Klansman Convicted in Killing of Civil Rights Workers Dies

Edgar Ray Killen

Edgar Ray Killen

Edgar Ray Killen, the man convicted of organizing the deaths of three young men in Neshoba County registering backs to vote in 1964 has died in prison, the Mississippi Department of Corrections said in a press release this morning.

This June 20, 2005, file photo shows Edgar Ray Killen in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

It was 41 years after James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were killed by klansmen and found in a dam in Neshoba County.

The killings were instrumental in the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and were later dramatized in the 1988 film Mississippi Burning.

Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time Baptist minister and the plot leader, was convicted of three counts of manslaughter almost 13 years ago.

After their release from the county jail in Philadelphia, a Ku Klux Klan mob tailed their auto, forced it off the road and shot them to death.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections says Killen's cause of death is pending an autopsy, but that he was suffering from congestive heart failure and hypertension.

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his convictions on January 12, 2007. "No foul play is suspected", according to a statement.

In 1967, prosecutors convicted eight defendants for violating the federal criminal civil rights conspiracy statute, namely the victims' right to live.

Killen had escaped punishment for nearly four decades, his initial trial ending in a hung jury.

In June 2016, the state of MS finally officially closed the case.

The case was reopened in 2005, and Killen was convicted and sent to prison.

"It has been a thorough and complete investigation", Hood said.

Last year, federal and MS authorities closed the books on the case, saying no viable prosecutions remain in the more than half-century-old investigation.

Forty years after the "Mississippi Burning" killings and at age 80, Killen became the first and only person to be tried for murder in the case.

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