Edgar Ray Killen, the preacher and Ku Klux Klansman convicted and sent to prison more than 40 years after he plotted the 1964 slayings of three civil rights activists in the "Mississippi Burning" case, died on Thursday night at the age of 92, Mississippi correction officials said.
This June 20, 2005, file photo shows Edgar Ray Killen in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He was 92 years old and was serving a 60-year sentence for manslaughter in the killings of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.
The triple killing was also the basis for the 1988 Oscar-winning film Mississippi Burning.
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.
Their bodies were found buried in a red-clay dam in rural Neshoba County. "No foul play is suspected", according to a statement.More news: Women allege James Franco sexually exploited them as a mentor
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After federal intervention, 18 men were trialled in 1967 on civil rights violation charges.
A MS judge attempted to dismiss the charges against most of the defendants, but the Supreme Court later reversed the decision.
A lengthy and dramatic FBI investigation followed by a highly publicized trial found seven men guilty of involvement in the mens' deaths, but nobody served more than six years in prison.
At the time, no federal murder statutes existed, and the state of MS never brought charges. 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. "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".
"It's the last Klansman in all these Civil Rights cold cases in MS to be alive".