Judge dismisses indictment in Dahmer case

The Associated Press

HATTIESBURG - A judge has dismissed the indictment against a Laurel businessman accused in a civil rights slaying, but left open the door for prosecutors to resurrect the case.

Charles Noble had faced murder and arson charges in the 1966 firebombing death of Vernon Dahmer, Sr. Noble was indicted in 1998 with former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers and Deavours Nix.

Forrest County Circuit Judge Richard McKenzie on Monday rejected a defense request to dismiss the indictment with prejudice, which would have stopped prosecutors from filing charges again.

Instead, McKenzie granted the prosecution request to dismiss the indictment without prejudice, allowing authorities to refile the case against Noble. McKenzie gave no explanation for his ruling.

"I really believe they're not going to indict him or try him again," said Noble's lawyer, Joe Sam Owen of Gulfport.

Owen said his client can either accept the judge's ruling or submit all the issues to the Mississippi Supreme Court, including allegations that prosecutors failed to share information and documents.

If the matter isn't appealed to the high court, Owen said, the defense is conceding the speedy trial issue in any kind of future appeal.

Prosecutors asked for the dismissal after their key witness, Billy Roy Pitts, developed cancer.

Pitts testified in the trials that led to the convictions of four Klansmen in the 1960s in connection with Dahmer's killing. He again testified in the 1998 trial of Bowers, convicted of murder and given a life sentence. Nix died before going to trial.

In 1999, Noble's trial ended in a mistrial.

Dahmer's son, Vernon Dahmer Jr., said he was pleased with the judge's decision.

"Since our key witness is ill, and we're not sure if he'll be able to come back and testify, this decision allows other witnesses, if they're out there, to come forward."

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