After two-and-a-half years of exhaustive investigation into more than 100 civil rights-era cold cases, the FBI has announced the next phase of our Cold Case Initiative: we’re looking for the next-of-kin in 33 cases to let families know what happened to their loved ones and to possibly obtain additional investigative information.
So please look over this list, and if you’re a family member of one of the victims or think you may know the whereabouts of a family member, contact your local FBI office.
These cases—announced today in Baton Rouge, Louisiana by FBI Civil Rights Unit Chief Cynthia Deitle, along with cold case documentary filmmaker Keith Beauchamp—represent the last remaining investigations from our original list of 108 cold cases released in February 2007.
Special Agent Cynthia Dietle
We’ve done a tremendous amount of work since February 2007, locating victims’ families in 75 cases, enabling us to investigate and assess each one. “Our agents have worked tirelessly, reaching out to victims’ families and interviewing witnesses, along with police officers, prosecutors, and judges,” says Deitle. “They’ve combed through old police records, grand jury transcripts, and court transcripts to piece together a story that may have happened decades ago.
Because of our previous publicity efforts, Deitle adds, “We’ve also received tips and other help from the public, the media, academia, and our partners at organizations like the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Urban League.”
To date, three of our 108 cases have been referred for state prosecution. In other cases, there may be no charges filed because many involve:
* deceased suspects (47 percent of cases);
* individuals who were already tried in state court and can’t be prosecuted again in federal court because of double jeopardy;
* deceased witnesses and old evidence that’s been destroyed; or
Civil Rights-era funeral
The FBI will continue to probe civil rights-era cases.
Photo courtesy of Keith Beauchamp.
* deaths that weren’t racially-motivated homicides (19 percent).
However, several additional cold cases have been prosecuted federally in recent years, including the 1964 murders of Henry Dee and Charles Moore. And we’re pursuing leads in other cases, including the 1964 murder of Frank Morris.
Among the 36 victims whose families we’re currently looking for:
* Arthur James Hill: shot and killed in August 1965 in Villa Rica, Georgia during an altercation with a group of white men.
* Clarence Horatious Pickett: beaten to death by a police officer in December 1957 in a jail in Columbus, Georgia.
* Ann Thomas: sexually assaulted and shot four times in the head in April 1969 in San Antonio, Texas.
* William Lewis Moore: a postal worker and former U.S. Marine shot and killed in April 1963 near Attalla, Alabama while marching to deliver a letter to the governor of Mississippi urging the integration of the University of Mississippi.
* Ernest Jells: shot to death in October 1963 in Clarksville, Mississippi, by police after he allegedly pointed a rifle at officers attempting to arrest him for stealing a banana.
Once we officially close all 108 cases, we’ll continue to look into racially-motivated homicides from the civil rights era that come to our attention. Protecting the rights of all Americans—whether in 1959 or 2009—remains one of our top criminal investigative priorities.
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