Two Suspects Indicted in Racially Charged Texas Case

An East Texas grand jury indicted two white men Thursday in the racially charged hit-and-run death of a black man who was dragged beneath a vehicle.

Shannon Finley and Charles Crostley are charged with the murder of 24-year-old Brandon McClelland, whose mangled body was found Sept. 16 on a country road.

Finley faces an additional charge of tampering with physical evidence for allegedly trying to wash blood and "biological material" from his truck, according to the indictment. Crostley faces an additional charge of retaliation for allegedly threatening a potential witness in a phone call before he was arrested.

Finley and Crostley remain in the Lamar County Jail. Their attorneys did not immediately respond to phone messages left by The Associated Press.

Authorities have said the two suspects purposely ran over and killed McClelland following an argument on the way home from a late-night beer run. McClelland's body was caught beneath the pickup truck and dragged about 70 feet.

To some, the case stirs memories of the notorious dragging death of James Byrd 10 years ago in the East Texas town of Jasper, which is about 200 miles southeast of Paris. Last month, the New Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam led protests in Paris, a city about 95 miles northeast of Dallas with a history of tense relationships between blacks and whites. At least one member of the Ku Klux Klan watched the protest from a nearby parking lot.

The case is being handled by special prosecutor Toby Shook, a former assistant district attorney in Dallas County. Shook took over prosecutorial duties after Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young recused himself because he represented Finley in a 2003 murder case.

Authorities have maintained that McClelland's death was not racially motivated, a stance that angered the victim's family and activists. Young has said McClelland was friends with the two suspects for about a decade. The prosecutor also pointed out that McClelland was not chained to the back of the truck, as Byrd was.

Shook declined comment Thursday.

In the 2003 murder case, Finley eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served four years in prison for the fatal shooting of a friend.

In that same case, McClelland pleaded guilty to perjury for providing a false alibi for Finley's whereabouts on the night of the shooting. He was sentenced to probation but served some jail time because he violated its terms.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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