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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

State Crime Lab at URI sets up exhibit commemorating tests on rifle used to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr.

KINGSTON, R.I. -- April 28, 1999 -- Two years ago in May, the University of Rhode Island was the focus of international media attention when the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory ran three days of tests on the weapon used to assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Now a replica of the hunting rifle used to kill King hangs in an exhibit that marks those historic days and tests here in Kingston.

The replica weapon was used by URI Criminalist Robert Hathaway, of Vernon, Conn., to demonstrate the test procedure during a taping for Dateline NBC. The television news magazine purchased the weapon and then donated it to the Crime Laboratory after it completed filming.

The display is housed above the Kingston Campus Police Station in the firearms section of the Crime Laboratory. A plaque near the rifle reads: "Remington Rifle Model 7600, .30-06, Donated by Dateline NBC. The Re-examination of the James Earl Ray Rifle, University of Rhode Island, College of Pharmacy, State Crime Laboratory, Robert A. Hathaway, examiner; Dennis Hilliard, director, May 14 through May 16, 1997."

The exhibit also features a Leitz comparison microscope used during the tests of the homicide bullet and test bullets fired from the actual Remington .30-06 rifle used by the late assassin James Earl Ray. Original "wanted" posters also hang with the exhibit.

"We have been very fortunate at the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory to have had the exposure to this historic case and the donations to this exhibit," Hathaway said.

Those interested in viewing the exhibit must call for an appointment at 874-2893.

In May of 1997, a three-man team led by Hathaway spent three days running tests on the Kingston Campus, and then completed their examination using a scanning electron microscope at CamScan USA in Cranberry Township, Pa.

When the tests were completed, Hathaway reported to the Shelby County Court in Tennessee that the tests were inconclusive.

Hathaway,s and URI,s involvement began in August of 1996 when William Pepper, Ray,s attorney, walked into the crime laboratory. Pepper, the author of Orders to Kill, the book about the case, asked Hathaway if he wanted to work on a high-profile case. But Pepper withheld the names of those involved until he had finished talking. Hathaway first declined and provided Pepper with a list of other experts, but Pepper didn,t want anyone else. So Hathaway agreed to take the case, with the condition that he be allowed to assemble a team of experts.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Here is the difference between the words criminalist and criminologist"A criminalist uses techniques from the physical sciences and psychology to solve problems of criminal identification. A criminologist employs a scientific perspective to study crime as a social phenomenon, investigation of criminals and penal treatment. Hathaway is a criminalist.

For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116

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University of Rhode Island
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