"A number of individuals" have been questioned during the past weeks by the FBI in the investigation of the 1964 murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris, according to a spokesman for the bureau.
Special Agent Kyle Hanrahan of the bureau's New Orleans' office said "the evaluation" of Morris' murder is continuing "but at this point it's too early to say" what direction the case is heading. The agent said he could not comment on whether any suspects or persons of interest are being pursued.
He also would not specify how many agents are working the case but noted that "adequate resources" are involved.
Morris' shoe shop was set ablaze at 2 a.m. on Dec. 10, 1964, by two white men. Morris was forced to the back of the shop at gun point by one of the men while the other threw a lighted match onto flammable liquid, likely gasoline, which had been doused onto the building. The foundation of the shop, located on the 400th block of E.E. Wallace Blvd. (Hwy. 84), is still visible.
Morris died four days after the arson but did not identify his attackers to FBI agents who interviewed him four times in Room 101 at the Concordia Parish Hospital. Morris also refused to tell other visitors there, including two Catholic priests and a Baptist minister, who set his shop on fire.
At least two of the clergy -- Father August Thompson, 81, and the Rev. Robert Lee Jr., 94 -- and the former mayor of Ferriday, Woodie Davis, 90, say they believe Morris did not identify his attackers because he feared for the life of his family and that he thought he would recover. The three men think Morris, in believing that he would survive, feared that he would once again face the wrath of his attackers if he identified them.
A motive for the murder also remains unclear although several theories have been advanced. At the outset of the probe 43 years ago, the FBI suspected that law enforcement officers and Ku Klux Klan members in Concordia Parish, Adams County and throughout the area may have been involved.
Morris told several witnesses that he thought both of the men who attacked him "were my friends." He described them as in their early to mid-30s and of medium size and said that one man appeared to be somewhat older than the other.
Morris also described one man as being "real white."
The bureau apparently has two options in this and other unsolved Civil Rights-era murder cases once the reassessments are complete.
Hanrahan said the time has yet to be determined, but at some point FBI agents working the Morris case will file a report with the U.S. Department of Justice. It is believed the bureau will report that either the case can be prosecuted or that it can not be.
The report will not be made public, said Hanrahan.
Morris' case in recent weeks has been the subject of articles in a number of publications, including an early November front-page story by Bruce Alpert, the Washington, D.C. correspondent for The News Orleans Times-Picayune.
At Syracuse, N.Y., where law students at Syracuse University are investigating Morris' case and other unsolved Civil Rights-era murders, articles have appeared in the Syracuse Law magazine, the university's student newspaper The Daily Orange, and the city's daily newspaper, The Post-Standard.
Additionally, Alpert's story was reprinted on the Newhouse website. Newhouse owns The Times-Picayune, The Post-Standard and 24 other newspapers.
Other media outlets, including some network-based news programs, have been inquiring about the case in recent days.