An arrest was made in a 46-year-old murder case last week, bringing back memories of a murder mystery that baffled investigators, the media and local residents for almost half a century.
During the 1980s, The Democrat, owned by Dan Hicks Jr., ran a series of articles about the unsolved case.
The articles said John Raymond Constant Jr.’s bullet-riddled body was found in a truck under a bridge in Vonore in the early-morning hours of March 16, 1973. Some believe Constant, who was an Etowah semi-truck driver, was actually shot in a car wash stall in Etowah but it was made to look like he was ambushed in Vonore.
One published theory said Constant was last seen in a garage owned by H.B. Calhoun in Etowah and now Max Benson Calhoun, 67, Highway 310, Englewood, has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the 46-year-old case.
The Democrat’s investigation into the case 32 years ago, said that Max Benson’s mother had told the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) that Calhoun had gotten his truck stuck in the mud on Starr Mountain. The Democrat article said Mrs. Calhoun told TBI agents that her son had attempted to get Constant’s truck out of the mud but that she and her husband drove to that location later and found Constant alone.
Mrs. Calhoun told investigators that after Constant’s truck was freed, they followed him to Etowah. She added that her son, Max, would later drive Constant’s pickup truck to their residence next to their garage and that Constant himself drove a big Peterbilt truck to that same location.
One published theory in The Democrat states that Constant approached three men at a car wash in Etowah and that a customer reported hearing shots.
But a man who lived close to where Constant was found dead in Vonore, however, said he was watching TV between 8 and 9 p.m. on the night Constant’s body was found when he heard several quick shots. The man also said a car with a loud muffler passed his house both before and after the shots.
One of The Democrat’s articles said that Constant’s ex-wife said he was scared he was being set up to be killed because he knew too much about crooked dealings involving certain public officials.
A gruesome photo obtained from investigators that ran in The Democrat in 1987, showed Constant slumped over dead in the truck wearing muddy clothes.
Around 1982, a former McMinn County deputy was arrested and charged in connection with the case, but he was eventually cleared.
Now, in 2019, the indictment brought against Max Calhoun states that sometime on either March 15 or March 16, 1973, Calhoun did intentionally and with pre-meditation kill Constant.
Tenth Judicial District Attorney General Steve Crump said on Friday that new information about the nearly half-a-century-old case came into the 10th Judicial District’s Cold Case Task Force, which was formed a couple of years ago to work on unsolved cases such as the Constant murder.
“I am extremely proud of the efforts of Calvin Rockholt (investigator) and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department in this matter,” Crump told The Advocate & Democrat late Friday. “Sheriff (Tommy) Jones and his staff have been a strong supporter of our Cold Case Task Force and this case is a direct result of that support.”
Constant’s remaining family is looking for some sort of justice if closure to their loss still remains elusive.
“The last I saw my brother was the day my son was born,” Constant’s sister Patricia Miller said Friday. “He is now 46 years old.”
Miller, who lives in Athens, said at times she doubted the mystery would ever be solved, however, Crump had kept her informed as the case progressed.
“I thought I might die not knowing anything about it,” she told The Advocate & Democrat. “We’ll never have closure but maybe we can have justice.”
Miller said she also believes it is possible her brother was killed in McMinn County before his vehicle was brought to Monroe County. Miller said she and her brother at least knew of the suspect where they went to school.
Miller said she hopes there is enough evidence to convict the suspect, Calhoun.
A press conference about the case was scheduled for 3 p.m. on Tuesday, after The Advocate & Democrat’s deadline for this edition. See information about the press conference in our Feb. 17 Weekend Edition. It was unknown at press time if investigators would specifically address any of the theories on the case printed back in the 1980s.