52 Years Later, ‘Mississippi Burning’ Case Closed

On the 52nd anniversary of three civil rights workers’ disappearance during Mississippi’s “Freedom Summer,” prosecutors have officially closed the investigation into the slaying.

The case has been closed for decades and then reopened in response to renewed public outcry.

“It’s just gotten to the point that it’s 52 years later and we’ve done all we can do,” Attorney General Jim Hood said Monday.

The murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County, Miss., inspired the movie Mississippi Burning. On June 21, 1964, the men disappeared after working to register Black voters. They had been working out of a church that had been a target of Klan violence the week before. After the men left the church, “they had a run-in with local authorities, they were arrested, they were put in jail— and shortly after they were released they went missing,” NPR reports.

After a 44-day search that garnered widespread attention, their bodies were discovered. But while they were missing, officials in the state downplayed the significance of the case. The men had been shot to death and their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam off a remote country road.

The case was reopened decades later and as a result, Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen was prosecuted for murder. He is currently serving a 60-year sentence for manslaughter. Eleven years later after Killen’s conviction, no other suspect has been brought to court.

Hood says more prosecutions are unlikely at this point.

“For these participants, the good Lord will have to deal with that,” Hood said.