Eight people have been arrested in connection with the slaying Sunday of a Tulsa, Okla., woman who tried to back out of a weekend Ku Klux Klan initiation at a remote campsite in northeastern St. Tammany Parish, authorities said.
Raymond “Chuck” Foster, 44, of Bogalusa, who authorities said is a high-ranking Klan member, is accused of shooting the unidentified white woman with a .40-caliber handgun during an argument Sunday afternoon about her intention to leave the initiation, authorities said Tuesday.
Foster and the seven other white men and women implicated in the case tried to cover up the slaying, St. Tammany and Washington Parish sheriff’s deputies said.
Someone had removed the bullet from the woman’s body, investigators determined. The woman’s clothing, other personal effects and the campsite next to a sandbar in the Pearl River Navigation Canal were set afire, said Capt. George Bonnett, St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s spokesman.
The canal, a waterway which gives marine traffic access to the Pearl River and is next to the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge, is a popular area for boating, fishing and camping, Washington Parish authorities said.
Foster, booked Monday with second-degree murder, was being held without bond at St. Tammany Parish Prison in Covington, deputies said.
Bonnett said the seven others, all of whom are from the Bogalusa area and are believed to be Klan members, were booked Monday and Tuesday with obstruction of justice and remained in St. Tammany Parish Prison on $500,000 bonds.
Deputies identified the seven as Shane Foster, 20; Frank Stafford, 21; Timothy Michael Watkins, 30; Alicia M. Watkins, 23; Andrew Yates, 20; Random Hines, 27; and Danielle Jones, 23.
The shooting victim, whose identity has not been confirmed, was recruited over the Internet and was supposed to return to Oklahoma after joining the KKK in Louisiana to start recruiting new members, St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s deputies said in a statement.
The woman arrived by bus last week in Slidell, met two people, and during the weekend was taken to the campsite, deputies said.
Washington Parish sheriff’s investigators became aware of her death early Monday morning after getting an anonymous tip about two men turning up at a Circle K convenience store near Bogalusa with bloodstains on their clothes, said Shannon Lyons, deputy chief of the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office Criminal Division.
Frank Stafford and Shane Foster, who is Chuck Foster’s son, went into the store north of the intersection of La. 16 and La. 21 and asked the store clerk how to get bloodstains out of their clothing, Bonnett said.
Once alerted, investigators found the woman’s body Monday a few miles south of the campsite under loose brush at the end of Lock No. 3 Road near the village of Sun, deputies said.
Later Monday, deputies said, they found the campsite along with a number of items, including weapons, several flags and six Klan uniforms — five white and one black.
Bonnett noted that the Klan members moved the woman’s body from a wooded, remote campsite only accessible by boat to a roadside accessible to the public.
Lyons said investigators believe Frank Stafford, Shane Foster and Chuck Foster had intended to dispose of the body but that plan went “haywire.”
By telephone Monday, deputies were able to persuade the five others still hiding in the woods and Chuck Foster, who ended up elsewhere in the woods, to surrender. All but Foster were being held on $500,000 bonds, deputies said.
Bonnett said the FBI has been contacted about the shooting. An FBI spokeswoman deferred comment Tuesday to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Though tales of Klan activity may seem like a throwback to another era, experts say the Klan has chapters in Louisiana as well as 5,000 to 6,000 members nationally.
It was unclear Tuesday exactly how Chuck Foster and the Bogalusa Klan chapter deputies say he headed fit into the Klan’s regularly changing hierarchy.
At a news conference Tuesday, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain identified Chuck Foster as an “imperial wizard” who headed the Dixie Brotherhood of the Ku Klux Klan, Bonnett said.
Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks hate groups, said the descriptions he has been given of the patches that the Louisiana Klansmen were wearing seem to be similar to the insignias used by the Dixie Rangers Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Dixie Rangers is headquartered in Walker and has another chapter in Shreveport, Potok said.
Also, a Web site entry for a white supremacist ministry shows that a Chuck Foster held a high-level position with the Southern White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 2001, identifying that man as “Imperial Wizard Rev. Chuck Foster.”
The experts who study such matters say KKK organizations frequently dissolve and splinter into different factions, making them difficult to track.
“The Klan has splintered into a lot of small groups with a range of leadership from sophisticated to pathetic,” said Chip Berlet, a senior analyst at Political Research Associates in Boston who has studied and written extensively about white supremacist organizations and hate groups.
“Its history is as a white terrorist organization that preaches violence,” Berlet said. “People who join it should not be surprised when violence is used to deal with struggles within the group itself.”
Potok said five other Klan chapters are known to exist in Louisiana in addition to the Dixie Rangers chapters. The Bayou Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has chapters in Homer, Shreveport, St. Amant and Walker. The National Aryan Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has a chapter in Winnsboro, he said.
Nationally, there are 34 Klan organizations divided into 155 chapters, Potok said.
Many of my colleagues raised the question if this sudden resurgence in the Klan is due to them not being happy about a black president. I'm sure that has something to do with it. It's kind of like they were just waiting for the right time, and with all the negativity people still have for the election coupled, they may be capitalizing on the hate. I hope that I'm wrong, but I fear that I'm not.
What is it about a person's skin color that makes people hate them so? If you want to hate a person, then that's your God-given right, but there is no reason to start or join a group whose main purpose is to eradicate an entire race of people just because they are different.
Sometimes one mus wonder what kind of world we are living in when these kind of things can happen. Even more so, the fact that they kill their own! No one is safe when it comes to hate groups. If there is anyone that needs to be eradicated it is them...not by murder, but by some other more peaceful means. Although personally, I wouldn't mind going medieval on each and every one of them for the pain they have caused their victims and their families over the years.