weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Former girlfriend of convicted skinhead still on mind of FBI

They’re still thinking of you, Melissa Hack.

After a dozen years, two vicious murders and the conviction of your Nazi skinhead ex-boyfriend for the crimes, investigators still can’t get you off their minds.

As the Review-Journal reported Saturday, Hack has been indicted on a single count of making a false statement. She’s already on parole in an unrelated drug case. Her attorney, Brent Bryson, told reporter Carri Geer Thevenot the new charge is a thinly veiled attempt to pressure Hack into cooperating in the distant first-degree murder case that sent John “Polar Bear” Butler to death row for the July 3, 1998, killing of anti-racist skinheads Linn Newborn and Daniel Shersty. Butler’s death sentence was overturned in 2004.

It’s long been understood Butler, a leader of the Independent Nazi Skinheads (INS) in Southern Nevada, didn’t act alone. At trial, the prosecution argued Hack and another woman lured Newborn and Shersty to the desert near Powerline Road and Centennial Parkway. Hack’s brother, Ross Hack, was identified in court documents as suspected of being the second shooter.

Evidence presented at trial in the form of a prison letter linked the murders to the victims’ anti-racist views. They were members of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice.

Although INS member Melissa Hack was identified by a Stakeout Bar and Grill bartender as the woman who asked for the whereabouts of Newborn and Shersty on the night they disappeared, she wasn’t charged as a co-conspirator.

A defense attorney attacked the bartender’s testimony and the prosecution’s failure to disclose the fact the witness also identified a second woman as Hack’s running mate that night.

Though Butler associate Joey Justin identified Hack as participating in the crime scene “cleanup,” no charges resulted. Justin accompanied Butler and Hack in an effort to “remove a beer bottle with Melissa’s fingerprints on it and shotgun shells,” according to the state Supreme Court’s decision in Butler’s death penalty appeal. “Butler warned Justin that he would possibly see one or two bodies. After arriving, Justin saw a blood-covered body on the ground. He and Melissa began picking up the pieces of a broken bottle in the dirt when they noticed someone was approaching.

“Justin yelled to Butler.”

Although a day after the shooting a family of ATV enthusiasts saw Butler drive away from the crime scene, Hack wasn’t clearly identified.

The court document read: “Butler and his companions got inside their car. The female covered her face and ducked down. (The witness) used his cellular phone to call the police. Butler drove toward the ATV riders. As the car passed, Butler stopped to say that his girlfriend was sick and that he could not stay.”

My, that was close. If the female passenger hadn’t ducked down, the witness probably would have been able to identify her as easily as he was able to finger Butler. And that female might have been nailed as an accomplice in the murders of Newborn and Shersty.

About two weeks before the 12th anniversary of the homicides, as the Review-Journal reported, the FBI met Hack and collected DNA samples.

While investigators aren’t talking, and this is speculation, I wonder whether that June 2010 DNA collection has anything to do with a broken beer bottle from July 1998.

And while I’m speculating, I wonder what ever became of the second woman?

Although it hasn’t always made news, plenty has happened since July 3, 1998. Butler has been spared from death row. Ross Hack, who traveled to Europe immediately after the murders, has been pinched on a passport violation.

And Melissa Hack has served time in a federal meth case. Just 22 at the time of the killings, she’s now 34 years old and indicted anew.

After all these years, she’s still on their minds.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.