Attorney General Jim Hood has announced the FBI’s decision to close the haunting case surrounding the death of three young civil rights workers, at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan more than five decades after the three men were killed.
“The FBI, my office and other law enforcement agencies have spent decades chasing leads, searching for evidence and fighting for justice for the three young men who were senselessly murdered on June 21, 1964,” said Hood. “It has been a thorough and complete investigation. I am convinced that during the last 52 years, investigators have done everything possible under the law to find those responsible and hold them accountable; however, We have determined that there is no likelihood of any additional convictions. Absent any new information presented to the FBI or my office, this case will be closed.”
It was on June 21, 1964 that Michael Schwerner (white), James Chaney (Black), and Andrew Goodman (white) traveled to Neshoba County following the June 16 KKK-organized burning of Black church, Mt. Zion Methodist. While they were leaving, the three men were stopped for speeding by Neshoba County Deputy Cecil Price, and were held in the county jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi for hours. They weren’t released until after dark, which is when their vehicle was chased by a mob of Klansmen from both Philadelphia and Meridian, Mississippi. Soon, they were reported missing.
Two days later, their vehicle was discovered burned. After a 44-day long search conducted by the FBI and other local officials, the men were discovered shot to death and buried in an earthen dam. While they were missing, Mississippi law enforcement attempted to downplay the disappearance as a hoax to boost popularity for the Civil Rights movement.
While Deputy Price, along with seven others, were later convicted on federal conspiracy charges, no one was convicted for the murders of the men. It was only decades later, when the case was reopened, that Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen would be sentenced to a 60-year term for manslaughter. No one else would be charged, and on Monday [June 20, 2016], Attorney General Hood announced that any further prosecution would be unlikely, officially closing the case for good.
“Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner gave their lives while struggling to advance the cause of civil rights for all,” says Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Though the reinvestigation into their heinous deaths has formally closed, we must all honor their legacy by forging ahead and continuing the fight to ensure that the founding promise of America is true for all of its inhabitants.”