U.S. Attorney Donald Washington of Lafayette said the investigation into the 1964 murder of black businessman Frank Morris of Ferriday has shifted gears and that some of the individuals recently interviewed by the FBI may have lied.
In an update on the probe into the death of the 51-year-old shoe shop owner, Washington told The Concordia Sentinel this week:
-- Suspicions of who the FBI felt was responsible for the murder in the 1960s "have shifted from one group to another group" during this new probe. Each group was "Klan-connected in some fashion."
-- At least 12 persons "in a position to have played a role" in Morris' murder are dead. "We have a dozen death certificates." One of those individuals died just months after the Morris case was re-opened in 2007, the Sentinel has learned.
-- Suspects, or persons of interest "are still around. None have been eliminated."
-- It's not too late for anyone with knowledge or information on the murder "to come forward, to come clean."
"It's been interesting," said Washington. "There is a possibility that some of these folks" interviewed during the past two years "may have been untruthful," adding that some may have "potentially" attempted to "cover-up" information.
He would not elaborate, but did say that the investigative trail has led the FBI to look at another "Klan-related" group as responsible for Morris' murder.
Morris died Dec. 10, 1964, four days after his shoe shop at 415 Fourth Street (Hwy. 84) was set ablaze during the early morning hours by at least two men. Before he died, Morris told the FBI that one of the men pointed a single-barrel shotgun at him to prevent his exit from the front of his shop while the other threw a match igniting gasoline doused inside and outside the northwest corner of the building.
His murder case was closed by the FBI in the 1960s, but re-opened in 2007 as part as of an initiative by the Justice Department to resolve scores of unsolved Civil Rights-era murders. In December the FBI offered a $10,000 reward, the first and only reward offered thus far in the reopened cases, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Morris' killers.
"We're still following up leads that have been generated" during the probe, "and haven't eliminated anybody," said Washington. "We have, I think, aggressively followed up on every lead that has been generated."
Washington said he's been "satisfied by the level of FBI activity in going in and talking to these folks and then re-talking to some of them." He said a number of individuals have been interviewed more than once and may be interviewed again.