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Indicted Klansman involved in race killing discovered alive

How’s this for escaping the law for way too long — with the MSM’s help, no less?

Yesterday the feds charged former sheriff’s deputy and reputed Klansman James Ford Seale, 71, with the kidnapping and murder of two young black hitchhikers, Henry Dee and Charles Moore, in 1964 in Meadville, Mississippi, near Natchez.

Seale had been reported as dead by the media for several years.

His alleged accomplice, Charles Marcus Edwards, flipped and will testify against Seale in exchange for immunity. According the AP, in statements in federal documents,

Seale offered the two black hitchhikers a ride, then drove them to a wooded area where he and others whipped them with bean poles. An informant later told the FBI that the Klansmen took the unconscious men to the river, lashed their bodies to a Jeep engine block and old railroad rails and dumped them, still breathing, into the muddy water. Edwards initially told federal investigators the two black men were alive when he left them and he had nothing to do with any murders, according to FBI documents. He later denied making the statement.

The other significant part of this story is the role of an alternative newsweekly played in getting this case back in legal play — the Jackson Free Press, out of Jackson, dug into the original murder case and found out that Seale was alive. In the July 20, 2005, issue of the paper, reporter Donna Ladd’s article laid the foundation for further investigation of the case that produced the indictment. 

More details on the case after the jump.(Association of Alternative Newsweeklies):

The Dee-Moore murder case, which has been sporadically reported in the media over the years, gained new steam when the Jackson Free Press (JFP), an alternative newsweekly in Jackson, Miss., reported on July 20, 2005, that Seale was still alive and living in Roxie, Miss. It had previously been reported by The Clarion-Ledger, a daily newspaper in Mississippi, and then repeated nationally, that Seale had died, making it difficult to pursue indictments. The revelation that he was still alive, reported by Donna Ladd in the July 20, 2005, issue of the Jackson Free Press and picked up later by the Associated Press, provided a way for prosecutors to build a case positioning Edwards’ testimony against Seale, as the accused ringleader of the plan, in exchange for immunity.

The Jackson Free Press began investigating the Dee-Moore case when the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) asked to document JFP reporters covering the Edgar Ray Killen trial in Mississippi to help bring more attention to unsolved cases of murdered black Mississippians. Rita Schwerner Bender, wife of murdered civil-rights worker Michael Schwerner, told reporters at the Killen trial that her husband’s case had only received extensive national attention because he and Andrew Goodman were white. As Ladd and photographer Kate Medley listened on the courthouse lawn, Bender challenged the media to look at other unsolved cases, including one of two black men killed near Natchez.

Soon after the Killen trial, Ladd, Medley and two other young native Mississippians joined with David Ridgen of the CBC to accompany Charles Moore’s brother, Thomas Moore, on a two-week visit back to his hometown to look for justice in his brother’s murder. While on that trip, Moore met with U.S. Attorney Lampton who, coincidentally, had served in the same U.S. Army Gulf War unit as Moore. Lampton, a white Republican from Mississippi, vowed to help Moore get long-overdue justice.

Because of that work by Ladd (along with her coverage of Klan activities in Natchez in the 60s), it garnered her an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies journalism award. More importantly, boots-on-the-ground, excellent — and accurate —  journalism by independent media may bring closure to this case, and peace for the Dee and Moore families, who have waited too long.

* Read the JFP’s Full Dee-Moore-Klan Investigation Package

* Here’s the JFP’s coverage of the Mississippi v. Edgar Ray Killen case

Hat tip, Roxanne.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding