6 – Ray Withdrew His Confession and Claimed He Was Part of a Conspiracy
The evidence against Ray was damning. As well as the witnesses who saw him fleeing the boarding house, he left clues all over the place. This was hardly a surprise since he was far from being a criminal mastermind. Remember, he spent most of his adult life behind bars because he was unable to cover his tracks when committing his various crimes. Police found a receipt for the rifle used to kill King under the alias Harvey Lowmeyer. Ray used the name John Willard to rent the room, and the name Eric Galt while on the run. The police found his prints on the receipt, the gun, and his Mustang.
When Ray was extradited on July 18, 1968, to stand trial, it was a foregone conclusion. He confessed to the murder on March 10, 1969 and pled guilty to avoid the death penalty. If the case had gone to trial, Ray would have been found guilty in double quick time and faced execution. Instead, he received a 99-year prison sentence. It seemed as if Ray would rot in prison without drama but on March 13, he recanted his testimony and claimed he was part of a conspiracy.
Ray claimed that a man called Raoul was the guilty party, an issue I cover on the following page. Even today, when all the evidence points towards Ray as a lone gunman, conspiracy theories persist. According to Solomon Jones, a man who worked as King’s driver whenever he was in Memphis, he saw a man run from behind the brush across from the Lorraine Hotel after the shooting. However, no one else saw this mysterious man in the bushes. It is likely that while Jones wasn’t lying, he probably saw police officers running towards the scene.
Another conspiracy theory says that military intelligence agents had been on the roof of a fire station across from the Lorraine Hotel and they had taken photos of the killer. According to William Pepper, an attorney who was the last man to work for Ray before he died in prison, the agents who took the picture said Ray wasn’t the killer. While it’s true that agents from the 111th Military Intelligence Group were in Memphis the previous week, and one of its agents did go to the rooftop, he came down again after deciding it was too exposed. Also, the agent was on the roof two days before the shooting.