Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

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

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

A man convicted in the deaths of three civil rights workers in MS died in prison.

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

Edgar Ray Killen, who would have turned 93 on Wednesday, was sentenced in 2005 to 60 years behind bars for the deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

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

"For 41 years it's been Edgar Ray Killen and his friends who have written the history of Neshoba County", he said during closing arguments.

Killen's cause of death was not released, but officials say no foul play is suspected.

Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman were shot on a rural road near Killen's home and then buried 15 feet deep in an earthen dam.

After federal intervention, 18 men were trialled in 1967 on civil rights violation charges.

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

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

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

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

In June 2016, the state of MS finally officially closed the case. "I am convinced that during the last 52 years, investigators have done everything possible under the law to find those responsible and hold them accountable; however, we have determined that there is no likelihood of any additional convictions".

He was a farmer, preacher and sawmill operator in MS during the height of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

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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