- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) The cold-case trial got under way yesterday in the deaths of two black teenagers who were beaten and dumped still alive into the Mississippi River during the state’s dark days of racial brutality.

Ku Klux Klansman James Ford Seale faces federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges, which may be bolstered by potentially damaging testimony from another Klansmen. U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate began questioning prospective jurors yesterday .

“We’re at the doorstep of justice,” said Thomas Moore, the brother of one of the victims, Charles Eddie Moore.

For decades, books and press accounts treated the killings of Charles Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee as footnotes in Mississippi’s troubled history. They were 19-year-old friends who were hitchhiking on May 2, 1964, near Meadville, where carloads of Ku Klux Klansmen were chasing rumors of an armed insurrection by black people in the area.

Recent court records said the two were driven to the Homochitto National Forest and beaten, then stuffed into a trunk and driven more than 70 miles to the Mississippi River near Vicksburg. They were weighted down with engine parts and dumped, still breathing, into the river.

Their bodies were found about two months later when authorities were conducting a massive search for slain civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman, who disappeared from central Mississippi’s Neshoba County on June 21, 1964.

Mr. Seale and reputed Klansman Charles Marcus Edwards were arrested in 1964 in the deaths of Mr. Dee and Mr. Moore. But the FBI was consumed by the “Mississippi Burning” investigation of the three civil rights workers, and the Dee-Moore case was turned over to local authorities, who dropped all charges against the men.

The Justice Department in 2000 reopened an investigation.

Mr. Edwards has been granted immunity and is expected to testify for the prosecution.

Thomas Moore and two of Mr. Dee’s sisters Thelma Collins, 70, of Springfield, La.; and Mary Nell Byrd, 61, of Natchez, Miss. spoke to the Associated Press on Tuesday in Jackson during an interview arranged by Canadian Broadcasting Corp. documentary maker David Ridgen.

Since 2005, Mr. Ridgen and Thomas Moore have pushed federal officials to reopen the case. Mr. Ridgen’s film, “Mississippi Cold Case,” is scheduled to air Saturday night on MSNBC.

“I try not to think about it so much because, you know, it’s done now,” Miss Collins said of her brother’s death. “But every time I think about it, I shed a tear.”

Miss Collins and Mr. Moore said they are prepared for any outcome in the Seale trial.

“I just have it in my heart that they’re going to do the right thing,” Miss Collins said.

Mr. Moore already has planned what he will do after the trial, regardless of the outcome.

“The last thing that I’m going to do when I leave Mississippi, I’m going to go to that cemetery, that Mount Olive Cemetery. I’m going to tell Charles Moore, ‘I told you that I see it to the end.’”

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