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Mr. Artis later raped and strangled an 18-year-old woman while the brothers awaited trial. He was convicted of the crime and eventually investigated in the Buie case, but Joe Freeman Britt, the then district attorney, never told defense lawyers.
With no clues left in the Buie case, the first Red Springs murder in four years, the city was desperate for answers, Abrams said. A white school girl told police that Mr. McCollum and Mr. Brown, who are black, were responsible and said she suspected them for acting strange.
She later recanted, but the allegation resulted in a five-hour late night interrogation during which Mr Allen and Mr Snead forced Mr McCollum to confess, Mr Abrams said.
Investigators yelled at Mr McCollum, who was 19 years old at the time but had the mental capacity of a 9-year-old. He called him racist slurs and told him he would be sent to the gas chamber if he did not admit the crime, Mr Abrams said.
At midnight that evening, Mr. McCollum’s mother went to the police station, picked up Mr. Brown, then 15, and wondered why her son hadn’t come home. But when she stepped outside, said Mr. Abrams, the police picked up Mr. Brown to interrogate him as well.
A jury sentenced both of them to execution. After the Supreme Court ordered separate trials, Mr. McCollum returned to death row and Mr. Brown was sentenced to life in prison.
A lawyer representing Mr. Allen and the estate of Mr. Snead, who died in 2019, did not respond to a request for comment. In his testimony last week, Mr. Allen denied the screaming by using racial slurs or forcing the teenagers to confess to the crime.