Cold case of murder and racial inequality reopened

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

GREGG COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - It was a 'drive-by' back before the term was invented. A 50-year-old case of murder and racial inequality that happened in East Texas. The year was 1955 when three people were shot at a Gregg County café, and justice was not served. The FBI is looking at this and numerous other cold cases, to bring closure for the families, and talks with the last survivor of that shooting in 1955.

On October 1955, two white suspects drive by Buddy Hughes Café on Highway 149 and fire shots at the predominantly African-American club, killing a 16-year-old. That night, witnesses told investigators a '51 Ford sped by and a flurry of shots were fired.

16-year-old John Reese was killed and two girls were wounded. One of them was Joyce Fay Nelson-Crockett.

"And, all of the sudden just, 'Boom, boom, boom!' and lot of loud noise," said Nelson-Crockett. "I though it was firecrackers...[I saw] the blood and said one of them firecrackers hit me. And then I heard somebody say, 'He just killed that boy.'"

Two men were arrested, only one went to trial and his sentence was suspended. It is a case, like 33 others across the country, that the FBI is trying to bring resolution to victims and families. The FBI's cold case program gives two things to victims like Nelson.

"One is they asked the FBI field offices to go back and look at cases from the civil rights era that may need a second look at and also to contact community groups to see if they knew of cases that needed a second review," said Special Agent Mark White.

"It upset me so bad," said Nelson-Crockett. "I had never seen anything like that. They need to pay for what they did."

And the final chapter has been written.

"In this particular case, it's not my understanding that there's been any question as to who was responsible, and at this point those responsible are deceased," White.

And, for Nelson, it means closure at last.

"It's never too late," said Nelson.

The FBI is trying to contact all victims and families in cases like this. The bureau was having a little trouble finding Nelson, and it was actually KLTV that found Nelson in Tatum and passed on that information to the FBI.

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