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|FBI in Ferriday Friday on Frank Morris murder case; Finger found in 1964|
The lead investigator in the FBI's new probe of the December 1964 murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris was in Ferriday on Friday doing preliminary field work on the case.
Baron Lambert of the FBI's Alexandria field office and other agents are awaiting copies of the extensive document files on Morris stored at the bureau's archives in Washington, D.C. The Morris file is believed to be one of the largest and most comprehensive of all the cold case civil rights era murders.
Several agents have been reviewing some case documents during the past days. Once copies of Morris' file are made, agents will take a new look at those interviewed as witnesses and informants and those considered suspects 43 years ago.
The difference in forensics over the past four decades could provide a revealing new look at Morris' murder. One little known fact in Ferriday is that a portion of a man's finger was found near the building after the fire.
One source told the FBI that the finger was found on the afternoon following the fire. A high school teacher reportedly found the finger, which eventually wound up "into the hands of" yet another person who "allegedly had buried it."
On Dec. 19, 1964, an FBI confidential report reveals that the bureau took possession of the finger from a person who initially "advised that she knew nothing about what happened to Frank Morris or about a finger which was found in the area of the building the afternoon after the fire.
"However, eventually, she made available which appeared to be the remains of a finger or a toe. She advised that she was sacred to death and did not want to get involved. She would furnish no other information."
According to one FBI document, the finger was found "approximately 20 feet from the building which was burned and in the area" where two suspects "would have been." Those two suspects, who fled in a car parked in the alley by Morris' store, were described by Morris as in their early to mid-30s.
Both men wore khakis and were said to be of small to medium build. One man, said Morris, was "real white." One pointed a single-barrel shotgun at Morris and the other poured what may have been gasoline and lit the match that set the building on fire. Morris died in the Concordia Parish hospital at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 14, 1964, four days after the arson of his shoe shop.
At the FBI lab in Washington, D.C., in late December 1964, a pathologist and "several anthropologists," including one from the Smithsonian Institution, consulted in an effort "to determine the race, sex and age of the source" of the finger. The team could not make a conclusive determination, but found, in general, that "the size, color, condition of the fingernail and the amount of debris removed...indicate an adult male source, possibly Negroid."
Morris was not missing any fingers, according to a spokesman at the Concordia Parish Hospital, said one FBI report.
A hand-written note on one document revealed that the "skin and fingernail of a finger" were studied, but "no bone or muscular tissue present. The specimen is dried and dark, which is typical of dried skin regardless of race. Specimen was in formaldehyde. This, plus absence of tissue, precludes reliable grouping tests."
New technology, however, could shed new light on that evidence, plus on some of the material gathered at the crime scene, including soil samples, portions of a waist band and neck band of clothing removed from Morris at the hospital, debris from the inside and outside of the building, materials near the window broken out just prior to the fire and a five-gallon container found inside the "west window."
New answers might also be discovered on other questions FBI agents had for lab workers, including whether the five-gallon container was filled with inflammable liquid, the composition of the liquid and where it might have been sold, whether the liquid was found on Morris' clothing and "whether evidence is found to show that the can was full of the liquid."
|Frank Morris Murder Series|