This post will be cataloged in the mass murder section of the archives
Like the DC beltway snipers, the Briley Brothers murdered both black and white victims and like the DC snipers it is probable that racial animus was a motive in their murder of white victims. Unfortunately, the information available is not specific enough to determine which victims were a result of it, except perhaps for the murder of John Galligher who was targeted as a customer of a country music nightclub.
The brothers were born to a stable home with two parents in Northeastern Richmond, Virginia mixed race neighborhood. With their younger sibling Anthony, Linwood and James were regarded by older neighbors as people who would help neighbors repair cars or mow lawns.
In 1979, the three Briley brothers and an accomplice, Duncan Meekins, began the seven month series of random killings that terrified the city and the surrounding region.
William and Virginia BucherTheir first attack occurred on March 12, when Linwood knocked on the door of Henrico County couple William and Virginia Bucher. Claiming that he had car trouble and needed to use their telephone, Linwood eventually forced his way into their home. At this point, he held the couple at gun point and waved his brother Anthony inside. The two Brileys tied up the couple and robbed the house, dousing each room with kerosene after picking it clean of valuables.
As they left, a lit match was tossed on the fuel. The two hurriedly packed their stolen loot – a television, CB radio, and jewelry into their trunk and drove out of the area. They were not around when Mr. Bucher managed to free himself and his wife from their restraints and escape just before the house became engulfed in flames.
They would be the sole survivors of the rampage.
Michael McDuffieMichael McDuffie, a vending machine serviceman, was murdered by the brothers at his suburban home on March 21. The brothers first assaulted McDuffie, before shooting him dead and stealing his valuables.
Mary GowenOn April 9, the brothers followed 76-year-old Mary Gowen across town from her babysitting job. They followed her into her house to rape and murder her. The brothers escaped the residence with many of her valuables.
Christopher PhilipsThe gang saw seventeen-year-old Christopher Philips hanging around Linwood Briley's parked car on July 4. Suspecting that he might have been trying to steal the vehicle, the gang surrounded him and dragged him into a nearby backyard. There the three brothers wrestled him to the ground. When Philips screamed for help, Linwood murdered him by dropping a cinderblock on his skull.
John GallaherOn September 14, country music disc jockey John "Johnny G." Gallaher was performing with his band at a South Richmond nightclub. Stepping outside between sets for a break, he inadvertently came right into the hands of the Briley brothers, having been looking around town for a victim all night without success. They decided to lie-in-wait for whoever might happen to step outside.
Gallaher was assaulted by Linwood and then put into the trunk of his own Lincoln Continental. He was then driven out to Mayo Island in the middle of the James River, where the remnants of an abandoned paper mill stood. There, he was removed from the trunk of his Lincoln Continental and shot dead at point blank range in the head. His body was then dumped into the river. The remains were found two days later. When arrested months later, Linwood was still wearing a ring stolen from Gallaher's hand.
Mary WilfongOn September 30, 62-year-old private nurse Mary Wilfong was followed home to her Richmond apartment. The brothers surrounded her just outside the door and Linwood beat her to death with a baseball bat and whose head was battered beyond recognition; . The brothers then entered her apartment and robbed it of valuables.
Blanche Page and Charles GarnerSeveral days later on October 5, just two blocks from the Briley home on 4th Avenue in Richmond, 79-year-old Blanche Page and her 59-year-old boarder Charles Garner were both brutally murdered by the brothers. Page was bludgeoned to death while Garner was fatally assaulted with a variety of weapons, which included a baseball bat, five knives, a pair of scissors, and a fork. The latter of the two were left embedded in Garner's back.
The Wilkerson family. On the morning of October 19, having promised a judge earlier that day that he would stay out of trouble while out on parole for a 1973 robbery and malicious wounding conviction, J.B. led his brothers on the prowl for yet another victim that night.
Upon seeing the brothers down the street, Wilkerson, who lived with his 23-year-old wife Judy Barton (who was five months pregnant at the time) and her 5-year-old son Harvey, instinctively closed and locked his door. This action was noticed by the brothers, who then walked over to Wilkerson's front door. Terrified by their response if he refused them entry, Wilkerson allowed them in.
Both adults in the home were overpowered, bound and gagged with duct tape. Linwood Briley then assaulted Judy Barton into the kitchen, where she was raped within hearing distance of the others. Fellow gang member Duncan Meekins continued the sexual assault, after which Linwood dragged Barton back into the living room, briefly rummaged the premises for valuables, and then left the house.
The three remaining gang members covered their victims with sheets. J.B. told Meekins, "you've got to get one", at which point Meekins took a pistol and fatally shot Harvey Wilkerson in the head. J.B. then shot Barton to death.
In hours of interviews shortly after his arrest, Meekins gave investigators details of butchery, rape and murder that took the lives of an unpatterned spectrum of people: from a 5-year-old boy and his parents in North Side; to a nurse who lived alone in Keswick Gardens in Henrico County and whose head was battered beyond recognition; to a popular DJ named Johnny Gallaher, whose body turned up in the James River at Mayo Island.