Thursday, July 23, 2015

Efforts to Silence Us

Since we first took our efforts public, we’ve encountered a number of obstacles. However, there are some that stand out as attempts to impede or silence us.  First there were denials by the local DA Dave Clark  and Oak Ridge Police Chief James Akagi of Alex’s participation as a witness in the prosecution of a check fraud scheme. Hundreds of pages of police reports and court documents would later reveal that Alex was the primary complainant who filed the initial police report with Chief Akagi’s department and received multiple subpoenas to testify in cooperation with DA Clark’s office in their prosecution of the individuals in question.

Then, there was a mystery audit that surfaced three years after Alex died. Though DA Clark said it cameback “clean,” (see Clark's exact words halfway down page 3) others (including CockeCounty officials) insinuated that Alex was guilty of something. Our requests for supporting documentation, including thisone from our attorney, have been ignored by Alex’s former employer. If he did something wrong, they should prove it. Otherwise, they’ve denigrated a dead man who cannot defend himself and leave us with no choice but to question their motives.

And most recently, in an apparent response to our television interview, a digital file alleged suicide note and other documents have surfaced. Three and a half years after Alex’s death, his widow presented an electronic file to Chief Akagi which she claimed was a suicide note. Neither Akagi nor DA Clark authenticated the file before releasing it to the press. Instead, both men along with Cocke County officials, held it up as if it were proof that Alex committed suicide. We had to hire a forensic analyst who determined that the note had been altered multiple times after Alex’s death and concluded that attribution of authorship to our son was fallacious.

We then urged Akagi and Clark to conduct an official analysis of the file and we offered to pay to have the computer forensically analyzed at no cost to the widow. She declined our offer and both Clark and Akagi have refused to take the steps necessary to legitimize the note.

When we were first informed of a note in late 2013, we were denied access to it. We were told that it was found “buried under a ton of files that Alex had opened up on the laptop. It appeared he did not want me to find it.” This claim seems like a physical contradiction.

We also don’t think the content of the note reads like something Alex would write, it contains no signature or closing and some of the phrasing sounds contrived, i.e., “I was just depressed and nothing I did helped cure this feeling.” However, it does specifically address us, his parents and other family members. If Alex did write it, then such a personal communication should have been released in full to the addressees first.  It is heartbreaking to have seen it released so carelessly to the press when it was withheld for years from those whom it was intended.

Finally, there have been contradicting statements made by those who found the note regarding when and where they found it. Statements have been documented that it was discovered just a few weeks after Alex’s death as well as the following year after his death. Ironically, had this note been presented to us when it was found and if it were legitimate, we likely would have never have gone down a path of questioning our son’s death. Given all of these facts, we cannot accept that this note was written by our son.

Released with the alleged suicide note were two receipts for purchases made the morning of Alex’s death. One of those receipts was for two boxes of ammunition. We now know that Alex also purchased ammunition the day before. If his intent was suicide, why  would he purchase additional ammunition the morning of his death if he’d just purchased shells that were never used? We also wonder why someone would take multiple boxes of ammunition when suicide requires a single bullet. To this day, all of the boxes of ammunition are missing and have never been returned to us by Cocke County.

A third receipt for a purchase made with Alex’s credit or debit card the morning of his death has not resurfaced as of yet. That receipt, found by Alex’s father and brother was for a diet coke and a cranberry juice. The fact that two shotguns and four boxes of shells were found at the scene and that there were two drinks purchased that morning caused our private investigator to question if Alex was alone that morning. We don’t know, but must consider all possibilities.

We’ve already shared here, there are numerous reasons we question the suicide ruling. We will not rehash those reasons other than to point out that no evidence has been produced to substantiate the claim that Alex killed himself. The medical examiner who made the suicide ruling never physically examined Alex’s body, crime scene photos show no blood at the scene, and because no ballistics or fingerprints were taken and no shell casing was retrieved, there is no way to match the bullet to the wound or the weapon to the bullet that killed Alex.

As has been shared, Alex was stressed over the uncertainty with his job given the odd request of his supervisor to come in on the day he was supposed to leave for vacation. We talked with him at great length the days  before his death. During those conversations, he shared his strategies for taking care of his family should something happen with his job and we let him know that we would help fill in any financial gaps. Even though he had concerns, Alex remained focused on his future as a new father and  on his next career moves.

We were exceptionally close to our son and maintained contact with him several times a week. Though we were living in different states, we visited with him three different times in the months preceding his death . We knew our son well. We recognize that as his parents, our emotional attachment can cloud objectivity. However, the reasons, and there are many, that we cannot accept his death as a suicide are purely fact-based. We respect those who chose to believe otherwise; however, that will not deter us from seeking answers and challenging misinformation. We ask those who may disagree with us to respect our position as we do yours and we thank the countless individuals who’ve been so tremendously supportive along the way, many of whom we’ve never met. God Bless you all.  

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Press Release: Heitman Suicide Note Erroneous


Heitman Suicide Note Erroneous

Knoxville, TN /Adams, WI May 31, 2015

This past February, the Oak Ridge Police Department released a document that was reported on as a suicide note written by our son, Alexander Heitman. To date, authorities have provided no indication that they took measures to authenticate the document.

Our family treated this new discovery of information as evidence and had it forensically analyzed by Sword and Shield Enterprise Security. That analysis has revealed that the attribution of authorship to our son [in press reports] was fallacious. As such, our attorney has sent letters to the Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark (click here) and the Oak Ridge Police Chief James Akagi (click here) encouraging them to conduct an official analysis to afford the press an opportunity to correct its misinformation.

