Family of TN school employee formally requests FBI investigate his death


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — The parents of an Oak Ridge School District official who reported people were stealing money from the district to buy methamphetamine have asked the FBI to investigate if he really killed himself three months later.

Tennessee Watchdog verified earlier this year that Alex Heitman, the school district’s supervisor of business services, reported the case to the Oak Ridge Police Department in 2011.

As Tennessee Watchdog has previously reported, his parents, Don and Annette Heitman, have serious doubts as to whether their son later took his own life in Cocke County, 70 miles away.

They also question whether the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department and the Oak Ridge Police Department are being forthcoming enough with information about his case.

MYSTERY: The death of Alex Heitman in Tennessee was quickly ruled a suicide.

An official in the FBI’s mail room in Washington, D.C., who didn’t give her name, acknowledged Wednesday the agency has received a letter that corresponds with a tracking number Annette Heitman provided to Tennessee Watchdog.

Heitman said the contents of the letter already are available on a website she maintains in honor of her son. Heitman’s website also says she sent copies of the official request to various elected officials in Tennessee and her home state of Wisconsin.

The FBI’s Washington, D.C., office referred all questions on the matter to the FBI’s field office in Knoxville, but no one at that office returned our messages.

“At the time, we were in shock because we had no reason to believe he would commit suicide,” the Heitmans wrote in their request.

“To date, we have not been provided any evidence to support this claim. Though we have made repeated requests to various offices, we’ve received no documentation from any authority that indicates who made the initial suggestion or final determination that Alex committed suicide.”

The Heitmans say a Cocke County Sheriff’s detective originally told them their son’s death appeared inconsistent with a suicide. They also provide what they say is information that brings to light serious questions as to whether their son’s autopsy was conclusive.

In addition, the Heitmans said Cocke County officials haven’t provided information about ballistics and fingerprints, a coroner’s report, a medical examiner’s report, crime scene photos and other important documents.

Tennessee Watchdog contacted the Sheriff’s Department for comment.

Oak Ridge Police Chief James Akagi

“If they want the FBI involved then it would be best for them to go ahead and do that because you have everything that we have,” said Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Debbie Gregg, referring to Tennessee Watchdog’s previous stories on the matter.

When asked to comment on the official request itself, Gregg asked whether the family has new information that the department doesn’t have.

Tennessee Watchdog said we could not speak on the family’s behalf.

“OK, so if you can’t speak on their behalf then why are you doing this?” Gregg asked.

Gregg then referred all additional questions to another spokesman, Derrick Woods, who didn’t return our messages.

No one at the Oak Ridge Police Department replied to Tennessee Watchdog’s messages Wednesday.

Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes

Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes

As Tennessee Watchdog has previously reported, Heitman’s parents uncovered police records showing their son approached Oak Ridge police after they submitted a public records request.

In spite of the report clearly listing Heitman as the sole individual making the check forgery complaint to the ORPD, Police Chief James Akagi, in an emailed statement to Tennessee Watchdog last month, said “I think it is important to note Mr. Heitman was never a complainant or reporting party in the ORPD investigation, and other than initially reporting Mr. Heitman as a missing person, ORPD did not participate in the Cocke County investigation.”

All seven suspects were eventually prosecuted, Anderson County District Attorney General David Clark told Tennessee Watchdog last month. Five of those suspects entered guilty pleas and served jail time. Another suspect’s charges were waived to a grand jury.

A grand jury decided not to indict the seventh suspect.

Alex Heitman was married, pursuing a doctoral degree, and had a child on the way at the time of his death, his mother said.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported last fall, two of Heitman’s guns were found at the scene. The Sheriff’s Department still hasn’t released them to Heitman’s father, as he requested in his will.

Woods said the sheriff’s office will not release the guns to Heitman’s family unless a probate court gets involved.

Alex’s wife already had granted legal consent for the sheriff to release the guns to the family, Annette said.

Contact Christopher Butler at or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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