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FBI joins investigation of Klan initiation death

  • Story Highlights
  • Louisiana Klan group called itself the "Sons of Dixie"
  • FBI says it is working with local police
  • Chuck Foster, 44, charged with second-degree murder in death of Cynthia Lynch
  • Others involved in initiation are accused of trying to conceal the killing
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COVINGTON, Louisiana (CNN) -- A woman recruited over the Internet and shot to death during a Ku Klux Klan group's initiation rite felt a need to be wanted and was eager to be part of a group, authorities say family members told them.

Relatives describe Cynthia Lynch as having a deep need to feel wanted and eager to join groups.

Her relatives told investigators that Cynthia Lynch, 43, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, had never been outside her home state, said Capt. George Bonnett of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Department.

But she recently took a bus to Slidell, Louisiana, where she was met by two Klan members and taken to a campsite in the woods near Sun, Louisiana, about 60 miles north of New Orleans.

Bonnett and Sheriff Jack Strain gave CNN this account of what happened:

During the initiation rite, members of the Klan group, which calls itself the Sons of Dixie, shaved Lynch's head. After 24 hours of drills, including chanting and running with torches, she asked to be taken to town. An argument began and the group's leader, Chuck Foster, allegedly pushed her to the ground and shot her to death without warning.

Lynch wanted to leave the campsite because she was homesick, investigators concluded after talking to Lynch's family in Tulsa. Video Watch how an initiation rite went wrong »

Strain told CNN that Foster used a knife to remove the bullet. Other members of the Sons of Dixie helped cover up the slaying for Foster, their leader or "Grand Lordship," Strain added. The attempt to conceal the killing included burning the woman's personal items, Strain said.

The new details emerged Thursday as the FBI announced it was assisting local authorities.

The FBI's top agent in New Orleans, Louisiana, said the agency usually doesn't monitor specific groups, but will look into whether any federal laws were violated.

"The FBI is working closely with local law enforcement authorities investigating this recent incident," said Special Agent in Charge David W. Welker. He added that the FBI would "aggressively investigate" any leads and urged anyone with information to call the FBI at 504-816-3000

Sheriff's investigators said they received the intitial tip about the killing from a convenience store clerk. Two of the group members went into the store and asked the clerk if he knew how to get bloodstains out of their clothes, Strain said. The clerk told them no, and called the sheriff after they left.

Officials tracked down those two members and arrested them. Authorities established telephone contact with other members of the group who were still at the campsite and let them know law enforcement officials were on their way. They surrendered without incident.

Foster was elsewhere in the woods, but he also surrendered, the sheriff said. Video Watch report on Klan initiation gone awry »

The woman's body was found under loose brush along a road several miles from the campsite. At the campsite, investigators found Confederate flags, KKK banners, five Klan robes and an Imperial Wizard robe.

Foster, 44, is charged with second-degree murder. He remained Thursday at the St. Tammany Parish jail with no bail set, authorities said.

Seven other suspects also remained in jail Thursday, charged with obstruction of justice. Bail for each was set at $500,000.

On Wednesday, sheriff's investigators searched a house Foster had rented for the past five years in Bogalusa. They found Klan paraphernalia, documents and computer files. Among the seized documents were membership applications, titles and a chain of command for group members

"We recovered various documents out of that home that are giving us an indication of the organizational structure and the organizational guidelines of the group," Bonnett said.


Fred Oswold, chief of criminal investigations for the sheriff's office, said the Sons of Dixie Klan group is small and that most of its members already had been arrested.

"So far we have learned that they were a small group, but they were fairly organized," said Oswold, who said his agency is working with the FBI to learn more about the group.

CNN's Katie Ross contributed to this report.

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