STEVE INSKEEP, host:
We can tell you this morning about a break in a 1964 murder case in Mississippi. This is from the civil rights era. A man has been charged with kidnapping two black teenagers. The 19 year olds were beaten and dumped alive into the Mississippi River. Their remains were discovered a couple of months later.
To find out more out more about the arrest of 71-year-old James Seale on charges of participation in this crime we've called Jerry Mitchell, a reporter with The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi.
Mr. Mitchell, good morning.
Mr. JERRY MITCHELL (Reporter, The Clarion-Ledger): Good morning.
INSKEEP: And thanks for talking to us so early, appreciate it. Would you remind us what exactly happened in 1964 and what James Seale's alleged role was?
Mr. MITCHELL: Well, this was a case of forgotten killings, really. These two teenagers, African-American teenagers, were hitchhiking. And the Klan believed that there was gun running in the county, and believed that they might know something about it or did know something about it. Took them out into the woods, beat them, then hauled them out to the Mississippi River and tied them to a Jeep motor block and dumped them alive into the Mississippi River.
INSKEEP: And James Seale, was he a member of the KKK at that time?
Mr. MITCHELL: Reputed to be. He denied being a member when I talked to him in 2000. And of course, he went on to deny that he knew anybody in the Klan. But of course his brother was in the Klan. His dad was supposedly in the Klan. So I found that kind of interesting.
INSKEEP: You mentioned that you talked to him in 2000.
Mr. MITCHELL: Yes.
INSKEEP: It was your newspaper that got this old case reopened. Can you describe to me what evidence led you to James Seale?
Mr. MITCHELL: Well, basically the federal authorities had reopened another case - Ben Chester White killing the Klan did in '66 in Mississippi. And it had taken place on federal property in the Homochitto National Forest. And the name rung a bell, so I was like, it seems like there was something else that took place there. And sure enough, the Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore were both beaten in that forest. So that's what led them to reopen that case at that point.
INSKEEP: And what led you to Seale? Had he been a suspect at the time?
Mr. MITCHELL: Yes. He had been arrested along with a guy by the name of Charles Marcus Edwards. But the case never went anywhere.
INSKEEP: You mean the Mississippi authorities never did much.
Mr. MITCHELL: Yeah, never did a thing with it. It was on the state side. The state never prosecuted. And in fact, they dismissed the charges.
INSKEEP: Now we should mention that he's been charged. He's not been convicted. A jury will presumably decide the strength of the evidence.
Mr. MITCHELL: That's correct.
INSKEEP: But based on what you've seen, how strong is the evidence connecting him to this crime? And what is that evidence?
Mr. MITCHELL: Well, the case against him I think is probably similar to what it would have been in '64 if the authorities had put the case together. And this is laid out in the FBI documents. Mr. Edwards confessed to authorities his involvement in the case and identified Mr. Seale as being one of the fellow participants. But Mr. Edwards also said he didn't take part in the anything beyond that.
INSKEEP: This other suspect confessed to a role in the beating, not the killing.
Mr. MITCHELL: Correct.
INSKEEP: And he leads you then to James Seale, the man who's been arrested now.
Mr. MITCHELL: Correct. I was able to, you know, old records and other things led me to him. And actually had help from people that knew him, helped me track him down.
INSKEEP: These two men were 19 years old when they were killed.
Mr. MITCHELL: Yes, they were.
INSKEEP: Their parents still alive?
Mr. MITCHELL: No, they're not. But the brother of Charles Moore, Thomas Moore, really deserves a tremendous amount of credit for this case being re-prosecuted. And he's been working with us. CBC documentary filmmaker and he's the one who approached the U.S. attorney in 2005, and I think really deserves the credit for this case finally going forward.
INSKEEP: After more than 40 years, he was still going after the killers of his brother and…
Mr. MITCHELL: Absolutely.
INSKEEP: And he's part of the reason that we're hearing about the case now.
Mr. MITCHELL: Well, there's no question that he's the one that convinced the federal authorities to finally do this thing.
INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Mitchell, thanks so much for speaking with us.
Mr. MITCHELL: Thank you very much.
INSKEEP: Jerry Mitchell is a reporter with The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.
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