1996 Anna Sandhu Ray case history was often cited by hoarding expert Vicky Crosetti
JACKSON, Tennessee––Anna Sandhu Ray, 74, ex-wife of James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., was on June 21, 2021 arrested in Jackson, Tennessee and booked into the Madison County jail on 44 counts of animal cruelty for extreme neglect of dogs.
“Earlier in the day,” reported WKRN television, of Nashville, “the Jackson Animal Care Center said 44 living dogs were seized from Ray’s home. At least two other dogs were reportedly found deceased on the property.
“An arrest warrant states the dogs were ‘covered in feces and parasites.’ They were ‘eating their own feces’ and “were malnourished,’ according to the police report,” WKRN added.
Only surprise was 25-year lapse between busts
The only aspect of the case that would have surprised Vicky Crosetti (1953-2020), executive director of the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley from 1990 to 2009, and an ANIMALS 24-7 founding board member, was that 25 years elapsed before Ray was charged with animal hoarding for the second time.
A nationally recognized expert on animal hoarding, who often shared her experience in handling high-profile hoarding cases at humane conferences, Crosetti cited her experience with Anna Saddhu Ray in 1996 as a worst-case scenario.
Crosetti unfortunately was unable to testify on June 22, 2021, when Anna Sandhu Ray faced Jackson City Court judge Blake Anderson for the second time in less than a month.
Claimed she didn’t hear judge
Jackson Animal Control had monitored the situation at Anna Sandhu Ray’s home for several months, the prosecution reportedly testified then.
Anderson ordered Ray to remove the dogs from her home. She failed to do so.
Then Anna Sandhu Ray Ray on June 22, 2021 insisted she was unaware of Anderson’s previous order, delivered directly to her in the courtroom.
Reported WBBJ television, of Jackson, “‘Nobody told me,’ Ray told Anderson. ‘If I was in court, it may be because I can’t hear a damn thing.”
“I took care of my babies,” Anna Sandhu Ray insisted. “I laid on the back bedroom floor. They all laid around me, and we slept together. I didn’t catch anything. I don’t have anything.”
Met assassin as court room artist
James Earl Ray (1928-1998), a drifter with a long criminal history, shot civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis on April 4, 1968, about a year after escaping from the Missouri State Penitentiary, where he was serving a 20-year prison sentence for a 1959 armed robbery, his fourth felony conviction.
James Earl Ray escaped a possible death sentence by pleading guilty to the King assassination. On June 10, 1977, he and six other convicts escaped from the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee, but were recaptured on June 13, 1977.
Anna Sandhu Ray, then a 40-year-old freelance court room artist, originally Anna Salling according to some sources, met James Earl Ray during his trial for the 1977 escape attempt. She had previously married a man of Indian ancestry, whom she met while attending the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, acquiring the surname Sandhu, but that marriage lasted just five years.
“He’s my ex-husband”
James Earl Ray and Anna Sandhu “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,” reported Meredith Lindemon in 2020 for Heavy.com.
“Ten years after her marriage, she filed for divorce,” Lindemon continued, “citing irreconcilable differences. She stated that she was being ‘cut out’ of potential profits generated from a book that James Earl Ray planned to publish, in which he blamed the King assassination on the FBI.”
Asked by Judge Anderson whether her husband was still living during her June 22, 2021 court appearance, Anna Saddhu Ray responded, “James Earl Ray? The killer? He died some time ago. And he’s my ex-husband.”
Married another prisoner
Despite the divorce, Anna Sandhu Ray continued to use the notoriety of her association with James Earl Ray to help her sell paintings.
But Anna Sandhu Ray had at least one more husband subsequent to James Earl Ray, having married robbery suspect John Warren McBee Jr., in a courthouse ceremony in 1995. Anna Saddhu Ray was then 49; McBee was 36.
Subsequently sentenced to serve consecutive sentences adding up to 12 years, McBee lost a 1999 appeal. Public records indicate that he is now deceased.
Judge Anderson ordered Anna Sandhu Ray, or McBee as the case may be, to undergo a mental health evaluation and set her bond at $5,000, reported WBBJ.
Animal Rescue Corps
The 44 surviving dogs were transferred to the Animal Rescue Corps, of Lebanon, Tennessee, founded in 2011 by former Humane Society of the U.S. director of investigations Scotlund Haisley.
Animal Rescue Corps chief operations officer Tim Woodward terminated Haisley on October 25, 2018, after Haisley repeatedly failed to account for $61,000 in expense money claimed during the preceding four months.
Three weeks later, on October 18, 2018, Haisley was arrested in Takoma Park, Maryland, for alleged domestic violence.
46 months for robbing Subway
Haisley was subsequently sentenced to serve to 46 months in prison for robbing and attempting to rob a Washington D.C. Subway sandwich shop on two separate occasions in January 2019.
Animal Rescue Corps has continued under Woodward, but has not yet filed IRS Form 990 for any year since 2018, according to www.Guidestar.org, the IRS service contractor responsible for making IRS Form 990 filings accessible to the public.
Animal Rescue Corps itself has not posted IRS Form 990 for any year since 2017.
Crosetti vs. Anna Sandhu Ray
Vicky Crosetti first encountered Anna Sandhu Ray when, as Associated Press summarized on June 17, 1996, “Officers were called to the home of Anna Sandhu Ray to investigate a report of an injured person and found Ray with a large cut on her face. Ray, 49, refused medical treatment, became unruly and was arrested, police said.
“In her home, officers found 15 dogs, four cats and six kittens, in addition to the dead animals. The structure was condemned by city code enforcement officers.”
Crosetti was soon summoned to the scene.
The 1996 Anna Saddhu Ray case was among several that informed Crosetti’s ANIMALS 24-7 guest column Handling Hoarders.
Hoarding dead with the living
Wrote Crosetti, “Hoarders notoriously believe that life endured in any amount of misery is preferable to death. They often also refuse to recognize death. About one in five animal hoarding cases involves people who hoard the dead with the living,” as Anna Sandhu Ray was found to be doing both in 1996 and in the present case.
“But fear of death––and the other facts of life to the point of pretending they don’t exist––are only part of the phenomenon,” Crosetti continued. “Hoarders often hoard inanimate objects along with their animals: cigarette butts, soda bottles, newspapers, magazines, their neighbor’s trash, used sanitary napkins, etc. They are secretive too, usually living far enough from neighbors and the road to evade discovery for years.”
Photographs of Anna Sandhu Ray’s home taken during the June 21, 2021 animal impoundment operation appear to show just such a scene.
“Hoarders often are almost frightening in their ability to one moment appear tearful, pleading, and pathetic, yet the next moment rage out of control,” Crosetti added, describing manipulative behavior attributed to Anna Sandhu Ray, as well as to many other animal hoarding suspects.
Anna Sandhu Ray eventually unsuccessfully sued Crosetti, Crosetti recalled, “because she said we took away her artistic inspiration when we seized her animals.”
Concluded Crosetti, “Thank god that through the years I’ve had wonderful and generous attorneys who also possess a sense of humor.”