Investigation lull; search continues (1964)
Friday, May 7, 2004 1:00 PM
July 2, 1964
No conclusive evidence of what happened to the three “civil rights” workers who disappeared over a week ago here after being arrested for speeding has turned up yet, but rumors have floated around fairly regularly that witnesses have been found that saw two men near the station wagon before it was burned and that another witness has revealed valuable information to officials and has been rushed out of the state for safe keeping.
The three missing COFO workers, Mike Schwerner, 24, Andy Goodman, 20, both white men from New York, and James Chaney, 21, Negro from Meridian, disappeared after being released by Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price on Sunday night, June 21. Their station wagon was found burned about 13 miles northeast of Philadelphia on Highway 21 on the following Tuesday afternoon about 2:30 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
On Thursday of last week about 200 sailors from the Meridian Naval Station joined the FBI agents, Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Neshoba County Sheriff’s office in a county-wide search for the three missing men. Since that time the number has been increased to about 400, with the search expanded to the adjoining counties. The FBI has broadened its search into four other states, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
During the past few days the terrain search has been in the Sebastopol, Edinburg, Linwood, and Neshoba areas, in addition to questioning motorists in the vicinity of the area where the car was burned.
It has been established by officials that the station wagon was burned sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Monday. Persons who pass the spot every day, plus the fact that a truck was repaired at the spot Monday morning, say they never saw the car at all.
About 80 to 90 newsmen from newspapers, radio and television have covered the story. Over the past week-end and first part of this week many have been moved out since new clues and new information have been released by officials. The State Highway Patrol moved its communications truck to town last week-end and the public relations office of the highway patrol has remained operative, but with very little news to give out.
FBI, State Highway Patrol and local officers started dragging lakes, ponds and the Pearl River last Saturday, but turned up nothing which might help solve the disappearance of the three men.
One other bit of information that has been reported to officials centers around Corinth, Miss. Chief of Police Art Murphy in that town reported seeing a man fitting the description of Schwerner at a cafe there Sunday. He said the unidentified man had been on a bus en route from Memphis to Tallahassee, Florida. The police chief said he noted the similarity after he received photographs of the three missing “civil rights” workers.
Another man was found dead on the highway near Batesville which at first was thought could be one of the missing men. However, that proved fruitless when officials definitely said he was not one of the missing men. He was the victim of a hit-and-run driver.
It seems to be the consensus of opinion of most people here that the trio will not be found in Neshoba County, dead or alive. So far, the fruitless search seems to bear out the possibility that the men will not be found by the searchers, but clues must come from people who are questioned in the case. Other than the questions put to motorists at the roadblocks and the people in the immediate vicinity of the burned car, officials have not said who else has been quizzed either about the car or the possibility that the men may have been seen after their disappearance.
Other than the search by the sailors, FBI and Highway Patrol, activity has almost completely stopped. Newsmen and law enforcement officers loll around town at the hotel, tourist courts and communications center most of the day, with watermelons being consumed by many.
Governor Paul Johnson made a trip to Philadelphia last Friday afternoon and made a plea to all citizens to help as much as possible. He asked all property owners to search their own premises for any clues that might help solve the mystery and report anything suspicious to the Highway Patrol or the local sheriff’s office.
The Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Robert Shelton of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was in Philadelphia last Thursday and Friday and stated that the purpose of his visit was to lend whatever efforts he could to helping solve the case. He left sometime Friday afternoon.