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The FBI Comes to Monroe, GA

© AP file

By July 27, FBI agents arrived in Monroe trying to determine if a federal prosecution would be possible. The issue they faced was that murder is a state crime, not a federal crime. Eventually, a team of up to twenty-five special agents of the FBI joined the agents who initially responded. Special-Agent-in-Charge (S.A.C.) Charles Weeks supervised the assigned agents throughout the investigation. FBI agents conducted close to 2,800 interviews in their effort to identify members of the mob of as many as 20 – 30 white men who abducted and brutally shot the two African-American couples. After the FBI completed their interviews in the six-month investigation, they issued over 100 subpoenas. The investigation received little cooperation, no one confessed, and perpetrators were offered alibis for their whereabouts.

A Great Wall of Silence

© AP file Almost from the start, the federal investigation was frustrated by a wall of silence on the part of local residents. White residents didn’t want to be interviewed because they wanted to protect their own while black people lived in a state of constant fear, afraid of sharing even the most minor details. From the killers’ perspective, this wall of silence reinforced the notion that blacks could be abused, tortured – and even murdered – with impunity. In all likelihood, the perpetrators became confident that details of the story would only grow fainter as the facts of the crime were gradually forgotten. Local police did not even launch an investigation into the murder of the Malcolms and Dorseys. On all four death certificates, the coroner wrote the bureaucratic phrase that, for years, had been listed as the cause of death for victims of lynchings across the country: “At the hands of persons unknown”.

The Effort to Gather Suspects

© AP file In the photo at left, Loy Harrison (right) shows Oconee County Sheriff J.M. Bond and Coroner W.T. Brown of Walton County the spot where four black victims were abducted from his car and slain in the nearby woods.

Many believe the executions were nothing more than a voting rights massacre; the two young couples were murdered to send a message to black people in the community, “If you register and if you vote, this is what will happen to you.” The effort to gather suspects eventually ground to a halt, at least by local investigators. There would be a much greater need for increased manpower, expertise and resources in order to solve a crime of this magnitude. “The best people in town won’t talk,” a Georgia state trooper said after citizens of Walton County pleaded ignorance about the mob that murdered two African-American couples.

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