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Brother refused to give up on racially tinged 1964 deaths

Story Highlights

• Mississippi victim's brother, TV producer help build case against suspect
• Thomas Moore held on to FBI file for years, gave it to U.S. attorney
• Moore's brother and a friend were beaten and drowned in 1964
• Suspect is 71-year-old who was thought to be dead
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- After the investigation into the May 1964 deaths in rural Mississippi of his brother and a friend went cold, Thomas Moore was convinced he would never see justice done.

But when a documentary filmmaker for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. began to research the case about a year and a half ago, Moore saw a glimmer of hope.

And Thursday, 71-year-old James Ford Seale, who court documents state is a former Ku Klux Klan member, made an initial appearance in court in Jackson, Mississippi, on charges of kidnapping and conspiracy in the abduction and killing of Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, both 19, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced. (Watch how a 42-year-old cold case heated up Video)

Seale has pleaded not guilty. He is being held without bail, Gonzales said. (Dee's sister prayed for justice "somehow, some way")

Moore said that after momentum began to build on the case two years ago, he told his late brother he wouldn't give up.

"I promised him in 2005 at his grave in Franklin County ... that I would fight until I die," Moore told reporters in Washington on Thursday shortly after the indictment was announced.

"When I got the word yesterday ... I cried," he continued. "And I felt that my mom and my dad and Charles Moore and Henry Dee said, 'Thank you.' " (Watch Moore savor the day he's been waiting for Video)

Moore said he returned to Franklin County with CBC producer David Ridgen to help research the case.

At one point, Moore said, he told some friends there it was too bad that one of the suspects -- Seale, who was initially arrested along with Charles Edwards soon after the murders -- had died.

"They said, 'He hasn't passed away,' " Moore said. "They directed us to where he lived. That changed our mission."

Soon after their arrests in 1964, Seale and Edwards were released on bail and were never tried.

According to the CBC, FBI documents stated that Edwards confessed that he had picked up the two young African-American men, beaten and interrogated them.

But he said they were alive when he left.

Edwards, who also is still alive, was not named in the recent indictment.

The allegations in the indictment against Seale say that "Dee and Moore were beaten by their captors, then transported and finally forcibly drowned by being thrown into the old Mississippi River tied to heavy objects alleged to have included an engine block, iron weights and railroad ties," Gonzales said.

"These allegations are a painful reminder of a terrible time in our country, a time when some people viewed their fellow Americans as inferior and as a threat based only on the color of their skin," the attorney general added. (Watch the FBI's top agent describe 'a dark chapter' in history Video)

After learning that Seale was alive, Ridgen gave Dunn Lampton, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, the FBI files on the case that he got from a reporter in Mississippi.

"The really most important factor, in my mind, was Thomas Moore coming to see me," Lampton said. "And at that time, I had not really looked at the file. And the case had lain dormant for years. And I thought that there was nothing we could do about it."

"I took the file home with me and read it," Lampton said. "I was a district attorney for 20 years; I've tried a lot of murder cases. I read the file and I thought that perhaps something could be done either on the state side or on the federal side."

Lampton said he helped form a task force and that the end result -- the indictment -- was a joint effort.

"Nineteen months ago was the start of a journey," Moore said. "Had no idea what it would lead to, but we had hoped and we tried and we continued to push.

"And I'm so glad."

CNN Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena and Justice Department Producer Terry Frieden contributed to this report



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