Press Release

For Immediate Release
November 18, 2009

Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691

Updates to Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Initiative; Seeking Victims’ Next of Kin

Nearly three years after the launch of the Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Initiative, the FBI is publicly releasing updated information demonstrating the progress made so far, and requesting public assistance with a new challenge: locating victims’ next of kin in 33 cases.

Since the investigative phase of the Civil Rights-Era Cold Case Initiative was launched in February 2007, a total of 108 unsolved or inadequately solved racially-motivated homicides have been forwarded to 17 field offices for a fresh assessment of legal and investigative viability. The results from the FBI investigations are then sent to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which decides whether the cases can be prosecuted federally, referred for state prosecution, or closed.

The FBI intends to notify the victims’ families of the results of the investigations. Unfortunately, however, due to the passage of time and the migration of many families, the FBI has been unable to identify the victims’ next of kin in 33 cases. A list of names and circumstances of these cases is being released in hopes that the public may be able to provide information that can assist the FBI in locating surviving family members.

To date, there have been two successful federal prosecutions involving civil rights-era murder cases. Ernest Avery Avants was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Benjamin Charles White. James Ford Seale was sentenced to three life terms for the murders of Charles Moore and Henry Dee.

Additionally, three cold case investigations have been referred for state prosecution, including one involving former Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler, who is being tried for the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Marion, Alabama.

FBI has concluded that in 47 percent of the investigated cases, all subjects identified as being involved in the homicides are deceased. Approximately 19 percent of the deaths were determined not to be racially-motivated homicides. To date, DOJ has declined prosecution and closed five cases, with 21 more cases expected to be closed following notification of next of kin.

Many of the 108 cases remain under investigation—including those on this list for which public assistance has been requested. The FBI is also offering monetary rewards for information leading to the indictment, arrest, and conviction of anyone responsible for:

  • The 1965 murder of Washington Parish Deputy Sheriff O’Neal Moore and attempted murder of Deputy Sheriff David Rogers in Varnado, Louisiana
  • The 1964 murder of Frank Morris in Ferriday, Louisiana

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