We’ve also requested Mr. Clark provide us with documentation regarding his order to have Alex’s work hard drive forensically analyzed. Since Mr. Clark has stated that Alex’s death was never the subject of a criminal investigation, we are seeking to understand why he was compelled to utilize TBI  services nearly three years after Alex died. In spite of our repeated requests, the TBI refuses to acknowledge possession or the  return of the hard drive to us (see attached letter dated April 23, 2015).

Finally, we are seeking additional information about phone records that show Alex had been communicating directly with Mr. Clark’s office just prior to his death. During our numerous discussions in the months following Alex’s death, Mr. Clark never once mentioned that Alex had been in communication with his office. Furthermore, Mr. Clark is documented in this September 2013 email as portraying ignorance of Alex’s involvement in any investigation when, in fact, it was his office that prosecuted the individuals involved as his statements in this March 2014 article infer (and as court documents confirm.)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Our Complete Statement on the "Note"

We are deeply saddened by the recent turn of events regarding the release of a note and information given to ORPD by our former daughter in law 3 1/2 years after our son's death.   In October 2013, Alex’s wife emailed us a few sentences from a file that she said she’d found on his computer. She claimed it to be a suicide note but refused to allow us to see it. She told us that it had been “buried under a ton of files.” We had not seen the document, now reported on in the media as a suicide note, until it was released to the ORPD on February 25, 2015.

Alex's wife and her parents (who were in Tennessee at the time of Alex’s death) have denied us access to information that they have held onto for years even though they have known of our investigative efforts. We were devastated when we lost our son and are equally devastated by their recent actions. They have withheld evidence from us and authorities causing multiple ramifications and we cannot understand why. Why did they feel the need to conceal this information until now?
How Alex died is not the only question here. The attention given to the documents received by
ORPD does not change how we were treated or why. It does not excuse them. Nor does it excuse Cocke County or the Oak Ridge Schools from their responsibilities or behaviors towards us.
As Alex’s parents, we have every right to find out what happened to him. We are not to blame for any negative light cast on Oak Ridge or Cocke County. That blame rests entirely on the shoulders of the authorities who have chosen to impede our efforts when they could have been helpful.
As we have stated before we remain open to any and all possibilities. We are treating this as a new discovery of information and will take steps towards authenticating the electronic document due to its untimely release, lack of signature electronic or otherwise and possible modifications made prior to its release as the file properties suggest.
It is our hope and prayer that no other family is put through the kind of heartache we have endured but rather will have confidence that the people they are trusting will uphold the law and do right by them and guide them through such a traumatic and life changing event.
Description: a final note, all of the above has been shared with various media outlets who have approached us for comment. Most have neglected to fully report our side of this story.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Update: Upcoming News Report, Records Request & More

Here is a brief update on the tremendous amount of activity we’ve had as of late.

Investigative Report to Air Tomorrow Night

Our first major television interview will air February 23, 2015 at 10:00Central/11:00Eastern on Madison’s News 3. It will also be live streamed on their website: You can preview the commercial for it here.

Oak Ridge Schools Open Records Request

Three days after our attorney sent this letter, the Oak Ridge Schools  attorney notified us that our records request was ready for pick up. We’ve made arrangements for them to be reviewed and picked up this week.

Go Fund Me

At the suggestion of many and out of a necessity to keep up with the funding requirements of our efforts, we’ve updated our How You Can Help page to include a Go Fund Me option.  We thank the many people who have already given so much to help us and are extremely grateful to those who are continuing to join us on this journey along the way.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Oak Ridge Schools Open Records Request Status Update

For reasons discussed here and here, on June 22, 2014, we submitted this records request to Alex’s former employer, the Oak Ridge School District.  Though  the documents we seek are a matter of public record and can be made available to  anyone who requests them, the Oak Ridge Schools’ attorney opted to deny our request based on the fact that Tennessee law does not obligate them to fulfill requests made by out-of-state residents.

Therefore, as we announced here, we retained an attorney (Hugh Ward) and a Tennessee resident proxy (Trina Baughn) to assist us.

On December 9, 2014, Mr. Ward sent this letter to the Oak Ridge Schools requesting the records we originally requested six months prior. Their attorney, Chuck Cagle, promptly responded on December 16, 2014 with this letter indicating that we could expect a response to our request by close of business January 31, 2015.

That date came and went and we did not hear from Mr. Cagle or the Oak Ridge Schools. Per Mr. Cagle’s instruction that our attorney only correspond with him, Mr. Ward has now submitted this letter on February 13, 2015 indicating  that we have authorized him to “consider court proceedings, as provided in T. C.A. 10-7-505(g) – which permits award of attorney’s fees and court costs for willful refusal to comply with the above. These actions will proceed without further notification to you.”

We do not relish the idea of having to go to court, but it is becoming clear that the Oak Ridge Schools have little desire to comply with our requests.

Progress has been slow but public interest has grown. Many people have generously given of their time to help us along the way, but that help will only take us so far. Some have suggested that we set up a Go Fund Me account so that we can afford additional professional assistance in the form of private investigators, forensics experts and various legal costs that will not be recouped under state law. Given the expenses we’ve already incurred and the obstacles we’ve continued to encounter, we have given that suggestion serious consideration and may attempt to launch something in the next week. We will continue to post updates here and on our facebook page of the same name.

