KKK leader Edgar Ray Killen, 93, the convicted killer in the Mississippi Burning case died in Mississippi State Penitentiary on Friday. Killen was the first person arrested in the case after 41 years in 2005 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was found guilty of manslaughter for the deaths of three civil rights workers who died on June 21, 1964.

Three civil rights workers died

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were their 20’s and had volunteered for the Mississippi Summer Project. They had been trying to help register African American voters at the time of their disappearances in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

The three men had been investing a fire that happened at the Mount Zion Church which occurred June 16. Schwerner had visited the church in May 1964, he had been interested in using the church for a Freedom School, according to Famous Tails.

On the evening of June 16, Mount Zion Church was holding a business meeting when about 30 members of the KKK surround the building and waited outside. As the meeting adjourned and members of the church left they were confronted by Klan members who were armed with shotguns and rifles. As Klan members began attacking the church members, some of the Klan members went to a car and grabbed approximately 10 gallons of gasoline. They went inside the church and set it on fire.

When Schwerner heard what happened the three men went back to the town, When they began to speak to the townspeople they discovered that the Klan was looking for them. They decided to leave Mississippi and trio took Highway 16. As they were driving they were unaware that Deputy Sheriff Price who was a Klan member had spotted them driving and conveniently pulled them over.

Deputy Sheriff Price arrested Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner for suspicion of the church fire and brought them to the Neshoba County jail. They were they were held for seven hours before being released.

The Sheriff was also involved

Deputy Sheriff Price escorted the civil rights workers as they were driving to the state line.

As Price was following behind them he broke away and disappeared. A short time later he came back and drove up behind them. Chaney who had been driving the car pulled over again and the men got into his car. While sitting in the car other vehicles began to approach. Deputy Sheriff Price then began driving on a dirt road and the other vehicles followed.

The FBI was called in to investigate the men's disappearance. Their bodies were found at Old Jolly Farm at the site of a dam. They had all been shot in the head. As a result, 16 people were arrested for their murders but only seven were convicted of the crimes in 1967, according to the Jurist.