Emmett Till Case: Authorities Reopen Investigation Into Teen's 1955 Killing

Playing Feds Reopen 1955 Emmett Till Murder Case After Receiving 'New Information'

An investigation into the brutal 1955 slaying of 14-year-old Emmett Till, which shocked the world and spotlighted racial hatred in the American South, has been reopened.

A Justice Department report to Congress says it is re-investigating Till's death after receiving "new information," The Associated Press reported Thursday.

Till, an African-American teenager from Chicago, was visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, when he was kidnapped and murdered in 1955.

Emmett Till
Photos of Emmett Till. Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

Days earlier, he had entered a store and met a white storekeeper, 21-year-old Carolyn Donham, who claimed he'd grabbed her and made crude sexual remarks.

Three days after the kidnapping, Till's body was found in the Tallahatchie River, weighed down with a 74-pound cotton gin fan. His injuries were shocking: He had been beaten and shot; he was missing his left eye and his right eye was dangling on his cheek.

Images of the child's brutalized body in a casket were widely shared at the time, shining a light on racial hatred in the Deep South and invigorating the civil rights movement.

Donham's then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, were charged with the murder but acquitted by an all-white jury.

Emmett Till trial
Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam speak with their attorney during the murder trial. Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

During an interview with Look magazine in 1956, the two men reportedly confessed to the killing. They were never retried. Milam died in 1980; Bryant in 1994.

The case was closed in 2007 with authorities saying the suspects were dead.

The Justice Department report, which was issued in March, does not indicate what the new information might be, but it comes after the publication of a book last year, "The Blood of Emmett Till," by Duke University professor Timothy B. Tyson.

Donham, who spoke to Tyson for his book, acknowledged in a 2008 interview that the allegations he'd grabbed her and had been sexually crude were not true.

“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” the book quotes her as saying.

Donham, who turns 84 this month, now lives in North Carolina, AP reported. A man who answered the door to a reporter at her home declined to comment on the Justice Department's investigation.

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