A former Tennessee governor who died in 1996 has just been incriminated in a cold case murder.
Law enforcement has stated they believe Ray Blanton was guilty of funding the contract murder of a witness in a federal investigation.
The murder of Samuel Pettyjohn occurred in 1979, when then-Governor Ray Blanton was embroiled in one of the state’s most infamous political scandals. Pettyjohn, a trusted ally of union boss Jimmy Hoffa, had testified that the corrupt governor had been selling prison pardons.
He was gunned down by a hired hitman donning a wig and blackface to confuse investigators.
The bizarre case has baffled investigators for the past 42 years, during which time Blanton passed away.
After being renewed in 2015, authorities have made some surprising conclusions about the details of the murder.
What did former Tennessee governor Ray Blanton do?
The former Tennessee governor allegedly funded the murder of former accomplice Samuel Pettyjohn while he was still in office.
Why was Samuel Pettyjohn killed?
Pettyjohn was fatally shot in downtown Chattanooga after testifying in front of a federal jury in the “cash-for-clemency” scandal.
The scandal would later lead to the ousting of Blanton, but the governor was never formally indicted for his involvement in the scandal or Pettyjohn’s murder.
Authorities say Pettyjohn’s cooperation in the investigation of the scandal rubbed some corrupt officials the wrong way, leading them to arrange for his murder.
According to the police, Pettyjohn would meet with inmates and deliver cash to Blanston’s office in return for their parole.
Pettyjohn was subpoenaed to testify about the ongoing scheme and had agreed to help investigators by providing a list of prisoners who had sent money to the governor.
Who killed Samuel Pettyjohn?
Authorities say Ed Alley — a known bank robber who died in 2005 in federal prison — was hired by several sources to kill Pettyjohn. The cost of the murder is estimated to be between $25,000 and $50,0000.
Witnesses reported seeing a Black man in a trench coat fleeing Pettyjohn’s store, where he was killed.
However, authorities now say Alley, who was white, wore a wig, glasses and brown body makeup — aka blackface — in order to deceive passersby.
Authorities made the unusual decision to pursue a grand jury trial despite the fact that most of the involved parties are dead.
A Hamilton County grand jury concluded that if Alley were alive today, he would be charged with the first-degree premeditated murder of Pettyjohn.
No new charges will be filed, but authorities say closing the case provides closure to one aspect of a complicated piece of Tennessee history.
“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,” according to the grand jury’s findings.
Governor Blanton is no longer alive and was never charged in the murder case.
Before his death, Blanton pardoned and commuted more than 50 inmate sentences.
Though he was never charged in the scandal, Blanton was convicted of unrelated charges of extortion and conspiracy for selling a liquor license for $23,000 to a friend while in office.
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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her on Twitter for more.