New Twist Surfaces in Civil Rights Case

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

A Kentucky man has confirmed that he bought two guns in the late 1960s from Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Rainey, an acquitted suspect in the infamous 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers.

The re-emergence of the guns, coupled with evidence that there might be recoverable slugs in the bodies of the three victims, has raised the possibility of exhumations in the so-called "Mississippi Burning" case.

Ben Chaney, brother of victim James Chaney, told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper that he would discuss that possibility with family this weekend.

Rainey was acquitted in a 1967 federal conspiracy trial in the deaths of Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

The three were ambushed in June 1964 by Ku Klux Klansmen outside Philadelphia, beaten, shot and entombed in an earthen dam.

Word of the guns surfaced following the conviction last month of Edgar Ray Killen for manslaughter, the only state charges ever brought in the case.

Dick Downey, an attorney in Franklin, Kentucky, confirmed Friday that a client had purchased the rifle and pistol from Rainey, who had moved to the area following the federal trial.

His client, whom Downey declined to name, came forward after learning that the actual murder weapons had never been recovered, and that there were untested slugs against which to compare them.

Downey told The Associated Press that he has not been contacted by Mississippi authorities.

Forensic pathologists reviewing medical evidence for the Killen trial discovered references to unretrieved slugs in Chaney's body and fragments in the others' corpses. They broached the topic of exhumations with prosecutors, but no action was taken because Killen was not accused of being the triggerman.

Records have indicated that only two men fired weapons that night, and both have died. Bullets removed from the bodies were found to have been fired from two different 38-caliber guns.

According to the confession in the case, Rainey allegedly met the Klansmen after the killings and told them, "I'll kill anyone who talks, even if it was my own brother."

Rainey died in 2002, but several of the original suspects are still alive.
Downey would not say how his client knew Rainey.

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