FBI and filmmaker team up to solve cold cases

Keith Beauchamp speaks to CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts.
Filmmaker Keith Beauchamp is teaming up with the FBI to try to solve cold case crimes from the civil rights era.
CBS

NEW YORK - Keith Beauchamp, 39 -- started his career directing music videos. But this award-winning filmmaker long believed he had a higher calling.

"I've always wanted to have a voice," Beauchamp said. "I always wanted to give back to my community and make a difference."

In 2004, Beauchamp made a difference with his acclaimed documentary "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till."

In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was kidnapped and beaten to death for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi.

"I grew up in the deep south," Beauchamp said. "I grew up learning about these murders and now I'm in a position to possibly help the families do something about them. This is why I take on this task."

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That work caught the attention of Cynthia Deitle, then Unit Chief of the FBI's Civil Rights division.

"What exactly could a filmmaker bring to the table to help you do your work," Pitts asked.

"He's not an FBI agent in a blue suit," Deitle said. "He can talk to families. He can talk to a suspect. He can talk to a witness. He can talk to people who are tangentially involved in the case."

Together Beauchamp and the FBI are working to solve other civil rights cold cases which can be seen in a new three part series, produced by CBS News, and airing tonight on "Investigation Discovery."

The first case involves the 1967 murder of Wharlest Jackson, treasurer for the NAACP in Natchez, Miss. Jackson was killed by a car bomb after accepting a factory job once reserved for "WHITES ONLY." Decades later, Jackson's family still grieves.

"I didn't know people were so vicious," Wharlest Jackson, Jr. said.

Deitle says they are investigating about 110 FBI cold cases. Her job - with Beauchamp's help - she says is to solve them all.

"I don't think that the bureau would ever give up hope," Deitle said. "I certainly will not give up hope. I know that Keith won't give up hope.

Hope - it's what a cop and a filmmaker now give families who for too long believed that justice delayed - was justice denied.