Richard Snell (criminal)

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Richard Wayne Snell (May 21, 1930 – April 19, 1995) was an American spree killer, convicted for the killing of 2 people in Arkansas on June 30, 1984.

Snell was sentenced to death for one of the murders, and executed in 1995.


Richard Snell was a member of the white supremacist group, The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (known as the CSA), which was started in 1971 in the small community of Elijah, Missouri, by polygamist James Ellison. He was also a believer in the Christian Identity religion, and frequented Elohim City, a private community located in Oklahoma, created by members of Ellison's organization. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had ongoing investigations into the organization. By the end of their operations, the ATF obtained 155 Krugerrands (gold coins), one live light antitank rocket (LAW), 94 long guns, 30 handguns, 35 sawed-off shotguns and machine guns, one light machine gun (a Japanese copy of the WWI Lewis, in .303 caliber), and three and a half bars of C-4 explosives.[1] Much of this arsenal was stolen.[citation needed]

Snell was involved in the filming of planes that landed at Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport in Mena, Arkansas, thought of by Snell and many conspiracy theorists to be used in a government-sanctioned operation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to smuggle drugs into the United States. Snell had claimed that law enforcement agencies, both state and those local to that area of western Arkansas, were involved in the cover-up of the Mena airport drug smuggling. He had also made claims that he had filmed the then-Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton, at Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport, but that claim has never been proven. Snell further claimed that one of the Arkansas state troopers who was assigned to the Governor's security team at that time had beaten Snell's wife in an attempt to force her to reveal the location of the alleged video footage Snell had taken at the airport.

In 1983, Snell, accompanied by CSA members William Thomas and Steven Scott, attempted to dynamite a natural gas pipeline near Fulton, Arkansas, without success. Scott was eventually captured and convicted of that crime, while several other CSA members were arrested on various other charges, mostly weapons violations. By 1985, the CSA had essentially fallen into inactivity due to most of its members being either killed or incarcerated.

Murders and execution[edit]

Snell, known to his friends as "Wayne", was an anomaly amongst the militants of the CSA, in that he operated autonomously, using the CSA compound as his base of operation. Steven Scott, a frequent collaborator with Snell, gave this information in a federal prison holding cell to one of the then members.

On June 30, 1984, Snell shot and killed pawn shop owner William Stumpp, whom he mistakenly believed was of Jewish descent, and shortly afterwards he killed African-American Arkansas State Trooper Louis P. Bryant near DeQueen, Arkansas.[2] Snell then left the scene and drove across the Oklahoma state line, however a truck driver who witnessed the killing of Officer Bryant followed him, and contacted the Broken Bow police department. The Police officers there set up a roadblock, where they engaged Snell in a shootout which resulted in Snell being wounded and arrested. Snell was then returned to Arkansas for trial, where he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Bryant and death for the murder of Stumpp. Snell never denied the allegations made against him, or the crimes he was accused of having committed.

The Cummins Unit, where Snell was executed

Snell was held at the Tucker Maximum Security Unit until April 15, 1995, when he was transferred to the execution site.[3] Snell's death sentence was carried out on April 19, 1995 at the Cummins Unit in Lincoln County, Arkansas.[4]

Oklahoma City bombing[edit]

He was executed on the same day that Timothy McVeigh carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, which destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Snell had been accused of plotting to bomb the Murrah Building in the 1980s. Snell reportedly watched televised reports of the Oklahoma City bombing on the day of his execution and nodded in approval.[5] One theory holds that Timothy McVeigh committed his bombing in retaliation for Snell's execution. However, McVeigh said that his primary motivation for the bombing was retaliation against the government for its Waco Siege that took place exactly two years prior on April 19, 1993 and the government's handling of the Ruby Ridge crisis. McVeigh never testified as to why he chose the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

In his last words before being executed, Snell addressed then-Governor Jim Guy Tucker:

Governor Tucker, look over your shoulder; justice is coming. I wouldn't trade places with you or any of your cronies. Hell has victories. I am at peace.[6]


  1. ^ FBI (May 20, 1985). "The Covenant, The Sword, The Arm of the Lord; Domestic Security/Terrorism" (PDF). 
  2. ^ Trooper Louis P. Bryant. The Officer Down Memorial, Inc.. Retrieved on 2007-11-15.
  3. ^ "Murderer Moved to Death Watch Cell" (Archived 2015-03-13 at WebCite). Associated Press at The Oklahoman. April 16, 1995. Retrieved on March 13, 2015.
  4. ^ "White Supremacist Executed For Murdering 2 in Arkansas." The New York Times. April 21, 1995. Retrieved on March 13, 2015. "VARNER, Ark., April 20— Richard Wayne Snell, a white supremacist who expressed no remorse for killing a Jewish businessman and a black police officer, was put to death by lethal injection on Wednesday night,[...]While insisting they had taken no extraordinary precautions against possible efforts to interfere with the execution, the police were visible at the Cummins Unit of the Arkansas prison system. Mr. Snell was taken to the execution site here on Monday by National Guard helicopter before dawn."
  5. ^ Thomas, Jo; Ronald Smothers (May 20, 1995). "Oklahoma City Building Was Target Of Plot as Early as '83, Official Says". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. 
  6. ^ » 1995: Richard Snell - did he go out with a bang?

Further reading[edit]