Cracked cold case: the Justice Department's 2007 conviction of the 1964 murders of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee

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Date: Fall 2007
From: The Forensic Examiner(Vol. 16, Issue 3)
Publisher: KSA Media, LLC
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,570 words
Lexile Measure: 1280L

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Magical thinking is a component of folklore, certainly of Southern folklore, and the most pervasive of magical notions is that a secret can be kept. In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the persistence of this belief is evidenced in retrospect by the behavior of those in white hoods who imagined that their identities were secret, that disappearances would go unquestioned, and that real events do not leave a trail.

On May 2, 1964, two 19-year-old black men disappeared from Meadville, Mississippi. A month later, three civil rights workers also disappeared in Mississippi; but this disappearance was actually investigated (Godoy and Lohr, 2007). Federal agents who came down to Mississippi to look for the three missing civil rights workers found what remained of the bodies of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, the two black men who had disappeared. They arrested two white men for their murders: James Ford Seale, 29, and Charles Marcus Edwards, 31.

Edwards admitted to the FBI that he and Seale picked up Moore and Dee, took them to the forest, and beat them; however, he says the two were alive when he and Seale left. Edwards later denied his statements (Godoy and Lohr, 2007). The FBI questioned Seale, claiming knowledge of his guilt. Seale, without denying his responsibility, told the agents they would have to prove he was to blame for the deaths (Lohr). It took 43 years, but on June 14, 2007, a federal jury in Jackson convicted Seale of kidnapping and conspiracy in connection with a murder. He now faces life in prison at the age of 71.

Seale, who pleaded not guilty to the charges, still is not talking, but at long last, other people are. Here is the story, as it has been patched together, of that sad day:

The two young hitchhiking victims had stopped for ice cream at a roadside stand on a hot May afternoon in rural Mississippi (Bates, 2007). Federal prosecutors charge that Seale stopped to pick up the two men (Lohr, 2007); Jerry Mitchell of The Clarion-Ledger says the Klan suspected gunrunning in the county [Franklin County, MS] and thought Moore and Dee might know something about it (Inskeep, 2007). FBI documents indicate that Klansmen picked up the men in Meadville and took them into the Homochitto National Forest, where they were brutally beaten, taken across the state line to Louisiana in the trunk of a car, tied to an engine block, and dumped in the Mississippi River so that they would drown (Lohr, 2007; "Recent Discoveries," 2007). Mitchell spoke with Seale in 2000, and Seale denied having been a member of the Klan or knowing anyone in the Klan. However, Seale's brother had been a confirmed member of the Klan, and his dad was widely assumed to be a member as well (Inskeep, 2007).

On July 12, 1964, the lower half of a black man's body was discovered near Tallulah, Louisiana, and the body of another black man was found the next day....

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A168212203