Investigators spent two days digging at a property in northeast Georgia in search of clues advocates hope could lead to finding living suspects in the unsolved lynchings of four people in 1946.
The FBI and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said they began searching the property in rural Walton County on Monday after receiving "recent information" about the decades-old killings.
The 1946 lynchings of Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey at Moore's Ford in northeast Georgia remain one of the nation's most notorious unsolved lynchings, and activists in the area have long said that some of the culprits still are alive.
A white mob dragged the two black couples from a car, tied them to a tree and opened fire. After the lynching, President Harry Truman dispatched the FBI to the town of Monroe, but the feds were met with a wall of silence.
Investigators searched a 12-acre area that may have once been a working farm Monday and Tuesday, but the FBI said current residents are not suspects. A bomb squad was called in to detonate aging military ordnance found at the site, but investigators said they don't believe the explosives are linked to the lynching case.
FBI officials identified 55 possible suspects after the killings, but no one was ever arrested, partly due to a lack of witnesses. After a federal grand jury in December 1946 could not identify any members of the mob, the FBI retreated from the case.
One comes forward
The case grew colder for years, until 1991 when Clinton Adams came forward claiming he saw the lynching unfold when he was a 10-year-old while hiding in the bushes near the bridge.
Former Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes reopened the case about eight years ago, and the Justice Department followed suit last year, listing it among other cold cases it planned to investigate.
Files released by the FBI last year also revealed that authorities investigated suspicions that Eugene Talmadge, a three-term governor of Georgia, sanctioned the killings to sway rural white voters during a tough election campaign.
State Rep. Tyrone Brooks, an Atlanta Democrat who has long urged prosecutors to file charges, said there are a handful of suspects who are still alive.
"We're encouraged and optimistic that we're getting closer to seeing justice done and the rule of law upheld and respected," he said. "That's what this is really about — upholding the rule of law."