelfel, deserved to die because he had a Mexican girlfriend, according to testimony in the Hays County trial.
Simmons contended that after years of the U.S. government spying on him, he was in a paranoid mental state at the time of the killing, according to the San Marcos Mercury. He testified that he accidentally shot the 55-year-old Woelfel in his friend’s home in April 2010 and let the body sit for a week before setting a fire that burned it beyond recognition. In addition to murder, he’s charged with arson and tampering with evidence.
A Texas ranger testified at the trial that when Simmons, 52, was arrested he had white supremacist literature in his possession, including the book Vigilantes of Christendom: The History of the Phineas Priesthood. The book, said ranger Jimmy Schroeder, concerns a Biblical figure named Phineas, who apparently kills a mixed-race couple to win God’s favor.
Schroeder also said he found the words “avenger of blood,” apparently in Simmons’ handwriting, on charred paper in the garage — ostensibly a reference to the Phineas book. Schroeder said investigators also found information about cleaning a crime scene and disposing of a body in the garage.
Before his capture in June 2010, after weeks on the run, Simmons went to the home of Kingdom Identity Ministries founder Mike Hallimore, prosecutors said. Simmons claimed he visited Hallimore merely to annoy government agents who were spying on him from an aircraft.
Kingdom Identity Ministries, based in Harrison, Ark., is the largest supplier of materials related to Christian Identity, a radical-right theology that generally identifies people of color as soulless sub-humans and Jews as satanic or cursed by God. It churns out Identity Bible study courses, tracts and books, and teaches that Judgment Day will arrive in the form of a sanctified race war, a theory widely popular with prison-based racist gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood.
According to trial testimony, Simmons had once been interviewed by an
Arkansas investigator investigating Hallimore’s group after a pipe bomb was found at a church, and at that time Simmons allegedly said Woelfel deserved to die because he had a Mexican girlfriend.
Simmons denied having an affiliation with Kingdom Identity Ministries, telling the court that it doesn’t make sense, because he’s had intimate partners of difference races.
During the trial, Simmons railed about government aircraft spying on him and voiced his conviction that the U.S. government carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks to create a rationale for war in the Middle East.
In his defense, Simmons said Woelfel had knelt over and pulled out a 9 mm pistol from a duffel bag, waving it at him as if to show off the gun. Simmons said he slapped the gun out of his friend’s hand, grabbed a nearby pistol and pointed it at his friend’s head. The bullet fired accidentally, he claimed, as he began to say, “How do you like it?” He said the gun, owned by Woelfel, had no safety.
But a medical examiner testified that the bullet passed from the top of Woelfel’s head into his spine, suggesting an execution-style killing.
Hays County District Attorney Sherry Tibbe told Hatewatch she was hopeful that the case would be sent to the jury by Friday. “We’re very comfortable with the evidence in this case and bringing it to trial.”