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Date Set for Trial in 1966 Killing

March 16, 1999

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) _ A judge has refused to dismiss murder and arson charges against a businessman in the 1966 Ku Klux Klan firebombing death of civil rights leader Vernon Dahmer.

Instead, Circuit Judge Richard McKenzie ordered Charles Noble to go on trial on June 14.

Noble was first tried in 1969 on federal conspiracy charges in connection with Dahmer’s killing. That case ended in a mistrial.

The state case was reopened in 1991. Last May, Noble was indicted along with former Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers and Deavours Nix.

Bowers was convicted in August and sentenced to life in prison. Nix died in September before standing trial.

Defense attorney Joe Sam Owens has argued that Noble was denied a speedy trial, and also challenged the credibility of the prosecution’s likely key witness, former Klansman Billy Roy Pitts.

Pitts has testified that he took part in the firebombing of Dahmer’s home and store in Hattiesburg.

He testified at Bowers’ trial last year that Noble was one of the Klansmen who burned Dahmer’s store while others firebombed the nearby house where the Dahmer family slept. Dahmer stayed inside the burning house, firing his gun out a window to hold the attackers off while his wife and children escaped.

Dahmer’s son, Dennis Dahmer, said after Monday’s hearing that family members ``look forward to the trial date ... so we can get this behind us.″

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