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3 charged in 1998 skinhead slayings

A dozen years ago, a neo-Nazi skinhead named John Butler was convicted of killing two young men who, while also skinheads, condemned his white supremacist beliefs. But authorities have long contended that Butler had help gunning down his victims in the desert outside Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors indicted three people they described as Butler’s accomplices in the 1998 killings of Daniel Shersty and Lin Newborn, who belonged to a Las Vegas group dedicated to fighting racism.

Melissa Hack, Ross Hack and Leland Jones were charged with murder and firearms offenses.

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“This case demonstrates that the Department of Justice will be vigilant in working to ensure that every perpetrator of racially-motivated violence is brought to justice,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.

Melissa Hack, 37, was Butler’s girlfriend at the time of the shootings.

During Butler’s trial, prosecutors said Hack and another woman had gone to a body-piercing shop where Newborn worked and invited him to what they said was a party. He asked his friend Shersty to come along.

Newborn, who was black, and Shersty, who was white, drove to the desert with the women.

When they got out of the car, they were ambushed, authorities said.

Authorities blamed Butler and Melissa Hack’s brother, Ross Hack, for the shooting. Ross Hack is now 40 and serving a federal prison sentence for a passport fraud conviction. If convicted of the killing, the Hacks could receive the death penalty.

Leland Jones, the third suspect, was a friend of the Hacks at the time of the slayings. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

On the one-year anniversary of the killings, white-power bands scheduled a concert in Las Vegas to celebrate the death of Newborn, who was known as “Spit” and had a young son. It was scuttled at the last minute. Butler is serving two life sentences in prison.

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ashley.powers@latimes.com


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