Forty-five years ago Gene McLain of Vidalia, then 19 and living in Ferriday, witnessed a scene so disturbing involving then-Concordia Parish Sheriff's Deputy Frank DeLaughter that it left McLain shaken for days.
McLain said he knew DeLaughter.
"He tried hard to recruit me in the Klan," McLain said, "but I refused to join."
But still McLain said he was shocked at what he saw at the Ferriday jail.
"It happened around the time a black man's car was found near the bowling alley and the man was missing," said McLain. "I didn't know it then, but now I know that the missing man who owned that car was Joe-Ed Edwards."
McLain, a white man, said he watched briefly from outside the Ferriday jail in the summer of 1964 as DeLaughter beat a man on the inside.
McLain is not the only person speaking out this week. Two other men, both black, were each taken to the Ferriday jail on different occasions by DeLaughter in the 1960s. One was rescued by his father, one was severely beaten.
While DeLaughter did serve time in federal prison in the 1970s for police brutality, the three men who are speaking out for the first time about their experiences with DeLaughter more than four decades ago recount horrors many allegedly experienced in the Ferriday jail at the hands of the 6-4, 250-pound deputy, who the FBI investigated for years.
McLain had been on Lake St. John and had just arrived in Ferriday when he turned on Tennessee Street, and passed the Concordia Sentinel building on his left before coming to the next building on his left which housed the Ferriday police department, jail and fire department.
"Why I made that turn I don't know because it was not the route I normally took home," said McLain.
As he passed the newspaper office, McLain said he saw a "short, red-headed, heavy set" State Trooper standing outside the Ferriday jail. At about the same time, McLain heard screams coming from the jail and through a small window he said he saw the back of Frank DeLaughter's head as the deputy raised "what looked like a white 2 x 4 or piece of wood and was hitting somebody with it. Every time he raised and lowered it someone would scream so I knew someone was being beaten."
McLain said he saw three police cars in the parking lot -- one belonging to DeLaughter, a second belonging to Deputy Bill Ogden and a third belonging to the State Trooper.
"I knew everybody's car," said McLain.
McLain said he asked the trooper what was going on.
"He told me, 'I believe you need to leave,'" said McLain. "I drove off but I felt I needed to do something about it. I was 18 or 19 years old and did the only thing I could think of to do."
McLain said he drove to Guy Serio's grocery store. Serio, now deceased, was a Ferriday merchant who had previously employed McLain.
"Mr. Serio was an alderman and he worked on his books at night," said McLain. "I tapped on the door and Mr. Serio let me in. I said, 'Mr. Serio I think somebody is being killed at the jail.' I told him what I saw."
He said Serio advised him "to forget it. He was trying to help me and he said, 'Gene, it's best you not get involved in that.' I went on my way but I couldn't get those screams out of my head."
A few months ago, McLain said he was shocked to read in The Sentinel comments by Joe-Ed Edwards' cousin, Carl Ray Thompson, who is now an alderman in Clayton. In that story, The Sentinel reported Thompson's account of when he and three friends were taken by DeLaughter to the Ferriday jail in the summer of 1964 just days after Edwards went missing and his car found along the highway.
Thompson said he was not involved in any crime in Clayton, as DeLaughter charged, but still spent a harrowing night in the Ferriday jail. Thompson said DeLaughter beat his three companions with a white fire hose throughout the night. Thompson said the young men screamed so loudly that their voices reminded him of "pigs squealing."
Gene McLain said once he read in The Sentinel Thompson's account of that night, he realized "that the white object I saw being used to beat a man in the Ferriday jail was a fire hose."
Transported by DeLaughter to the parish jail in Vidalia the next morning, Thompson said the four teenagers were crowded into the back seat by the deputy. Soon, he said, they passed the bowling alley where Edwards' car had only recently been found on the highway. At that moment, Thompson said DeLaughter looked through the rear-view mirror.
"He said that we better not say anything about what had happened in the jail during the night or we could all turn up missing like Joe-Ed," said Thompson. "He said if we said anything that he'd teach us all a lesson."
McLain said when he read about Thompson's night in the jail that it answered many questions.
"That put everything together for me," said McLain. "I just wish I could have done something back then. I did what I knew to do."
THE CASE OF HENRY CRUMP
Black people were "terrorized back then," says Abdul Mustafa, 60, of Atlanta, Ga., recalling a day that same summer in 1964 when he and three friends were hitchhiking home from Ferriday to Clayton when DeLaughter stopped his patrol car beside them.
Before changing his name to Mustafa when becoming an adult, he was known by his birth name, Henry Crump. Mustafa's 97-year-old mother, Girlean Crump, still lives in Clayton. His father, Isaiah Crump, is dead.
Sixteen-years-old in 1964, Mustafa said he and his friends had been at Sevier High School in Ferriday when afterward they walked to their usual spot to catch a ride home on E.E. Wallace Blvd. (Hwy. 84). While standing there, he said DeLaughter pulled up in his Pontiac.
"He stopped and started questioning us about what we were doing," recalled Mustafa. "We said we were trying to get a ride home. He told us to get in the car. He said he would take us home."
The boys did as they were told, said Mustafa, but instead of taking them to Clayton, DeLaughter drove to the Ferriday City Jail.