As always, we thank all who have joined us on our journey and encourage you to continue to share our story via social media, word of mouth and any other means available.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Small Victory

Throughout our journey to find answers, we have been told many things by many people that have turned out to be misleading or untrue. In the beginning  we trusted and believed what Cocke County officials told us. We had no knowledge of their corrupt reputation.  Early on, we were told that we could pick up the two shotguns that were our sons and had been found at the scene. However, when we notified authorities of our plans to do so, we were told that they’d lost them. We later learned that they’d found  them and were told that we  needed only to bring in a copy of the will and they would be released to us . When we notified officials that we were making travel arrangements to return to Tennessee, we were told that Sherriff Fontes would not release them to us. We even emailed the mayor of Cocke County to assist usand but he never replied.

As we mentioned in this press release, we’ve had to retain an attorney to help us overcome some of the many difficulties we’ve encountered with multiple government entities in East Tennessee. We are happy to report that this week our attorney, Hugh Ward, has helped us achieve a major milestone in moving forward. As of yesterday, 3 1/2 years after our son's death, a judge finally released the two shotguns that were found at the scene.

We thank Hugh Ward for believing in us and taking our case and getting back what rightfully belonged to Alexander John Heitman our beloved son.  We look forward to seeing what other doors he will help us open.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

New Developments: The Cocke County Coroner Terry Jarnigan

A quick note on our limited posting as of late. We’ve been unable to provide much in the way of updates because we’ve continued to encounter obstacles with local authorities. As a result, an attorney has been retained to represent our family and we will attempt to provide more frequent updates as we are able.  

The Cocke County authorities who investigated (we use that term very lightly) our son’s death have serious credibility issues. The detective who arrived on the scene was recently busted by the FBI for narcotics (apparently his activities were discovered by the sheriff around the timeframe of Alex’s death). Even worse, the coroner (Terry Jarnigan) who handled much of the investigation and blundered procedures after the fact apparently, according to this file, had past indictments of attempted murder and arson:

Under a two-count indictment, Terry Lee Lackey, a/k/a Terry Lee Jarnigan, and Diane Lackey, a/k/a Diane Jarnigan, husband and wife, were charged with willful injury of another, Edna Stamey, by explosives (TCA 39-4912) and with malicious injury to personal property, a Chevrolet automobile, by explosives (TCA 39-1402). …On their joint trial in Cocke County October 19-21, 1977, Terry Lee Jarnigan was convicted of willful and malicious injury of another by means of an explosive and of willful and malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive, and was sentenced to consecutive terms of not less than 15 1/2 years nor more than 21 years…This case arose out of the dynamiting of the car of Mrs. Edna Stamey in Newport on April 14, 1977, as the result of which Mrs. Stamey lost both of her feet and sustained other personal injuries……. Some knew that Terry Jarnigan had previously been convicted of arson.

Now that we read this recent article, we hope that it will open some additional doors for us: Judge approves injunction against county coroner Jarnigan

From the injunction, which is posted within the linked article, “…the Respondent inserts himself into crime scenes without invitation and his resultant contamination of said crime scenes without regard for any on-going investigation and, more disturbingly, that on November 2, 2014, the Respondent inserted his finger into the wounds of a deceased victim thereby completely contaminating any investigation for crime related DNA…”
Given that the referenced case was, like ours, a matter of distinguishing between suicide and homicide and given Mr. Jarnigan’s history and exceedingly poor handling of our case, we are consulting with our attorney to determine what, if any recourse we may have in light of these new developments. We note that the same judge, Ben Hooper II, presided over all three of the above referenced cases.

We will remind the Cocke County authorities and others of the following failures attributable to this individual as they pertain to the death investigation of our son, Alexander Heitman:
  1. Mr. Jarnigan failed to fill out a  coroner’s report. He arrived on the scene of our son’s death and appears to have accompanied his body to the local hospital and filled out a number of documents.
  2. Despite being on scene for between 3-5 hours, Mr. Jarnigan left evidence at the scene which included portions of Alex’s brain matter and a shotgun shell casing.
  3. Mr. Jarnigan did not complete documentation verifying who identified our son’s body. To date, our request for documentation signed by the individual who identified our son has gone unfulfilled.`
  4. We requested the complete set of unedited crime scene photos of our son’s body and the surrounding evidence. We received what appeared to be doctored, copy paper-printed photos. None of the photos show Alex’s face, the front of his body, the brain matter that was avulsed around him or any blood. Most of the photos taken of the surrounding area were missing all together. The license plate on his car, which was switched before and after he was found is blurred out. We would like to obtain copies of the actual SD card from the camera that was used since we’ve been informed that all of the original pictures have gone missing.
  5. Nearly every official record affiliated with our son’s death contains errors, some of great significance. Given Mr. Jarnigan’s role at the scene and at Baptist Hospital of Cocke County, we believe that most of these errors originated with his incompetence or negligence.
  6. Much of the hospital documentation was either incomplete or riddled with errors. The Instructions for Release of Body lacked both a physician’s and a witness’ signature and none of the criteria for autopsy were checked (it appears that at least four were applicable). Some of the documents give us reason to question whether or not the Cocke County Medical Examiner David McConnell ever actually examined Alex’s body. His signature is lacking on the files and appears to have been forged by Mr. Jarnigan on the actual Order for Autopsy. 
  7. The autopsy omits Alex’s legal first name entirely and refers to him only as “John Heitman.” It appears that this error originated with the Baptist Hospital of Cocke County. All of this hospital’s documentation lists him as John, even though they correctly documented his date of birth and the fact that he was an organ donor, both items would have been found on his driver’s license. Mr. Jernigan was at the scene, presumably escorted the body to the hospital and signed off on some of these files. Mr. Jarnigan is also hear stated his first name of Alexander repeatedly on the 911 calls.
  8. The autopsy also lists Dr. Tim McConnell as the authorizing authority; all other documents list the Cocke County ME’s name as “David H. McConnell, M.D.”
  9. The Delayed Report of Diagnosis (which serves as the final page of the death certificate and was completely handwritten) violated TN state law and contained a number of errors. These errors, which include placing him at home at the time of his death, may be traced back to the mistakes Mr. Jarnigan made.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Open Records Assistance Request of TCOG

We are slowly but surely making progress with some of our requests. We submitted this letter to the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government ( soliciting help to gain access to those files which are still being kept from us. Thank you again to all who have continued to support us by sharing our story with others. 

