One more of the six men who broke out of prison with James Earl Ray on Friday was apprehended today, but the 49-year-old Ray remained free.
He was thought by lawmen to be "moving slowly, moving deliberately" across those wooded mountains in 90-degree temperatures and late-afternoon thunderstorms.
Officials broadened their search area to a 25-mile radius of Brushy Mountain State Prison from which Ray, convicted killer of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., escaped Friday night.
One of the six who broke out with him was shot and caught immediately, one was caught yesterday and a third, convicted armed robber Larry Edward Hacker, was found at 2:45 this morning. Prison warden Stonney Lane said Ray was thought to be with two others remaining at large, while the fourth man was believed to be fleeing alone.
Gov. Ray Blanton made available to searchers 300 National Guardsmen and "as many helicopters as are necessary" to assist in the search and flush out the escapees.
The sheriff's office in adjoining Anderson County today reported the overnight theft of a 1972 Dodge Duster and $500 worth of clothes about 25 miles from the prison. But no one could say whether the theft was related to the excapes.
"We haven't found sign one (of them) yet," Lane said at a late-afternoon press conference. "We're essentially waiting them out."
He said that six correctional officers who grew up in this rugged terrain would make back-country searches tonight, checking the places where someone could hole up undetected.
He conceded that his belief that Ray is still within the search zone, which had earlier been confined to a 10-mile radius, was based on experience and not on any evidence or sightings of the fleeing men.
Blanton said later today that there wee two possibilites on Ray's whereabouts-that he is "connected with a designed plan that could put him in Guatemala or he could still be in this area. Our best assumption is that he's still in the area."
"We may have had failures on our part and laxity - we don't know. But we will assure the country we believe we have done the utmost not only to preserve his rights but to return the inmates."
Blanton criticized a 1971 federal court order that removed Ray from almost perpetual surveillance and confinement into the general prison population. "If it hadn't been for the federal court order," he said, "it is more than likely that he'd still be here."
Lane said officials have identified at least three inmates-two who engaged in a fake fight and one who feigned an injury-to distract attention from the northwest wall of the prison where the men used a ladder made of plumbing pipe to climb to freedom.
Hacker was arrested early today in a church at Beech Grove where he had taken refuge after being flushed out of a nearby stream. Hacker, 32, who is serving 28 years on conviction of robbery with a dangerous weapon and safe crackling, had worked in the prison plumbing shop. He had escaped Nov. 4 and remained free until April 27.
The three prisoners who have been apprehended are now in the prison's "B" block, its disciplinary facility. They have been questioned, Lane said, but nothing was learned.
An internal investigation also is under way, Lane said, but no personnel action has been taken.
Officials continued to discount statements that Ray, who has disavowed his confession of King's 1968 killing and has said instead that he only bought the rifle for others, was freed by those wanting him dead or unavailable to the House Assassinations Committee. The committee has been investigating the murders of King and President Kennedy as well as officials' investigations of those murders.