In 1964, young men like Dee and Moore knew that to stay safe, they needed to avoid doing anything that might be viewed by the KKK as activism. They also knew to avoid any contact with Klansmen. And so, on that early May afternoon, when a Volkswagen Beetle pulled to a stop beside them, Dee and Moore knew enough to respectfully decline the white male driver's offer of a ride.
But the fate of the two young men was already sealed. Ordered into the car, they were murdered for no other reason than the color of their skin.
More than two months later, investigators got their first clue about what happened to Dee and Moore when the partial remains of a young African-American male surfaced in a remote section of the Mississippi River, about 90 miles from Meadville. A college identification card found in a pants pocket helped identify the remains as those of Moore.
For another two months, FBI investigators conducted a fruitless investigation into the case until they received a call from an anonymous informant who said he had information about Dee and Moore's disappearance.
The informant was so terrified of the KKK that he insisted on anonymity. The FBI gave him a code name: JN-30R.
Over the ensuing weeks, JN-30R provided the FBI all the information it would need to identify five Klansmen as prime suspects in a horrifying tale of how Dee and Moore were murdered.
In dozens of pages of reports to the FBI, JN-30R described in gut-wrenching detail how Dee and Moore were kidnapped and taken deep into the Homochitto National Forest and beaten with beanpoles until their bodies were broken and bleeding profusely.
They were then stuffed into the trunk of a car and driven 90 miles to a Mississippi River bank where they were bound and tied to a Jeep engine block and dumped into the river alive.
JN-30R led FBI investigators to the exact place on the Mississippi River where they would find the engine block with human remains still attached to it.
There was no doubt that JN-30R's information was accurate. But so intense was the fear of the KKK across Mississippi in the mid-1960s that the FBI was unable to find even one witness willing to testify in support of JN-30R's statements, and the informant himself remained unwilling to testify.
The district attorney in Meadville -- perhaps also cowed by the Klan -- refused to prosecute without more evidence. The investigation stalled, and by 1977 the FBI in Jackson, Miss., had inexplicably destroyed the investigation file. For 36 years after the murders it appeared as if nothing further could be done to bring justice to Dee and Moore, until an ABC News "20/20" investigation in 2000.
Our investigation made hundreds of contacts with retired FBI agents, former Klansmen, defense lawyers, civil rights activists, archivists, ex-politicians, former civil rights activists, retired police chiefs, historians, old reporters, legal scholars, former sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, convicted murderers, jurors, eyewitnesses … people from virtually all walks of life in Mississippi and beyond. We even found a mistress or two.
Some were helpful in our search for new leads in the Dee/Moore investigation. Others were not. But the big break did not come from contacting people around at the time of the murders..