In a press conference Wednesday, Hamilton District Attorney General Neal Pinkston said that at the time of his death, Pettyjohn was part of a federal investigation into a pardon and parole program involving Blanton.
Pinkston said the governor’s office arranged for inmates to be released early from their sentences in exchange for money.
Pettyjohn was involved in the operation, Pinkston said, but he cooperated with the FBI on several occasions and said Blanton was aware of the scheme.
Pinkston said that through their investigative work, they identified Pettyjohn’s killer as William Edward Alley, a “notorious bank robber” who died in federal custody in 2005.
CNN was unable to reach Alley’s family members for comment.
According to Pinkston, Alley was hired to kill Pettyjohn and part of the contract was paid by one third on behalf of the office of the former governor.
“There is no question that this was a contract murder,” said Pinkston.
On Tuesday, a Hamilton County grand jury voted that while Alley was still alive, there was enough evidence to charge him with premeditated first degree murder in Pettyjohn’s death.
“This confirmation by the grand jury of the investigation’s findings means that Pettyjohn’s murder is officially closed,” Pinkston said. “Our Cold Case unit has spent countless hours resolving this unusual case. Hopefully this will bring some peace and peace to the surviving members of Pettyjohn’s family.”
He died in 1996 and CNN could not reach members of his family for comment on the matter.
Blanton was never charged under the pardon and parole program, according to the press release, but members of his administration were, along with William Aubrey Thompson, a local county Democratic boss for Blanton’s election campaign. , who was later sentenced.
Links to Jimmy Hoffa
According to details of the case in a press release from the prosecutor, Pettyjohn was a businessman and owned several stores and nightclubs in the Chattanooga area. He maintained close ties to the Teamsters Union and was a personal friend of James Riddle Hoffa Sr., also known as Jimmy Hoffa, according to the press release.
At the time of his murder, Pettyjohn had with him money and jewelry worth $ 100,000. The items were not removed from the Beverage Center company, which was owned by Pettyjohn, where he was shot. When police arrived, they found a briefcase belonging to Pettyjohn that contained a recording device with several recordings inside.
“This briefcase, recording device and tapes were removed from the crime scene and were never located,” the press release said. “Some witnesses say there were at least 40 to 50 recordings in total.”
Two witnesses in the Beverage Center parking lot at the time of the shooting described the suspect to police “as a beefy African-American man with a beard and glasses.” The suspect was wearing a trench coat, the statement said, and fired one or two shots in the air before fleeing.
Police arrested two suspects in 1982 and charged them with the murder of Pettyjohn, but those charges were dismissed because both men had alibis.
The case remained unsolved and in 2015, when the Cold Affairs unit began a review and investigation into all events surrounding Pettyjohn’s homicide, according to the press release.
During the investigation, officials interviewed several co-operative people who said Alley admitted to being paid between $ 25,000 and $ 50,000 for Pettyjohn’s murder, the statement said.
They said Alley, who was white, wore face paint, a fake beard and glasses to hide his identity, the statement said.
“Pettyjohn knew too much about the illegal activities and his cooperation with federal authorities put the liberty of others, including that of Governor Ray Blanton, in grave danger,” the press release said.
One of Pettyjohn’s sons, Saadiq, attended the district attorney’s press conference with his wife, sister and two daughters, and spoke on behalf of his 92-year-old mother and the whole family, according to the press release.
“It is a curse and a blessing to grow up in a crime-related family,” Saadiq Pettyjohn said in the press release. “When that person dies, you can either take that path or take a different path, and we’ve all chosen to go a better path with education and to try to do better in our lives.”
He also thanked Pinkston and everyone involved in solving his father’s murder.