'Hellhound' Trails King Assassin James Earl Ray

April 29, 2010

A new book on the King assassination by an author who gets nearly every detail wrong in his acceptance of James Earl Ray as either the actual or the lone assassin.

Ray, who was not in the rooming house at the time of the shooting, was exonerated in both a legal appeal that was interrupted by the State Supreme Court of Tennessee in its removal of Judge Joe Brown and in a subsequent civil suit brought by the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, had no motive or means to kill Dr. King.

The alleged murder weapon, found in a bundle dropped prior to the shooting which contained evidence that exonerated Ray, was never tested that day for use. Later forensic tests revealed it was not the murder weapon, and that it’s rifling did not match the bullet removed from Dr. King’s body.

A tree blocked the view from the bathroom window to the balcony of the Lorraine where King was standing and the tub and walls prevented a shot from that location. I challenge anyone to hit a target accurately while leaning out of a window cracked open 5 inches, or even more. The police did not approach the rooming house for at least an hour, but it was “clear where the shooting came from” to people at the scene near Dr. King, all of whom pointed to another location.

The actual shooter was directly across the street, behind the commercial buildings there, and below Dr. King. The sole eyewitness on the balcony level with him said the shot lifted him off his feet and spun him to his right, the exact opposite reaction from a shot coming from above him and to the left where the rooming house was. Visit the Martin Luther King Center site to see the civil trial transcript and read the real evidence.

Sadly, ill-researched versions of events like this one flood the market and dominate the media but the truth goes unreported. Only a single reporter attended the historic civil trial, Jim Douglass, who is working on a new book about Dr. King’s assassination. Researcher Lyndon Barsten revealed more about how Ray was set up as a patsy in his book, Truth At Last, and researcher T Carter will reveal more about Ray in a book about his brother coming out soon.

There are indeed “many unanswered questions” but this author will not ask them. The truth will out in the end – John Judge

‘Hellhound’ Trails King Assassin James Earl Ray
April 28, 2010
Fresh Air from WHYY

James Earl Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. He died in prison in 1998.
Hulton Archives/Getty Images

Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin
By Hampton Sides
Hardcover, 480 pages
List price: $28.95
Read an Excerpt

Writer Hampton Sides was a 6-year-old living in Memphis when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

“I remember the tension,” he says. “I remember seeing tanks, and I remember feeling that our city was ripping apart.”

Four decades later, Sides, an editor-at-large for Outside magazine and the author of the historical books Ghost Soldiers and Blood and Thunder, has returned to the subject of King’s assassination. In his new book, Hellhound on His Trail, Sides carefully weaves the movements of King’s assassin, James Earl Ray, with those of King, who had traveled to Memphis to support sanitation workers on strike.

It was public knowledge, Sides says, that King was staying at the Lorraine Hotel. Though it would be unheard of today, both King’s location and his room number had been reported in the local media.

“Not only that, but King had no security detail. He had no bodyguards, no entourage watching out for him,” Sides says. “It’s actually extraordinary how little security King had. It certainly seems ridiculous to us now … [but] Ray was a news junkie. It would have been easy [for him to determine King’s location].”

Ray checked into a flophouse across the street from the Lorraine. He paid a week’s rent. From the room he rented, there was no direct line of sight onto the balcony where King was shot. Instead, he went down the hall to a filthy communal bathroom, where he could see King’s balcony if he leaned out the window.

“After the assassination, the police found that the window in the bathroom had been jerked up 5 inches. The screen had been jimmied from the groove, and there was a palm print on the wall, and various people in the flophouse heard a shot coming from that bathroom,” Sides says. “It became pretty clear that’s where the shot came from.”

Within seconds, Memphis police officers were on the scene, trying to determine who had killed King. Remarkably, Ray was able slip away.

“He ran down the stairs, took a left and turned — and he was running toward his car, which was a white Mustang parked on the street, when he saw some policemen,” Sides explains. “He had to do a very impulsive thing: He ditched the weapon. Everything needed to solve that case was in the bundle with the weapons and various other belongings that he had there. But if he hadn’t done that, he would have been caught immediately with the weapons in his arms. So he jumped in the car and took off.”

Two months later, the FBI tracked down Ray in London, where he was taken into custody and extradited back to the United States. How Ray was able to evade a worldwide man hunt, and whether he had help in doing so, are questions that linger in Sides’ imagination.

“I think he had some help along the way,” Sides says. “How did he gather all of the alias [that he used during the manhunt]? There are plenty of unanswered questions.”

  • Newsletter
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Facebook