NATCHEZ, Miss. -- Those who remember Ben Chester White recall a farmhand who liked to talk, tried his hand at courting and generally left others alone -- not someone who deserved to die because he was black.
White was allegedly abducted by Ku Klux Klansmen 34 years ago, dragged into a national forest in southwest Mississippi and shot to death. A previously acquitted white man now awaits trial on a federal murder charge.
Seventy-year-old Naomi Jackson, smiling as she recalls that White tried to date her in their youth, says the man she knew by the nickname ''Chest'' was not a threat to anyone.
''He was a nice looking old man, with good hair,'' Jackson said. ''He just ran his mouth a lot, but he didn't bother nobody.''
The 67-year-old White's body was found in June 1966 in Homochitto National Forest, decapitated and shot more than 12 times.
Ernest Henry Avants, 69, one of three people originally accused of the killing, was acquitted in a 1967 state trial. Avants has maintained his innocence.
Federal authorities reopened the case after learning the killing may have taken place on federal land, and Avants was indicted earlier this month on a federal murder charge. The two other alleged accomplices have since died.
Prosecutors say the killing might have been part of a plot to lure the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to the area so he could be assassinated. Free on $50,000 bond, Avants faces an August trial.
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