By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
KNOXVILLE — A state senator from east Tennessee said law enforcement agencies should do more to investigate the death of Alex Heitman, an Oak Ridge School District official who reported people using taxpayer money to buy meth.
State Sen. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, said Wednesday he has contacted the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the state comptroller’s office, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee about the case.
As previously reported, Heitman’s parents, Don and Annette Heitman, doubt whether their son took his own life in Cocke County, 70 miles away from Oak Ridge, in 2011. On a website honoring their son, they said a lot of evidence exists that calls the official conclusion of suicide into question.
Additionally, they said officials with the Oak Ridge Police Department and the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department haven’t been forthcoming enough with information. Last week, the Heitmans officially requested that the FBI investigate.
McNally said he learned of the Heitman case Wednesday after Tennessee Watchdog contacted his office.
“There appear to be some issues with the bookkeeping, and then he either commits suicide or he’s murdered,” McNally said. “It would probably be good to have either the federal agency or the TBI, and sometimes they are already involved and we don’t know it.”
The Heitmans mailed copies of their FBI letter to various elected officials throughout Tennessee, including McNally.
“It appears from the letter that there’s some questions that probably law enforcement needs to at least look at, but I couldn’t really evaluate that as a state senator,” McNally said.
TBI spokesman Josh DeVine couldn’t say Thursday if his agency had received a copy of the letter McNally forwarded.
DeVine said the TBI can’t initiate a formal investigation on its own.
“By statute we open investigations only at the request of the district attorney general in these types of cases,” DeVine said. ”A senator’s letter wouldn’t necessarily be the launching point for us.”
Tennessee Watchdog verified earlier this year that Alex Heitman, who was the school district’s supervisor of business services, approached the Oak Ridge Police Department in 2011 to report forgery of taxpayer money. Some of that money was used to buy meth.
Alex Heitman’s death occurred three months later.
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.
Neither the ORPD nor Capt. Derrick Woods with the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department responded to our requests for comment this week.
All seven suspects in the Oak Ridge forgery case were eventually prosecuted, Anderson County District Attorney General David Clark told Tennessee Watchdog last month. Five 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.
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