The murder trial of Louisiana klansman Raymond “Chuck” Foster ended abruptly Wednesday when he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the slaying of a new recruit and was immediately sentenced to life in prison.
Foster’s plea brings an end to a case in which seven people were arrested initially and four were indicted in connection with the November 2008 shooting death of Cynthia Lynch, 43, at a remote campsite in St. Tammany Parish about 50 miles north of New Orleans.
Lynch, who lived in Tulsa, Okla., was recruited over the Internet to join the Sons of Dixie Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Foster, 45, of Bogalusa in neighboring Washington Parish, was its leader, taking the title of imperial wizard. The Sons of Dixie Knights had about 30 members at one time, but many had quit by the time Lynch was initiated, Foster’s wife, Theresa, told the SPLC’s Intelligence Report last year.
After Lynch, a loner diagnosed with bipolar disorder, arrived by bus in Louisiana, she stayed at the Fosters’ home (a local sheriff’s deputy was their landlord) for a few days before the initiation ceremony at a wooded campsite nine miles to the south. That’s where she was shot and killed by Foster, who was accompanied by four men and two women who were Sons of Dixie Knights members.
In trial testimony this week, one of Foster’s co-defendants, Frankie Stafford, said that Lynch alternated between being happy, sad and angry. She was initiated at a Saturday night ceremony where robed Klan members lit torches and shouted “White Power.” But the next day, she angrily cursed Foster in a long tirade at the campsite and yelled, “I want out.” She asked to be taken to a bus so she could return home. Stafford said he turned away when Foster shoved the woman to the ground. After he heard a gunshot, he turned to see Lynch grab her neck, fall onto a nearby tent and cry for help.
Stafford said he helped clean up the crime scene but refused to help Foster cut the bullet out of Lynch’s body. After entering his plea, Foster apologized to Lynch’s mother, Virginia Lynch, who attended the trial, and asked for her forgiveness.
The murder came to light after Stafford and one of Foster’s sons, Shane, drove to a convenience store and asked a clerk how they could get bloodstains out of their clothes.
Foster’s co-defendants were charged with lesser crimes, and all of them entered guilty pleas earlier. Stafford, 22, is serving a four-year sentence for obstruction of justice. Danielle Jones, 25, was sentenced to a year in prison for being an accessory after the fact. Shane Foster, 22, had “cognitive deficits,” according to a court-appointed psychiatrist, and had to undergo tutoring before being declared competent to stand trial. His mother told Intelligence Report that he suffered a brain injury when he was struck by a car at age 4 and that her husband manipulated him into joining the Klan. He pleaded guilty in March to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to three years in prison.