James Earl Ray

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James Earl Ray (March 10, 1928 – April 23, 1998) was an American murderer convicted of the assassination of American civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. He was convicted on March 10, 1969 after entering a guilty plea to forgo a jury trial. If Ray had been found guilty by jury trial he would have been electrocuted.[1] He was sentenced to ninety-nine years in prison. He later recanted his confession and tried unsuccessfully to gain a trial. He died in prison of hepatitis C.


Early life

James Earl Ray came from a poor family in Alton, Illinois, and left school at age fifteen. He joined the US Army at the close of World War II and served in Germany. He was convicted of his first crime, a burglary in California, in 1949.

In 1952 he served two years for armed robbery of a taxi driver in Illinois. In 1955, he was convicted of mail fraud. After an armed robbery in Missouri in 1959, Ray was sentenced to twenty years in prison for repeated offenses. He escaped from the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1967 by hiding in a truck transporting bread from the prison bakery.[2]

Following his escape, Ray stayed on the move, going first to St. Louis and then on to Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, and Birmingham. When he got to Alabama, Ray stayed long enough to buy a 1966 Ford Mustang and get an Alabama driver’s license. He then drove to Mexico, stopping in Acapulco before settling down in Puerto Vallarta on October 19, 1967.[3] While in Mexico, Ray, using the alias Eric Starvo Galt, attempted to establish himself as a porn director. Using mail-ordered equipment, he filmed and photographed local prostitutes.[4] Frustrated with his results and jilted by the prostitute he had formed a relationship with, Ray left Mexico around November 16, 1967.[5]

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