Clerk's murder may have been hate crime

December 28, 2009 3:51:28 PM PST
We have new information about a robbery on Christmas Day that ended with a clerk dead. Authorities now say they're looking into the possibility this was a hate crime. The robbery happened Friday night in the town of Liberty, authorities now say the man in custody is well known by law enforcement in the area and has ties to a white supremacy group.

The store will be closed until after the funeral on Tuesday. Liberty police say they tried talking to suspect Stevie "Bubba" Walder, 31, but so far he's not cooperating. While robbery appears to be the motive, investigators say they are looking into the possibility that this may have been a hate crime.

Outside Chubby's Happy Chap Market in Liberty, a makeshift memorial is a tribute to the owner, Naushad Virani, 50. The husband and father was murdered Christmas night during what police say was a robbery. Carol Olson has worked for Virani off and on since 1992.

"He'd help anybody, He'd do anything for anybody. He loved his customers and his customers loved him," said Olson.

Investigators say they identified Walder as the triggerman through surveillance video from inside the store. Local authorities say Walder has ties to the Aryan brotherhood, a local white supremacist group. Along with the Texas Rangers, police are investigating whether Virani was killed because of his race.

"If the Rangers and the District Attorney's Office feel the need to go on up to the federal level for the hate crime, they will," said Hugh Bishop of the Liberty Police Department.

Walder was arrested on Sunday, less than 48 hours after the killing. Acting on a tip, police found him early Sunday morning while he was driving his truck north of Woodville. He was taken into custody without incident and is now charged with capital murder. Customers say all they want now is justice.

"I don't think he deserves to live. I think Naushad deserves to be back," said customer Kim Chavez.

Virani, a native of India, leaves behind a wife and a three-year-old daughter. He has several stores in south Liberty County.

As for the suspect, police believe Walder acted alone. He lives in the area and police have searched his home.


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