The conviction of a reputed Ku Klux Klansman in connection with the 1964slayings of two African-American teenagers in Mississippi marked a"satisfying"end to a long journey for justice, the brother of one of the victims and the CBC filmmaker who resurrected the cold case said Friday.
Thomas Moore told CBC News that he finally felt liberated after a Jackson, Miss., jury convicted James Ford Seale, 71,on Thursday of kidnapping and conspiracy in the deaths of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry HezekiahDee. Each count carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
"He did the crime and the jury from Mississippi spoke up yesterday," Moore said. "That was satisfying for me."
The charges came after interest in the case was rekindledwhen the CBC's David Ridgen and Moore tracked down Seale — whohad long been believed to be dead — living near where the two teenagers disappeared while hitchhiking on May 2, 1964.
According to the FBI, Charles Moore and his friend Deewere questioned by Seale and others and tortured in a nearby forest, locked in a trunk, driven to Louisiana, chained to a Jeep motor and some train rails, and dropped alive into the Mississippi River, where they drowned.
Their mangled torsos were discovered on July 13, 1964,more than two months later, during the search for Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney — three civil rights workers who disappeared June 21 the same year.
Thomas Moore's mother asked him not to do anything about his brother's killing, but during his investigation with Ridgen, he discovered her ownlife had been threatened toscare her awayfrom pursuing justice.
"For 41 years, prior to teaming up with David, I walked around with the chains of guilt, the chains of fear and shame," said Moore, a retired Vietnam veteran who spent 30 years in the U.S. military, faraway from his home state.
Ridgen first took notice of the cold case in 2004 while researching CBC archival footage of the civil rights workers' disappearance. Hetracked down Moore in Colorado and finally convinced him to return to Mississippi and revisit his brother's murder.
"It's been a challenging ride," said Ridgen of the three years he has devoted to makinghis award-winning documentary film Mississippi Cold Case.
"I'm just satisfied. I can't express it any other way right now."
Truth and reconciliation
In 1964, Seale, then 28, and Charles Edwards, then 31, were arrested in the original investigation, but soon released on a $5,000 bond. No grand jury or trial was ever held.
Edwards had lied for decades about his involvement, but granted immunity, he testified at Seale's trial that Dee and Moore were stuffed, alive, into the trunk of Seale's Volkswagen and driven to a farm.
Edwards said Seale told him laterthat Dee and Moore were attached to heavy weights and dumped alive into the river.
Edwards, a church deacon, then stunned the courtroom when he asked for forgiveness from the victims' families, which he repeated personally to Moore in an emotional meeting in a hotel hallway.
"I knew instantly that I was going to forgive him because I believe in the same God he does," Moore said Friday.
Although he doubted Seale would ever ask, Moore said he alsoforgives Seale for his brother's killing.
"I will forgive him because I have to move on with my life," he said. "That's part of those chains I've released from my soul."
"I just want to get back to Colorado and go fishing."