07/22/2005

Martyr's Brother Seeks Justice

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Thomas Moore is back home in Colorado after a weeklong push for justice in Mississippi. He ended his trek here Monday, paying a visit to the Civil Rights Memorial to see his brother's name on its somber black table.

Moore's crusade for convictions in the 1964 killings of his 19-year-old brother, Charles Eddie Moore, and a friend the same age, Henry Hezekiah Dee, helped prompt U. S. Attorney Dunn Lampton of Jackson to pledge to re-investigate the murders, along with the truck-bomb killing of Wharlest Jackson in Natchez in 1967. A meeting to discuss the cases is set for Wednesday.

Dee and Moore disappeared while hitchhiking along a Franklin County road in May 1964. Their unrecognizable bodies were discovered in July in the Mississippi River during the massive search for three civil rights workers murdered in Neshoba County.

"It hurt me a lot," Thomas Moore said. "It took two or three days just to determine the sex and race of the two bodies."

Two Klansmen — James Ford Seale and Charles Marcus Edwards — were arrested for the murders. Both were members of the Mississippi White Knights, the South's most violent Klan organization.

Edwards confessed to the FBI. Moore and Dee had been murdered, he said, because the White Knights believed they were Black Muslims plotting an uprising of local blacks, a plot that turned out to be a wild, unfounded rumor.

In his confession, Edward said he and Seale abducted the two young men and took then deep into the Homochitto National Forest, where they beat them unconscious. Then the Klansmen loaded their victims into a car and drove to the Louisiana side of the river. After tying heavy weights, including a Jeep motor block, to their bodies, they threw them in.

The FBI gave the confession and other evidence to state prosecutors, who were responsible for bringing murder charges. A Justice of the Peace dismissed all charges without explanation and without presenting the evidence to a grand jury.

Federal authorities reopened the case in 2000 after The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger reported that Dee and Moore were possibly killed on federal land in the Homochitto National Forest. Three years later, an assistant U.S. Attorney closed the investigation.

Now, prompted by the trial and conviction last month of former Klansman Edgar Ray Killen for the Neshoba County murders, federal authorities are taking another look at these unresolved cases.

"We just owe it to them," U. S. Attorney Lampton told The Clarion-Ledger. He met with Thomas Moore on July 13.

"Mr. Lampton told me he'd take a personal interest in the case," said Moore, a retired Army sergeant major who now counsels troubled youths in Colorado Springs. "I left his office with a lot of hope."

Moore was brought to Mississippi by David Ridgen, a documentary producer for the Canadian Broadcast Company, which arranged and paid for the trip.

Since 1989, authorities in Mississippi and six other states have re-examined 29 killings from the civil rights era, leading to 27 arrests and 22 convictions, including the June 21 conviction of Killen for his role in orchestrating the 1964 killings of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

Both Seale and Edwards still live in Franklin County.