Ms. Fisher,

We are appealing to you for assistance in gaining access to open records from multiple East Tennessee government agencies who have been uncooperative. For the past three years, we have attempted to retrieve records that pertain to the circumstances surrounding the death of our son, Alexander Heitman. You can read more about those circumstances and our difficulties in our April letter to the FBI here.

Please review the following and advise if you are able to assist us. We thank you in advance for any help or guidance you can provide.

Don and Annette Heitman

Anderson County Clerk/Oak Ridge Police Department
In the weeks and months preceding his death, Alex was cooperating with an investigation involving a fraudulent check cashing scheme perpetrated on the school system bank account and involving a number of local meth addicts. We have requested information surrounding the outcomes of those investigations and have been misled by the local DA and Chief of Police. The most recent communication we have received is from their clerk, Tyler Mayes.  As you can see, initially he indicated that he would be “happy to let us review the files and take copies.” Subsequently, however, he changed his tune and is denying that he possesses most of what we are seeking.

Oak Ridge Schools (Alex’s employer)
As discussed here, Alex was working on a number of internal anti-fraud initiatives. The day he died, he was supposed to be on vacation. However, one of his supervisors, Superintendent Tom Bailey, insisted that he delay his travel plans and come into the office that morning for a meeting.  

Mr. Bailey has stated that Alex never made it to that meeting; however, personal phone text messages between Alex and his wife indicate that he did arrive at the school administration building just prior to their scheduled meeting.

In order to determine what occurred that morning, we are seeking a handful of files from the Oak Ridge Schools. As you can read here, we have been denied access to these records based on our residency. We’ve also been told by their attorney that should we recruit the assistance of a Tennessee resident, they will be charged a minimum of $2,000 for the files we are requesting.

Furthermore, the Oak Ridge Schools just recently released an audit that could be interpreted as an indictment against Alex. We are seeking the supporting documentation of the claims made.

Cocke County (the place Alex’s body was found)
Though they have finally provided us with some of the documents we have requested, as you can see in the attached file, Cocke County is still refusing us access to critical documents that may hold answers to what happened to our son. To date, we are still seeking the following:

a. Documentation that indicates who made the determination of suicide along with the basis for that determination. We are told that we have received this, but we have not. If they are referring to the autopsy, nowhere on it does it state that the cause of death was suicide. What’s more, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy (Steven Cogswell) is not the doctor who signed the death certificate and presumably checked the “suicide” box. That was David H. McConnell of Cocke County.

b. Ballistics and fingerprints – Cocke County Detective Robert Caldwell originally led to believe that these activities were performed as part of a full investigation.

c. Coroner’s Report – Coroner Terry Jarnigan arrived on the scene of our son’s death and appears to have accompanied his body to the local hospital and filled out a number of documents. Given this missing document and Mr. Jarnigan’s history, we have concerns about his role in the activities following the discovery of Alex’s body.

d. Crime Scene Photos: Though were told that we were provided with them all, it is clear that were not. (See details in our FBI letter) We would like to obtain copies of the actual SD card from the camera that was used.

e. Full Police Report: Initially, we were provided with an Incident Report and told that a full, final police report would be forthcoming. We were never provided a final report. 

f. Documentation verifying who identified our son’s body. None of the documents they provided name a witness or provide any type of signature. Our request is for actual the documentation signed by the individual who identified our son.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Audit Response/Update on Open Records Requests

We would like to address the findings of the audit recently released by the Oak Ridge School system. This audit was conducted after our son, Alex Heitman, died unexpectedly in the summer of 2011. We’ve tried for nearly three years to obtain public information from your school system, police department and court system with very little success. We were first notified of this audit two days before it was released to the press by Dr. Bruce Borchers when he informed us on June 18, 2014 that he was responding to a press inquiry.

It is important for people to understand that most of the findings, eleven of fifteen, reveal that though there were a number of ways that Alex could have transferred funds into his personal possession, no such transactions were found.

Since the release of the audit, we have attempted to obtain the documentation that supports the findings. The auditor refuses to provide the names of the clerks who are referenced in the findings as having processed the transactions, and the Oak Ridge Schools refuse to turn over any documentation on the basis that we are not Tennessee residents. They have informed us that if we recruit the assistance of a Tennessee resident, they will charge no less than $2,000 for this information we have requested. We will seek out alternatives and clarification in the coming weeks.

At this point, we see no reason to believe that these findings directly or definitively prove that Alex did anything wrong. To start, the suggestion that Alex purchased for himself an iPad “that was not discussed with or approved by his supervisor” is absurd since his supervisors were very aware of it because there are a number of work emails that contain the phrase “sent from my iPad.” We also found where his supervisor, Karen Gagliano, acknowledges his possession of the iPad in this email discussion they had just 10 days before he died. 

