NPR says it has identified fourth suspect in 1965 murder of civil rights worker
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NPR reported early Tuesday that it has identified a fourth suspect in the still-open murder of Rev. James Reeb in Selma, Ala., in 1965.

Reeb, a white Unitarian minister, traveled to Alabama from Boston to support Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and was beaten by a group of men on a street corner, dying from his injuries in a hospital two days later.


Three men — Elmer Cook, William Stanley Hoggle and Namon O'Neal "Duck" Hoggle — were tried for the attack and acquitted by an all-white jury. But NPR, as part of a four-year investigation, spoke to a fourth, William Portwood, who confirmed his participation in the attack on Reeb and two companions, saying "I was more than there."

“All I did was kick one of them,” Portwood told NPR’s “White Lies” podcast.

NPR says Portwood died less than two weeks after it confirmed his involvement.

Frances Bowden, a witness to the attack, told NPR that she lied when she said that she could not identify the men in interviews with the FBI and in the 1965 trial.

"I'm not proud of being up in the courtroom telling a lie," Bowden said. "[Because] I did tell a lie; I said I didn't know and I did know."

As for the FBI, Bowden said, "I told 'em I saw some people beating a man, but I didn't know who they were and I stuck to that. Of course, we knew who it was; we just didn't admit we knew."

The statutes of limitations for perjury and making false statements to the FBI have expired under both state and federal law.

FBI records indicate Portwood refused to give the FBI a statement after Reeb’s assault, and that Portwood’s then-wife gave him an alibi despite one of the other assailants telling investigators he was with Portwood that night, according to NPR.

Specifically, Portwood's wife told investigators he was helping his daughter, Audrey Sutherland, with schoolwork at the time of the attack. Sutherland confirmed to NPR this was false and that he told her he was present for the attack on Reeb.

The FBI reopened the case in July 2008 but has yet to interview Bowden, according to NPR.