FBI Seeks Help in Locating Relatives of Civil Rights Era Murder Victims

FBI photo/ courtesy of Keith Beauchamp
FBI photo/ courtesy of Keith Beauchamp
By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — Many decades later, the FBI still won’t let go of the dozens of unsolved racially motivated Civil Rights Era murders.

On Wednesday, at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., the FBI’s Civil Unit Chief Cynthia Deitle announced that the agency was looking for help locating next of kin in 33 cold case murders to let families know what happened to their loved ones and to possibly get more investigative leads.

Deitle’s latest effort was part of the FBI’s initiative publicly launched in 2007 to try and solve more than 100  Civil Rights era murders in the 1950s and 1960s. She spoke at an airing on campus of a documentary film by  Keith Beauchamp on a botched prosecution of a 1964 murder.

Agent Cynthia Deitle/fbi photo
Agent Cynthia Deitle/fbi photo

Later that day,  the FBI released a statement by her in which she said:

“Our agents have worked tirelessly, reaching out to victims’ families and interviewing witnesses, along with police officers, prosecutors and judges.”

“We’ve also received tips and other help from the public, the media, academia, and our partners at organizations like the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Urban League,” she said.

The FBI said of the  108 cold cases it is looking at, three have been referred for state prosecution. Others have gone unsolved  for the following reasons:

  • The suspects are deceased (47 percent of the cases)
  • Individuals who were tried in the state court  can’t be prosecuted again in federal court because of double jeapordy,
  • Witnesses died and evidence was destroyed.

Read a list of cold cases

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