As we have explained elsewhere, most of the charges that were questioned are attributable to his educational expenses (he was a graduate student.) Alex took this job in large part because he had an agreement with Dr. Tom Bailey that the school system would help pay for his continuing education. According to the auditor, Dr. Bailey was included in these audit discussions. We would like to know if he acknowledged this agreement but presume that he did not or it would not have been annotated in the findings.

Because two of the findings rely heavily on the claim made by Karen Gagliano that Alex used her signature stamp without her permission, we have requested a copy of the log that would track whomever had access to it. This log may be key in establishing the veracity of Ms. Gagliano’s claim since, according to at least one past employee, her signature stamp was easily accessible and used by most of the accounting office.

We also know that both Gagliano and Bailey’s signature stamps (and possibly software, banking data and digital fingerprints) may have gone missing for a two week period about four months before Alex died. Anderson County Clerk, Tyler Mayes has declined to provide us with the court documents that explain how these internal items came into the possession of Gina Austin, the creator of over $6,000 worth of counterfeit checks. Mr. Mayes, did, however, verify that the Board of Education Chairman, Keys Fillauer, was also the sitting Grand Jury Foreman at the time (and has been since 2006) who Alex may have been testifying in this case. 

We believe that Ms. Austin may have had an inside connection into the school administration. Given the security breaches that Alex was trying to correct, even in the last week of his life, maybe that connecting person knows more about the events detailed in Dr. Bailey’s memo to police two days after Alex died. Maybe that person was someone Alex had identified or was on the verge of identifying when he was cooperating with multiple anti-fraud efforts. We may never know because of the high level of secrecy involved in Grand Jury Proceedings. Therefore, we publicly call upon Mr. Fillauer to help us understand his role on both bodies and the details that Mr. Mayes refuses to provide. 

We continue our appeal to the public. If you have insight into what was going on in the Oak Ridge Schools in 2011 or what happened to Alex the day he was forced to forego his vacation and instead meet the demands of Dr. Bailey, please contact us at

Friday, June 20, 2014

East Tennessee News Breaks

We are excited to hear that Alex’s story is finally receiving some coverage in the East TN local news.  As of today, two outlets (the Oak Ridger and the Knoxville News Sentinel) have run stories. Both stories stem from records that the Oak Ridge Schools released to the press yesterday. We received a letter on Wednesday from the current superintendent, Dr. Bruce Borchers informing us that they would be releasing some specific files that we’d been trying to access for nearly three years. Those files include two boxes of emails, an audit that was conducted after Alex’s death and some sparse phone records.

We do not have access to the emails at this time as they are physically located in Tennessee but Dr. Borchers did send us a copy of this audit letter. Though some of the statements may be open to interpretation, we are relieved to finally have this critical document in our possession for a number of reasons.

First, we can now definitively quash the rumor that Alex had been embezzling money. As we discussed in our letter to the FBI, the 2010 audit that Alex had signed off on was amended by nearly $1,000,000 after his death.  This document confirms what we’d been told by a number of authorities including DA Dave Clark and Dr. Bailey that Alex had not done anything that would rise to the level of suicide. Not even close. The total amounts in question, if proven to be true, equal less than $10,000.

Second, most of those amounts are attributable to his educational expenses (he was a graduate student) for which he had an agreement with Dr. Bailey that the school system would help pay for. We will, of course, seek out documentation that validates what Alex had told us about this agreement.

Third, because Alex had been cooperating with multiple anti-fraud efforts, it appears very likely that perpetrators may have attempted to undermine and thwart his efforts. We still have many dots to connect, but the audit letter references the misuse of Karen Gagliano’s signature stamp. We are reminded that both her and Dr. Bailey’s signature stamps were used in the check cashing fraud scheme as were software, banking data and digital fingerprints. We have submitted requests to the Anderson County Clerk, Tyler Mayes, to provide us with the court documents that explain how these internal items came into the possession of Gina Austin, the creator of the dozens of counterfeit checks that were cashed just a few short months before Alex’s death.

And then there is this. Even though the Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi had told us that he had already turned over all of the files his department possessed surrounding Alex’s death and the check cashing ring, we were recently provided this and other files. In it, Dr. Bailey explains why he demanded that Alex come in for a meeting instead of going on his planned vacation. We still need to delve into this document further but it leaves us wondering if any of the seven other school employees were ever interviewed by the authorities. According to the ORPD records, Bailey was the only person they interviewed. Of course, given Chief Akagi’s track record of inaccuracies, we cannot be sure. We also wonder if the FBI interviewed any of them. We will be following up with them shortly.

We remain open to all possibilities and know that we will likely never have all of our questions answered, but at this point, we remain undeterred. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Butler Follow Up Commentary

Chris Butler has continued to show interest in our story and the lack of cooperation we've received from local authorities and local press. He's right on all counts, especially when he says, "Perceptions, when not corrected with facts, give people leverage to expand their imaginations in all kinds of unhealthy ways — and matters of public safety demand facts."

It's hard enough trying to understand what happened to our son. But being misled and ignored make the pain so much worse. We are so very thankful for his help.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fighting Fraud

Alex was very good at what he did. Shortly before his death, he became the first person in Tennessee to earn the designation of Certified Administrator of School Finance and Operations from the Association of School Business Officials International.

His job carried with it tremendous responsibility, which was evident in the hundreds of his work files we’ve reviewed. From day one, as he’d told us, he was cleaning up messes. Alex was continually working to ensure that the school district financials were properly maintained and that all monies were accounted for. 

