Civil Rights Murder Case ‘Mississippi Burning’ Closed

A memorial for three civil rights workers, who were killed in 1964 sits in front of Mt. Zion Methodist Church, near Philadelphia, Miss., Sunday, June 19, 2005. Memorial services for James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were held Sunday at the church. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)  DANNY JOHNSTON,
A memorial for three civil rights workers, who were killed in 1964 sits in front of Mt. Zion Methodist Church, near Philadelphia, Miss., Sunday, June 19, 2005. Memorial services for James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were held Sunday at the church. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston) DANNY JOHNSTON,

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood announced an end to the active federal and state investigation into the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers near Philadelphia, Miss.

“There’s nothing else that can be done,” he said in a news conference Monday.

“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,” he said. “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.”

The Justice Department also released a 48-page report on the case. It’s the latest in a wave of civil rights cold cases to be closed for good by the department.

In 2005, Hood and District Attorney Mark Duncan prosecuted Edgar Ray Killen, the only suspect ever tried for murder in the killings of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

On the anniversary of the killings, a Neshoba County jury convicted Killen of manslaughter. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison and remains in the State Penitentiary at Parchman, Miss.

Now 91, Killen has lost all of his appeals and refuses to discuss the case.

Hood said he informed relatives of the victims about the decision to close the case.

“We sincerely appreciate the blood, sweat and tears of the FBI agents, Department of Justice officials, Navy Seabees, the U.S. attorney’s office and local court offices that assisted in the case,” he said. “The FBI agents who came into Mississippi faced threats and harassment in addition to the oppressive heat of a Mississippi summer. Despite a hostile environment, these law enforcement officers remained solely focused on locating the missing and solving this heinous crime.”

He thanked the Justice Department’s Barry Kowalski and William Nolan as well as FBI Special Agent Jeromy Turner.

“The state of Mississippi was committed to seeing this investigation through to fruition and to moving forward,” Hood said. “We should all acknowledge that our diversity is this state’s greatest asset. That remarkable diversity manifests itself in the unique culture we share with the world.”

There are few criminal cases in the state that have drawn more national and international headlines than the killings of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, which the FBI dubbed the Mississippi Burning investigation.

The three civil rights workers arrived in Neshoba County that day to investigate the burning of an African-American church and the beating of members in Neshoba County when sherriff’s deputy Cecil Price arrested and jailed them.

After 10 p.m., he released them and later helped Klansmen intercept the trio in high-speed chase down Mississippi 19.

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Source: USA Today | Jerry Mitchell, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger