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Tip From Dying Witness Leads to Arrest in 1973 Cold Case

Tennessee man accused of 'Dixie Mafia' murder
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 14, 2019 12:17 AM CST
In this Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019 photo, Steve Crump, 10th Judicial District attorney general, center, along with Criminal Investigator Calvin Rockholt, left, and Monroe County Sheriff Tommy Jones, speaks...   (Saul Young/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

(Newser) – A tip from a dying witness led authorities to charge a suspect in a cold-case slaying that has mystified investigators for 46 years, a Tennessee prosecutor says. A Monroe County grand jury indicted Max Benson Calhoun this month for first-degree murder in the 1973 fatal shooting of John Constant Jr., a 43-year-old trucker. Calhoun was arrested last week. Prosecutor Stephen Crump said Tuesday the tip came from a witness who was suffering a terminal illness "and wanted to tell what they knew before they passed." He wouldn't identify the witness or give any details about the tip other than to say the story doesn't contradict any of what authorities have suspected for decades, the AP reports.

Investigators found Constant's body slumped in the cab of his truck in Vonore, Tennessee. He'd been shot at least 17 times. A witness said he saw Constant in the truck with Marvin Ray Pittman, who turned up dead not long after, and another man who he didn't recognize. Richard Fisher, who was the prosecutor when the slaying occurred, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he always believed several people had a hand in the killing. Fisher suspects Constant had been running untaxed cigarettes and stolen merchandise for a network of criminals across the Southeast known as the "Dixie Mafia." "He wasn't a sterling character by any means, but he didn't deserve to die," Fisher said. Calhoun is being held in jail without bond. His lawyer, Jim Logan, said he's eager to see some proof in the case. He said his client will plead not guilty.

(Read more cold cases stories.)

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