Anna Sandhu Ray Was the Woman Who Married Martin Luther King’s Assassin

Anna Sandhu Ray

Getty American Heroes Channel's Justice for MLK: The Hunt For James Earl Ray panel.

Anna Sandhu Ray is the ex-wife of James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison when he pleaded guilty to shooting and killing the civil rights leader in 1968. He later denied that he was responsible. Mrs. Ray claimed “the killing was instigated by the Soviet government,” according to the Associated Press.

The freelance court room artist met the convicted assassin in December 1977 during the trial following his unsuccessful Brushy Mountain prison escape. Mrs. Ray and Ray bonded over the questions that the court reporter was asking about his prison break. “James and I were smiling at each other because the questions were so silly,” she told People in 1978. She said that she could feel Ray’s pain and could identify with him.

She also told People that she was a divorcee when she met Ray. After she married a man of Indian descent she knew from the University of Tennessee, where she attended college, her father disinherited her, and they divorced. “The challenge turned me on,” she said. “I felt I had enough strength to do anything I wanted. And I had something to prove.”

Here’s everything you need to know about Anna Sandhu Ray:

They Were Married for 14 Years

Anna Sandhu Ray

GettyJames Earl Ray, the convicted killer of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King.

They were married October 13, 1978. Their marriage was never consummated and the exact manner in which the pair decided to become joined in matrimony is unclear. Very little is known about her motives for marrying Ray, other than her statement to the Associated Press in 1988 that she “wanted to help him.”

Ten years after her marriage, she filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. She stated that she was being “cut out” of potential profits generated from a book that Ray planned to publish, in which he blamed the King assassination on the FBI, the Associated Press reports.

Ray’s publisher, Joel Joseph, of the National Press of Bethesda, Maryland, told The Tennessean in 1991 that, “She didn’t write the book, she didn’t help him write the book and she didn’t take care of him while he wrote the book.” The publisher continued that royalties from the book would go to the James Earl Ray Legal Defense Fund.

It Was an Unstable Relationship

Anna Sandhu Ray

GettyMore than 200,000 civil right militants.

According to an article written in The Tennessean in 1991, Mrs. Ray served Ray with divorce papers on November 15, 1991. The article reported they had been separated since 1987. She stopped visiting him in prison, the article states, after her arm was broken by another inmate during a visit to her husband.

According to Mrs. Ray’s website, the couple’s divorce was finalized 14 years after they were married, in 1992. Mrs. Ray claims that she spent years in hiding, fearing for her life and battling depression after the marriage.

The LA Times reports that Mrs. Ray was arrested in her home, and her house was condemned, in 1996. Authorities found dozens of animals, living and dead, in the residence and she was taken into custody. Now, she is an artist who paints florals that sell in galleries. James Earl Ray died in Nashville, Tennessee in 1998.

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