Attorney General Charlie Crist News Release
|August 16, 2006
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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Crist Announces Results of Harry T. Moore Murder Investigation
- At least four individuals thought to be directly involved -
MIMS – Attorney General Charlie Crist today released the results of a 20-month investigation into the Christmas Day 1951 murders of Florida civil rights pioneer Harry T. Moore and his wife Harriette. The fatal bombing of the couple’s home – on their 25th wedding anniversary – was never officially solved.
The investigation, led by the Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights in conjunction with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), points to extensive circumstantial evidence that the Moores were victims of a conspiracy by exceedingly violent members of a Central Florida Klavern of the Ku Klux Klan. Following extensive review of available information, more than 100 additional interviews, the most detailed excavation of the crime scene ever undertaken and extensive analysis, investigators concluded that at least four individuals are thought to be directly involved.
Earl J. Brooklyn, a Klansman known for being exceedingly violent, was identified as having floor plans of the Moore home and recruiting volunteers. Tillman H. Belvin, another violent Klansman who was a close friend of Brooklyn, is thought to have joined with Brooklyn. Joseph N. Cox, another Klansman, was confronted by the FBI and committed suicide the day after his second interview with the FBI in 1952. Cox was also implicated in a deathbed confession by his close friend and fellow Klansman Edward L. Spivey in 1978. Investigators with the Attorney General’s Office and FDLE now believe Spivey himself was at the scene of the December 25, 1951, bombing.
“We believe a clear picture has emerged as to what happened and who was responsible for this terrorist act,” said Crist. “This investigation literally left no stone unturned, and we have great confidence that the major culprits have now been identified. In all likelihood, indictments from a grand jury would be sought against these four if they were still living.”
Belvin died less than a year after the bombings, while Brooklyn died on Christmas Day 1952, the one-year anniversary of the attack. Both men apparently died of natural causes. Cox committed suicide on March 30, 1952. Spivey, who said he was implicating Cox in order to “clear his conscience” after discovering he suffered from terminal cancer, died in 1980.
“This extensive investigation has returned some long-sought after clarification as to what happened on that tragic night almost 55 years ago,” said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. “The evidence points strongly to these four individuals and we are thankful there are answers for the Moore family.”At approximately 10:20 p.m. on December 25, 1951, a bomb placed under the Moores’ bedroom exploded. The blast instantly killed Harry and mortally wounded Harriette, who died nine days later. The original FBI investigation developed information that cast suspicion on Brooklyn and Belvin. Cox shot himself after the FBI informed him it had evidence on him. That investigation was closed in 1955 with no arrests.
In 1978, the Brevard County Sheriff and Brevard State Attorney re-opened the case. Investigators were contacted by Spivey, who provided information on Cox’s involvement and his own serious medical condition. Spivey’s detailed description made his information highly credible. The State Attorney who helped re-open the case was not re-elected, and no charges were filed prior to Spivey’s death in 1980.
In 1991, then-Governor Lawton Chiles directed FDLE to investigate claims from a woman who stated that her husband had been involved in the bombing. No compelling evidence to substantiate those claims was developed.
The current investigation included an interview of the former Brevard Sheriff’s investigator and the prosecutor who spent time with Spivey in 1978. Both remain convinced that Spivey’s account is highly credible. Spivey indicated that Cox was rewarded for participating in the plot by having his mortgage paid off. A review of property records did not confirm a mortgage satisfaction for Cox, but did show that Belvin had his mortgage satisfied four days prior to the bombings and more than one year before it was due.
Based upon this information and Spivey’s vivid description of the crime scene before the blast, investigators believe Spivey was also involved in the bombing. The investigative report also states that others might well have been involved, but the passage of time makes any such determination highly difficult. In addition, investigators are convinced that almost 55 years after the murders, some potential witnesses are still reluctant to provide information for reasons that include a fear of retribution.
Crist said the compelling conclusions of this investigation would not have been possible without the outstanding work of a dedicated team of professionals, particularly Allison Bethel and Frank Beisler of the Attorney General's Office and Special Agent Supervisor Dennis Norred of FDLE.
“Our goal going in was to find out what happened for the sake of all who believe in justice, but especially for the remaining family of Harry and Harriette Moore,” said Crist. “To their daughter Evangeline, a lady of remarkable grace and a tower of quiet strength, our hope is that after more than half a century she can now realize the closure that has been so elusive.”
“Today, this announcement means more to me than I can say,” said Evangeline Moore. “I have suffered doubt in human mankind, uneasiness and fear, especially when I visited my home. Thank you to all those who participated.”
More information on the Harry Moore case, including the investigative report, executive summary and exhibits, is available through the Attorney General’s Office website at: http://myfloridalegal.com/__85256CC5006DFCC3.nsf/0/D8342C723F092D8085256F930076651A?Open&Highlight=0,moore