NEW ORLEANS, La. – An Oklahoma woman who was lured over the Internet to take part in a Ku Klux Klan initiation was shot and killed after the ritual went awry, and the group tried to cover it up by dumping her body on a rural roadside and setting her belongings aflame, authorities said.
But the plan failed: 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, identified Wednesday as Cynthia C. Lynch, 43, of Tulsa, Okla., was supposed to be initiated near the village of Sun, La. 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 and taken to the campsite on the banks of the Pearl River, 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." Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League, said the Dixie Brotherhood appears to be a small, loosely organized group of people.
"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.