Decades can’t silence cries for justice

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 1999

Reading the details of a 35-year-old murder case in the pages of our newspaper this week sent chills up the spine.

Personally, I do not believe I will ever pass through the Homochitto National Forest without remembering what allegedly happened to Henry Dee and Charles Moore in the summer of 1964.

The two black men from Franklin County were last seen alive on May 2, 1964.

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Two men were arrested in connection with their deaths. One confessed to picking up the two hitchhikers and beating them. But he claimed the two victims were left, alive in the woods outside of Meadville.

Two months later authorities found their mutilated, decomposing bodies hidden in a Louisiana swamp.

Charges against the two white suspects were later dropped.

If such violence hadn’t been so commonplace in the South back then, even the location of their bodies may have remained a mystery.

Their remains were found while federal authorities engaged in a massive hunt for three civil rights workers who disappeared in Philadelphia. Finding the bodies of Dee and Moore is now a tiny footnote in the story of the three civil rights workers. The three, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were later found murdered.

Their murders turned the national spotlight onto the bloody treatment of blacks in the South.

However the beam of that spotlight never quite made it to the scene of the Dee and Moore’s murder. Nor did it shine upon the swamp South of Tallulah, La., where their bodies were stashed.

For decades now their memories have haunted everyone surrounding the case as those responsible eluded justice.

From the men who slaughtered the two men simply because God made their skin color darker to possible witnesses and accomplices who after 35 years may still be hiding from justice, all are haunted by their ghosts.

And then there is the families of the victims. Their pain is obvious. Living with a part of you missing – a son, a brother, a husband, a daddy.

Attempting to imagine what that must be like is futile because there’s no possible way to feel that way without living through it.

So now, after decades of suffering through perhaps the most cruel injustice imaginable, family members of the two victims have a glimmer of hope. Authorities have reopened the case and will examine whether or not enough evidence exists to bring the case to trial.

Sadly this isn’t the only such case. The police files are filled with dozens of them.

What is sadder still is some critics say such cases should be left alone and unsolved. They argue it is simply a waste of taxpayers’ money to begin searching for decades old skeletons in our closets.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Think about what kind of person it takes to murder a complete stranger, mutilate their bodies, then continue on with life as usual.

What kind of cold guilt must course through the veins of anyone who could commit such a mean, gruesome act? It is quite likely a guilt that will stop at nothing to protect itself from being caught at all costs.

Anyone who doubts such animals still live among us should take a long look into the forest where two young black men were last seen. Listen carefully and see if you can hear their ghosts crying out for justice.

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 446-5172 ext. 241 or by e-mail at