JACKSON, Miss. — James Ford Seale, a reputed Ku Klux Klansman imprisoned for his role in the segregation-era abduction and killing of two black men in rural Mississippi, has died, a spokesman with federal Bureau of Prisons said.
Seale died Tuesday in Terre Haute, Ind., where he had been serving three life sentences after being convicted in 2007, Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmond Ross told The Associated Press. He was 76.
Ross said he did not know the cause of Seale's death, which was first reported by Jackson newspaper The Clarion-Ledger.
Seale was convicted of two counts of kidnapping and one of conspiracy to commit kidnapping in the 1964 deaths of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, both 19.
The two were kidnapped in the woods of southwestern Mississippi near Natchez.
Prosecutors said Seale, a former crop duster, was with a group of Klansmen when they abducted Moore and Dee from a rural stretch of highway in southwest Mississippi. The Klansmen took the teens into the woods and beat and interrogated them about rumors that blacks in the area were planning an armed uprising, prosecutors said.
The decomposed bodies were found in July 1964 as federal authorities searched for the bodies of three civil rights workers who had also disappeared that summer. That case became known as "Mississippi Burning" and overshadowed the deaths of Dee and Moore.
Upon hearing news of Seale's death, Moore's brother Thomas told The Clarion-Ledger, "Ain’t no rejoicing in it. I do offer my sympathies to the family."
Seale and another man, Charles Marcus Edwards, briefly faced state murder charges in the deaths of Dee and Moore in 1964, but the charges were quickly thrown out. Prosecutors said the charges were dropped because local law enforcement officers were in collusion with the Klan.
Many people thought Seale was dead until 2005, when he was discovered living a town not far from where the teens were abducted. The case was reopened, reportedly at the behest of Thomas Moore, and Edwards became the government's star witness after he was promised immunity from prosecution.
Unbeknownst to many, The Clarion-Ledger interviewed Seale five years earlier. Asked whether he had anything to do with the killings, Seale replied, "“I ain’t in jail, am I?"Story: FBI revisiting decades-old civil rights cases
In March 2010, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the evidence against Seale was sufficient for the jury conviction in the trial that took place 43 years after the crimes. Later that year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Seale's appeal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.