CIVIL RIGHTS KILLINGS Federal prosecutor investigates 1960s deaths
The investigation is part of a larger effort by prosecutors in the Deep South to punish long-ago crimes.
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- In 1964, FBI agents assigned to the biggest civil rights investigation of their time were searching for three missing voter-registration volunteers when the remains of two young black men were pulled from the murky Mississippi River.
At the time, the FBI was more interested in finding the three civil rights workers. And this being Mississippi in the 1960s -- when a white man could kill a black man and get away with it -- the investigation into the other deaths did not get far.
Four decades later, a federal prosecutor in Mississippi is renewing the investigation into the two all-but-forgotten killings.
U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton said the time is right to pursue justice.
The investigation is part of a larger effort by prosecutors in the Deep South to punish crimes committed long ago during the civil rights era.
Last month, a former Ku Klux Klansman was convicted in Mississippi in the slayings of the three civil rights workers. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were ambushed by carloads of Klansmen, beaten, shot and buried in a red-clay dam in a crime that focused the nation's attention on the struggle for racial equality in the South.
Some of the old cases that were recently prosecuted "have heightened the awareness of what's gone on in the past. Maybe the climate is different today" compared with a few years ago, Lampton said.
Reopening the investigation
Forty-one years ago, searchers were looking for Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney when a fisherman nearby found the lower part of a man's body near Tallulah, La., and notified the FBI. The remains of another man were found a day later.
Investigators checked the pockets of the first victim and identified him as Charles Eddie Moore, an Alcorn A & amp;M College student. The other man was identified as Henry Hezekiah Dee, a sawmill worker.
The two black 19-year-olds had been tied to a tree near Meadville on May 2, 1964, and beaten mercilessly, authorities said. The bodies were then chained to a jeep engine block and thrown into the river, according to FBI documents.
In November 1964, two reputed Klansmen were arrested by the state of Mississippi -- and one of them confessed to involvement, according to the FBI -- but the murder charges were later dropped. Moore's brother, Thomas Moore of Colorado Springs, Colo., said he believes both of those men are still alive.
"They seemed to have had strong evidence linking these two Klansmen to these abductions, including the confession. The fact that they were not prosecuted at the time shows the lack of real interest in the part of the state," said Penny Weaver, who grew up in Mississippi during the 1960s and is now a spokeswoman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups.
"There was no commitment to justice for black people by officials in Mississippi," Weaver said. "We have the names of dozens of other black people who were killed by white people during that time and whose stories have never gotten any attention.