• 63°

Moore: 1964 case unlikely to be reopened says chances slim

By By William F. West / community editor
Nov. 15, 2002
State Attorney General Mike Moore said Thursday that chances of reopening the 1964 Neshoba County civil rights slayings are slim because of the recent deaths of key players and witnesses.
Former Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Andrew Rainey Sr. died last week; Rainey's former chief deputy, Cecil Price Sr., died in May 2001. Moore said Price had been cooperating in the case and was willing to testify.
Moore was in Meridian to speak at a meeting of the Mississippi Sheriffs Association, which ended Thursday. Moore spoke about the Neshoba County case in an interview before his speech.
Rainey, Price and 16 others were tried in federal court in October 1967 on charges they conspired to violate the federal civil rights of three men who were murdered in June 1964.
Rainey and seven others were acquitted of the charges. Price and six others were convicted. Jurors reached no verdict on the remaining three.
Mississippi has never brought murder charges against anyone in the case. Moore and investigators had been studying the case to see if they could reopen it.
The case dates back to June 21, 1964.
Civil rights activists James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner disappeared after going to Neshoba County to investigate a church burning. Their bodies were found Aug. 4, 1964, buried in an earthen dam.
Chaney was from Meridian, while Goodman and Schwerner were from New York. They were part of the Freedom Summer 1964 drive to register blacks to vote in Mississippi.
Moore said that he hadn't contacted Rainey recently. The attorney general declined to discuss what role Rainey may have had in the case if the state had reopened it.
Moore said the Neshoba County case has at least one positive point: Ku Klux Klan leader Sam Bowers, who was one of the six convicted with Price, is now in state prison.
Bowers was sentenced in 1998 to life for the 1966 murder of civil rights leader Vernon Dahmer of Hattiesburg.