John Daniel Carothers
Photo: Rutherford County Sheriffs Office

Tennessee authorities already had John Carothers in custody and charged him with murder for reportedly burning a black man alive. They also knew he had previously been convicted of one murder and pleaded guilty to lesser charges in another, but investigators still couldn’t figure out why Carothers allegedly committed the crime.

According to News Channel 5, it was only when Rutherford County, Tenn., deputies intercepted a letter from Carothers to a white supremacist group that they discovered the reason for Carothers’ heinous act: Carothers was a racist.

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“My brothers in Jesus Christ our savior and Lord,” the letter begins, written in the barely legible chicken scratch preferred by white supremacists everywhere. Carothers continued:

“My name is John Carothers and I believe the bible is about white people and for white people. I am in the Rutherford County Jail for burning a black man. I set him on fire with lighter fluid poured on his head.”

Fifty-three-year-old Carothers was arrested on March 17 for the murder of Robert Miller, a black man who lived with Carothers in a Murfreesboro, Tenn., home for veterans. The Murfreesboro Post reports that authorities found Miller with a backpack containing Zippo lighter fluid, believed to be the accelerant that was poured on Miller. Miller later died from burn-related injuries, according to an autopsy.

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District Attorney Jennings Jones said that Tennessee has no hate crime law, but if Carothers is found guilty, the fact that the alleged murder appears to be race-related could be used during the sentencing phase of the trial. Carothers has also been charged with arson and seven counts of reckless endangerment, based on the number of people who lived in the veterans home.

This isn’t the first time Carothers has been charged with murder. In 1999, the suspect was convicted of second-degree murder and was charged with another murder in 2011, but pleaded guilty to lesser charges, according to the Daily Post Journal.

In Carothers’ letter he also asked the white supremacist group for a study bible.