Officials: Cold-Case Contract Killing Tied to Former Governor

Authorities say Tenn. Gov. Ray Blanton's administration helped fund 1979 murder
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 10, 2021 8:35 AM CDT
Officials: Cold-Case Contract Killing Tied to Former Governor
In this Jan. 11, 1979, file photo, Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton is seen in Nashville. Law enforcement officials announced Wednesday the closing of a 42-year-old cold case involving Samuel Pettyjohn, a Chattanooga businessman who was shot and killed in 1979 in a contract killing.   (AP Photo/File)

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, law enforcement officials announced Wednesday. Investigators in Hamilton County, which encompasses Chattanooga, have been chipping away at the 42-year-old cold case of Samuel Pettyjohn since they renewed their investigation in 2015, per the AP. No new charges will be filed because all of the major players involved are now dead, but authorities say wrapping up the case provides closure to one aspect of a complicated piece of Tennessee history. Pettyjohn, a Chattanooga businessman and close friend of union boss Jimmy Hoffa, was fatally shot in 1979 in downtown Chattanooga after testifying before a federal grand jury during the early phases of Tennessee's notorious "cash-for-clemency" scandal.

Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston told reporters that Pettyjohn would meet with inmates to indicate money would help secure an early release from prison. Per Pinkston, Pettyjohn and another man would drop payments off at the office of Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton. Pettyjohn was subpoenaed to testify about the scheme and eventually began cooperating with the FBI. Shortly after, he was killed. Per Pinkston, Ed Alley—a bank robber who died in 2005 in prison—was hired by several sources to kill Pettyjohn. Pinkston said those sources included a third party who paid some of the contract money on behalf of the Blanton administration. The scandal ultimately led to the ousting of Blanton, who was never indicted in the probe, though three of his aides were. He died in 1996. "Mr. Pettyjohn cooperated with authorities and knew too much about what was going on locally ... and individuals didn't like that and so individuals hired someone to murder him," Pinkston said.

(Read more cold cases stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.