Thomas Moore stopped at the gas station just outside of town for a country sausage and egg sandwich. He got much more than he'd bargained for.
Moore was back in the southern Mississippi timberlands of his youth to make a documentary about the 1964 kidnapping, torture and slaying of his brother and another black man, crimes for which no one was ever tried.
Idling in the store that blistering July day, Moore lamented to a local that one of the prime suspects had died, and the listener asked which one.
"James Ford Seale," Moore replied. The newspapers had said so. Seale's own son had confirmed it years ago.
The man looked at Moore in surprise. "He ain't dead," he said. "I'll show you where he lives."
Moore and filmmaker David Ridgen drove a short distance to a spacious brick house with an immaculate lawn studded with pines and birdhouses. There, lounging beneath a covered picnic area, was an old man with white, thinning hair and spectacles.
"James Ford Seale!" Moore shouted from the road. "Why don't you come out and talk to me? Don't be a coward like you were 41 years ago."
The white man grabbed his cane, scurried to a motor home parked beside the swimming pool and shut the door behind him -- but not before Ridgen could zoom in on him with his camera.
This was no ghost of Mississippi. James Ford Seale was very much alive.
If not for a quirk of fate, the bodies might never have been found.
Searchers were combing the woods and swamps of Mississippi for three civil rights workers who were missing in June 1964. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were helping register blacks to vote in Neshoba County, and the Ku Klux Klan had targeted them for elimination.
On July 12, a fisherman found the lower part of a black man's body in the Mississippi River near Tallulah, La. Federal officials converged on the area, and the partial remains of a second man were found the next day.
The bodies were identified as those of Charles Eddie Moore, who had been home from Alcorn A&M after being suspended for taking part in a protest over cafeteria food, and Henry Hezekiah Dee, who had worked at a local lumberyard.
According to federal reports, the two men, both 19, were hitchhiking on May 2, 1964, on U.S. 84 outside Meadville when a Klansman in a Volkswagen picked them up. The Klan had heard rumors of Nation of Islam gunrunning in the area and figured the two were involved.
Two men were arrested in the case -- paper mill worker Charles Marcus Edwards, 31, and his cousin, a truck driver named James Ford Seale, 29.
FBI documents say Edwards admitted that he and Seale picked up the two men, took them to "an undisclosed wooded area where they were 'whipped' " -- allegedly with bean poles. But Edwards told investigators that the two were alive when he left them. (He later denied making the statement.)
An informant, however, told the FBI that the Klansmen took the unconscious blacks to the river, lashed their bodies to a Jeep engine block and dumped them, still breathing, into the muddy water.
When asked if he knew why he had been arrested, Seale reportedly replied: "Yes, but I'm not going to admit it. You are going to have to prove it."
In early August 1964, the bodies of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were discovered in an earthen dam. Consumed by that case, the FBI turned over Edwards's statement and other files to local authorities.
A justice of the peace promptly dismissed all charges without presenting the case to a grand jury. It seemed the case would end there.
But it didn't.
In 2000, the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson uncovered documents indicating that the killings -- or at least the beatings -- might have occurred in the Homochitto National Forest. Claiming jurisdiction, the Justice Department reopened the case.
It wasn't long after that when James Ford Seale "died" the first time.
The Los Angeles Times published a story in June 2002 on the reopened case. The newspaper said Seale had passed away the previous year.
"He was a good man and a good father," the paper quoted James Seale Jr. as saying. "I was a small kid when all that went on. But I think they made a mistake, the law did, by arresting them. . . . Whatever happened in Mississippi, they ought to let laying dogs lie."
In 2003, the Clarion-Ledger -- known for its dogged pursuit of graying segregationists -- ran a series on unsolved civil rights-era cases. An item on the Dee-Moore case included comments Seale had made "before his death."
But Seale wasn't finished dying just yet.
Thomas Moore, 62, a Vietnam War veteran now living in Colorado Springs, had been fighting a low-intensity battle for years to have his brother's case reopened. But it wasn't until the recent manslaughter conviction of Edgar Ray Killen, 80, in the Neshoba County killings that things began heating up.
Killen was sentenced in June to 60 years in prison. Moore and Ridgen visited Philadelphia, Miss., in the aftermath of the case to commune with people there and to issue a call for justice in other unresolved cases of the era.
The following month, officials announced a local-state-federal partnership to advance the Dee-Moore case.
The Associated Press attempted to contact Seale for a comment. James Seale Jr. told the AP that his father had died "six or seven months ago" -- not in 2001, as he had previously suggested.
He even thanked a reporter for his condolences.
The younger Seale did not return subsequent calls seeking comment on his earlier statements. Edwards, who still lives outside Meadville, likewise did not respond to telephone messages and a letter, and eventually had his telephone number changed.
When he announced the joint task force in July, U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton wasn't sure Seale was alive. He conceded that pretending someone is dead "may not be a bad strategy," but he added: "That's not going to work."
If you're trying to disappear, Roxie is about as good a place as any to do it.
The railroad pulled up its tracks about 15 years ago, and Georgia-Pacific shuttered its lumber mill a few years later. A tiny bank branch and a diner anchor a strip of bombed-out-looking buildings on West Street, Roxie's main drag.
The town of 570 doesn't even have a stoplight.
"I call it 'Dead City' instead of Roxie," said Marie Bryan, who is trying to find a buyer for the Klutter Box, a former drugstore and barbershop crammed from plank floor to hammered tin ceiling with ceramic figurines, old appliances and knickknacks.
People around Franklin County have no great desire to talk about Seale. One local official acknowledged seeing Seale at area churches, but he didn't want to be quoted as debunking his untimely demise.
Deputy Town Clerk Betty Mann said she can understand why someone might pretend Seale was dead.
"Because they figured it was a dead case," she said. "Why bring it back up?"
Thomas Moore doesn't see it that way.
The property where he found Seale is on Route 33 just outside Roxie, less than a mile from the gas station where Moore stopped for that sausage sandwich. The land belongs to the family of Seale's wife.
On a recent scorching Mississippi day, a visitor knocked on the front and back doors of the brick home. An elderly man in a light checked shirt emerged from the RV parked beside the swimming pool.
"She's not home," he shouted in a friendly voice. But when the visitor identified himself as a reporter, the man's red-blotched face turned sour.
He confirmed that he was James Ford Seale. But the man who once challenged authorities to "have at me" was not in a talking mood.
"You see that driveway?" he snarled, pointing. "Git on up it!"
Moore has been told that the 70-year-old man is in poor health. He said he doesn't care.
Moore never got to talk to Seale, but he left him a message. On a garden stake on the road outside Seale's home, he posted a sign: "Charles Moore and Henry Dee, rest in peace and justice."
That same sentiment does not apply to Seale, Edwards or whoever might have been involved in the killing of his only brother.
"I'm not going to let it rest," Moore says. "I will pursue it until I die."