Mississippi Burning case: KKK killer dies

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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.

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

The slayings of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi, on June 21, 1964, at the hands of the Klan, local law enforcement officers and others was one of the most shocking and galvanizing moments of the US civil rights movement.

The events of that night in Mississippi inspired the critically acclaimed 1988 film "Mississippi Burning", starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe. Killen was one of 18 people put on trial in 1967 for the murders, but the jury was hung after one juror said she couldn't convict a preacher. Hours later, they were released from jail, chased down by carloads of Klansmen, and shot 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. No foul play was suspected.

The three men's bodies were eventually uncovered six weeks after their disappearance, after an informant tipped-off the Federal Bureau of Investigation that they had been buried on local farmland.

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The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his convictions in 2007.

The trio went missing after being arrested by local police on a traffic charge while in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

Prosecutors said as a "kleagle" or KKK organiser, he had assembled the murderous mob and instructed them how to dispose of the bodies, but was not at the murder scene itself.

An all-white jury convicted seven of the men, including Bowers and a sheriff's deputy, and they were given sentences ranging from three to 10 years.

Even after his imprisonment, Killen was said to maintain segregationist views about racial inequality.

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

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