New Details in Violent Mississippi Murder of James Craig Anderson

Family members remember the man who loved his church choir, his partner, and the four-year-old girl they raised as their own.

By Jorge Rivas Aug 23, 2011

New details are emerging of the alleged racially motivated murder of Jackson, Mississippi resident James Craig Anderson. The new information paints the victim as a church-going man who was raising a 4-year-old girl with his partner, James Bradfield, and the suspect as a wayward young man who struggled with substance abuse.

Anderson was violently attacked and then run over by a group of white teens. Deryl Dedmon 19, of Brandon, Mississippi is accused of intentionally running over Anderson with his green Ford-250 and is now facing capital murder charges because of evidence that he assaulted and robbed Anderson before allegedly killing the man.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said last week that he has called on the FBI for help investigate the murder. On Friday, charges against Dedmon were upgraded from murder to capital murder, the Clarion Ledger, a local newspaper reports. If convicted, Dedmon could face the death penalty.

Although there were seven other white teens involved in the alleged hate crime, only one other teen, John Rice, has been charged with simple assault. Anderson’s lawyer told The Times this week the family and others wonder why only two of the seven teenagers have been charged in the crime.

It’s unclear what the other teens were doing while Dedmon and Rice physically attacked and robbed Anderson, but witnesses told police that one teenager yelled "white power" and that Dedmon used a racial slur when he bragged about running Anderson over later that night. 

The Southern Poverty Law Center is currently working with the family and their lawyer to investigate whether some of the teenagers involved may have ties to a gang with white-supremacist leanings, the Times reports.

Anderson’s family has remained silent until recently. Although the family created the James Craig Anderson Foundation for Racial Tolerance, they’ve stayed away from the media due to fear of media and political scrutiny as the case moves forward, the family lawyer told reporters

Anderson was a gifted gardener and always genial, his family recently told the Times. He liked his job on the assembly line at the Nissan plant north of Jackson, where he had worked for about seven years. 

He sang tenor in the choir at the First Hyde Park Missionary Baptist Church and was so good "he’d have you falling out," his partner James Bradfield said.

"If you met him, the first thing you were going to see was that grand piano smile," Anderson’s sister Barbara Anderson Young also told the times.

If Dedmon, who’s currently being held in isolation, is successfully prosecuted with a hate crime, it’ll be a first under the state’s 1994 hate crime law.