"He began making all kinds of threats when we got in the car," said Mustafa, "saying he was going to find out what was going on, that there were some problems. Nobody knew what he was talking about."
The boys were led to a small room by DeLaughter, who later left and returned with "some gadgets. He sat down. We were standing."
One of the "gadgets looked like a barber's razor strap with holes in it. He (DeLaughter) told us we would have to drop our pants and that the strap would stick to our skin and draw blood. He also had short-handled pole, like a night stick. He said he was going to ram that up our butt."
Mustafa said "other deputies would pass by and laugh. We were all scared to death."
Before being beaten, Mustafa said he was saved when his father arrived with Clayton Town Marshall J.P. Scrubbs.
"I got to go home," he said. "The other boys didn't."
WHITE WOMAN SAVES DENNIS LAINE
Dennis Laine says a white woman in Ferriday saved his life 46 years ago after DeLaughter nearly beat him to death for a robbery he didn't commit.
Laine was 19 years old.
"I'm here today because of her," said Laine of the woman he says saved him. "I'm sure of that."
To this day, Laine, now 64, doesn't know the identity of the woman.
Laine graduated from Sevier High School in 1962, and during his high school years worked in Frank Morris' shoe shop.
"I use to hang around his shop and sometimes he'd let me shine shoes," said Laine. "I'd pick up a quarter here and there."
After he finished high school, Laine moved away and came back home to visit in 1963. Laine's mother was Annie Bell Laine, his father was Dennis Laine and his grandmother was Lula Brown.
While in Ferriday on the visit, Laine said that a white woman reported her purse stolen as she walked by Vogt's Drug Store. At the same time, Laine said he and a female friend were walking from Third Street to Hayes' Cafe on Second Street and Alabama Avenue.
"It wasn't dark, around 6 to 7 p.m.," Laine said. He said it was either June or July.
As he walked along, Laine said "'Big Frank' DeLaughter pulled up" with two men in his Pontiac cruiser.
Laine said one of the other men was deputy Bill Ogden.
He said DeLaughter told him, "Boy, get in this car," then asked, "Did you snatch that white woman's purse?"
As Laine denied the accusation, the deputies dug into Laine's pockets and pulled out $50 or $60 in cash.
"I had a little money because I was home visiting my people," said Laine. "When they found the money, they said, 'We got the money. We got the money.'"
At the Ferriday jail, Laine said he was savagely beaten by the deputies for an hour and half, but Laine refused to admit to a theft he didn't commit.
"They put my head through a folding chair," said Laine. "I was handcuffed with my ass straight up in the air."
He said DeLaughter and Ogden took turns beating Laine with a fire department hose. The deputies "banged me against the head" with their open hands "so many times that it left me with a ringing sound in my ear that still bothers me today."
Laine said he was exhausted, bleeding and near death when the woman whose purse was stolen walked into the room.
"I can see her right now," said Laine, "she was white, tall, nice-looking, maybe 30 to 35, with her hair hanging down to her shoulders."
He said DeLaughter looked at her and asked: "Is this the boy that snatched your purse?"
"I remember the look on her face to this day," said Laine. "She was horrified at the sight of me."
She said, "This is not the boy who took my purse."
Then, said Laine, he focused on the woman's face as she stared at him with disbelief.
She asked DeLaughter, "What have you done to him?"
After a few seconds, she asked DeLaughter again, "What have you done to him?"
Laine was quickly released, but said he didn't get his money back.
He said it took weeks "to heal up." His father "came down from Detroit and got me." Laine has lived his adult life in Las Vegas, NV.
"For a long time I hated Ferriday," said Laine.
As much as the horror of that summer day in 1963 remains with Laine, he said the thought of the woman who saved his life has also remained in his thoughts.
"I hope she has had a wonderful life," said Laine. "I'd love to thank her and kiss her hand."
DELAUGHTER'S TWO FEDERAL CONVICTIONS
DeLaughter died in 1996 at the age of 69. He was convicted in the early 1970s in federal court for two crimes -- the beating of a white man in the Ferriday jail in 1965 and for racketeering for his role in the operation of the Morville Lounge in the mid-1960s, a Concordia Parish gambling and prostitution operation which resulted in several arrests and convictions following an extensive FBI investigation. DeLaughter served time in federal prison in the 1970s for these crimes.
DeLaughter was also a suspect in the murder of 51-year-old Frank Morris, a black businessman who died four days following the arson of his shoe shop on Dec. 10, 1964. Morris' murder case was re-opened by the FBI two years ago.
In 1968, a parish Grand Jury reported no true bill against DeLaughter in the death of M.C. Cotton, a 42-year-old white man who DeLaughter shot to death with his .38-caliber pistol at the Cario Drive-In in February 1968.
Then-Dist. Atty. W.C. Falkenheiner, after interviewing 20 witnesses, told The Sentinel at that time that Cotton had shot an unarmed Waterproof man named Red Walker. DeLaughter, who was in another part of the building, rushed into the barroom after Cotton shot Walker and spotted Walker slumped over at the bar and Cotton with a gun in his hand.
Falkenhiner said DeLaughter fired off several shots. Cotton, who did not return fire, was hit once in the chest and died, said Falkenheiner.