Closing the file on a decades-old case, investigators on Wednesday said four long-dead Klu Klux Klan members were behind a house bombing that killed two black civil rights activists in 1951.
Harry T. and Harriette Moore died after the explosion under their bed on Christmas Day, their 25th wedding anniversary. Attorney General Charlie Crist said Wednesday investigators had enough circumstantial evidence to secure a grand jury indictment had the men still been alive.
Several previous investigations failed to produce criminal charges, including one nearly 30 years ago that an investigator said stopped just short of an indictment because of a change in county prosecutors and inattention.
Implicated were Earl J. Brooklyn, Tillman H. Bevlin, Joseph N. Cox and Edward L. Spivey. All but Spivey died within about a year of the bombing; Cox committed suicide a day after the FBI interviewed him about the case and the other two died of natural causes.
‘God’s taken care of them’The couple’s daughter, Evangeline Moore, said she was relieved to finally hear the names.
“God’s taken care of them, has dealt with them very, very badly, and they will continue to be prosecuted His way,” Moore said.
Harry Moore organized the Brevard County branch of the NAACP in the 1930s and worked to register black voters in an area of the state then ruled by Jim Crow laws. He became the first official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People killed during the modern civil rights struggle. His wife died nine days later.
Many of the state’s conclusions were drawn from several confessions from Spivey, who died of cancer in 1980, reportedly gave to investigators and an anonymous tipster.
Serial confessionsFrank Beisler, lead investigator for the FDLE, said the reopened case also went cold until he rediscovered a confession Spivey gave to Brevard County sheriff’s investigators in 1970. He said Spivey was drunk, and all the information didn’t come together at first, but Spivey related details about the house he couldn’t know if he wasn’t there the night of the bombing.
Shortly after — around last summer — the tipster came forward and said Spivey also had confessed to him.
“There were anywhere from six to 10 confessions all together, and the information stayed very consistent,” Beisler said.
Investigators believe Brooklyn and Bevlin had floor plans of the Moore home, and Cox may have been rewarded for participating by having his mortgage paid off. Spivey is believed to have been at the home the night of the bombing.
Beisler said sheriff’s investigators and a prosecutor were preparing in 1978 to indict Spivey, but the investigators left to work for the state attorney’s office. Though they continued the investigation there, it ended when the prosecutor wasn’t re-elected, Beisler said.
“The two investigators moved on and thought somebody else had picked it up, but nobody did, and it just sat there for 50 years,” he said. “Somebody gave us the name of one of the investigators and we went to see him. He thought the case had been solved.”
Wednesday’s announcement was held at the site of Harry and Harriette Moore’s house, now a park and cultural center with exhibits about the two, on a dead-end road called Freedom Avenue.