An official in the District Attorney’s office in Newport said on Wednesday, June 25, he sees no reason to reopen an investigation into the death of Alex Heitman, an Oak Ridge Schools employee who was found dead from a shotgun blast to his head in a remote part of Cocke County on July 25, 2011.
Annette Heitman, who lives in Wisconsin, does not believe her son died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but that someone - she doesn’t know who - murdered him. Two of his shotguns were reportedly found next to his body. One of them had been fired.
Earlier that day, Alex Heitman had skipped a meeting with Tom Bailey, Oak Ridge Schools Superintendent at the time.
Alex Heitman, 29, had an eight months’ pregnant wife and was pursuing graduate course work, so he had no reason to kill himself, according to his mother in published news reports.
Annette Heitman began an investigation of her own into her son’s death, saying Alex Heitman had, as part of his job’s duties, been involved in investigating fraud in the school system, including a check-forging ring.
She reportedly has questioned the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department investigation done by then senior detective Robert Caldwell that ruled her son died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, calling it “incomplete.”
William Brownlow Marsh, assistant district attorney general, said Wednesday that his office reviewed the CCSD report, “and sees no reason to reopen it. It appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. That’s what the investigation and autopsy bears out. Most of the file is a public record.”
Marsh also said, “The only new evidence is that he (Alex Heitman) was under investigation for improprieties at work. His wife said he was depressed and worried about (that).”
Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes said Wednesday, “On behalf of our department, we’re very sorry and saddened for the family with the loss of their son. Unfortunately, based on the investigation conducted, it was determined that Mr. Heitman died as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Det. Robert Caldwell, with 30 years experience, was the lead investigator. There was no indication, or evidence of any sort, to indicate another person was involved in his (Alex Heitman’s) death.
“Based on the investigation, it was concluded he (Alex Heitman) was potentially facing charges in Oak Ridge for stealing from the Oak Ridge School System.”
Heitman’s body was found next to a large rock about 130 feet off Tranquility Ridge Way, in Cocke County, 67 miles from his Knoxville residence and about 80 miles from the Oak Ridge School Administration Building.
The mother, who contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and others to dig deeper into the case, was quoted as saying, “We don’t really know what happened to our son. Maybe he knew more than he was supposed to know. Our feeling is he may have met someone” in Cocke County.
A special audit ordered after Alex Heitman’s death says the fraud-fighter had himself been bilking the school system, reports state.
Alex Heitman had reportedly run up $6,403 in personal charges on his school credit card in violation of policy, and made some $1,137 in “unallowable and unapproved” charges and expenses from expense claim reimbursements.
The charges were apparently related primarily to his pursuit of a graduate degree, and for professional memberships and publications, reports state.
The special audit reportedly stated Alex Heitman received $1,724 for “continuing education, or conferences that he did not attend.” He allegedly purchased an Apple iPad for $778 without prior approval.
An Oak Ridge Police Department report allegedly said Bailey had scheduled a meeting with Alex Heitman the morning of the day he was found dead, which Heitman did not attend. The police report stated that Bailey wanted to know why Heitman had not put in a requisition for items and who had permission to use the personnel “super code user software.”
A yearly audit had been performed and some questions were not answered, according to published reports.
Following Alex Heitman’s death, his wife allegedly told police her husband was “very nervous about the meeting (with Bailey) and thought he was going to be fired.”
Marsh said Heitman had “no clear ties” to Cocke County.
Alex Heitman’s mother, Annette Heitman, and his father, Don Heitman, have created a Web site with questions about their son’s death and to solicit information. It is: www.whathappenedtoalexheitman.blogspot.com