Cold Case Initiative
November 19, 2009
FBI discusses the Cold Cast Initiative through which the FBI reviews unsolved cases including racially-charged homicides or allegations to see if additional information exists or they have the federal jurisdiction to prosecute subjects today and bring justice to victims and families.
Mr. Schiff: Hello I’m Neal Schiff and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. There are civil rights cases, murder cases that happened 30, 40 years ago. The FBI, for several years, has been working hard trying to solve these homicides.
Ms. Deitle: “W hile in the majority of our cases we do understand what happened, it’s been very difficult for us to find the families of these victims.”
Mr. Schiff: That’s Special Agent Cynthia Deitle. She is chief of the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit in the Criminal Investigative Division, the CID, at Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Deitle: “As part of our initiative, we’ve taken a look at over 100 racially-charged homicides, or allegations that they were racially-charged homicides, primarily in the South. And we’ve spent countless agent-hours tracking down these cases and trying to figure out if, first of all, if these are racially-charged homicides and if they were unsolved or maybe inadequately solved and if we have federal or state jurisdiction to prosecute the subjects today.”
Mr. Schiff: These cases never really were closed?
Ms. Deitle: “No, they were never closed. These are cases that maybe no one looked at. We’ve seen some of our cases where we are the first law enforcement agency to investigate an allegation that somebody was the victim of a racially-charged homicide.”
Mr. Schiff: How important is this effort as FBI agents try to solve these cases and bring those responsible for murders to justice?
Ms. Deitle: “I think it’s incredibly important that we try to not only see if there are any perpetrators or subjects that we can arrest and prosecute, but also that we can provide closure to the family and let them know what happened to their loved one, maybe 30 or 40 years ago, and also to possibly correct history; to try and let the public know what happened to this individual at that time, so there is an adequate reporting of what happened.”
Mr. Schiff: There are 33 cases and the FBI is releasing the names of the victims.
Ms. Deitle: “These are victims which we have been unable to find their next of kin. We’ve tried every method that we can think of, of every investigative technique that we have in our arsenal, to try and track down a victim’s parents, or siblings, or surviving spouse, and we have just been unable to do so.”
Mr. Schiff: Could you give us the list so that should any of our listeners know of anyone from any of the families or friends of these people that they could let the FBI know?
Ms. Deitle: “We have, I’ll start with our Atlanta Division: out of Atlanta we have A.C. Hall, Arthur James Hill, Ernest Hunter, Maybelle Mahone, and Clarence Horatious Pickett.
In our Birmingham Division we have Nathan Johnson, William Lewis Moore, and Johnny Robinson.
Out of Columbia, South Carolina, we have James Waymers.
In Dallas, we have John Earl Reese.
In Jacksonville, we have Joseph Hill Dumas.
In Jackson, Mississippi, we have Eli Brumfield; Silas Ernest Caston; Jimmie Lee Griffin; Ernest Jells; William Henry Lee or John Patrick Lee, it’s probably either one of those two names; George Love; Neimiah Montgomery; Jessie James Shelby; Ollie Shelby—I don’t think there’s any relation between those two—Ed Smith; Isaiah Taylor.
Out of our Mobile Division we have Hiliard Brooks, Rogers Hamilton, Bessie McDowell, James Earl Motley, Archie Wooden.
And then out of our New Orleans Division we have Izell Henry; and we have four victims from one case and those four victims are David Pitts, Albert Pitts, Marshall Johns, and Ernest McPharland.
In our New York Division we have Jimmy Powell.
And finally in our San Antonio Division, we have Preston Bolden, Ann Thomas, and Ladislado Ureste.”
Mr. Schiff: Could you give us an example of a few of these cases?
Ms. Deitle: “In Birmingham, Alabama, there was a victim that is part of our Cold Case Initiative whose family we’ve been unable to locate, and as I mentioned, his name is William Lewis Moore. On April 23rd, 1963, William Moore was shot and killed by an individual near Attalla, Alabama. Moore was a postal worker from Baltimore, Maryland, and a former Marine, who had begun a solo march from Chattanooga, Tennessee en route to Jackson, Mississippi, to deliver a letter to the governor urging the integration of the University of Mississippi.
Another one that I’ll tell you a little bit about is John Earl Reese out of our Dallas Division. On October 22nd, 1955, John Reese, a 16-year-old African-American male, was shot and killed along with two other African-American females by two men who fired several rounds into a predominantly African-American café in Gregg County, Texas.
And finally I’ll tell you about Rogers Hamilton in our Mobile, Alabama Division. On October 22nd, 1957, one or two men came to Rogers Hamilton’s home in Lowndes County, Alabama, and took him out of his house. Hamilton got into the truck with the men. His mother found Hamilton’s body in the road. He had been shot and killed.
This kind of gives you a good idea of the types of cases that we’ve been investigating for the last three years as part of our Cold Case Initiative and, while in the majority of our cases we do understand what happened, it’s been very difficult for us to find the families of these victims.”
Mr. Schiff: The FBI has 56 field offices around the United States. I would think, in one way or another, they are all involved.
Ms. Deitle: “Although our Cold Case Initiative has been primarily focused on 17 divisions, the majority of which are in the South, many of the divisions have played a part in the Cold Case Initiative because we realize that a lot of these victims’ family members have migrated to the Northwest or to the Southwest and so we’ve had investigative leads that have been generated outside of the Southern divisions.”
Mr. Schiff: How do FBI agents go around investigating and trying to find not only the next of kin but the perpetrators?
Ms. Deitle: “I think the agents who have been assigned to cases in our Cold Case Initiative have done an amazing job with trying to solve a crime that occurred 30 or 40 years ago. Primarily it’s been through liaison and working with local law enforcement officials in that town or that county where the crime occurred. Its involved researching court records and grand jury transcripts. It’s also involved walking through cemeteries and walking through Departments of Vital Statistics to figure out what happened.”
Mr. Schiff: Are they going into neighborhoods and talking to people who do live in the areas where these people either lived or the crime occurred and going in diners and shops?
Ms. Deitle: “We’ve had a lot of success actually going to barber shops and schools, beauty salons, any establishment that existed at the time of the crime. We’ve been able to go back and talk to the owner, talk to employees who were still working there at the time of the incident, and try to figure out if they have any information about what happened, even if it’s just rumor at this point.”
Mr. Schiff: This is like taking a huge puzzle with a million little pieces and trying to put a picture together, isn’t it?
Ms. Deitle: “It is. It’s been very rewarding work, not only for myself but for everyone in the Civil Rights Unit that have been assigned to assist with the Cold Case Initiative, and I would even venture to say the agents, the dozens and dozens of agents who have worked on these cases, it’s been very rewarding for them as well.”
Mr. Schiff: How can the public help?
Ms. Deitle: “The best assistance that we can get from the public at this point is to try and help us find these families. To go to www.fbi.gov on the Internet; to contact your local (FBI) field office if you think you have a relative or a neighbor that maybe was a victim of a racially-charged homicide 30 or 40 years ago. And to listen to this podcast and if you have some idea that you may think you know somebody on the list of names that I just read; if you think you know that person or that person’s family, please call your local FBI office.”
Mr. Schiff: There’s more information about these cold cases on the Internet at www.fbi.gov. As Agent Deitle said, should you know anything about what happened, or know friends of a family or family members of victims, call your nearest FBI office. That’s our show for this week. Thanks for listening. I’m Neal Schiff of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.