November 13 2008
By DAVID J. MITCHELL AND SANDY DAVIS
Details emerged Wednesday about a Bogalusa man arrested on charges he shot and killed a white woman who tried to back out of a Ku Klux Klan initiation in northeastern St. Tammany Parish, authorities said.
The alleged shooter, Raymond “Chuck” Foster, 44, 1616 Louisiana Ave., Bogalusa, has a long criminal history in a variety of jurisdictions, including a manslaughter arrest in Washington Parish that apparently did not lead to a conviction, authorities said.
St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s deputies have said Foster is a high-ranking KKK official who heads a Bogalusa chapter that calls itself the Sons of Dixie or the Dixie Brotherhood.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, which tracks hate groups, said Wednesday that Foster’s Klan links date to at least January 2001, and include groups based at one time in Livingston Parish.
Hatewatch, based in Montgomery, Ala., said it is not aware of any group operating under the names Sons of Dixie or the Dixie Brotherhood, but a new Klan group calling itself the Dixie Rangers Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has formed in Walker.
On Wednesday, St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Peter Galvan identified the woman victim of the attack as Cynthia C. Lynch, 43, of Tulsa, Okla, through forensic findings, the help of family members and past medical records.
Lynch was recruited through the Internet for the initiation at a campsite next to the Pearl River Navigation Canal with Foster and seven other KKK members.
Lynch had her head shaved while participants were in Klan robes and held burning torches, St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s deputies said. Deputies recovered the robes and other materials.
Chuck Foster shot her with a .40-caliber handgun during an argument about her leaving, deputies have said.
Chuck Foster; his son, Shane Foster, 20, also of 1616 Louisiana Ave., Bogalusa, and others tried to cover up the shooting, cutting the bullet out of Lynch’s body, burning her personal effects and the campsite and dumping her body in a remote location.
All but Foster are between 20 and 30 years of age, St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s deputies said. Foster has been booked with second-degree murder of Lynch and is being held without bond. The seven others were booked with obstruction of justice, deputies said.
White and black Bogalusa leaders provided differing views Wednesday on how far Bogalusa has gotten past racial tensions from the civil rights era, when the city was an acknowledged Ku Klux Klan hotbed.
Bogalusa Police Department officers and Mayor Mack McGehee said they have not seen evidence of the KKK in the city in years. They said they wanted to see the KKK group allegedly involved exposed for whatever it is and expressed concern about what news reports of the event would do to Bogalusa’s reputation.
“I thought we were way beyond that, and it’s kind of disappointing that you can have somebody right under your nose and not even know it,” said McGehee, 48, who has been mayor 10 years.
FBI Special Agent in Charge David W. Welker said in a statement issued Wednesday that the FBI is working with area law enforcement to investigate the slaying and determine whether any federal violation of law took place.
“The FBI takes all such matters seriously and will aggressively investigate all leads and threats,” Welker said in the statement.
But some black leaders said that while the KKK may not be organized like it once was, racial tensions linked to the KKK still linger in Bogalusa.
“The mentality and that attitude, that Klanish hatred, separatist mentality, it is still here in Bogalusa,” said the Rev. Coleman Moses, pastor of White Hall Missionary Baptist Church in Bogalusa.
Moses said he received warnings in 2006 from a white community leader, whom he would not name, that physical and vandalism threats were made against him and other black ministers involved in supporting then-superintendent of Bogalusa city schools, Jerry Payne, who is black.
Moses said several black church officials and school officials were targeted by vandals and he reported those criminal acts to the police.
One of the officials, Marvin C. Austin, 61, deacon at New Triumph Baptist Church, said a rock was thrown at his window shortly after Moses got word of the threats.
Police Chief Jerry Agnew, who said he has not seen any sign of the KKK in his 13 years as chief, reported Moses’ allegations to the FBI. Moses said he spoke with the FBI but never heard from agents again.
Austin also said Wednesday he recalled seeing fliers in October 2007 announcing a public barbecue on Louisiana Avenue hosted by the Sons of Dixie, at a location on the same street where Chuck Foster resides.
“It was the same group, the Sons of Dixie,” said Austin, who is also president of the Bogalusa Voters League. He did not save a copy of the flier.
Hatewatch identified Foster as the founding Imperial Wizard, or national leader, of the Southern White Knights of the KKK, a Klan faction formed Jan. 1, 2001, in Watson.
The group eventually disbanded in early 2005 after forming four active chapters, including relocating the founding chapter to Denham Springs, Hatewatch said.
But there are also doubts that the KKK is back in Bogalusa at the strength it once had, with some skeptics interviewed Wednesday dubbing the eight involved in the killing of Lynch as KKK “wannabes.”
One leader of a white supremacy group said Wednesday the Ku Klux Klan as it once existed is now defunct.
“There hasn’t been a real Klan for years,” said Richard Barrett, the head of the Nationalist Movement.
“You have people now that buy a T-shirt or a flag over the Internet and then say they’re members of the Ku Klux Klan,” Barrett said. “That’s more of a fashion statement than an organization.”
Barrett, who in January led a white supremacy rally in Jena, said the last time the Ku Klux Klan was a large organization was when Robert Shelton, of Alabama, was the Grand Wizard of the United Klans of America from the 1960s to the early 1990s.
“I knew Robert Shelton. He had a building, a telephone, a desk, a membership list and funds. He had people that worked with him and for him,” Barrett said.
“Now all you have is people here and there who pop up and say, ‘I’m the Klan.’ They try to revive it, but it’s never really been organized since Shelton.”
Lewis Murray, assistant district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District, said a Washington Parish grand jury pretermitted, or let pass without notice, Foster’s manslaughter charge in December 1994. Records do not indicate the charge was ever brought again to the grand jury, Murray said.
He compared a pretermitted charge issued by a grand jury to something like a “hung jury” situation. When a charge is pretermitted, the jury either votes to pretermit or cannot agree whether to charge the defendant.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the FBI at (504) 816-3000 or local authorities.
Greg Garland and Bob Anderson contributed to this story