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Closed cold case murder tied to ousted Tennessee governor

Cold Case-Tennessee
Posted at 4:09 PM, Jun 09, 2021

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Law enforcement officials have announced that a former Tennessee governor's administration helped fund a contract murder of a key federal witness decades ago while embroiled in the state's largest political scandal.

Investigators in Hamilton County have been chipping away the 42-year-old cold case of Samuel Pettyjohn since they renewed their investigation in 2015.

According to the Associated Press, since all the major players involved in the case are now dead, no new charges will be filed.

The Chattanooga businessman and close friend of union boss Jimmy Hoffa was gunned down in 1979 in downtown Chattanooga after testifying before a federal grand jury during the early phases of Tennessee's notorious "cash-for-clemency" scandal.

The scandal ultimately led to the ousting of Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton, who was never indicted in the investigation, but three of his aides were.

According to officials, at least five witnesses tied to the case were murdered or killed themselves, the AP reported.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston said beginning in 1976, Pettyjohn met with inmates, and in exchange for money, they'd help secure an early release from prison.

William Thompson, who was later convicted for his part in the scandal, was a former member in Blanton’s election campaign and later joined Pettyjohn.

They would then drop off the money at the governor's office.

As federal investigators began looking into the cash-for-clemency scandal, Pettyjohn was subpoenaed and later agreed to testify. He even helped provide a list of those who gave money to the governor’s office in exchange for certain prisoners to be released early.

Shortly thereafter, Pettyjohn was gunned down inside his store.

At the time of the murder, witnesses described to law enforcement that they saw a Black man wearing a trench coat leave Pettyjohn’s store.

Pinkston told reporters that a known bank robber, Ed Alley, who was white, was hired by several sources to kill Pettyjohn for anywhere between $25,000 to $50,000.

Officials said Alley donned blackface to throw authorities off his scent.

Alley died in federal prison in 2005.

Blanton, who was never indicted, died in 1996.