The War Over
King's Legacy

The Children Who
Would Be King

The Truth About Memphis
By Gerald Posner

The conspiracy theories are tantalizing -- but wrong. In an exclusive excerpt from the largest private re-examination of the case in 30 years, the real story of James Earl Ray.

One year ago this week,
in a Tennessee state prison, Dexter King, the youngest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., met with his father's confessed assassin, James Earl Ray, and announced that he believed Ray was innocent. Dexter then led a King family media blitz arguing that Ray, whose 1969 guilty plea resulted in a 99-year sentence, be given a new trial.

What prompted the King family's decision to back the convicted assassin's bid for freedom? Ray's latest lawyer, William Pepper, had persuaded them that recent "breakthroughs" proved the assassination was part of a massive government-led conspiracy and that Ray--whose fingerprints were on the murder weapon--was a mere patsy.

Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson, King and Ralph Abernathy (from left) stand on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 3, 1968, the day before King was assassinated there. (AP Photo)

Three primary issues moved the Kings. First Pepper claimed he had located the mysterious Raoul, Ray's long-standing alibi. Second was Pepper's report that he had found witnesses who confirmed the 1993 TV "confession" by Loyd Jowers, a former Memphis restaurant owner who said he had been paid to kill King. And third was Pepper's tale that a team of green beret snipers from a covert unit called Alpha 184 had been tracking King and actually had him in their sights when someone else killed him. My research into the conspiracy nether world disproves each of these three contentions--and shows that James Earl Ray, a canny career criminal with racist sympathies and a hunger for cash, is the assassin.

Searching for Raoul: At the time of the assassination, Ray was a fugitive; he had escaped nearly a year earlier while serving a 20-year sentence for armed robbery (his fourth conviction). After his arrest for the King murder, Ray spun an intricate tale in which he claimed that he had met a Latin he knew only by the name Raoul. It was Raoul, Ray said, who directed him to purchase the .30-06 Remington rifle found at the murder scene. According to Ray, Raoul took the gun the night before the assassination and ordered Ray to rent a room at the Memphis flophouse. Raoul, or someone with Raoul's assistance, then shot King from there--and the real killer left the rifle with Ray's prints at the scene.

Ray's lawyer assured the Kings that new investigators had finally located the real Raoul, and that he was living in New York State. Their primary source was 53-year-old Glenda Grabow of Booneville, Tenn. She had come forward to say she had known a Raoul as a youngster, and that he had later bragged to her that he had killed King. Most important, Ray himself confirmed--from a 1960s-era photo--that the New York Raoul was the man he had known.
James Earl Ray

James Earl Ray in 1968. (AP News Library)

Grabow actually turns out to have spun a wild and inherently contradictory story. I obtained a video of a two-hour interview the Ray team conducted with Grabow. Among many startling assertions, Grabow says that Raoul also killed JFK: "He was upstairs with Oswald. He was shooting the gun, not Oswald." Her Raoul was also a friend of Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner who later shot Oswald. But on Nov. 22, 1963, there was no one on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository except Oswald, and Jack Ruby was never in Houston, the city where Grabow claimed he knew Raoul. But the Ray investigators relied on her lead and searched telephone directories for someone with the first name Raoul, and the surname of someone she claimed was a Raoul relative in Houston. In a stunning coincidence--something anathema to conspiracy buffs--they found two matches. The one in New York fit the age of the Raoul described by Grabow. (The unlikelihood of the killer of Kennedy and King listing his name in the phone book did not give the Ray team pause.)

(continued on Page 2)

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