Chattanooga, TN – Former Tennessee Governor Ray Blanton’s administration kicked in money to pay for the contract killing of Jimmy Hoffa’s close friend after he testified in federal court about a “cash-for-clemency” scandal 42 years ago, the district attorney announced on Wednesday.
Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston said there is no question regarding the former governor’s administration was involved in the murder-for-hire, the Associated Press reported.
“I’m very sure,” Pinkston told reporters on Wednesday. “I’m proof positive.”
Hamilton County investigators have spent years working on the cold-case homicide of Samuel Pettyjohn, a Chattanooga businessman who was murdered in 1979 in what police described as an “execution style hit,” according to the Associated Press.
Pettyjohn was gunned down after he testified before a federal grand jury regarding details about the corrupt governor’s prison-pardon-selling scheme.
According to Pinkston, Pettyjohn and William Thompson, who was involved in Blanton’s election campaign, would meet up with prison inmates to discuss payoffs in exchange for early prison releases, the Associated Press reported.
The duo would collect payment and drop the cash off at Blanton’s office in the State Capitol building, Pinkston said.
Federal investigators caught on to the scheme and started leaning on Pettyjohn, who ultimately agreed to testify before a federal grand jury, the Associated Press reported.
He even provided investigators with a list of people who paid the governor’s office to get inmates out of prison early, Pinkston said.
Not long afterwards, a man who appeared to be black was spotted coming out of Pettyjohn’s business wearing a trench coat, the Associated Press reported.
Pettyjohn had been shot four times inside the building, WTVC reported.
Police said he had over $100,000 on him when his body was found, according to the Associated Press.
His handgun was also nearby, but it hadn’t been fired.
Pettyjohn (below) ultimately agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation into Governor Blanton’s office.
AG Pinkston says Pettyjohn’s cooperation and knowledge of the scheme put him at risk.
His murderer, Alley, died in prison in 2005 serving bank robbery convictions. pic.twitter.com/8g273QppmT
— Eric Benninghoff News (@EricBenninghoff) June 9, 2021
Investigators have determined the hitman was known bank robber Ed Alley, a white man who died in 2005, according to the Associated Press.
Alley used brown makeup and donned glasses and a wig when he carried out the murder in order to skew any witness accounts of his appearance, Pinkston said.
Several sources, including someone who pitched in on behalf of the Blanton administration, pooled together to pay for the hit, according to the district attorney.
Alley was paid somewhere between $25,000 and $50,000 in exchange for killing Pettyjohn, he said.
Although Blanton was never indicted in the investigation, three members of his administration were, to include Thompson, the Associated Press reported.
Questions have also swirled regarding whether or not his administration meddled in the police investigation.
The Democratic governor was ultimately ousted from office three days early due to the scandal.
governor blanton Not unusual that the Chattanooga news medias are not running the governors photo. Well here's one. pic.twitter.com/jzQc8zgtPd
— Mary Reed (@marsam22reed) June 9, 2021
“Essentially, Mr. Pettyjohn cooperated with authorities and knew too much about what was going on locally, as well as the state level, and individuals didn’t like that and so individuals hired someone to murder him,” Pinkston confirmed on Wednesday.
At least five witnesses involved in the case either committed suicide or were murdered, the Associated Press reported.
“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,” a Hamilton County grand jury determined on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
If he was still alive, Alley would be charged with first-degree premedicated murder for Pettyjohn’s killing, the grand jury further concluded.
The county opted to present the case to the grand jury even though no one will be charged and most of the involved players are dead.
“It gives you a legal closing,” Hamilton County Cold Case Unit Supervisor Mike Mathis told the Associated Press.
Blanton was convicted on unrelated conspiracy and extortion charges in 1981 for selling a liquor license to a friend in exchange for $23,000 while he was still in office.
The disgraced former governor died in 1996.