Details of Emmett Till investigation still a mystery as probe ends

FBI to make a report to Congress after investigation did not identify key perpetrators in brutal 1955 attack that ended the athlete’s life

Details of Emmett Till investigation still a mystery as probe ends

The House of Representatives will be briefed on Monday by FBI officials about the ongoing investigation into the brutal 1955 killing of Emmett Till, whose civil rights activism in Mississippi spawned civil rights protests across the country.

The 14-year-old Till was kidnapped from his family’s home in Money, Mississippi, along with his uncle, Carolyn Bryant, and reportedly raped, tortured and killed in a nearby woods in the summer of 1955.

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Bryant testified, falsely, that her husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were with her when she walked to the store with Till and for some reason Bryant’s wife, Carolyn Bryant Donham, pulled a gun and demanded their money and took them to the woods where Till was beaten and shot. Donham later recanted her testimony and said she was not with her husband when the attack happened, and she may not have even been in the area at the time of the killing.

The National Crime Victim Law Center found that Donham, now 84, frequently has had trouble remembering details of the encounter, or even her own name.

“It’s very possible we could see a lot of reinvestigation here,” Marlin Arrington, a professor of criminal justice at Temple University, told the Chicago Tribune. “She might have made it up a time or two, but still you have to say she’s not getting too old to make that kind of a misleading statement.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Los Angeles Times the matter could now fall under the purview of the FBI director, Christopher Wray.

“I don’t think anyone at the FBI has ever actually looked at what she told me,” he said. “I know she’s recanted, but they’ve never taken another look at it.”

News of the final FBI report on the case comes after more than five decades of unsuccessful attempts to investigate Donham’s claims about the attack. Rep John Conyers, D-Michigan, planned to release a 13-part documentary series on the case this month.

Till’s death sparked a galvanizing civil rights movement, when many citizens acted on their racial anger and demanded justice. Several civil rights organizations in the United States have honored Till as a symbol of courage and hope.

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