As we mentioned in our letter to the FBI, Alex had been revising policies and giving training to staff to combat fraud, waste and abuse within the system. We presume this is what Mr. Bailey meant when he told us, “The biggest thing that Alex was doing was stepping on peoples toes because he was doing his job well.”

During the Spring of 2011, Alex prepared this presentation that emphasizes Tennessee law on fraud reporting.  One month before his death in June 2011, Alex developed this power point and gave training to staff based on negative 2010 audit findings.

As we understand it, audit findings do not necessarily expose fraud or waste; rather, they highlight weaknesses or risks in controls and procedures. Management is left to delve into those discoveries and take corrective actions. After reviewing the 2010 audit and these power points, these statements indicate that Alex found numerous problems throughout multiple areas of the school system:

“correction – not cover-up….improper or no bids….deficit fund balances….inadequate collection records… deposits not made timely….purchase authorizations not completed properly, dated after invoice…..inadequate separation of duties…invoice amount does not equal check amount…collection records not prepared for all collections"

Findings Deserving Undivided Attention:

·         Cash/check ration in collection records did not agree with bank
·         Receipts did not agree with collection logs
·         Money receipted does not reconcile with deposits
·         No deposits for October, February and June
·         Receipts could not be traced to deposit
·         Receipt totals not matched with deposit totals
·         Teacher receipts not issued to payee and had wrong date
·         Invoice amount does not equal check amount”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Progress Report

We are pleased to report that we are already receiving a high volume of visits due to Mr. Butler’s reporting of our FBI inquiry. He has already posted another follow up story.  

We cannot thank him enough for helping us. We also must thank the countless individuals in both Wisconsin and Tennessee who’ve helped us come this far. This has been a collaborative effort and we could not have done it without each and every one of you!

And though we are still waiting for an acknowledgement from the FBI and the elected representatives we contacted, we are sustained by the outpouring of supportive responses we’ve received. You can continue to help by helping us spread the word by sharing this website with as many of your friends as possible. You can also subscribe to updates using the email/submit button to the left.

Due to the volume of emails and calls that we are receiving, we cannot respond as quickly as we would like. If you are awaiting our response, please know that we will get back with you as soon as we are able. We both work full time jobs and have limited time during the week. Thank you so much for wanting to help and we will be in touch very soon!

In the coming days, we will also develop a Face Book page and Twitter account.

Please check back often and thank you again!

Donnie & Annette Heitman

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Our Official Request of the FBI

FBI Headquarters 
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535-0001
(202) 324-3000

April 8, 2014

To Whom It May Concern:

We are formally requesting that your office conduct an investigation into the death and circumstances surrounding the death of our son, Alexander (Alex) J. Heitman. At the time of his death, Alex was a two year resident of Knoxville, TN and an employee of the Oak Ridge School District Business Office. On July 25, 2011, he was found dead of a shotgun wound to the head in a remote part of Cocke County, TN, a place where he had never been before which was located 67 miles from his home and 80 miles from his intended destination that morning, his office at the Oak Ridge School District Administration Building.

Questionable cause of death

From listening to 911 audio files, Alex’s death was presumed to be a suicide prior to the discovery of his body and prior to the arrival of the coroner. This presumption seems to be the only basis for the annotation (of suicide) on his final death certificate. At the time, we were in shock because we had no reason to believe he would commit suicide. 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.

We were told by Cocke County Detective Richard Caldwell that they’d have to do an autopsy to confirm what caused his death because they couldn’t determine the point of entry and it appeared inconsistent with suicide. When we asked what he meant, he said that someone else could have done this. In fact, in one of the calls between Cocke County officials, a dispatcher reported to the Knoxville PD that it appeared he was shot in the head and not the mouth, which contradicts the autopsy findings.

Though the autopsy was ordered because there was a question of whether or not Alex’s death was a suicide, the autopsy report does not attribute the cause of death listed (shotgun wound of head) to suicide or homicide.

We are also told by the man who reported finding Alex’s body to police, Nathan Wilde, that he found evidence left at the scene the following day to include portions of Alex’s brain and a shotgun shell casing. Without this evidence, we fail to understand how any autopsy could prove to be conclusive. It would seem impossible to definitively rule on the total number of shots fired or the angle from which they were fired. We believe that an “inconclusive” finding, at the very least, would have been more appropriate.

Missing Documentation

Though we’ve been advised by the Tennessee Open Records Counsel, Elisha Hodge, that we are entitled to many of these documents, we’ve been unable to obtain or have been denied access to the following:

