50 years later: A call for justice for Johnnie Mae Chappell

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- A cry for justice and a pledge for support in a 50-year-old Jacksonville murder case.

Johnnie Mae Chappell, a black woman, was killed 50 years ago Sunday.

She was gunned down for the color of her skin.

The shot was fired from a car with four men inside.

No one in the case served more than three years in jail.

When asked what the next steps are, the State Attorney's office spokesperson told FCN "It is an open homicide."

Sunday, vigils were held around the country in Chappell's memory.

Services were held in Atlanta, Miami and as far away as California.

In Jacksonville, Sheriff John Rutherford pledged support for thorough justice in this case.

"That was my momma. That was my momma," Shelton Chappell said as he sobbed. "Fifty years ago. My momma was shot down like a dog."

Chapell was 4 months old, when his mother, Johnnie Mae Chappell was killed on March 23rd, 1964, because she is black.

First Coast News spoke to a former detective on the case who said he and his partner uncovered a cover-up. months after

Johnnie Mae's death, J.W. Rich confessed to firing the shot. An all-white jury convicted rich on manslaughter. He served three years of a 10-year sentence. Charges of first-degree murder against 3 other men were later dropped.

RELATED: Johnnie Mae Chappell Story: A denial of justice

"We should be able to bring some type of closure to this," Shelton Chappell said. "Some answers. The answers my father didn't get."

Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said much has changed in the department in 50 years.

Changes including policies, procedures and personnel, along with changes in public records laws.

Rutherford pledged support to the Chappell family and others.

"To be sure that this doesn't happen again," Rutherford said as he addressed a crowd of about 50 people at a vigil for Johnnie Mae. "If there is any way that we could resolve issues in this case and bring justice to the Chappell family, we would certainly be there with you, Shelton."

"Justice will reign," Candice Chappell-Bilbro, a granddaughter of Johnnie Mae's said. "Justice will prevail.Someday we really will and the families in this country will get justice for their unsolved and unjust murders. Those are my hopes."

Shelton said in a few days he will be starting a walk from the location where his mother was shot up to Washington, D.C.

In his continued fight for closure and justice for his mother, Shelton said he hopes perhaps talking to law makers in person to tell them his ideas might make some sort of difference.


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