MANITOWOC, Wi. – A spokesperson for the Manitowoc District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday that state prosecutors will appear in federal court this week to file first degree murder charges against Manitowoc resident Steven Avery. “In light of new evidence, we believe Mr. Avery played a senior role in the shooting death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968,” said Ryan Peters, a spokesperson for the DA’s office.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Avery, who is already serving a life sentence at the Waupun Correctional Institution in southeastern Wisconsin for first degree murder, traveled to Memphis, Tennessee -even staying in the Lorraine Motel on two occasions, in the days and weeks leading up to the assassination of late civil rights leader. “Mr. Avery played a key role in the planning and execution of this brazen act and it’s high time that justice is served,” Mr. Peters said.
At the request of state prosecutors, Manitowoc County sheriffs deputies traveled to Tennessee on official orders last month where they recovered “a plethora of DNA” belonging to Steven Avery. Mr. Peters said investigators were primarily focused on room 306 of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was staying the day he was shot and killed. Investigators say the motel, which was converted into the National Civil Rights Museum in 2014, was awash with traces of Mr. Avery. “It’s like he was just there yesterday,” Mr. Peters commented. The DNA, which is said to include skin and hair follicles, has since been turned over to the FBI and is undergoing testing at a forensics lab in Quantico, Virginia.
In addition, investigators have reexamined evidence obtained by the FBI in the days following Dr. King’s assassination. Included in the treasure trove of evidence are a set of binoculars and the .30-06 Winchester rifle that was used in the shooting. “Following an intensive forensics analysis, Mr. Avery’s fingerprints were found not just on the trigger, but all over the weapon,” said Mr. Peters, who added that Mr. Avery likely obtained the rifle through legal means.
A representative for the Avery family told WBAY Action 2 News -a Wisconsin ABC affiliate, that contrary to the allegations made by Manitowoc prosecutors, Mr. Avery has never been to Tennessee. “He’s never even left the state,” the spokesperson said. Furthermore, Mr. Avery’s defense team, in a statement released Tuesday, argued that Mr. Avery couldn’t have been involved in Dr. King’s assassination because at the time of the shooting he was barely six years old.
However, Manitowoc County prosecutors say none of that matters. “Such theories and coincidences are irrelevant to the investigation,” said Peters when questioned by a reporter with the Green Bay Press Gazette. “We’re in the business of presenting facts and examining evidence. That’s how we solve cases.”
If convicted, Mr. Avery could find himself facing an additional life sentence for the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The prominent civil rights leader was thirty-nine years old at the time of his death.