1.      Ballistics and fingerprints: Even though we were told by Cocke County Detective Richard Caldwell that a full investigation was done, we were informed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations  that no ballistics or fingerprints were ordered by the District Attorney and therefore none were performed. We therefore have no confirmation that the guns found at the scene were fired or by whom. Furthermore, though the guns were willed to his father, to this day, Detective Woods refuses to turn them over to us. He’d even told us at one point that they’d been lost.
2.      Coroner’s Report: Terry Jarnigan was the coroner who arrived on the scene. We’ve requested a copy of his report and have received no response.
3.      The Medical Examiner’s Report and Photos. Both Knox County Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Cogswell from UT Medical Center who performed Alex’s autopsy and his supervisor, Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan have refused us access to the autopsy photos and internal report. The basis of their refusal is two-fold. First, they site ownership by Cocke County since they paid for the autopsy. Second, they claim a concern that they would be lost in the mail. Instead, they offer us the opportunity to view them in person, knowing that we live in Wisconsin.
4.      Crime Scene Photos:  We requested the complete set of unedited crime scene photos of our son’s body and the surrounding evidence. Only after many months of begging and pleading did Detective Derek Woods finally send us some photos. To our dismay, we received what appeared to be doctored photos. None of the photos show Alex’s face, the front of his body, the brain matter that was avulsed around him or any blood. Most of the photos taken of the surrounding area were missing all together.
5.      Full Police Report: Initially, we were provided with an Incident Report and told that a full, final police report would be forthcoming. We were never provided a final report.
6.      Documentation verifying who identified our son’s body. According to 911 audio files, his car did not have the proper license plates; officers used the VIN number to verify his car. Neither of us (his parents) nor his wife identified his body, which was subsequently cremated. We were prevented by the funeral home staff from viewing his face.
             Neither Cocke County Baptist Hospital nor U.T. Medical Center has records stating who identified his body. Pam at U.T. Medical Center told us that he’d been identified at Cocke County Baptist Hospital prior to his arrival at U.T. Medical Center. None of the documents they provided name a witness or provide any type of signature.
7.      No victimology was conducted to determine motive and intent. Though we are aware of stressors in Alex’s life at the time of his death, we are unconvinced that they were enough to push him over the edge, especially considering he was about to become a father; was pursuing his Ph.D. at the age of 28 and had at least one pending job offer from what we understand. We are aware that the days after his death, the Oak Ridge Police Department (ORPD) Chief of Police Jim Akagi attempted to conduct interviews of Alex’s coworkers and supervisors but was denied access by the schools’ Superintendent, Tom Bailey.
8.      Complete call log from Cocke County Dispatch: Though we received some of the audio files we requested, there appear to be some that are missing. Additionally, a number of side calls were made between Cocke County dispatch and the officers on the scene (“21” requests) which leave many gaps in the sequence of events. We’ve been provided no documentation of those calls.

Significant Errors in Official Records

The few documents (death certificate, autopsy and delayed report of diagnosis) that we have been able to access contain a number of errors:

1.      No time or approximate time of death/injury is listed on any of the documentation.  
2.      The autopsy omits Alex’s legal first name entirely and refers to him only as “John Heitman.” It appears that this error originated with the Baptist Hospital of Cocke County. All of this hospital’s documentation lists him as John, even though they correctly documented his date of birth and the fact that he was an organ donor, both items would have been found on his driver’s license. It is difficult to believe that this hospital or any of the Cocke County officials treated our son with any level of dignity when we hear them state his given first name of Alexander repeatedly on the 911 calls yet make such a blatant error in all of the files about him. The coroner was at the scene and signed off on some of these files. There is no logical reason he should have allowed these errors to happen.
3.      The autopsy lists Dr. Tim McConnell as the authorizing authority; all other documents list the Cocke County ME’s name as “David H. McConnell, M.D.”
4.      The autopsy under-reports his height by 3 inches (if actual height were measured, this would indicate a significant portion of brain matter was left behind as reported by the witness who returned to the scene the following day)
5.      The Delayed Report of Diagnosis (which serves as the final page of the death certificate and was completely handwritten) violated TN state law which states that “All certificates and records relating to vital events must be prepared on a typewriter with a black ribbon….no certificate shall be complete and correct and acceptable for registration:

(b) That does not supply all items of information called for thereon or satisfactorily account for their omission” - The Medical Examiner didn’t date his signature as required in box 26c; 
(c) “That contains alterations or erasures” - Alex’s first name was added after the fact outside of the box
(h) “That contains improper or inconsistent data” - 31e Place of Injury states “home;” Alex’s home was in Knoxville and his body was found 67 miles away in Cocke County.

6.   Hospital documentation incomplete and errors:
  • Instructions for release of body lacked both a physician’s and a witness’ signature and none of the criteria for autopsy were checked (it appears that at least four were applicable).
  • The documents give us reason to question whether or not the Cocke County Medical Examiner David McConnell ever actually examined Alex’s body. His signature is lacking on the files and appears to have been forged by the coroner on the actual Order for Autopsy. 

reporting of and cooperation with investigations

Alex had been cooperating with local law enforcement before his death. However, when we initially requested information about these investigations, ORPD Chief Jim Akagi denied Alex had ever been “in communication with anyone at the Police Department” and Anderson County District Attorney Dave Clark denied his office had issued any subpoenas for his “assistance in an investigation.” It took us two years after his death to receive files both men denied existed.

ORPD reports and Anderson County Court documents revealed Alex had been subpoenaed at least six times the month preceding his death (June) regarding a fraudulent check cashing ring that he’d initially reported to the Oak Ridge Police Department involving one of the Oak Ridge School bank accounts. We have been unable to determine if the originator of the checks has been charged or answered for how she obtained the schools’ account and routing information, the signature stamps of the superintendent and business director or the computer equipment and software she used to print the checks. We also do not know who else may have had access to this same information and equipment.

In fulfillment of these subpoenas, we question who he may have been testifying in front of since the Grand Jury Foreman was/is the Board of Education Chairman for the same school system who employed Alex.

We are also aware that a subsequent federal investigation was to be initiated after some of the people were prosecuted because their pleas involved agreements to “cooperate with federal authorities in a counterfeiting investigation as a condition of probation.” We’ve been unable to learn of the outcome of that investigation.

Alex was served with one final subpoena six days before his death in July. We’ve been unable to verify what the subpoena was for or if Alex was ever able to fulfil the requirements of that subpoena.

