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CIVIL RIGHTS CRIMES
Ex-Klansman Charged in '64 Slayings

01/25/07

Charles Moore

Charles Moore, above, and Henry Dee were killed in Mississippi in 1964. A suspect in the case was indicted on Jan. 25, 2007.

A former Ku Klux Klan member was indicted Thursday in federal court in Mississippi on charges related to his role in the abductions and slayings of two young African American men in 1964.

The three-count indictment alleges that James Ford Seale and fellow Klansmen conspired to abduct, beat, and ultimately murder Henry Dee and Charles Moore in May 1964. Seale and his fellow Klansmen allegedly picked up the two men hitchhiking, drove them into the woods to question them, and badly beat them. Dee and Moore were then bound with duct tape and taken by boat onto the Old Mississippi River, where the two men—still alive—were thrown overboard, weighted down by an engine block and railroad rails. Their decomposed bodies were found two months later during a search for three missing civil rights workers, what would later be known as the Mississippi Burning case.

"Today's indictment is one example of the FBI's strong and ongoing commitment to reexamining and investigating unsolved civil rights era murders and other crimes," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller told reporters at a press conference Thursday in Washington, D.C. "Under our Cold Case Initiative, we will continue to identify and pursue these cases of racially motivated violence to ensure justice is served wherever possible."

The unsolved case was revived in 2005 when Charles Moore's brother Thomas and a documentary filmmaker discovered by chance that Seale was alive and still living in Mississippi. Their legwork prompted the FBI's Jackson field office to reexamine decades-old records and enlist the help of five retired FBI agents who investigated the original case in 1964 before relinquishing it to local authorities. The Jackson office, with the local U.S. Attorney's Office, created a task force that assembled enough evidence against Seale to bring the case before a grand jury.

"The charges reflected in the indictment are charges that can be prosecuted," Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzalez said during the press conference.

The case joins several other civil rights era cases that only recently saw closure.

  • In 2001, Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry were convicted of murder for the 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • In 2003, Ernest Avants was sentenced to life in prison for the 1966 murder of Ben White, an elderly African-American farm worker.
  • In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to three 20-year sentences for his role in the deaths of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964.

"A Mississippi cold case can be solved," said Thomas Moore, who attended the press conference. "There can be justice." Henry Dee's sister Thelma Collins also attended the press conference. She said she cried when she learned Seale was charged. "I cried because I had shed so many tears over the years about it."

James Seale was arraigned Thursday morning in Mississippi and pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for each count of the indictment.

Resources:
- Press Release
- FBI Civil Rights Page
- Civil Rights Stories
- Director's Remarks