Man convicted of 3 killing civil rights workers dies in jail

Cheryl Sanders
January 13, 2018

Edgar Ray Killen, a Ku Klux Klansman who was convicted of helping plan the murders of 3 civil rights activists in 1964, has died in prison.

Killen, who would have turned 93 on Jan.17, was pronounced dead at the hospital at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at 9 p.m. Thursday.

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner initially went missing after being arrested by local police and then released.

Killen would have turned 93 on January 17. The case was reopened decades later, and Killen was convicted in 2005 of three counts of manslaughter. He was sentenced two days later, and the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the convictions in 2007, WAPT reported.

The case galvanised public opinion against segregation and helped lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The deaths in Neshoba County inspired the 1988 film, "Mississippi Burning". He was also a kleagle, or klavern recruiter and organizer, for the Neshoba and Lauderdale County chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.

His first trial in 1967 ended in mistrial, but Killen was retried almost 40 years later after state authorities reopened the murder investigations, according to the Clarion Ledger.

He was sentenced to 60 years in prison.

In 2010, federal authorities reopened the investigation in search of evidence to allow them to convict the remaining suspects.

"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.

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