The Concordia Parish Grand Jury has until Nov. 28 to complete its probe into the 47-year-old murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris.
The Grand Jury's six-month term was scheduled to expire on Oct. 10, but has been extended on an order signed by both judges in the Seventh Judicial District. District Attorney Brad Burget filed the motion for the extension at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Burget's motion notes that the extension was requested because the Grand Jury "has a matter under investigation that requires more time for completion." A new grand jury will be impaneled on Nov. 29.
Burget said he could not comment on any grand jury investigation, while DOJ declined comment also.
Federal prosecutor Patricia Ann Sumner was named a special assistant district attorney in the parish for the Morris case. Her oath of office as an assistant DA was filed with the Clerk of Court's office in February.
A grand jury typically serves a six-month term, but can be extended for two months. A grand jury is impaneled twice a year in Concordia -- in April and October -- according to Burget.
Morris, 51, operated a shoe shop in Ferriday for more than a quarter century before he was murdered in the arson of his business in December 1964. A four-year investigation by the Sentinel has linked the murder to Frank DeLaughter, a notorious parish deputy who was convicted of police brutality in 1970. He died in 1996.
According to FBI documents, two informants, one a former Klansman named O.C. "Coonie" Poissot, connected DeLaughter to the murder. A Minden, La., woman, Brenda Rhodes, told the Sentinel that Poissot, who died in 1992, informed her in the early 1970s that he and a Rayville man were involved in the arson. That man, Arthur Leonard Spencer, admitted to having been in the Klan in the 1970s but told this newspaper he had never heard of Frank Morris and denied any involvement.
But Spencer's son, William "Boo" Spencer, and ex-brother-in-law, Bill Frasier, in separate interviews told the Sentinel Spencer confessed the crime to them. Frasier said Spencer told him the arsonists didn't expect anyone to be in the shop.
William Spencer, Frasier and Rhodes say they have told their stories to the FBI.
Retired FBI agent John Pfeifer, who was assigned to Concordia from 1966 and worked here through the mid-1970s, said investigators believed the Morris murder boiled down to a "personal deal with Frank DeLaughter because he was angry at Morris. DeLaughter was throwing out all of these phony stories about how bad a criminal Morris was and how he was running dope in from Texas, which everyone knew was baloney. There was no reason to do this unless you are trying to lead a trail away from yourself."
Pfeifer said he personally believes that the Morris arson was a case of "intimidation that went wrong," meaning that the perpetrators original plan was to torch the shop without harming Morris physically. Additionally, Pfeifer noted that investigators were unable to find anyone in the 1960s who had heard the culprits confess the crime.
"I know that all the agents that were investigating this and the other cases were trying to find somebody that would admit that the perpetrators had actually said, 'I did it,'" Pfeifer said. He said if such a witness had been found that the obvious next step would have been to get that person to testify in court.