Another Civil Rights Era Murder Solved?

This one apparently solved by the work of a local newspaper. Morris may have been murdered by the KKK for nothing other than the perspicacity of being a black man operating a successful business with both black and white customers.

Frank Morris (in the apron and visor) is seen standing in front of his shoe shop in the 1950s. He was killed when his shoe shop burned down in Ferriday, La., in 1964.

Frank Morris was in the Apron and visor in the middle of the group standing in front of his store

 

Paper names ex-Klansman in civil rights murder

Early on the morning of December 10, 1964, Frank Morris ran out of his shoe store, his clothes and skin on fire.

People who saw him in the hospital afterward said the African-American businessman was so badly burned they didn’t recognize him.

“Only the bottom of his feet weren’t burned. He was horrible to look at,” said the Rev. Robert Lee Jr., now 96.

Morris survived for four days before dying — long enough to tell the FBI that two men had broken into his store while he slept, smashed windows, doused the place in gasoline and told him: “Get back in there, nigger.”

Locals in Ferriday, the small Louisiana town where Morris lived and died, remember him as having both white and black customers, which was rare for black businesses in the segregated South in the days before civil rights. He would come out of his store onto the sidewalk so white female customers wouldn’t have to go inside alone.

No one has ever been charged with killing him. But Wednesday, more than 46 years after his death at age 51, a local newspaper has named two men it believes were part of a Ku Klux Klan “wrecking crew” that torched his store and murdered him.

One, Arthur Spencer, is still alive. The second, O.C. “Coonie” Poissot, died in 1992.

The Concordia Sentinel, based in Ferriday, reports Spencer’s son and the brother of his ex-wife both say Spencer told them he was involved in the killing.

Spencer’s ex-wife, Brenda Rhodes, says Poissot told her that he and Spencer were on the wrecking crew that burned Morris’s store.

“It came at a time of great lawlessness in this parish, when the Klan was in control of this parish — or if not in control, a great influence,” said Sentinel editor Stanley Nelson, using the Louisiana term for county.

The newspaper’s sources all indicated that the Klan wrecking crew didn’t necessarily expect Morris to be in the store when they burned it.

Spencer’s former brother-in-law, Bill Frasier, said he’d once asked Spencer if he ever killed anyone.

“We did accidentally one time,” Spencer said, according to Frasier.

Sentinel editor Nelson said many racially motivated killings in that era were done by people who might not have planned to commit murder — but should have known what they were doing.

“Almost all of the people that were killed in those days, no one set out to kill,” he said. Some beatings got too violent, for example, he said.

But, he added, “When you go to burn a building, you run the risk that a person is going to be there.” Continue reading

Camden 5 Case Solved After 30 Years

This is an amazing story of raw perseverance by a group of police,  finally leading to solving a 30 year old case.

A break in decades-old disappearance of 5 New Jersey teens

The bodies were never found. The presumed crime scene burned to the ground nearly 32 years ago. One of the three suspects is dead.

But police in Newark, N.J., said Tuesday that more than three decades after five teenage boys vanished on a sweltering summer night, they have charged two men with luring them into a home, locking them inside, and setting it on fire.

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The alleged motive: To punish the teens for apparently swiping marijuana from one of the suspects.

“The mystery has now been solved,” said Robert Laurino, acting prosecutor of Essex County, as he displayed two large, color photographs of the arrested men — Lee Anthony Evans, 56, and Philander Hampton, 53.Laurino said the two were “very very quiet” when police knocked on their doors Monday, cuffed them and led them into the rainy night to be jailed. Each was held on $5-million bail.

“More than likely, they did believe this was behind them,” Laurino said of the men.

The crime has long cast a cloud over a city that struggles with violent crime.

The disappearances mystified the city, frustrated the police and brought despair to relatives with each false lead.

No crime has hung “as hard and as heavy” on Newark, said Mayor Cory Booker.

The dead teens — who had been friends for years — were known as the Clinton Avenue Five, for the last place they were seen alive. Laurino said they “essentially disappeared off the face of the earth” Aug. 20, 1978.

Randy Johnson, 16; Melvin Pittman, 17, Ernest Taylor, 17; and Alvin Turner, 16, all lived in Newark. Michael McDowell, 16, came from nearby East Orange. The five would often gather to shoot hoops and sometimes took odd jobs with Evans, a local contractor.

Police said Evans had long been suspected of involvement in the case, because the boys were last seen getting into his pickup truck.

But there was no evidence, no corpses, and no witnesses to a crime — until 18 months ago, when someone came forward. The witness, whom police did not identify, cracked the case.

more about “Camden 5 Case Solved After 30 Years“, posted with vodpod
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