Man Allegedly Sets Black Man On Fire, Brags About It To White Supremacist Group

Posted at 4:11 PM, Sep 05, 2018

A letter has revealed the possible motive behind the arson death of a black man who was killed by a white man in Murfreesboro.

A letter intercepted by deputies at the Rutherford County Jail has become the focus of the arson-related murder - a crime prosecutors say appears to be motivated by hate. 

The defendant poured an accelerant onto the victim and ignited it and the victim did die. 

John Carothers is accused of pouring accelerant on 40-year-old Robert Miller and lighting him on fire this past March at a home on north Maple Street in Murfreesboro.

Investigators believed Carothers targeted Miller, but the motive remained a mystery until deputies flagged a letter allegedly written by Carothers at the jail and addressed to a white supremacist group.

"The Sheriff's Office found the letter in the outgoing mail. It is helpful evidence," said District Attorney Jenings Jones.

The disturbing letter reads in part: "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 on fire with lighter fluid poured on his head."

This is the first time Jones has commented publicly about the case. He says murder is murder. 

"The motive does matter," Jones said. "Murder is not something we tolerate. Singling out someone because of their skin color makes it just a little bit worse," said Jones.

There is not a specific Hate Crime law in Tennessee, but General Jones says he could pursue a hate crime enhancement if Carothers is found guilty at trial which would bring harsher sentencing.

Carothers has been found competent to stand trial, and indications are the letter is in his handwriting.

Carothers remains locked up in the county jail and with his mental evaluation complete his case will now finally be bound over to the Grand Jury.

Local prosecutors are handling this case, but it is possible the U.S. Justice Department could intervene if needed. The U.S. Attorney can prosecute hate crimes.