Frank DeLaughter

A Concordia Parish sheriff's deputy who was questioned in the 1964 murder of a Ferriday shoe shop owner may have been the most powerful local law enforcement official in the parish in 1968, FBI documents reveal.

This assessment of deputy Frank Delaughter's power at that time is found in records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and was the result of a joint FBI and Louisiana State Police investigation into an alleged bombing attempt on Cario's Barbeque, a restaurant/bar owned by Delaughter's sister.

FBI documents also reveal that in late 1968 then-Dist. Atty. William C. Falkenheiner said then-Sheriff Noah Cross was "in very poor health, unable to control his deputies and furious about the latest activities of Delaughter..." Additionally, the FBI said Delaughter "has essentially run the Concordia Parish Sheriff's Department for the past year" and he had been privy to information provided by an FBI informant from Natchez who was handled by the bureau's Jackson, Miss., office.

Born in Brookhaven, Miss., on the Fourth of July in 1927, Delaughter was 41 years in 1968. A man once referred to as a "notorious deputy" during the campaign for sheriff in 1967 in which Cross was re-elected, Delaughter was known locally as "Big Frank." He stood 6-4 and weighed 250-plus pounds.

Delaughter died in 1996 at the age of 69.

In 1964 and 1965, the FBI questioned Delaughter and others about the arson that claimed the life of shoe shop owner Frank Morris. No arrests were ever made but Morris' case was reopened by the FBI in 2007 and remains active.

Delaughter was investigated by the FBI on more than one occasion for police brutality and pleaded guilty in 1972 to the beating of a prisoner held in the Ferriday jail in 1965. He later served time in federal prison for this offense.

Delaughter reportedly took the bombing threat of his sister's business so seriously, according to the FBI, that he "had guards with rifles posted across from Cario's Barbeque on the Levee Road that runs parallel to the Ferriday-Vidalia Highway in order to prevent any planned bombing."

This information came to light after a rupture -- the FBI called it a "racketeering feud" -- between Delaughter and Judson Lee "Blackie" Drane in which Drane was allegedly planning to bomb Cario's Barbeque, owned and operated by Mildred Delaughter. Drane, who died in 1997 at the age of 68, was the owner of a business which placed coin-operated vending machines, pool tables and jukeboxes in bars and restaurants. He was also a bar owner.

One of Drane's businesses, the Little Club on the Ferriday-Vidalia Hwy., located next door to Cario's, was raided by Louisiana State Police at 8:30 p.m. on Oct. 11, 1968. According to FBI documents, "two nickel slot machines and an electric console gambling machine were seized and the manager...was arrested on gambling violations."

The raid was apparently the trigger for the alleged bombing attempt as an ongoing feud between Delaughter and Drane was by this time boiling over. The FBI identified Drane as "a well-known local gambler..."

Other clubs, including two owned by Drane, had been raided by the State Police in previous months and the Morville Lounge, a house of prostitution at Deer Park, had been shut down by Dist. Atty. Falkenheiner for both prostitution and gambling. The FBI was also involved behind the scenes in assisting the State Police in preparing for these raids in which illegal gambling, particularly the use of slot machines, had been thriving in Concordia for decades.

At this time in 1968, Delaughter was under investigation in the Morville Lounge case, while he, Drane and a third man, Ed Fuller, were indicted in December of that year by a federal Grand Jury for the beating of the prisoner in 1965 in the Ferriday jail. All three were later convicted and sentenced to one year, six months suspended, and placed on four years supervised probation following confinement.

Delaughter later pled guilty in federal court to "the crime of conspiracy to promote prostitution" in the Morville Lounge case and was sentenced to three years.

In October 1968, according to FBI reports, Blackie Drane "was very upset about the raid" on the Little Club "and pleaded that the expensive console machine not be destroyed," according to documents. "Drane was in a rage when he discovered that the raiding party was going to destroy the machines," the documents say.

The Natchez informant told the FBI that hours after the State Police raid, while still in the Little Club, that Drane, "a local gambler who works for Drane," and a man identified as "Que," a former employee of Drane's, were "overheard planning the bombing" of Cario's.

State Police Troop E in Alexandria reported to the FBI that Drane believed "Delaughter was identifying Drane's gambling machine locations for the state police raiding parties, or failing to warn Drane if state police raiding parties entered the parish." Drane also believed, the documents say, that Delaughter's sister may have been providing information to State Police on gambling.

The Little Club raid "resulted in a financial loss to Drane of approximately $1,800, including the Federal gambling stamp losses."

Drane was also furious, according to documents, because he believed Delaughter had "been closing up both Drane's clubs, the Little Club and Blackie's Place, at midnight on Saturday" while allowing Cario's to remain open until 2 a.m.

FBI documents reveal that minutes after the bombing plan was made, it may have been put into action. The plan was to throw a bundle of three sticks of dynamite on the roof of Cario's, but the plot was foiled, according to the FBI, when the alleged bombers "were frightened away" when someone walked out of Cario's and later found three dynamite sticks. Deputies were notified and "while a crowd was gathering at the Barbeque, the three sticks of dynamite disappeared. The dynamite is unlocated, and the Concordia Parish Sheriff Department is conducting further investigation."

The informant from Natchez told the FBI that a man who had worked for Drane on several occasions and was believed to be involved in the bombing plot was headed to Oklahoma in a 1955 or 1956 blue GMC pickup. The FBI's New Orleans' office requested the Denver and Oklahoma City FBI offices help locate this man, who was also known to operate "a produce stand."

On Dec. 9, State Police informed the FBI that Drane and Delaughter "had made some kind of peace," but that there "is still hard feelings between" them although plans to dynamite Cario's had apparently been canceled. The records say that Drane feared Delaughter "would put him out of business immediately" if Cario's was bombed.

By mid-December 1968, the FBI was in Shawnee, Okla., looking for the man driving the blue GMC pickup, while locally, FBI agents learned from one source that the plan "was to have the bombing done by some unknown carnival people." The source also said "the people selling fireworks" on Drane's property "may be connected with carnivals and be from the Oklahoma area..."

Additionally, the FBI reported that two months after the alleged bombing attempt on Cario's that Delaughter and Drane were placed under $2,500 bond after being indicted for policy brutality in the beating of the man in the Ferriday jail. At this very time, according to FBI documents, Falkenheiner was preparing a case against Delaughter for shaking down an unidentified black bar owner from Monroe for $1,000. Delaughter reportedly lured the man to the parish "to sell cut-rate 'confiscated liquor,'" but instead took the man's money and then ran him out of the parish.

Delaughter took the money, according to FBI documents, because he expected to have to pay a heavy fine in the police brutality case. Drane, meanwhile, was also trying to raise money for his defense in that case but was hampered by the repeated, costly raids conducted by the State Police, a matter which fueled his suspicions of Delaughter.

No arrests were ever made in the case, and in early 1969, the FBI speculated that since both men had hired the same attorney from Ferriday to represent them, that they had patched up their differences.

Yet, the FBI said, Drane planned to put blackjack games in the Little Club and Blackie's Lounge, and Falkenheiner was aware of this and planned raids on both clubs in the near future. The documents note: "All sources indicate Drane has all of his slot machines out of the parish at this time."

Because of all of these conditions, the FBI informed federal agencies that DA Falkenheiner and the State Police "are the only authorities to whom information may be furnished" concerning Concordia Parish investigations.

The FBI added: "Subjects should be considered armed and dangerous."

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