JACKSON, Miss. -- Reputed Ku Klux Klansman James Ford Seale showed no emotion Friday as he was sentenced to three life terms in prison for his role in the 1964 abduction and murder of two Black teenagers in southwest Mississippi.
Seale, 72, was convicted June 14 on federal charges of kidnapping and conspiracy in the deaths of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, two 19-year-olds who disappeared from Franklin County on May 2, 1964.
The young men's decomposing bodies, mostly just skeletal remains, were found more than two months later in a backwater of the Mississippi River.
U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate told Seale the crimes for which he was convicted were "horrific" and "unspeakable."
Wingate said that while the crimes occurred 43 years ago, "justice itself is ageless."
The judge denied a defense motion to allow Seale go free on bond while his case is appealed. Federal public defender Kathy Nester filed a notice of appeal.
"Mr. Seale maintains his innocence to this crime," Nester said.
During the hearing, one of Dee's sisters and Moore's brother talked about how the violent deaths affected them and their families.
"I don't have no hate in my heart but I'm happy for justice," said Dee's sister Thelma Collins of Springfield, La.
Thomas Moore of Colorado Springs, Colo., read from a prepared statement directed at Seale.
"I hope you perhaps spend the rest of your natural life in prison thinking of what you did to Charles Moore and Henry Dee and how you ran for a long time but you got caught," he said. "I hope the spirit of Charles and Henry come to your cell every night and visit with you to teach you what is meant by love of your fellow man."
Both of them stood about 10 feet from Seale, but he never made eye contact with them.
When asked by Wingate if he had anything to say, Seale, who wore an orange jail jumpsuit and was shackled at his waist, wrists and ankles, stood, shook his head and said "No."
Wingate agreed to assign Seale to a prison where his health needs can be met. He has cancer, bone spurs and other health problems.
The jury of eight Whites and four Blacks took two hours in June to reach the unanimous verdicts to convict Seale.
The prosecution's star witness was Charles Marcus Edwards, a confessed Klansman who received immunity from prosecution for his admitted role in the abductions and his testimony.
He testified that Seale and other Klansmen abducted Dee and Charles Eddie Moore near Meadville, took them to the nearby Homochitto National Forest and beat them while asking questions about rumors that Black people in the area were stockpiling guns. Edwards said that during the beating, the young men said -- falsely -- that weapons were being stored in a Black church, Roxie First Baptist.
Edwards testified that he was absent later, but Seale told him about how Seale and other Klansmen bound Dee and Charles Eddie Moore with tape, put them into a car trunk and drove them through part of eastern Louisiana to get to the area where the young men were dumped, still alive, into the river.
Their remains were identified by a few personal trinkets _ Charles Eddie Moore's Alcorn A&M College dormitory key, his golden stretch-band wristwatch and a belt buckle with the initial "M," and Dee's waterlogged draft card that remained in his wallet.
Seale was arrested on a state murder charge in 1964, but the charge was later dropped. Federal prosecutors say the state charges were dropped because local law enforcement officers in 1964 were in collusion with the Klan.
Federal prosecutors revived the case in 2005, largely at the urging of Thomas Moore, who researched the crime.
"If it hadn't been for Thomas, this case never would've seen the light of day," said U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton.
Wan J. Kim, head of the Justice Department's civil rights division, said during a news conference after the sentencing that the FBI has compiled a list of more than 100 unsolved cases from the civil rights era.
--The Associated Press