Man convicted in slayings of 3 civil rights workers dies in prison

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Edgar Ray Killen, the former Ku Klux Klansman responsible for a notorious civil rights era murder, has died in a MS 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.

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

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, all in their 20s, were members of the Congress of Racial Equality (Core) and had been working on a campaign to register black voters in the southern state.

Historians say the outcry over the incident, which was portrayed in the 1988 Oscar-winning film "Mississippi Burning", helped win support for subsequent civil rights legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time Baptist minister and the plot leader, was convicted of three counts of manslaughter almost 13 years ago. Hours later, they were released from jail, chased down by carloads of Klansmen, and shot to death.

Their bodies were found buried in a dam in rural Neshoba County.

A MS judge attempted to dismiss the charges against most of the defendants, but the Supreme Court later reversed the decision. "However, no foul play is suspected", the Mississippi Department of Corrections said in a statement.

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

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

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

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

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.

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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