CBC crew follows Moore’s quest

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 17, 2005

NATCHEZ &045; A snippet of film in the archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Company led David Ridgen on a quest.

The CBC documentary producer sought out Thomas Moore, the brother of a Franklin County man murdered in 1964, when Ridgen saw about 90 seconds of a documentary about unsolved an civil rights murder case in Mississippi.

&uot;It’s a one-and-a-half-minute piece,&uot; Ridgen said. &uot;It shows all these sailors hauling in a body.

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&uot;It’s his brother’s body,&uot; he said Friday, gesturing to Thomas.

But the original documentary wasn’t even about Charles Moore and Henry Dee’s murders. It was about the killings of Andrew Goodman, James Cheney and Michael Schwerner, civil rights workers who were killed in Neshoba County in 1964.

Federal authorities were looking for the three men when they found two mutilated bodies &045; parts of bodies, really &045; in the Mississippi River south of Tallulah, La. At first no one could even determine whether they were white or black, or what sex they were.

When tests revealed both bodies were black men, the media turned its back, Ridgen said. Of the three missing civil rights workers, only Cheney was black. It was clear the bodies were not related to the case everyone was following.

Federal authorities stayed and investigated the Dee and Moore killings. Two suspects were later arrested but never tried. In recent years Thomas Moore has encouraged local, state and federal authorities to look into the murders.

But Ridgen, who saw the original documentary footage when working on a piece about the Neshoba case, believes the media &045; including CBC &045; let Moore and Dee down back in 1964.

&uot;We have a responsibility to follow up on that,&uot; Ridgen said. &uot;The media need to be accountable.&uot;

CBC covered the civil rights movement in Mississippi extensively, Ridgen said.

After he saw the footage of Charles Moore’s body, he began trying to contact Thomas. It took nearly a year to track him down. He convinced him to take part in the project, and the pair have been traveling companions for more than a week, visiting sites in Mississippi and looking for clues.

&uot;This is the most viable case that could go forward,&uot; Ridgen said of the civil rights cases still open. &uot;Every single day Thomas has uncovered new evidence.&uot;

Last week, U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton said he would put new emphasis on solving the case, in addition to the 1967 murder of Natchez’s Wharlest Jackson.

The Dee and Moore case was never closed, and in 1998 District Attorney Ronnie Harper decided to reinvestigate it. Finding evidence when there had been no trial was difficult, and many of the people involved were dead.

But Thomas Moore has believes the new focus on the case from local, state and federal officials will help finally bring his brother’s killers to justice.

And, at least on this trip, Moore and Ridgen have not stopped, driving from town to town, eating in the car on the way.

Moore knew revisiting the past would be difficult. &uot;I told my wife, you know this is going to be hard,&uot; he said. &uot;But I talked to my son and he said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’&uot;

The trip back to Mississippi this past week has brought Moore revelations large and small. He learned from a letter Ronnie Harper had that his brother was suspended from Alcorn because of a student protest over food in the cafeteria. For years, he had heard reports the protest was some sort of political event, but Moore never believed that his younger brother would have been involved in that.

&uot;He wasn’t involved in political stuff,&uot; Moore said.

Moore had also always heard rumors that the body identified as Henry Dee’s was headless. But research on this trip revealed to Moore that it was just part of the body, from the knees to the waist.

Moore and Ridgen will part ways sometime on Monday, after visiting the Civil Rights memorial in Montgomery, Ala., where Henry Dee and Charles Moore’s names are engraved along with other martyrs of the movement &045; Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr.

They don’t know when or if they will return to Mississippi, but both certainly hope someday they will be here to see a trial.

&uot;We’ve seen in the past that documentaries can drive these cases,&uot; Ridgen said. &uot;I wouldn’t exactly call it activist journalism. It’s a facilitating thing. It’s a great story, and Thomas is a great subject.&uot;