June 1, 2005

From ABC Affiliate, Channel 7, Chicago

Emmett Till's body exhumed

FBI leading investigation in Alsip

By Cheryl Burton

Nearly 50 years after Emmett Till's murder in Mississippi, his body was exhumed Wednesday from a south suburban cemetery. Investigators hope to learn the exact cause of death and find evidence that could lead to new charges in the 1955 murder.

Till's murder became a symbol for the civil rights movement. An autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow. A court order requires Till's body be returned to his family by Monday. When the autopsy is complete, it could confirm the remains are that of Emmett Till and determine exactly how he was killed.

For 50 years, it was the gravesite of Emmett Till and a symbol for the civil rights movement. Wednesday it became a crime scene when the FBI exhumed the remains of the 14-year-old who was tortured and murdered. Till's family held a brief prayer ceremony before the exhumation. Only a few cemetery workers were allowed near the site. Even congressman Bobby Rush, who led the effort to reopen the Till murder, couldn't come onto the grounds. Till's family says an autopsy of his remains is necessary.

"At least we have gotten this far, this part of the puzzle. This is part of the evidence that we need -- that the FBI needs -- to show to the state of Mississippi to prove to them that this is Emmett Till and how he was killed," said Simeon Wright, Till's cousin.

Wright was with Till the night he was kidnapped and killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. His body was found in the Tallahatchie River. His brutalized body, viewed by thousands during an open casket funeral, was never autopsied.

Till's remains were put on a flatbed truck Wednesday and driven to the Cook County medical examiner's office, where Dr. Edmund Donahue will make a forensic examination. One Cook County commissioner wants to make sure Donahue reports his findings.

"I think there is some obligation for him to tell us something. So, he works for us. He is not employed by the state of Mississippi," said Bobbi Steele, Cook County commissioner.

Two white men were acquitted of Till's murder, but later confessed to the crime in a magazine. They have since died. Investigators say they will use information from the autopsy report to help them find possible co-conspirators who could still be alive.

"When the event occurred, that was the year I was born. I grew up in the South, so I'm very familiar with civil rights. I went to an all-black or historically black university, so for me personally, the event signifies that even though the system of justice sometimes turns very slowly, it still turns," said Everett .

When the autopsy is completed, the report will be forwarded to Mississippi authorities. After Till's remains are returned to his family next week, they will have a private reburial.

While family says the exhumation is an important part of this murder investigation, one family member said what Emmett Till's mother wanted more than anything before she died was an apology from the state of Mississippi. She never received it. Perhaps this will provide some type of closure for the family.


Emmett Till