Originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune on December 12, 2008.
A grand jury in the racially troubled northeast Texas town of Paris returned first-degree murder indictments Thurs-day against two white men accused in the September dragging death of a black man, and the prosecutor said he is inves-tigating whether to add hate crime charges.
Shannon Finley and Charles Ryan Crostley, both 27, face up to life in prison if convicted of charges that they mur-dered 24-year-old Brandon McClelland by running him over and dragging him beneath a pickup truck after the three went on a late-night beer run.
Finley also was indicted on evidence tampering charges alleging he attempted to wash McClelland’s blood from the undercarriage of the truck, while Crostley was charged with retaliating against a witness in the case, authorities said. Both remain in jail, unable to post bond.
McClelland’s partially dismembered body was found on a remote county highway on Sept. 16, and local police ini-tially dismissed the case as an ordinary hit-and-run.
But civil rights activists demanded that authorities investigate the killing as a possible hate crime because of rumors that Finley was a member of a white supremacist prison gang.
Special Prosecutor Toby Shook said he elected not to present hate crime charges to the grand jury Thursday. Such charges would not result in any enhancement of the penalty for murder.
“We’re still looking at things,” said Shook, who was appointed after the local district attorney recused himself in the case. “You can always go back to the grand jury and reindict.”