Indy photographer captures possible suspect Jenny Warburg, a longtime photographer for the Independent, was on her way to Selma, Ala., last Friday to document the 40th anniversary of the bloody civil rights march across that city's Edmund Pettis Bridge. Warburg--who began her professional life as a social worker--has spent years photographing people and events on the far left and right in America, and she was eager to experience the weekend commemoration in Selma. But at the airport in Atlanta, she got a phone call that turned her plans around. Devin Burghart from the Chicago-based Center for New Community, a hate-group watchdog organization, was on the cell phone with news that put Warburg on the next plane back to Durham.
He told her that police investigating the murders of the husband and mother of a federal judge in Illinois were focusing on a man who'd appeared in a photo Warburg had taken in 2003 of jailed white supremacist Matthew Hale.
Hale is awaiting sentencing on charges of soliciting the murder of Judge Joan Lefkow, who found her relatives shot to death in her home on Feb. 28. Warburg's photo of Hale appeared in The New York Times shortly after the killings.
Burghart called Warburg while she was en route to Alabama to tell her that police were turning their attention to a man in her photo who, as a Chicago Sun-Times columnist reported, appeared "strikingly similar" to one of two police sketches of possible murder suspects. That man is in a white beret to the right of Hale (center, with glasses) in Warburg's photo, above.
When it was taken, he was acting as a security guard for Hale while they were headed to a January 2003 court hearing on a trademark case involving Hale's group, the World Church of the Creator. Moments later, Warburg says, Hale was arrested for trying to arrange Lefkow's murder.
Lefkow had initially ruled in favor of Hale in a dispute with an Oregon religious group also called the World Church of the Creator. But after an appeals court overturned that decision, she ordered Hale's organization to change its name and shut down its Web site--a decision that sparked calls for revenge from Hale and his followers.
When Warburg took the photograph, she recalls being the only photojournalist at the courthouse. "I was just doing what I normally do," she says. "None of us knew Hale was going to be arrested beforehand. I thought I would be going to his hearing." But just seconds after Hale had rounded a corner inside the courthouse building, he was "whisked away," Warburg says, "and we weren't allowed to follow."
After talking with Burghart at the Atlanta airport, Warburg decided she had better get back to her computer in Durham and scan more pictures, in case other media outlets wanted them. And sure enough, phone calls and e-mails have been pouring in from the likes of Good Morning America, Time and Newsweek.
Staying true to her passion for documenting hard truths, Warburg is planning to go to Chicago for Hale's April 6 sentencing, "even though that will be a media circus," because, as she says, "I've been there from the beginning."