Jerry was certain that Park had initiated the murder of people because he was not a man who enjoyed opposition. Case in point was his trouble with Waymon Poole and the Jefferson City Aldermen. Poole, from Chattanooga, had been selected as the new police chief by a three member bloc of the aldermen, against the strenuous objections of the mayor and Franklin Park. Poole was a bellicose man who immediately set out to cast doubts on Park. One of his first statements was that there was little law enforcement before his arrival and the rampant crime had been kept undercover. This was an obvious reference to Franklin Park.
From there the trouble escalated, first with harsh words from both men, then with Poole having Park forcefully ejected, and arrested, from an Aldermen meeting for carrying a firearm. Angered by it all, Park made a public threat that if the three aldermen didn’t fire Poole, they would “be sorry.”
Some time later, two crudely fabricated bombs were found outside the homes of two of the three aldermen Park had threatened, but Park told Jerry he wasn’t worried because no one had the nerve to accuse him. His basis for this belief was reasonable because legend had it that Park or his friends could shoot someone in plain sight and get away with it in the county. This was a small town and he ran it. Until Waymon Poole arrived.
Then, one day in October, with the beautiful fall colors of east Tennessee in full bloom, someone murdered Park in his suburban home. He had been shot at close range and found in an unlocked house, lying in a pool of blood. Eventually, there were two suspicions rampant in the county. The first that it was a robbery, carried out by one of Park’s former clients, because Park was notorious for leaving large amounts of both money and jewelry scattered around the house. The other theory was that a “hit man,” hired by organized crime did the dastardly act. There was also a third theory floating around, but one that gained little traction, that Waymon Poole had him killed.
The state eventually arrested a 26 year-old man named Benny Welch, who had already been charged in the shooting death of another man. Welch, according to some reports, said that he had been hired to kill Park. However, later he recanted this accusation. Whether his recanting was voluntary remains a matter of conjecture.
The plot thickens. One of Park’s associates, John Conkin, divorced and his ex-wife married Waymon Poole. At Park’s funeral, Poole and his men took pictures of the attendees and their cars, similar to a scene from The Godfather movie.
As I researched this bizarre story, digging out old newspaper accounts and attempting to find someone actually familiar with Park and the murder, I couldn’t help but wonder if the bombings had been staged to embarrass Park. As for the murder and if Welch acted alone, we will never know because he died in prison.