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Man decapitated in possible racial killing

June 8, 1998
Web posted at: 9:39 p.m. EDT (0139 GMT)

JASPER, Texas (CNN) -- Three white men, two with suspected links to the Aryan Nation, are being held in connection with the killing of a black man who was beaten, dragged by a truck and decapitated.

The FBI is investigating the possibility of civil rights law violations in the death of James Byrd Jr., 49, whose body was found on a rural logging road near this southeast Texas community Sunday morning, said FBI Special Agent Don Clark in Houston.

The three men now in custody have not been formally charged but soon will be, Jasper County Sheriff Billy Rowles said Monday.

The FBI and local authorities plan to hold a 10 a.m. news conference on Tuesday.

Investigators say Byrd was driven to a logging road, beaten unconscious and then tied to the back of a pickup truck and dragged down the logging road, a law enforcement source told CNN.


A sheriff's deputy, tipped off by a phone call, found Byrd's "badly mangled" body. His head and an arm were found a short distance away, the source said.

The FBI was called into the case because of the apparent racial aspect of the killing. Charges of "conspiracy to deprive constitutional rights" are being reviewed, according to the sheriff.

Byrd's sister told CNN he was last seen walking home from a friend's anniversary party early Sunday morning.

"He has no car and tried to catch a ride home, but couldn't," Clara Taylor said. "So he took off walking."

She said her brother did not know the three men being held in his death.

"We don't know how he came into contact with them," Taylor said.

The three suspects were picked up on the basis of the phone call from the tipster, who described their pickup truck.

Based on information gathered by investigators and tattoos found on the men, it's believed two of them may be connected to the Aryan Nation, a white supremacist group.

Byrd was born in Jasper and never had "any problems like that," Taylor said, referring to possible racial problems. He was disabled and did not work, she said, declining to elaborate.

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