Who Is Edgar Ray Killen? Klansman, 'Mississippi Burning' Perpetrator Dies In Prison

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Edgar Ray Killen, who was convicted for involvement in the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, died at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, the Associated Press reported.

Edgar Ray Killen stands in a court room where he pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers at the Neshoba County Courthouse.


The Mississippi Department of Corrections said he had known health conditions, and no foul play was suspected in the 92-year-old's death.

The slayings shocked the nation, helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were dramatized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning". He was a Klansman who led a group of 15 men in the deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Shwerner. Hours later, they were released from jail, chased down by carloads of Klansmen, and shot to death.

Their bodies were discovered by authorities 44 days later, buried in a red clay dam in rural Neshoba County.

Edgar Ray Killen was serving a 60-year prison sentence for spearheading the 1964 slayings of the men who were in the southern USA state as part of a drive to register black voters.

At the time, no federal murder statutes existed, and the state of MS never brought charges. The lone holdout said she couldn't convict a preacher. With key witnesses dead and memories faded, the jurors, including three black members, said they convicted Killen of the lesser charge of manslaughter because the state's case was not strong enough to prove murder.

Killen, whose 2005 manslaughter conviction came on the 41st anniversary of the crime, was serving a 60-year prison sentence - the maximum 20 years for each victim.

Seven were convicted, including Sam Bowers Leader of the Mississippi KKK.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said that investigation ran up against a stone wall 18 months ago when a witness backed out at the last minute after pledging to sign a sworn statement that would have implicated a suspect.