Closed cold case murder tied to ousted Tennessee governor

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A former Tennessee governor’s administration helped fund a contract murder of a key federal witness many years in the past whereas embroiled within the state’s largest political scandal, legislation enforcement officers introduced Wednesday.

The new particulars revealed for the primary time Wednesday have components that ring of a film: a trusted ally of union boss Jimmy Hoffa gunned down after testifying a few corrupt governor promoting jail pardons and a gunman who donned a wig and blackface to throw authorities off the scent.

Investigators in Hamilton County, which encompasses Chattanooga, have been chipping away on the 42-year-old cold case of Samuel Pettyjohn since they renewed their investigation in 2015. No new fees will probably be filed as a result of all the main gamers concerned at the moment are lifeless, however authorities say closing the case offers closure to one side of an advanced piece of Tennessee historical past.

Pettyjohn, a Chattanooga businessman and shut good friend of Hoffa, was fatally shot in 1979 in downtown Chattanooga after testifying earlier than a federal grand jury throughout the early phases of Tennessee’s infamous “cash-for-clemency” scandal.

“Essentially, Mr. Pettyjohn cooperated with authorities and knew too much about what was going on locally, as well as the state level, and individuals didn’t like that and so individuals hired someone to murder him,” Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston mentioned. “Here we are some 42 years later.”

The scandal finally led to the ousting of Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton, who was by no means indicted within the investigation — however three of his aides have been. However, questions have lingered in regards to the extent to which the governor’s administration actively labored to thwart the investigation. Officials say at the least 5 witnesses within the case have been murdered or killed themselves.

Pinkston advised reporters that Pettyjohn would meet with inmates to point out that cash would assist safe an early launch from jail beginning in 1976. Pettyjohn was joined by William Thompson, who had been concerned in Blanton’s election marketing campaign and would later be convicted within the cash-for-clemency scandal.

According to Pinkston, Pettyjohn and Thompson would drop funds off on the governor’s workplace within the Capitol.

As federal investigators started inspecting whether or not the governor’s workplace was exchanging money for parole, Pettyjohn was subpoenaed to testify in regards to the ongoing scheme. Pettyjohn finally agreed to cooperate with FBI brokers, even going so far as offering an inventory of people that made funds to the governor’s workplace for the early launch of sure prisoners.

Shortly after, Pettyjohn was killed in what authorities describe as an “execution style hit.” Witnesses advised authorities that they noticed a Black man in a trench coat exiting Pettyjohn’s retailer. Meanwhile, Pettyjohn was discovered along with his pistol close by, which had not been fired, and greater than $100,000 on him.

According to Pinkston, Ed Alley — a identified financial institution robber who died in 2005 in federal jail — was employed by a number of sources to kill Pettyjohn. Pinkston mentioned these sources included an undisclosed third social gathering who paid among the contract cash on behalf of the Blanton administration. The estimated whole murder value was between $25,000 and $50,000.

“I’m very sure. I’m proof positive,” Pinkston mentioned when requested how sure he was that the Blanton administration’s helped pay for Pettyjohn’s murder.

Officials say Alley, who was white, wore a wig, glasses and lined his pores and skin in heavy brown make-up to deceive any witnesses.

“Cooperating individuals indicated Alley admitted Pettyjohn was murdered for various reasons including he was a source of cooperation for the FBI in investigations of Gov. Ray Blanton,” in accordance to findings from a Hamilton County grand jury.

The grand jury concluded that if Alley have been alive immediately, he could be charged with first-degree premeditated murder of Pettyjohn.

Mike Mathis, supervisor of Hamilton County’s cold case unit, acknowledged that it was extremely uncommon for a prosecutor’s workplace to pursue a grand jury when a lot of the concerned events have been lifeless however mentioned the county selected to accomplish that for the primary time it as a result of “it gives you a legal closing.”

Saadiq Pettyjohn, one in every of Samuel Pettyjohn’s sons, mentioned his mom usually described his father as somebody with a “heart of gold” and “very generous, giving person,” whereas acknowledging his father was related to felony exercise. Authorities say Pettyjohn was a part of an organized effort to blow up a constructing to accumulate insurance coverage payouts, however he was by no means introduced to trial due to his premature dying.

“It’s a curse and a blessing to grow up in a family that’s connected to crime,” he added. “When that person dies, you can go that route or you can go a different route; all of us chose to try to do better in our lives.”

Blanton, who died in 1996, had sparked outrage after he pardoned and commuted jail phrases for greater than 50 state inmates within the waning days of his gubernatorial time period. Blanton’s fellow Democrats labored with Republicans within the Legislature to transfer up the inauguration of his Republican successor, Lamar Alexander, by three days.

Blanton was by no means charged within the scandal, however in 1981, he was convicted of unrelated fees of extortion and conspiracy for promoting a liquor license for $23,000 to a good friend whereas in workplace.

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