The anti-Christian rantings of an extreme death-metal vocalist may ensure that the 22-year-old man who performs under the stage name Lord Morder spends the rest of his life in prison.
The case is unusual in that OC prosecutors have rarely invoked a hate-crime statute in a case involving an alleged attack on Christians. The Orange County Human Relations Commission said that in 2001—the most recent year for which statistics were available—it documented exactly one anti-Christian hate crime, which involved a Mormon victim.
Santa Ana Police on Feb. 6 arrested special-education teacher and Sol Evil front man Raymond Earl Shipley, 22, of Riverside, in connection with a drive-by shooting that took place in the early morning hours of Jan. 19 outside a Christian drug-rehabilitation center in downtown Santa Ana. Four days later, the Orange County district attorney's office charged Shipley with attempted murder and conspiracy to attempt murder with hate-crime enhancements that could result in a life sentence.
The DA's felony complaint alleges that Shipley drove along South Main Street at 3:30 a.m., intending to murder an unidentified man living at the Teen Challenge Christian Ministry. Shipley's 21-year-old passenger fired "a number of shots into the Teen Challenge Christian Ministry facility dormitory area," where the intended victim was sleeping, the complaint alleges. No one was hurt in the shooting, but prosecutors charged both Shipley and his passenger with committing hate crimes because of Teen Challenge's religious affiliation.
Shipley, now being held at the Orange County Men's Jail in Santa Ana, faces an April 24 pre-trial hearing. Through his Newport Beach-based lawyer Scott Ciment, he refused to be interviewed for this story. But Ciment asserts that prosecutors will attempt to convict Shipley on the basis of anti-Christian statements credited to Sol Evil and Shipley's Lord Morder stage personality.
Sol Evil's website (solevil.cjb.net) includes a list of band members (Beast, Orchrist, Dark Knyght, Sadist and Alucard—"Dracula" spelled backwards) and a "biography" that states that, unlike other bands, "Sol Evil practices what they preach."
Specifically, the website suggests Shipley had carried out acts of "vandalism and grave desecrations" that led to arrest and probation. For that reason, the website says, "Sol Evil has kept their anti-Christian exploits to a minimum. Lord Morder is now off probation, so once again, the flame is lit. Thus far, Sol Evil is just beginning to spread the disease . . . supporting Black Metal both in our hymns of hatred and through physical domination. The final chapter will soon be written."
Ciment provided the Weekly with a copy of an interview with Lord Morder that the lawyer believes is crucial to the DA's case against his client. In the interview, Lord Morder states that Sol Evil's "cause is the destruction of Christianity. We want to inspire people to murder ALL Christians!!! All the members of our horde believe that Christianity must be destroyed."
Elsewhere in the interview, Lord Morder refers to Christians as "pathetic weaklings with no vision. They should all be murdered the way that their bastard Christ was . . . slowly and painfully!!! Christians seem to be trying to weaken the human race. They're always helping those who don't deserve it and those who will never be worth anything! I say let the weak die so that the strong may prosper! All Christians should be murdered without pity or remorse! SATANAS VENIRE!!!"
But Ciment argues that Lord Morder is a fictional stage persona, that Shipley is not a hatemonger and that his client is instead a "sensitive young man who talks about religion with people and who has attended church."
"I have witnesses who are devout and who say he has never denounced religion," Ciment said. "The police are somehow accusing my client of being Lord Morder and acting as Lord Morder. They are blending the two and saying that things Lord Morder says are things my client believes."
Shipley's father, also named Raymond Shipley, said he couldn't believe police were holding his son on charges of attempted murder. "Actually, I thought it was a joke when [police] called me and told me," he said. The elder Shipley said that besides being a member of a death-metal band, his son is an aspiring college baseball player and a special-education teacher in San Bernardino County.
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"He's been a special ed teacher ever since he got out of high school," Shipley said. "He works with kids who have various problems from mental to physical and has done everything from change diapers on up with these kids."
Sacbe Meling runs the Fullerton-based record label Quadrivium, which distributes death-metal music, including Sol Evil's first release Dawn of Infinite Obscurity. He said Shipley's band, like many other death-metal groups, was influenced by the infamous Norwegian band Mayhem, whose vocalist committed suicide and whose guitarist was murdered by a member of another Norwegian death-metal band. (Members of Mayhem were recently charged with involuntary assault when an Oslo concertgoer was wounded by a sheep's head that flew into the crowd after an onstage beheading.)
Like Mayhem, Sol Evil's stage act also featured sheep heads, fake blood and, on occasion, self-mutilation, according to Meling. "The show they do is pretty aggressive, sick," he said. "But offstage, Ray had a job, a family; he lived with a girlfriend. He was just a regular person with a different taste in music. What he did onstage stayed onstage. It never went off the stage into his real life."
Cynthia Fausto, Shipley's 21-year-old girlfriend, agrees. She said her boyfriend's anti-Christian rantings published on the Internet were part of an effort to publicize his band. "Raymond is not a terrorist like the police say he is," Fausto said. "What he was trying to do with that interview was attract people who like that music. In the interview, he said he had been arrested for grave desecration. That was a bunch of lies. I would get mad when he lied to make himself seem worse than he was. He told me he was just trying to sell CDs and get famous."