The Stuart Alexander Case
2. Prior to the murders Stuart had been vocal in the community that he felt the state was harassing him concerning his business. He had convinced a significant portion of the community that this was the governments way of pushing out the "little man."
3. Inspectors had had many run-ins with Alexander in the past. Two of the biggest contentions were the smoker or smokers in which were used in the factory and the temperature in which the sausages were cooked. When Alexander would fail to comply the inspectors would shut the factory down, this happened at least twice. Alexander would re-open the business against state laws. During these times the once thriving business lost massive amounts of money and was the motive that Alexander used in his 'campaign' against the government.
4. When the inspectors arrived at the factory on June 21st they attempted to have the police accompany them as they foresaw there to be problems. The police treated this call as a non-emergency call and did not arrive. When they entered the business Alexander also called the police complaining of the harassment. This too was treated as a non-emergency call.
5. Alexander had installed video cameras in the factory in his attempts to prove the harassment. He was seen retrieving his gun when the inspectors were in the building. He shot the three inspectors while a fourth inspector had gotten away and ran down the street with Alexander chasing him. When he did not catch him he went back into the factory and shot the now dead and dying inspectors again. The police were called a third time when someone had observed Alexander chasing the fourth inspector, apparently shooting at him down the street. By the time police arrived at the scene Alexander was standing outside the factory, admitted to the murders and was taken into custody.
6. Alexander was charged with three counts of first degree murder and was convicted on October 19, 2004. He was sentenced to death on February 15, 2005.
7. On December 27, 2005 Alexander died in prison of a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot to the lungs).
1. There is really little to dispute in this case as the murders were videotaped, ironically by Alexander. However, his lawyers attempted to argue an insanity plea, mostly in attempt to prevent the first degree murder and death sentence. They also argued blind rage to lessen the idea of premeditation.
2. This case became a case in which the actions of the victims were taken into question. This was partially because of the 'campaign' of Alexander prior to the murders, many citizens believed that Alexander was indeed being harassed by the USDA (ie. a government entity) and had done little more than stood up for himself. Others believed the inspectors knew of the dangers and should have reasonably believed the dangers that lay ahead and should have taken more precautions before dealing with him, such as continuing to call for police back up and not confronting Alexander until they arrived. There was also much criticism given to Jean Hillery based on the fact that she was the only female USDA inspector in the county and perception was that she was more firm than most as it was felt she was trying to prove the point that she was capable and able to do the job.
As noted, and stated, there was little to dispute these murders. There was no question of guilt or innocence. There is no question who committed the murders since a) they were videotaped and b) Alexander admitted committing them and immediately turned himself into the police. In fact, it has been presumed the reason he was standing outside the factory in the first place was to wait for the police to turn himself in, as he did so without incident.
One question lies with the fact of why did he so calmly turn himself in? Was he narcissistic enough to believe that he could get away with it? Did he so ardently believe what he had told the community about being harassed and felt it was a justified murder and planned to claim self defense? Did he really believe that this was a larger effort by the government to end small business? And, if he really thought these things were they true or were they things an insane mind had created?
When it comes to the issues of the actions of the inspectors I am in the middle. I truly believe they were just there to do their jobs, nothing more, nothing less. However, I do agree with those who believe they knew the possible dangers ahead, even if they would not have believed he would go as far as murder, and should have waited for the police to arrive. It should be noted, these inspectors were not the first to encounter Alexander and have issues with him. Do I believe there was likely a aura of power and entitlement to the inspectors? Eh... maybe. But, who is to say they were not entitled to that? They were the law per se. In the same respect Alexander had a sign at the front of the building that stated: "To all of our great customers, the USDA is coming into our plant harassing my employees and me, making it impossible to make our great product. Gee, if all meat plants could be in business for 79 years without one complaint, the meat inspectors would not have jobs. Therefore we are taking legal action against them." I have been unable to determine if he had in fact taken legal action. It is my opinion that if "legal action" had in fact been filed then until that was settled maybe the government should have laid off. Then again, it was their job. Through my research I have been unable to find any reports that there was any immediate danger to the community due to the quality of the product or the manufacturing of. It is my belief that these inspections began as total routine inspections conducted by the state and county officials and not based on any complaints by consumers. They continued due to Alexander's failure to comply to regulations set.
One of the things that Alexander was arguing was the temperature to which his sausage was cooked. Reality of it is that they were arguing over a mere 4 degrees in temperature. According to FDA standards it was to be cooked at 140 degrees where as the company cooked it at 144 degrees. According to Alexander those 4 degrees would make a significant difference in the size, and ultimately the price of his sausage. I suppose I could understand the FDA's argument if those 4 degrees were LESS than regulated temperatures, and misunderstand the issue with 4 degrees more.
Another significant argument between Alexander and the FDA surrounded the smoker used to cook the sausage. According to the FDA it was outdated and did not meet regulations. I have been unable to find a lot of information on this so I cannot tell you if there was an issue of safety to the workers or what the exact issue with the smoker was. It is reasonable to believe that to upgrade the smoker (unsure if we are talking of one or more) would be a significant financial purchase for the company. From Alexanders point of view (at least what he outwardly expressed) it was the smoker(s) that gave the sausage their signature taste and it was still functioning properly. Whether that was completely true, I cannot say. For all I know the smoker was a complete danger to employees, and who knows, maybe the neighborhood as a whole. However, if we stand on the side of Alexander's arguments, that it was functioning properly, was not a danger and was significant to his business then one could argue that his perception of the government attempting to take out the "little man" holds merit. But, if in fact the smoker was dangerous to employees or the community at large, then the FDA had every right to enforce the upgrade.
The ultimate issue here was that if in fact, Alexander truly felt he was being harassed by the USDA inspectors and by extension the government he had the right to fight them in court. He did not have the right to murder the inspectors. Many would argue that had he fought through court he would have lost, not because he was wrong, but because of exactly what Alexander believed, government harassment. I do not know what I believe would have happened but I can say that I would not have been surprised if that was the outcome, and that was the reason. I am generally an all or nothing person. If a rule or law is set whether you like it or not it must be followed. That is not to say that you are not entitled to fight or argue the rule, just as Alexander should have done if this was really about the quality of his product as well as the integrity of his business.
Alexander was given the nickname of "The Sausage King" through the media. And even though he died over 7 years ago the story is still often in the media. And of course, there are still the disputes as to whether he was being harassed by the government or not. I imagine there are still those who blame the inspectors for their deaths when they were simply doing their jobs. I have never really heard anyone, including Alexander's family, defend the murders. Sadly, the business that Alexander fought so hard for was lost and is no longer in operation.