True Crime News Roundup: ‘Considerable Doubt’ Remains In Emmett Till Murder Case Despite DOJ Closing File

Plus: The body of a missing Florida woman is found near her boyfriend’s home; Scott Peterson is resentenced for his wife Laci Peterson’s 2002 murder; and former Empire actor Jussie Smollett found guilty for falsely reporting a hate crime.

December 10, 2021
(left) Young Emmett Till wears a hat. Chicago native Emmett Till was brutally murdered in Mississippi after flirting with a white woman. (right) Mamie Bradley, mother of lynched teenager Emmett Till, cries as she recounts her son's death, Washington DC, October 22, 1955.

(L-R) Young Emmett Till, and Mamie Bradley, mother of lynched teenager Emmett Till

Photo by: Bettmann/Afro Newspaper/Gado/Getty Images

Bettmann/Afro Newspaper/Gado/Getty Images

(L-R) Young Emmett Till, and Mamie Bradley, mother of lynched teenager Emmett Till

By: Aaron Rasmussen

The Department of Justice closes its latest investigation into the 1955 death of Emmett Till.

The Justice Department has closed an official investigation into the infamous Jim Crow-era death of Emmett Till after failing to prove a key witness in the case lied. On August 24, 1955, Till, a Black 14-year-old from Chicago, was visiting family in Mississippi when he whistled at then-20-year-old Carolyn Bryant Donham at a store. Four days later, at least two white men abducted Till from his relatives’ home and brutally beat him to death. Black witnesses said Till only whistled at Donham, countering her allegations the teenager was physically aggressive and grabbed her waist and hand while sexually propositioning her. A local all-white jury later acquitted the two men tried for Till’s murder. In 2017, professor Timothy Tyson came forward and claimed that in a 2008 interview with him, Donham recanted her story that Till got physical with her, CNN reported. As a result, federal investigators recently spoke with Donham, who adamantly denied she changed her account of what happened. According to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the professor failed to record or transcribe key parts of the alleged interview, making it impossible for officials to prove Donham lied to FBI agents. A DOJ memo released on Dec. 6 detailing the decision to close the file noted that “Till’s conduct was likely perceived by many in the white community to violate their unwritten code, prevalent in the Jim Crow South, that Black men were forbidden from initiating interactions with white women.” Despite ending the investigation, the Justice Department concluded, “there remains considerable doubt as to the credibility of [Donham's] original account of what happened inside the store.”

The body of a missing woman is found near her boyfriend’s Florida home.

On Dec. 6, police in Florida arrested Collin Knapp, 30, and charged him with the second-degree murder of 34-year-old Kathleen Moore, WTSP reported. Moore went missing after she got into a fight with her on-off boyfriend of five years during a night out with friends in Largo on Nov. 28. While Knapp reportedly refused to cooperate when questioned about Moore’s whereabouts, the day after he was taken into custody, a person walking in woods about 50 yards from Knapp’s home discovered Moore’s remains in extremely thick brush, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators searching a landfill allegedly also found bloody clothes that came from a dumpster where the suspect was employed. “I wish to God we could bring her back,” Sheriff Chris Nocco said of the victim, who was identified by her tattoos. He added: “We will bring her justice, we will bring her family justice.”

Scott Peterson is resentenced for killing his wife almost 20 years ago.

Former death-row inmate Scott Peterson was resentenced to life in prison without parole on Dec. 8 for the murder of his 27-year-old wife, Laci, and their unborn son, Connor, in 2002. Last year, USA Today reported, California’s Supreme Court overturned Peterson’s 2005 death sentence, ruling, in part, the trial judge “made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection” by not properly screening for potential bias against the death penalty.

Jurors in Illinois find Jussie Smollet guilty.

After deliberating over nine hours, on Dec. 9, jurors in Chicago found actor Jussie Smollet guilty on five of six charges of felony disorderly conduct for falsely reporting to police he was the victim of a hate crime. In January 2019, Smollet, 39, claimed he was attacked, called racist and homophobic slurs, doused in a chemical substance and had a noose put around his neck. Authorities contended Smollet paid two brothers he knew to fake the attack because he wasn’t happy with his pay on the Fox show "Empire" and disagreed with how the studio handled a threatening letter sent to him, according to The Washington Post. Smollet faces up to three years in prison when he is sentenced.

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UPDATE: 5 Interesting Facts About The Scott Peterson Case

California governor Gavin Newsom has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty, which could mean that Death Row inmates — including Scott Peterson — are no longer facing certain death.