The body of the renowned Tennessee sheriff’s wife exhumed 57 years after her unsolved murder case

Authorities have recently taken the unprecedented step of exhuming the remains of Pauline Pusser, the wife of a renowned former sheriff in Tennessee, more than fifty years after her tragic death in an unresolved homicide. This decision followed the receipt of a recent tip by law enforcement officials.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) confirmed that they supervised the exhumation process of Pauline Pusser’s body on Thursday at Adamsville Cemetery. Pauline Pusser was fatally shot while traveling in a car driven by her husband, Buford Pusser, who served as the sheriff of McNairy County. Buford Pusser’s life story became the inspiration for the popular 1973 film “Walking Tall,” starring Joe Don Baker, and its 2004 remake featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Sites associated with Buford Pusser’s legacy in Adamsville continue to draw tourists interested in the history of law enforcement in west Tennessee.

In an official statement, TBI spokesperson Keli McAlister explained that a recent tip led agents to discover that no autopsy had ever been performed on Pauline Pusser’s body. In collaboration with Pauline’s family and under the guidance of 25th Judicial District Attorney General Mark Davidson, TBI requested the exhumation in hopes of answering lingering questions and uncovering crucial information that might aid in solving Pauline Pusser’s murder.

Reacting to the unexpected presence of law enforcement at the cemetery, some local residents expressed surprise and bewilderment, as recounted by Jennifer Burks in an interview with CBS affiliate WREG-TV.

The tragic incident occurred on August 12, 1967, in McNairy County, sparking an investigation by what was then known as the Tennessee Bureau of Criminal Identification. Despite the passage of time, the investigation into Pauline Pusser’s killing has remained active, according to McAlister.

The circumstances surrounding Pauline Pusser’s death were detailed in an August 13, 1967, edition of The Tennessean, which reported that she was killed while accompanying her husband on duty. The couple’s patrol car was ambushed on a remote country road, resulting in Pauline’s death and serious injuries to Buford Pusser.

Witnesses recounted finding Buford Pusser sitting in the driver’s seat of the patrol car with Pauline lying across his lap, mortally wounded. The scene was described as being just north of the Tennessee-Mississippi state line on U.S. 45.

Despite subsequent investigations and efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, the case has remained unsolved. Mike Elam, a former sheriff who authored a book about Buford Pusser, has provided tips to the TBI, suggesting a need to reassess details such as entry and exit wounds and bullet trajectories.

An archived news article from The Tennessean quoted an investigator speculating that the Pussers had driven into a carefully laid trap, adding another layer of mystery to the tragic events of that fateful day in 1967.