Decades later, in 1996, Lee saw something in the newspaper that would change everything. "I happened to see a picture of a black man kneeling down [at a gravesite]," Lee says. "It just caught my eye, and I stopped and just kind of looked at it, and I saw the name Chappell. Then, of course, that piqued my interest."
Lee read that Johnnie Mae's grown children were planning a proper memorial for their mother 32 years after her murder. Lee knew he had to be there. "I said, 'Well, if you don't go, and you don't tell the family members if they're there—Shelton, whomever—how their mother was criminally violated, they'll never know,'" he says.
Lee attended the service and told Shelton everything he knew about that night—and the blatant injustice that followed. "He looked at me and a little tear rolled down his cheek," Lee says. "And he said, 'Will you help us?' And I said, 'Yep.'"