After a Ku Klux Klan initiation at a Louisiana campsite went awry, authorities said, a recruit who tried to back out was shot dead. The body of the woman, who traveled from Oklahoma, was dumped on a rural roadside and covered with brush. Her belongings were set aflame.
But the cover-up was stillborn: The body was found Monday, a day after the shooting. By Tuesday, a local Klan leader sat in jail on a second-degree murder charge, and seven others were charged with trying to help conceal the crime.
"The IQ level of this group is not impressive, to be kind," St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain said Tuesday.
The woman, whose identity was not released, was recruited over the Internet to participate in the ritual and then return to her home state to find other members for the white supremacist group, Strain said.
It wasn't clear what rites awaited her at the campsite, but authorities believe the initiation had begun by the time the shooting happened. Strain said the group's leader, Raymond "Chuck" Foster, 44, shot and killed her Sunday night after a fight broke out when she asked to be taken back to town.
Foster was charged with second-degree murder and is being held without bond. Capt. George Bonnett, a spokesman for the sheriff's department, said he doesn't know if Foster has an attorney.
Seven others - five men and two women ages 20 to 30 - were charged with obstruction of justice and were held on $500,000 bond at the St. Tammany Parish jail. All eight of the suspects live in neighboring Washington Parish, but Bonnett said he couldn't immediately identify their hometowns.
Authorities said some of the suspects tried to destroy evidence by burning the woman's belongings along with other items. At the campsite, investigators found weapons, several flags and six Klan robes, some emblazoned with patches reading "KKK LIFE MEMBER" or "KKK SECURITY Enforcement."
Strain said the woman arrived in the Slidell, La., area last week and was met by two people connected to the Klan group. She was taken during the weekend to the campsite near Sun, La., on the banks of the Pearl River. Sun is about 60 miles north of New Orleans.
"We haven't completely sorted out if they finished the initiation," Bonnett said, adding he wasn't aware of any other KKK-related cases during his three years with the department. "I assume that they had started it, but I don't know if they were finished."
Authorities said the group's members called themselves the "Dixie Brotherhood."
"This is not what I would call an established Klan group," he said. "The Klan has a pretty high association with violence. Some of these guys are just crooks, sociopaths."
But the sheriff said the public shouldn't feel endangered.
"I can't imagine anyone feeling endangered or at risk by any one of these kooks," Strain said.
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