msnbc.com
updated 3/3/2011 7:36:30 PM ET 2011-03-04T00:36:30

Police say it's too soon to speculate on a motive in the killing of a prominent white supremacist credited with helping grow the skinhead movement in the 1990s.

A person of interest has been detained in the killing of David Lynch, 40. Lynch, a leader of the neo-Nazi skinhead group American Front, was found dead in a bedroom in his Citrus Heights home early Wednesday morning, said Citrus Heights police Lt. Gary Hendricks. He had been shot in the head and torso.

A 33-year-old woman was also shot in the leg. She was taken to the hospital and was expected to survive, authorities said.

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Charles Gilbert Demar III, 36, was detained at a traffic stop in Rancho Cordova on Wednesday afternoon as a "person of interest" in Lynch's slaying. On Thursday, Demar was arrested on unrelated drug charges and booked into the Sacramento jail, Hendricks said. He has not been charged in Lynch's slaying.

Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told msnbc.com that Demar is also a white supremacist who goes by the name Charlie Boot. He is the lead singer of Stormtroop 16, a white-power rock 'n' roll band, Potok said.

Demar's former mother-in-law, Kelly Caramella, told The Sacramento Bee on Thursday that Lynch and Demar were close friends. Caramella said police questioned her Wednesday afternoon and wanted information about Demar.

"It is totally ludicrous," she told The Bee. "It is impossible that Charlie would hurt Dave, they loved each other as brothers."

Hendricks told KXTV police are investigating whether Lynch's death is related to an association with skinhead groups.

"We're following up leads in regards to (Lynch being part of a skinhead organization) based on a rumor that is actually coming from the media, not from us," Hendricks told the TV station. "So we're following up with regards to that as well. That is part of our investigation as well."

Organizations that monitor hate groups described Lynch as an influential white supremacist with a two-decade-plus history of racial activism.

"I would describe him as a former first-tier leader in the '90s. He was very well-known, especially on the racist skinhead scene. He was a bright and charismatic man and also a man sometimes with incredible potential for violence," said Potok of the SPLC.

A few years ago, Potok said, SPLC interviewed a former associate of Lynch's, who recounted a story that Lynch allegedly ordered an attack on an ex-girlfriend. "When he breaks up with her, he orders the associate to carve the tattoo on the back of her neck and mail him the skin," Potok said. The alleged order was never carried out.

According to Hatewatch, a blog of the SPLC, Lynch became Eastern states coordinator for American Front, a nationwide skinhead coalition modeled after Britain’s racist National Front, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He became involved with the group while living in Florida.

After American Front’s power waned in the mid-1990s, Lynch lived for a time in Canada, then relocated to Sacramento, where he assumed control of the Sacto Skins, a skinhead gang.

In the late 1990s, Lynch met with then-National Alliancechairman William Pierce, author of "The Turner Diaries," when the neo-Nazi leader visited Sacramento.

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By2007, Lynch had united skinhead crews in Northern and Southern California, Utah and Florida under the banner of a newly energized American Front, law enforcement authorities told SPLC. He had also established a U.S. division of Troops of Tomorrow, an international skinhead organization, and helped to launch Prison Skin,a prison outreach campaign to support incarcerated skinheads, SPLC said.

"Due to Lynch’s influence, most people who identify as American Front members are based in California (primarily northern California) and Florida (including Brevard and Orange Counties)," according to information published by the Anti-Defamation League.

Lynch, who worked at a local environmental abatement firm, appeared to be less active on the white supremacist scene in recent years, Potok said. "Up to about 2006-2007 he was working hard to unify various skinhead groups, especially in the West, but he did seem to recede," Potok said.

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