On April 4, 1968 the world was stunned with the sudden news of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On the same evening security authorities found a rifle on the street outside the hotel where the incident occurred. Forensic evidence led pointed to a James Earl Ray who had escaped from a prison in Missouri. A massive manhunt began and the FBI later established that Ray may have obtained a foreign passport in a bid to flee the United States.
On June 8, 1968 investigators from the Scotland Yard captured James Earl Ray at an Airport in London as he was attempting to catch a flight to Belgium. He later mentioned that his intended final destination was Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). Ray was brought back to the United States and eventually pleaded guilty to the murder of Dr. King. He avoided a death sentence by pleading guilty however, the judge handed down a sentence of 99 years.
In a twist of events, Ray attempted to reverse his guilty plea and recanted his earlier confession claiming that he was innocent. He revealed that a person known as Raoul had recruited him into a gun running scheme and would later be used as the fall-guy for Dr. King’s assassination. Ray’s attempt to reverse his plea was denied and all his later requests for a new trial were also thwarted.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination was analyzed for many years including a House Select Committee investigation which concluded that James Earl Ray was indeed guilty. The committee however acknowledged that there may have been a low-level conspiracy in the incident and other accomplices may have been involved.
Ray died on April 23, 1998 while in prison at age 70. His death was attributed to liver and kidney complications. He was cremated and his ashes taken to Ireland