Las Vegas Sun

June 26, 2019

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Neo-Nazi charged in slaying of anti-racist activists

When Daniel Shersty and Lin Newborn were slain, people from all over the country came to Las Vegas to mourn the anti-racist activists. Now, two years later, the neo-Nazi who allegedly killed them is finally coming to trial.

Jury selection is slated to begin Tuesday in the capital murder trial of John Edward Butler, 28. If convicted of first-degree murder, Butler could get the death penalty.

Shersty, 20, and Newborn, 25, were members of the Las Vegas Unity skinheads group, an anti-racism group well-known for their love of punk rock, shaving their heads and decorating their bodies with piercings and tattoos.

Police believe that Butler, a member of the Independent Nazi skinheads group, arranged for two unidentified women to lure Shersty and Newborn out into the desert on July 3, 1998.

Once there, Shersty, who was white and Newborn, who was black, were beaten and shot execution-style.

A jogger found Shersty's body July 4 near Lone Mountain Road, and police found Newborn's body July 6, about 150 yards away.

Butler was immediately suspected of the slayings by friends of Newborn and Shersty who were aware of Butler's fascist beliefs. Butler, however, wasn't booked on murder charges until September 1998 when ballistic tests showed that a gun found in a car he had stolen was the one used to kill the men.

Witnesses also placed Butler, his girlfriend Melissa Hack and their friend, Joseph Justin, at the scene of the killings on the morning of the slayings.

Justin is expected to be one of the state's main witnesses. Hack asserted her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself during Butler's preliminary hearing and is not expected to testify during his trial.

Prosecutors also intend to present the preliminary hearing testimony of Richard Fishburn, a former cellmate of Butler. Fishburn, who has since died, told authorities that Butler bragged to him that he "off'd the two SHARPs, he killed them."

"SHARP" is the acronym for "Skinsheads against Racial Prejudice."

The deaths of Shersty and Newborn so upset those involved in the anti-racist skinhead movement that the national group Anti-Racist Action held a march in Las Vegas on Aug. 28, 1998.

More than 150 people from across the country rallied at a local park and marched near Torrey Pines Drive and Flamingo Road. Many held signs reading such things as "Nix Nazi Boneheads" and "Bigots Begone."

Las Vegas FBI spokesman Joseph Dickey said that to his knowledge the Independent Nazi skinheads group has not been tied to any criminal activity since the deaths of Shersty and Newborn.

Metro Police Lt. James Owens, too, said that while the racist skinheads were frequently being arrested for drugs, burglaries and violent acts around the time of the slayings, their activities have slowed down.

"They're still out there, but we're not running into them much anymore," Owens said.