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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Missouri State Penitentiary's Most Infamous Escapee

James Earl Ray photo
Mention the name James Earl Ray and most Americans know that he was the man who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

Because fate smiled on Ray one day in the Missouri State Penitentiary, King died.
Ray was convicted for a 1959 robbery and sentenced to twenty years in prison.  While incarcerated in the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, he made several unsuccessful escape attempts before he achieved success in April of 1967.  Ray worked in the prison bakery and on April 23, he hid in a large shipping box. Along with the bread, he was loaded onto the delivery truck, escaped the prison and became a free man.

Less than a year later, he achieved an infamous place in history when he assassinated King. He confessed to the murder, was convicted and sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. He made two more escape attempts. In both cases he was caught.
Although Ray admitted guilt, he later recanted, proclaimed his innocence and sought a retrial. However, he died of liver failure in 1998 as an inmate of a Tennessee prison and the retrial never took place. Today questions regarding his guilt and King’s assassination remain unanswered.

The Missouri State Penitentiary and the Department of Corrections listed James Earl Ray as an escapee until his death even though he spent most of the time incarcerated in another prison.

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