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LOCAL NEWSPAPER SAYS INVESTIGATION “MAKING PROGRESS,” BUT REPORTS OF “HARD EVIDENCE” IGNORED
by Sharon Rondeau
(Nov. 21, 2010) — Why is it that two inmates at the Monroe County jail who have stated that they know the identity of at least one of the perpetrators in the case of murdered elections official Jim Miller have not received a visit from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or the FBI after almost two weeks of reporting it?
Why is the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department not reporting or investigating this claim?
While a local newspaper states that the authorities are “making progress” toward solving the brutal murder of a Republican elections chairman and businessman last July by “working every minute of the day,” The Post & Email’s article containing information on the case relayed by Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III and another inmate does not appear to have prompted a visit by those such as Assistant District Attorney Jim Stutts and District Attorney General Steven Bebb, who say that they are investigating the crime.
The redacted autopsy report can be found here, courtesy of the Knoxville News Sentinel.
On October 7, the Associated Press quoted Stutts as having said, “Investigators will likely present their evidence to a grand jury, probably in November, before anyone is charged” in the murder of Miller.
Miller was chairman of the Monroe County Elections Commission and had also held a position within the Loudon County Sheriff’s Department.
One Monroe County resident reported to The Post & Email that the people were afraid to vote for anyone other than Bill Bivens for sheriff because the sheriff’s department counts the votes. Bivens won re-election in August, although all other public officials were reportedly voted out.
Fitzpatrick has accused Bivens of “human trafficking” and other crimes. He has also reported that the evidence locker within the jail has been broken into and compromised for almost a year. The murder of Jim Miller occurred during that time frame.
The Post & Email has contacted the TBI and FBI at least six times each regarding the information provided by Fitzpatrick, who says it is “rock-solid.” No one from either organization has contacted The Post & Email with any questions, despite our leaving Fitzpatrick’s information on the tipline set up specifically for the Miller case at the TBI. On July 20, a Knoxville News Sentinel report stated that the tipline would be “staffed 24 hours a day,” although we were able to leave only a voice message.
On the morning of his arrest, Fitzpatrick reported that the FBI had told him that it was investigating corruption in Monroe County and that he could “expect a visit from FBI agents.”
A resident of Monroe County has informed us that District Attorney Steven Bebb has a son who works for the TBI. Fitzpatrick claims that “The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department are involved in this” and that “The people investigating this are running cover for themselves.”
A website dedicated to police misconduct throughout the country does not show Monroe County, or Tennessee, for that matter, to be in the higher range of misconduct, suggesting that alleged brutality on the part of Monroe County sheriff’s deputies might not be reported. However, another site places Tennessee in fifth place nationally for police misconduct.
It took four months for the release of Miller’s autopsy report, and it was heavily redacted, according to a Knoxville News Sentinel anonymous report. Last week, The Post & Email contacted a reporter at that publication regarding information gleaned from our conversation with Fitzpatrick here, but the reporter said he wouldn’t have time to visit Fitzpatrick that week. He promised to get in touch with a person at the TBI who he said is a “solid contact,” although he admitted that “there is corruption in all levels of government.”
In a piece that can be considered nothing other than an editorial, Democrat & Advocate reporter Michael Thomason excoriates the Knoxville News Sentinel for demanding the autopsy report from the medical examiner’s office and thereby “raising a ruckus, ticking everybody off, then going home while the local media (me and my cohorts) have to deal with the fallout.” He added, “Sure, the Sentinel will get angry calls (probably already has), but we’re the ones that have to go out in public around here and get the looks and questions.”
In an article which has been removed, Thomason suggested, perhaps sarcastically, that a “giant cover up” took place.
Thomason did not reveal a copy of an arrest warrant issued on October 22 for Walter Francis Fitzpatrick. The Post & Email did, demonstrating that it was unsigned.
On November 14, the editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel stated that after two written requests and several phone calls for the Miller autopsy report which were “ignored,” his newspaper was considering filing a lawsuit against Monroe County Medical Examiner Christopher Shamblin. He mentioned the Fitzpatrick case and accused Monroe County officials of “secrecy” and “doing business in private.”
A November 17 article in the Advocate & Democrat appears to carry Bebb’s rebuttal to the News Sentinel’s threat of a lawsuit over the medical examiner’s failure to release the autopsy report, although the lawsuit is not referenced:
A Knoxville newspaper has recently published articles and an editorial expressing its frustration over not receiving Miller’s autopsy or at least an explanation for why it has not been released.
On Friday, Bebb released this statement.
“My office only recently became aware of media requests for a copy of the autopsy report in the investigation involving the alleged homicide of Jim Miller. The request was evidently directed to Dr. Chris Shamblin, Monroe County Medical examiner, and to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office,” Bebb said in the statement.
The Post & Email has contacted the editor of the Knoxville News Sentinel at firstname.lastname@example.org with the information it has.
On July 20, a local television report stated that a Monroe County sheriff’s deputy was self-declared a “suspect” in the murder of Jim Miller by the TBI. Two days afterward, he was “cleared” of any involvement. However, a month later, he was reportedly fired from the department.
At the same time, it was reported that Bebb stated that “the sheriff’s office was not being investigated for Miller’s death.” Why not?
According to reports received by The Post & Email from residents of Monroe County, local media “really don’t tell you anything” and are even used to publish propaganda rather than the endemic corruption which Walter Fitzpatrick has been reporting for more than a year. One source has told us that someone caught with drugs who pleaded guilty was not convicted, but rather, released, after which he launched a local newspaper which toes the government line. Why did he not serve time if he pleaded guilty? Was there a quid pro quo at work there?
Is there a quid pro quo in the alleged arrest of Jessica Powers for the murder of Jim Miller? Why has it been kept secret, and why is the word of her boyfriend, who is also in the Monroe County jail, reportedly the only evidence presented which led to her arrest? Why are neither the TBI nor the FBI apparently investigating this tip?
Thomason’s October 25, 2010 report is inaccurate when it states, “Fitzpatrick felt Pettway and the jury was illegally blocking his attempts to indict President Obama.” While the author correctly states that Fitzpatrick had attempted to execute a citizen’s arrest of grand jury foreman Gary Pettway, Thomason failed to state why: Pettway had been serving repeated terms which exceed the limits imposed by Tennessee Code Annotated. Since that time, Fitzpatrick discovered that at least one other juror has served at least two consecutive terms when the law requires a 24-month break in service and random selection. Rather than correct the violation, the judge in the case contended that there was no “proof” that the same person served two consecutive sessions even though the name was the same.
It is reported that Mr. Miller had been a “special deputy” for Loudon County. The Post & Email has contacted the Loudon County Sheriff’s Department regarding information communicated through Walter Fitzpatrick that an inmate there wishes to speak with a detective and an FBI agent to reveal what he knows about a suspect in the case. At the time of this writing, we have not received a response to a message left on November 18, 2010.
A blog apparently run by Monroe County residents states that Bebb has mandated that “there will not be a Media Circus of pre-trial leaks that could hinder the efforts of the prosecution and the defense.” But who are they prosecuting?
There are numerous reports of FBI investigations throughout Tennessee, including court personnel in Shelby County. A citizen-run website dedicated to law enforcement misconduct reported significant corruption within Tennessee sheriff and police departments until it was removed at an unknown time.