Missing remains of 1963 church bombing victim believed to be found
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. —
- There are dramatic new developments in the search for the missing remains of a key figure in the 1960’s civil rights era.
- Addie Mae Collins was one of the four little girls murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing back in 1963.
- She was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Birmingham, but her body has been missing for years.
- ABC 33/40 News Investigates came up with the theory that Collins’ body could be buried several feet behind her headstone.
- An underground radar company searched there this week and found what appears to be a child’s casket. They believe Addie Mae Collins’ remains are inside.
Underground radar used to search for Addie Mae Collins' casket
Randy Fields and Mike Mattingly from Advanced Radar Technologies used underground radar to search the area behind Collins’ headstone.
Sarah Rudolph, Addie Mae’s sister, watched in silence with her husband, George. I stood next to the Rudolph’s pro-bono attorney John Hall.
Fields and Mattingly made several passes. They identified the spot where they believe Collins’ casket is buried.
“What our equipment is telling us is that there is an object that appears to be a child’s coffin based on the size of the area we located,” said Fields.
The positioning makes sense. It’s right next to Cynthia Wesley’s grave. She was one of the other victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.
I asked Mattingly why he thinks it’s Addie Mae Collins’ casket.
“Well, you look at where the Wesley’s are buried. It just makes sense. It’s in line. Everything’s in line.”
Collins’ tombstone donated in 1990. It replaced wooden marker from 1963
Kenneth Mullinax donated Collins’ headstone in 1990. It replaced the wooden stake that marked Collins’ grave back in 1963. As the years went by, the cemetery was neglected. Rudolph wanted to move her sister to another cemetery.
Collins’ remains missing since 1998
In 1998, workers dug in front of Collins’ headstone. They found a rusty casket with an elderly person’s remains inside. Rudolph hasn’t known the exact location of her sister’s remains for 19 years.
Family has closure now
While a DNA match would be more conclusive, Sarah Rudolph is satisfied with the findings from the underground radar company.
“I’m so happy we found where Addie’s grave is located,” said Sarah Rudolph. I am just real happy.”
“I want to cry, you know? “I’m just overwhelmed. It’s very emotional,” said George Rudolph.
Mullinax is happy for the family.
“That is just absolutely wonderful, great news,” said Mullinax. “I have been losing sleep over how this has disturbed the Collins family.”
Family attorney John Hall, who hired the radar company that volunteered their services, is relieved with the outcome.
“It went for years without a resolution, and today we found a resolution and got closure for her family,” said Hall.
Greenwood Cemetery is now a historic cemetery
Our investigation determined that Greenwood Cemetery wasn’t designated a historic cemetery, even though three of the four victims of the 16th Street Baptist church bombing are buried there.
Hall filled out the necessary paperwork, and now Greenwood Cemetery is listed in the Alabama Historic Cemetery Register.
As a result, Sarah Rudolph plans to keep her sister, Addie Mae, at Greenwood. It will remain her final resting place.