RALEIGH, N.C. — Seven alleged associates of a Ku Klux Klan leader who once threatened to blow up Johnston County's courthouse and kill the sheriff faced federal charges Monday that they conspired to further their plot by trading in stolen firearms.
The seven include the son and wife of Charles Robert "Junior" Barefoot Jr., the self-proclaimed leader of the Nation's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Benson. He is being held on a state murder charge in the slaying of Lawrence Arthur Pettit of Jacksonville, whose decomposed body was found in a Sampson County field in 2003. Barefoot also faces federal charges of possessing explosives in his home.
Federal prosecutor Eric Goulian referred questions about the case to Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell, who was allegedly targeted by the Klan chapter.
"Were they capable of carrying out this plan? Pretty much so," Bizzell said Monday.
Barefoot was arrested in 2002 after federal and local authorities raided his home near Benson and found 25 firearms and bomb-making equipment. The raid followed a tip to authorities that Barefoot's organization planned to blow up the courthouse and kill Bizzell.
Firearms are also the root of the federal indictments issued late last month and unsealed Monday. The seven named in the indictment were accused of conspiring to steal 31 guns from a building in Benson in October 2001 and selling some of them for at least $1,650.
Bizzell said the money was intended to finance the Klan chapter's plans.
Arrested Friday on the indictments were Barefoot's son, Daniel Leigh Barefoot; Jonathan Ashley Avery; Jonathan Maynard; and Rossie Lynwood Strickland, Bizzell said. All faced a federal magistrate on the charges Monday, he said.
Barefoot's wife, Sharon Renee Barefoot; Marvin Glen Gautier of Benson; and Michael Anthony Brewer of Lumberton were already jailed on the murder charge, Bizzell said.
None of the suspects had telephone numbers listed in their names.
Bizzell said the group's anger stemmed from their failed plans to march as a group in a popular community festival, the Benson Mule Days. Charles Barefoot had invited an important Klan figure from Indiana to watch them march in a parade and was embarrassed when local Klan members were barred, Bizzell said.
"I think they became irate about that," Bizzell said.