MCNAIRY COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nearly 56 years after Pauline Pusser was shot and killed in an ambush likely meant for her husband—Sheriff Buford Pusser—investigators with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) are still working to bring her killer to justice.
The case has gained notoriety due to her husband’s reputation as a no-nonsense sheriff whose life story inspired the movie Walking Tall (1973) and its two sequels. Today, two historical markers still pinpoint the spots where Pauline and Sheriff Buford Pusser were ambushed.
The first can be found on Sticine Road near the Tennessee and Mississippi state line, where on Aug. 12, 1967, a car reportedly drove up beside the couple and began firing. The sheriff sped off down the road and stopped two miles south to check on his wife’s injuries.
However, while stopped, the assailant’s car came back into sight and started firing into the sheriff’s car again. This time, Pauline was shot in the head and died. Buford was shot in the face and suffered severe bone and tissue damage that left his face permanently disfigured.
After spending 18 days in a Memphis hospital, he returned to his position as the sheriff of McNairy County. During his career, Buford would be shot eight times, stabbed seven and run over by a car, according to the Tennessee Encyclopedia.
One of the attacks was reportedly carried out by members of a moonshine ring, who were angered by Buford’s efforts to clean up the crime-ridden state line. Buford also went after prostitution rings and illegal gambling houses.
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According to the TBI, there have been several rumors about who could have been behind the shootings that killed his wife, but no one has ever been arrested. Even after more than five decades, the case remains an open and active investigation.
Anyone who has any information that could help identify Pauline’s killer is asked to contact the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.