What Happened to the Man Who Killed Martin Luther King Jr?


Quick Answer

The man who killed Martin Luther King Jr was James Earl Ray, and after the assassination he was imprisoned, before fleeing to the United Kingdom almost a decade later. He was eventually tracked down by the FBI and extradited, before being sentenced to 99 years in prison. Ray had an unstable childhood, there was evidence to suggest he did not support the civil rights movement and he had previous criminal convictions.

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Full Answer

Owing to financial difficulties, James Earl Ray's family moved several times during his childhood. He encountered upheaval when his younger sister died following a fire, and after the police began looking for his father because of forgery charges. Some of his previous convictions included armed robbery and burglary, both of which resulted in custodial jail sentences in the years running up to King's assassination. At the time of the assassination, Ray had escaped from prison and was on the run.

Although many debated why Ray killed King, he was pro-segregation and there was evidence suggesting he did not like civil rights. Some also claim that he believed he would benefit financially from the assassination. Following the murder, the FBI launched an investigation that would prove to be the most expensive of its time. He was initially caught and charged, and attempted to retract his confession before his incarceration. Later, Ray escaped from prison in 1977 and became one of the FBI's most wanted fugitives. Upon being found in London, he was extradited to serve the remainder of his sentence and died in 1998.

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