Assassin James Earl Ray in 1991 (AP/file)
(USA Today) -- Was James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., motivated at least in part to kill the civil rights leader by a $100,000 bounty offered by a Mississippi Ku Klux Klan group?
Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter for theThe Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., raises that possibility today in his blog Journey to Justice.
Mitchell, who has spent decades reporting on unpunished slayings from the civil rights era, says FBI records show that Ray knew of the bounty before he escaped from a Missouri prison.
Mitchell writes that one month after King was killed in 1968, the FBI interviewed one of Ray's former cellmates who said Ray had discussed a bounty offered by the Klan to kill King.
The cellmate said Ray told him that if he got out in time and the civil rights leader was still alive he "would like to get the bounty on King."
Mitchell notes that David Garrow, a Pulitzer prize-winning author, believes Ray "wasn't enough of a pure racist to be interested in the prospect without the prospective 'payoff.'"
Read more of Mitchell's blog on the King assassination here.