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Mississippi murder suspect pleads innocent

Jan. 7, 2005 at 4:27 PM

PHILADELPHIA, Miss., Jan. 7 (UPI) -- A reputed Mississippi Ku Klux Klansman pleaded innocent Friday to state charges of murdering three civil rights workers more than 40 years ago.

Wearing handcuffs and an orange prison jump suit, Edgar Ray Killen, 80, loudly answered "not guilty" three times when asked how he pleaded to the charges that he killed James Chaney, 21, of Mississippi, and two New Yorkers: Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, the Washington Post said.

The three were slain in 1964 while working to promote voting rights among Mississippi's blacks. Their bodies were found in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Miss. It was one of the most notorious crimes of Mississippi's troubled past.

Killen, who was arrested Thursday after a grand jury heard evidence in the case, was taken to the Neshoba County Jail after his arraignment and held without bond pending a hearing next week. Shortly after the proceeding, authorities cleared the courthouse because of a bomb threat, but no explosives were found.

The murders, memorialized in the movie "Mississippi Burning," spurred national support for the civil rights movement.

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