Oak Ridge School Financial Issues

We believe Alex may have been cooperating with another investigation into the schools finances while working with the District Attorney Dave Clark and other agencies. In a number of phone conversations (which we documented) after Alex’s death, Mr. Clark led us to believe that he was going to ask the TBI and possibly the FBI to investigate the business conduct of the schools, their accounting department and the school superintendent. Though Mr. Clark did eventually confirm (in an email) that he’d ordered a special audit of the school finances after Alex’s death, he is now denying having ever told us that he was going to pursue the aforementioned indictments. 

We do know that Alex was working on the 2011 audit when he died. He turned in his part the Friday before the Monday that he died. In one of our conversations with Mr. Clark, he informed us that Alex had refused to sign off the audit.

Alex was supposed to be on vacation the week he died, but Bailey demanded that he come in that Monday morning (the day of his death) for a meeting.

Mr. Bailey had made some strange statements the day of Alex’s death. When Annette called him to ask “Where is our son? What do you know?” he said he had not seen him that day at all. Bailey said that they were in the middle of the audit and there were some questions about 2-4 “procedural transactions.” He said that was what the meeting was about, it was “nothing terrible, nothing criminal, nothing fraudulent...”

Bailey’s responses were eerily similar to what  he said to the local papers after it was known that Alex was dead:  “Bailey said he and other school officials, including Heitman and Karen Gagliano, the district's director of business and support services, had in recent weeks met with auditors to discuss the annual audit of the district's financial records. ‘At that point, it wasn't done but it was excellent,’ Bailey said. ‘I had no concerns and I still have no concerns, in my opinion, that would rise to the level of any activity that would give me concern.’

Alex shared with family that he was hired to clean up financial issues specifically concerning the 2008 audit which had over $1 million in adjustments. He also shared a number of concerns about the manner in which business was conducted within the administration. Our discussions with one former employee, Lynn Hash, support the claims Alex made to us. Some of those claims are very specific and, in our research, we believe that we have found evidence that corroborate some of his specific statements.

Oak Ridge School System 2010 Audit

Additionally, we have found a number of concerns regarding the Oak Ridge School System 2010 audit. This particular audit contains Alex’s signature and is the only on in at least a decade containing an ORS employee signature other than Tom Bailey or Karen Gagliano (Alex’s supervisors).

This same audit was edited over three months AFTER Alex died as follows: 

NOTE (B): Subsequent to the issuance of the original FY 2010 financial statements in December 2010, management determined that two federal awards involving ARRA funds totaling $948,744 (see page 113) were not included in the schedule of expenditures of federal and state awards. Additional procedures as required by OMB Circular A-133 were performed and these restated financial statements were issued effective November 11, 2011.

Alex had also been revising policies and giving training to staff to combat fraud, waste and abuse within the system based on negative 2010 audit findings. We have the Power Points of one of these training sessions given in June 2011 that elaborates on these findings. Samples pulled directly from this presentation developed by Alex include:

“correction – not cover-up….improper or no bids….deficit fund balances….inadequate collection records… deposits not made timely….purchase authorizations not completed properly, dated after invoice…..inadequate separation of duties…invoice amount does not equal check amount…collection records not prepared for all collections…

Findings Deserving Undivided Attention:
·         Cash/check ration in collection records did not agree with bank
·         Receipts did not agree with collection logs
·         Money receipted does not reconcile with deposits
·         No deposits for October, February and June
·         Receipts could not be traced to deposit
·         Receipt totals not matched with deposit totals
·         Teacher receipts not issued to payee and had wrong date
·         Invoice amount does not equal check amount”

Though he was publicly praised for this training by Assistant Superintendent Ken Green, privately Mr. Green severely scolded him for reasons he never understood.  

The 2010 Audit also contains a tremendous amount of changes with large debt bonds to include refinancing, swaps, derivative interest swap ($15-$20M worth of bond swaps), and the downgrading of one of the banks involved in a rate swap, Depfa Bank.

In closing, Alex was a man of impeccable character who was extremely intelligent and had already achieved a tremendous level of success at a very young age. Even so, he had plans for an even brighter future.  He was a loving husband who was eagerly anticipating the birth of his first child and had gone so far as to adjust his life insurance policy just a few weeks before his death.

In his work and cooperation with authorities, we fear that he may have trusted the wrong person or identified someone that found out about these investigations. We’ve faced extreme difficulties with local authorities in our quest for answers to what happened to our son. We reiterate our request that you open an investigation into the death of our son, Alex Heitman to include the various government agencies that have a possible connection to the events preceding and following his death.

We respectfully ask that you please acknowledge your receipt of this letter and give us the courtesy of indicating your intended course of action. Upon receipt of your reply, we would like to coordinate the release of the documentation we possess that verifies the statements made in this letter.   


Donnie & Annette Heitman


Wisconsin State Senator Luther Olsen
P.O. Box 7882,  Madison, WI 53707-7882
(608) 266-0751

Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield
2011 Flagler, Knoxville, TN 37912
(Represents the district of Alex’s former home in Knoxville)

Tennessee State Senator Randy McNally
94 Royal Troon Circle, Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Phone (865) 483-5544
(Represents the district of Alex’s former employer in Oak Ridge)

U.S. Senator for Wisconsin Ron Johnson
328 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5323

U.S. Sentator for Tennessee Lamar Alexander
455 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4944
Oak Ridge
Tennessee Congressman Chuck Fleischmann
200 Administration Rd. #100, Oak Ridge, TN 37830
Phone: (865) 576-1976        Fax: (865) 576-3221