JACKSON, Miss. – A reputed Ku Klux Klansman accused of killing three civil rights workers in 1964 said in television interviews Wednesday he will be exonerated because he was attending a funeral at the time of the slayings.
Edgar Ray Killen (search) told Jackson's WLBT and WJTV that all he knew of the case at the time was what he had heard from media reports.
"I am accused of murdering someone that I didn't even know existed until the news media broke that they were missing," Killen told WLBT. "I wasn't even in the location and they'll learn that."
The 80-year-old part-time preacher was indicted last month on state murder charges in the killings of Michael Schwerner (search), Andrew Goodman (search) and James Chaney (search), who had been helping register blacks to vote.
They were killed by Klansmen and their bodies buried in an earthen dam in rural Philadelphia. The brutal killings focused national attention on the civil rights struggle in Mississippi and the case was the subject of the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning (search)."
Killen has made similar claims of innocence in the past. District Attorney Mark Duncan said it appeared the suspect was talking to the media in a bid "to influence the jury pool."
"We'll do our talking in court," Duncan said Wednesday.
Killen did not immediately return calls placed Wednesday to his Union home.
Nineteen men, including Killen, were previously indicted on federal charges in the case. Killen's case ended in a hung jury, but seven others were convicted in 1967 of violating the victims' civil rights. None served more than six years.
Killen is free on $250,000 bond and faces a March 28 trial.