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|Frank Morris murder case reopened; FBI agent assigned|
The U.S. Department of Justice has reopened its investigation into the 1964 murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris.
An FBI agent from the Alexandria field office has been assigned the case and is expected to visit Ferriday in the coming days.
"This is such a good thing," said Morris' granddaughter, Rosa Ann Morris Williams, when told this week that the case, which has been cold for more than four decades, was being reopened. "I am so glad, so appreciative."
She was 12-years-old when her grandfather died. At the age of 24 she moved to Las Vegas, NV, where she lives today.
"When it happened, everything was just a rush and there has never been any closure on this," said Williams. "Somebody did this to my grandfather. We want to know who it was. We've never gotten any answers. Maybe we will now."
Morris died four days after his shoe shop was set on fire around 2 a.m. on Dec. 10, 1964, by two white men believed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan. Morris' grandson and an employee, who were asleep in living quarters in the back of the store, escaped the blaze.
Morris, however, who was forced at gun point back inside the building, suffered third degree burns "over 100 percent" of his body, according to one FBI document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Morris died later at the Concordia Parish Hospital.
Morris did not identify his killers but said his attackers were "two white friends," the Rev. Robert Lee of Clayton, 93, told The Concordia Sentinel. Lee visited with Morris shortly before he died 43 years ago. An attempt by two Catholic priests to get Morris to name his attackers was not successful.
On Jan. 21, 1965, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice noted in a memorandum "that law enforcement officers may have been involved." Two unidentified officers with the Ferriday Police Department -- each reported to be "new" at their posts -- were questioned in the FBI investigation as well as numerous other individuals. The names of all the witnesses, and the suspects, are left blank in the documents.
FBI spokesman Stephen Kodak said 133 cases were referred to the FBI by the Southern Law Poverty Center (SLPC), the NAACP and the National Urban League. Of those cases, the FBI determined that "95 merited more work," said Kodak.
These were assigned to 17 FBI field offices.
The cases which are now being assigned agents, such as Morris', might still be solved, Kodak said, because "new witnesses and old witnesses" might still be able to assist an investigation.
"But one of the most important things," he noted, "is are there any suspects still alive?"
SLPC identified Morris' case as one investigated intensely by the FBI in 1964 and 1965 and one that might stand a chance of still being solved, adding, "An extensive Justice Department investigation was conducted, but the outcome is unclear."
For the past weeks, Syracuse University law professor Janis McDonald has been reviewing FBI documents and is amassing a team of law students -- now totaling 23 and growing -- to reassess old FBI documents and assist in developing leads in the case. McDonald was contacted by the FBI last week and told the university's assistance was welcomed.
SLPC said that between 1952 and 1968 scores died "under circumstances suggesting they were the victims of racially motivated violence." In addition to Morris, 11 others were killed under questionable circumstances in 1964 alone, according SLPC.
Other unsolved Louisiana cases include Izell Henry, Greensburg, 1954; Albert Pitts, David Pitts, Marshall Johnson and Ernest McPharland, Monroe, 1960; Marshall Scott Jr., New Orleans, 1965; John Wesley Wilder, Ruston, 1965; and Carrie Brumfield, Franklinton, 1967.
Two other cases in neighboring Adams County, MS, include Clifton Walker, 1964; and Vincent Dahmon, Natchez, 1966.
Yet another case is scheduled to go to trial next week in Jackson, MS. James Ford Seale, 71, has pled not guilty to federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges in connection with the abductions, beatings and killing on May 2, 1964, of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore in Mississippi
Seale had Concordia ties and on Nov. 18, 1970, he was the lone survivor of the parish's deadliest air disaster ever. Seale's life was spared when he miraculously landed his single-engine Cessna on the airstrip at the Concordia Parish Airport near Vidalia after colliding with a twin-engine Bonanza with five people aboard, all of whom perished.
In 1975, when Seale was a Vidalia policeman, he arrested a city judge for DWI and later testified against the official in court. The judge was convicted.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|