Wade Wilson's racist tattoos: Expert weighs in on what they mean (2024)

Convicted Florida murderer Wade Wilson has become even more notorious for his intimidating appearance thanks to the racist tattoos covering a majority of his face, neck, and hands.

On July 23, a judge will decide whether the 30-year-old Fort Myers native will get the death penalty or life in prison for brutally murdering Kristine Melton and Diane Ruiz in October 2019. Wilson's legal team filed a motion on July 3 for a retrial or acquittal for Melton's death, but it is unclear whether that will be heard.

But interest in Wilson's racist facial ink—which he didn't have upon his arrest in October 2019—continues to capture the world's attention as we wait to learn Wilson's fate.

Wade Wilson's racist tattoos: Expert weighs in on what they mean (1)

What do Wade Wilson's tattoos mean?

Court documents claim Wilson could be associated with the white supremacist prison gang The Unforgiven, but Anti-Defamation League Research Fellow Christopher Magyarics tells Newsweek that none of Wilson's tattoos visible to him indicate a connection to that gang.

However, Magyarics says Wilson has a few tattoos on his head and neck that are "blatantly white supremacist."

"There is the number 14 on the right side of his neck for the white supremacist mantra known as the 14 words: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children,'" Magyarics said.

"He also has the number 88 on the left side of his neck which is the numeric code for the 8th letter of the alphabet, H, 2 times = HH for 'Heil Hitler,'" he added. "The combination of the numeric codes, 1488, is commonly used by white supremacists of all types."

Wilson has two swastika tattoos: one on his right scalp and another under his right eye. The swastika is a symbol of Nazi Germany and its leader, Adolf Hitler.

Wade Wilson's racist tattoos: Expert weighs in on what they mean (2)

Magyarics says Wilson's other head and neck tattoos are not notably white supremacist in their meanings. This included "TTG" on Wilson's right forehead, "which allegedly stands for 'Time To Go' or 'Trained To Go'—as in ready to fight." Wilson also has "Bred for war" in big letters under his chin, again as in ready to fight, the expert says.

Wilson also has the letters "NMM" on his left jaw. While Magyarics says he cannot be certain of Wilson's intended meaning behind his tattoo, "There are some people who have suggested it's a reference to Deadpool's Wade Wilson (from Marvel comics) who gets that tattooed on himself to remember M-day, the day the Mutants lost their power."

Around Wilson's left eye, ink reads "Why so serious?" which is likely a reference to Heath Ledger's iconic line in 2008's "The Dark Knight" as the Joker. The words "Ha ha ha" are tattooed underneath.

Ledger's next line in the film is, "He sticks the blade in my mouth … Let's put a smile on that face," which could also be Wilson's inspiration for the stitched-on smile tattoo around his mouth.

Wilson's defense attorney Kevin Shirley talked to Newsweek about his client's appearance.

"Mr. Wilson is very intimidating but he also appreciates good representation. Once he realized what we were doing for him he was not adversarial and never has been with the rest of our staff. Mr. Wilson created his appearance while in custody awaiting trial. He has never expressed his reasons," Shirley told Newsweek. "My colleague successfully argued for a procedure to cover up the tattoos, however, when that did not work, I attempted to use that to show his mental instability."

In a court motion filed July 3 and obtained by Newsweek, Wilson's legal team claims Florida's new death penalty law violated Wilson's constitutional rights.

Last April, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law to allow a death penalty recommendation if at least eight of the 12 jurors vote for it. Nine of the 12 jurors recommended Wilson be put to death for Melton's murder during the June trial.

10 of the 12 jurors also recommended Wilson get death for Ruiz's murder.

If Wilson is sentenced to death by Judge Nick Thompson on July 23, he will be one of three Florida men on death row under the new law. It is currently unknown whether Thompson will hear the new motion that day.

Wade Wilson's racist tattoos: Expert weighs in on what they mean (3)

Was Wade Wilson allowed to cover his tattoos for his trial?

One of Wilson's former girlfriends Kelly Matthews has spoken out on TikTok about dating Wilson after they met online in 2018. She told Newsweek on Friday that Wilson allegedly called her last year but she blocked the jail's number.

In a video posted last week, Matthews shared "thirst trap" photos of a "charismatic and smart" smiling Wilson from around that time and without his face tattoos, which now include two swastikas.

But Matthews says Wilson's polite demeanor began to shift when he started using cocaine. She says they once got into a fight when she took his bookbag to search it for drugs. He kicked a door and she threw a kitchen table at him.

"He never hit me, ever, until that night," Matthews said in the TikTok video. "So there were really no red flags 'till the end."

In the TikTok posted on June 15, Matthews claimed the hospital took over 200 photos of her alleged abuse, but she has never seen them and was never able to locate them. A police officer reportedly told her that he went down to the Keys and spoke to Wilson about the incident, and he told her that Matthews was sexually "into that kind of thing." He was never arrested for anything related to Matthews' alleged assault.

"This man drove through a McDonald's while I was tied up in the back of my car, naked, bound and gagged. Literally, I had a shirt tied around my face. I had leggings in my mouth. My foot was broken because he slammed it in the door. So when I heard the trial of him doing that to Christina Melton, tying her up with her own clothes, it brought back a lot of feelings for me," she said about one of Wilson's two dead victims.

Matthews also shared photos of Wilson with fewer tattoos, a stark difference to the coldblooded killer who now sits behind bars.

In May, the judge granted Wilson's legal team's motion to allow him to get a haircut and cover some of his tattoos with makeup for his trial, News-Press reports. The motion reportedly claimed that Wilson wanted to cover "numerous and varied tattoos" on his face, including "stitches," swastikas," and other designs "that might be objectionable to members of the potential jury pool."

Shirley told Newsweek on Tuesday that Wilson was provided makeup but "it was not sufficient" to cover his tattoos.

Could Wade Wilson's appearance have impacted the jury?

Richard Gabriel, president of the Los Angeles-based litigation consulting company Decision Analysis, Inc., told Newsweek about how Wilson's appearance could have impacted the jury.

"Appearance always has a subliminal effect on the jury. Jurors are always looking at a criminal defendant and evaluating whether he or she looks like the kind of person that would have committed the accused crime," Gabriel said in an email.

"While there is greater prevalence and acceptance of tattoos in general these days, a defendant like Mr. Wilson with menacing-looking marks and swastikas would no doubt have an impact on jurors," he added.

Gabriel continued: "Gang members have been allowed to use makeup to cover up tattoos in other trials, because a defense team and judge have to evaluate the potentially prejudicial effect of the tattoos. Not sure if the defense asked to do this or not [in Wilson's case], but his tattoos are evident and it would not be hard for jurors to see that he probably had extensive tattoos."

Asked whether it was fair to the jury that Wilson had the option to cover some of his tattoos, Gabriel replied: "I can't see how it would be unfair to the jury, given they convicted him and sentenced him to death. The jury has to make a decision based on actual facts of the crime and that is why a judge has to be careful to not let unduly prejudicial character evidence color a jury's decision-making."

Do you have a story Newsweek should be covering? Do you have any questions about this story? Contact LiveNews@newsweek.com

Correction 7/10/2024 6:00 a.m. ET: The spelling of Heath Ledger's name was amended.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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Wade Wilson's racist tattoos: Expert weighs in on what they mean (2024)


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