SWEETWATER, Tenn. – A tip from a dying witness led authorities to charge a suspect in a cold-case slaying that has mystified investigators for 46 years, a Tennessee prosecutor said.
A Monroe County grand jury indicted Max Benson Calhoun this month for first-degree murder in the 1973 fatal shooting of John Constant Jr.
Calhoun was arrested last week.
Prosecutor Stephen Crump told news outlets Tuesday the tip came from a witness who was suffering a terminal illness "and wanted to tell what they knew before they passed." He wouldn't identify the witness or give any details about the tip other than to say the story doesn't contradict any of what authorities have suspected for decades.
Calhoun is being held in jail without bond. His lawyer, Jim Logan, said he's eager to see some proof in the case. He said his client will plead not guilty.
Investigators found Constant's body slumped in the cab of his truck in Vonore, Tennessee. He'd been shot at least 17 times.
Richard Fisher, who was the prosecutor when the slaying occurred, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he always believed several people had a hand in the killing.
Constant, 43, had worked for years as a trucker and told his family he'd been keeping notes on his business dealings, which Fisher suspected included running untaxed cigarettes and stolen merchandise for the loose network of criminals across the Southeast known in those days as the "Dixie Mafia."
"He wasn't a sterling character by any means, but he didn't deserve to die," Fisher said. "You never know when you start walking on that dark side where it's going to take you."
A witness said he saw Constant slumped in the truck with Marvin Ray Pittman, who turned up dead not long after, and another man who he didn't recognize.
A man was arrested in the case more than 30 years ago, but prosecutors dropped charges against Harold Bucker, who says he was set up.
"It was all based on lies, and if this one goes to court, I'll get up there and tell it all."
Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com