Murder, revisited

Santa Barbara police reopen 40-year-old homicide case with ‘similarities’ to Chauncey Bailey slaying

Editor's note: The Chauncey Bailey Project just won a major national award, the Renner Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. The award honors "outstanding reporting covering organized crime or other criminal acts" According to the IRE press release, tho award went to A.C. Thompson, Thomas Peele, Josh Richman, Angela Hill, Mary Fricker, G.W. Schulz, Cecily Burt, Bob Butler, Paul T. Rosynsky and Harry Harris for "The Chauncey Bailey Project." Thompson works with New American Media, Peele, Richan, Burt, Rosynsky, Hill and Harris are from the Bay Area News Group. Fricker is a retired reporter from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Bob Butler is a freelance radio reporter. Schulz works for the Bay Guardian. The coordinator of the project is Robert Rosenthal, director of the Center for Investigative Reporting. "These stories would have been difficult to pursue under any circumstances," the organization noted, "but it took extreme dedication to get at the truth following the assassination of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey. In the tradition of the Arizona Project, this coalition of Bay area journalists delved into questionable real estate deals and contracts involving the owners of Your Muslim Bakery in Oakland. The reporters raised questions about the thoroughness of a police investigation into the group before Bailey's murder. They probed the interrogation and confession of Bailey's alleged killer. And they carried on the work that Bailey intended to pursue before his death. (IRE is providing data analysis and computer services for the project). " ---------------------------------------------------------------- SANTA BARBARA – Police here, responding to inquiries by the Chauncey Bailey Project, have re-opened an investigation into the unsolved 1968 shooting deaths of a couple affiliated with a mosque that was the forerunner to Your Black Muslim Bakery. Detectives could arrive in Oakland as early as this week to question Abdul Raab Mohammad, 71, formerly known as Billy X Stephens. He is the brother of late Your Black Muslim Bakery patriarch Yusuf Ali Bey, who was born Joseph H. Stephens. In the mid-1960s, the brothers converted to Islam in this seaside city 90 miles north of Los Angeles and founded a now-defunct mosque, planting the seeds of what eventually became the Bey organization, its Oakland bakery and a culture of African-American defiance and self-reliance. But just as those aspects of the bakery began in Southern California, so too did allegations of intimidation and crimes ranging from fraud to murder. On Aug. 17, 1968, two members of the Santa Barbara mosque, Birdie Mae Scott, 33, and her husband, Wendell Scott, 30, were slain with a 30.30 rifle as they slept in an apartment they shared with her two children, ages 13 and 10. Though he was never named as a suspect, records show the police investigation at the time focused largely on Billy X Stephens, who was the organization's top leader as minister. Joseph Stephens served as its secretary. No arrests were made in the case. Police reports were copied to microfilm, archived and remained untouched for decades. Nearly 200 pages of documents about the Scott killings released by Santa Barbara police to the Chauncey Bailey Project show that detectives in 1968 focused on internal mosque disputes as the motive in the Scott killings. Wendell Scott, according to police documents, had written a letter to Nation of Islam leaders in Chicago complaining that he had been forced to burn two cars belonging to the Stephens brothers' mother so insurance money could be collected. Billy Stevens learned of the letter and suspended the Scotts from the mosque, the documents said. The couple was killed weeks later.

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