Dina Temple-Raston’s journalistic expertise shines through in her first true crime book, A Death In Texas, an expertly researched and detailed account of an horrendous 1998 murder in Jasper, Texas.
Jasper is a small, quiet town whose population is predominately poor. Segregation between whites and blacks is the norm, and racial tensions constantly bubble under the surface. That tension exploded when three white men were accused of the particularly violent murder of a black man and Jasper suddenly found itself in the national spotlight.
At the age of 25, Bill King, a lifetime resident of Jasper, met Russell Brewer, 32, at the Beto unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, home to 3,000 prisoners. The two formed a bond as protection against the racially divided gangs in the prison system, none of whom would accept the pair. It was there that King and Brewer formed the Confederate Knights of America, a white supremacy group.
When King returned home after eighteen months, he brought his hate for blacks back with him. Determined to promote the Confederate Knights of America, he began by attempting to convert his childhood friend, Shawn Berry. Unable to even sway Berry to his way of thinking, the outlook for the Confederate Knights was bleak – until Brewer, finally released, moved to Jasper to share King and Berry’s apartment.
King and Brewer wasted no time developing a plan designed to make people finally take notice of the Confederate Knights of America. The plan was simple – to kill a black man, any black man, in the most horrific way imaginable. And that is exactly what they did.
Temple-Raston does an excellent job painting a picture of the racial environment in Jasper, detailing the murder investigation and the lives of the both the victim and the accused, describing the trial, and portraying the affect the media and others – including Jesse Jackson, the Ku Klux Klan, Muslim leader Quanell X, and the New Black Panthers – had on the trial and the residents of Jasper. For readers who love true crime books, A Death In Texas is a must!