Investigators solve murder cold case tied to former Tennessee governor’s administration

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Left: Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston, center, speaks at a news conference, Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Chattanooga. (Photo: AP/Kimberlee Kruesi) Right: Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton (Photo: AP)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WJHL) — Investigators say they have solved a homicide cold case with connections to a former Tennessee governor’s administration.

(Courtesy: Hamilton County DA’s Office)

Hamilton County investigators announced Wednesday that William Edward Alley, who is now deceased, shot and killed Samuel Pettyjohn on Feb. 1, 1979, in Chattanooga.

Pettyjohn, a Chattanooga businessman who had ties to the Teamsters Union and was a friend of Jimmy Hoffa, was involved in the “clemency for cash” scandal in which money was exchanged for Gov. Ray Blanton pardoning or issuing early parole to prisoners, according to investigators.

After cooperating with federal authorities who were investigating Blanton’s administration, Pettyjohn was killed.

(Courtesy: Hamilton County DA’s Office)

The original police investigation into Pettyjohn’s murder ended with no arrests. Cold-case investigators reopened the case in 2015 and reviewed new information developed from old statements and interviews with Alley’s associates.

Alley and some of his associates were arrested for a string of bank robberies that took place in the 1990s. Investigators say that during the investigation, cooperating individuals indicated that Alley had admitted to killing Pettyjohn and that he was hired to do so for various reasons, including his cooperation with the FBI during the “clemency for cash” investigation.

The cooperating individuals said Alley told them he was paid between $25,000 and $50,000 by various individuals to kill Pettyjohn. One indicated that an undisclosed third party may have paid some of the contract money on behalf of the Blanton administration.

Hamilton County investigators presented their new findings Tuesday to a grand jury which found that if Alley was still alive, it would return an indictment charging him with first degree premeditated murder in Pettyjohn’s death.

District Attorney Neal Pinkston said he believes the former governor’s administration was involved in the contracted killing.

“I’m very sure, proof positive, and we made that presentation to the grand jury and they found the same,” Neal Pinkston said.

Blanton was removed as governor but was never indicted in the “clemency for cash” scandal. Members of his administration were indicted, however. Blanton was later convicted of extortion and mail fraud in a separate scandal involving the sale of liquor licenses. He died in 1996.

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