Conclusion: Klansmen killed two

Published August 17, 2006

MIMS - Closing the file on a decades-old case, investigators on Wednesday said four now-dead Ku Klux Klan members were behind a house bombing that killed two black civil rights activists in 1951.

Harry T. and Harriette Moore died after the explosion under their bed on Christmas Day. Despite several investigations that never produced criminal charges, Attorney General Charlie Crist and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reopened the case in late 2004.

Crist on Wednesday said Earl J. Brooklyn, Tillman H. Bevlin, Joseph N. Cox and Edward L. Spivey were the KKK members who carried out the crime.

The couple's daughter, Evangeline Moore, said she was relieved to finally hear the names of those implicated.

"God's taken care of them, has dealt with them very, very badly, and they will continue to be prosecuted his way," Moore said.

Many of the conclusions were drawn from several confessions Spivey reportedly gave to investigators and an anonymous tipster. Spivey died of cancer in 1980. By then the other men had long been dead. Bevlin died less than a year after the bombing, apparently of natural causes. Brooklyn died on the attack's first anniversary, and Cox committed suicide in 1952, a day after an interview with the FBI about the case.

Frank Beisler, lead investigator for the FDLE, said he rediscovered a confession Spivey gave Brevard County sheriff's investigators in 1970. He said Spivey was drunk, and all the information didn't come together at first, but Spivey related details about the house he couldn't know if he wasn't there the night of the bombing.

Around last summer an anonymous tipster came forward and said Spivey had also confessed to him.

"There were anywhere from six to 10 confessions all together, and the information stayed very consistent," Beisler said.

Beisler said sheriff's investigators and a prosecutor were preparing in 1978 to get Spivey indicted, but they left to work for the State Attorney's Office. The investigation there ended when the prosecutor wasn't re-elected, Beisler said.

"The two investigators moved on and thought somebody else had picked it up, but nobody did, and it just sat there for 50 years," he said. "Somebody gave us the name of one of the investigators and we went to see him. He thought the case had been solved."

Investigators think Brooklyn and Bevlin had floor plans of the Moore home, and Cox may have been rewarded for participating by having his mortgage paid off. Spivey is believed to have been at the home on the night of the bombing.

Harry Moore had organized the Brevard County branch of the NAACP in the 1930s and worked to register black voters. He was killed in the explosion; Mrs. Moore died nine days later.

Wednesday's announcement was held at the site of Harry and Harriette Moore's house, now a park and cultural center, with exhibits about the two.