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Tennessee man sues FBI for failing to prevent 1979 death of his informant father

From left: Blanton Alley, Ed Alley, and Sam Pettyjohn (Images: Tennessee Library Archives/Hamilton County District Attorney's Office)
From left: Blanton Alley, Ed Alley, and Sam Pettyjohn (Images: Tennessee Library Archives/Hamilton County District Attorney's Office)
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A Tennessee man is suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, claiming the agency failed to prevent the murder of his informant father in 1979.

Marrell Graham is the son of Chattanooga businessman Sam Pettyjohn, who was cooperating with the FBI into a pay-for-pardons investigation that ultimately led to the resignation of Democratic Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton.

Pettyjohn, owner of the Beverage Center, was found shot to death inside his business on Feb. 1, 1979. He had been shot four times.

No money was taken from his cash register and Pettyjohn still had jewelry worth $100,000 on him when his body was found. Investigators soon came to believe Pettyjohn's death was a targeted murder.

Pettyjohn's killer wasn't identified until 42 years later, when then-Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston identified him as William Edward Alley.

Pinkston said some of the money Alley received for Pettyjohn's murder came from the former governor's office.

At the time of Pettyjohn's murder, the FBI was investigating Blanton's administration for a pardons and parole scheme, in which citizens paid the governor's office cash in exchange for prisoners getting an early parole.

Graham's lawsuit noted Pettyjohn had been tied to securing payments for the governor while he was in office, starting in 1975.

Read the full lawsuit below:

Prosecutors who were looking into the pardons scheme known as "TENNPAR" convened grand juries in Nashville and Chattanooga.

The lawsuit noted Pettyjohn appeared before at least one grand jury and gave testimony, and cooperated with the FBI, though it's not clear how the FBI defined their relationship.

Pettyjohn met with the FBI at an undisclosed Chattanooga location and gave up five names of people who paid to secure an early prison release.

But despite that, the lawsuit says "...the FBI never provided any security or protection for Pettyjohn."

The lawsuit goes on to list several other people who cooperated with the FBI who were later murdered.

Despite other instances of witnesses being killed, the FBI abandoned Pettyjohn and his safety," the lawsuit says.

Graham's lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of compensatory damages.

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