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Group: Murder suspect has long history with Klan

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Chuck Foster started Southern White Knights in 2001, group says
  • Foster shot Cynthia Lynch after she became homesick, police say
  • Louisiana Klan group called itself the Sons of Dixie
  • Foster, 44, charged with second-degree murder; seven others jailed
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COVINGTON, Louisiana (CNN) -- The suspect in the shooting of a woman killed during a Ku Klux Klan initiation has at least a seven-year history of Klan activity, according to an organization that tracks hate groups nationwide.

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

Raymond "Chuck" Foster, 44, was the founding Imperial Wizard, or national leader, of the Southern White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a Klan faction formed January 1, 2001, in Watson, Louisiana, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"During the next three years, the group developed chapters in three other states while maintaining a low profile," the Montgomery, Alabama-based center said on its Web site.

By 2004, the Southern White Knights had chapters in Savannah, Georgia; Homosassa Springs, Florida; and Marion, Ohio. Its founding chapter relocated to Denham Springs, Louisiana. The group disbanded in early 2005, the center said.

Foster faces second-degree murder charges in the death of Cynthia Lynch, 43, of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Video Watch how an initiation rite went wrong »

Authorities said Lynch was recruited over the Internet and took a bus to Slidell, Louisiana, where she was met by two Klan members. The three went to a campsite in the woods near Sun, Louisiana, about 60 miles north of New Orleans, where they met other members of the group.

Capt. George Bonnett of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Department 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, Foster, allegedly pushed her to the ground and shot her to death without warning.

FBI Seeking Leads

The FBI urges anyone with information on the death of Cynthia Lynch or the Sons of Dixie to call the bureau at at 504-816-3000.

Lynch wanted to leave the campsite because she was homesick, investigators concluded after talking to Lynch's family in Tulsa.

After the shooting, "Foster, we believe, removed a knife from his pocket and rolled over the victim and began a process of trying to remove the bullet from her body ... because he was trying to destroy evidence where law enforcement would not be able to piece these things together," Strain said.

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 Southern Poverty Law Center said it is unaware of any Klan group operating under the name Dixie Brotherhood or Sons of Dixie, names that have surfaced in media reports of Lynch's death.

However, the organization said it is aware that last year, a new Klan group calling itself the Dixie Rangers Knights of the Ku Klux Klan formed in Walker, Louisiana, about 80 miles from where the slaying took place.

"It's unclear at this point if the Dixie Rangers and the Dixie Brotherhood/Sons of Dixie are one and the same," the center said.

The FBI said Thursday that it is assisting local authorities in the case. The FBI's top agent in New Orleans said the agency usually doesn't monitor specific groups but will look into whether federal laws were violated.

"The FBI is working closely with local law enforcement authorities investigating this recent incident," Special Agent in Charge David W. Welker said. He added that the FBI would "aggressively investigate" any leads.

Sheriff's investigators said they received the initial tip from a convenience store clerk. Two of the group members went into the store and asked the clerk whether 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 the 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.

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 was taken to the St. Tammany Parish jail, and no bail has been set, authorities said.

Seven other suspects were jailed, 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 that the Sons of Dixie group is small and that those arrested make up most of its membership.

"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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