Sheriff’s wife was killed in 1967 ambush, officials say. Now tip renews investigation

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Pauline Pusser was killed in an infamous 1967 ambush when she was responding to a call alongside her sheriff husband, Tennessee officials said.

A recent tip has reignited the case, as investigators hopes to bring Pusser’s killer to justice.

The early morning of Aug. 12, 1967, the couple was heading to a disturbance call near the Tennessee-Mississippi line when a vehicle pulled up alongside theirs and began firing into the car with a military rifle, according to The Historical Marker Database and McNairy County Historical Society.

Pusser, 35, was shot as she and her husband sped away trying to outrun the ambush, officials said. When he pulled over to check her injuries about two miles down the road, the accused assailants returned and began firing into the vehicle again, officials said.

This time, Pusser was shot in the head and died, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Historical officials believe the target was her husband, McNairy County Sheriff Buford Pusser.

The McNairy sheriff’s chin was blown off, witnesses said. He sustained “severe bone and tissue damage,” and he spent nearly three weeks in the hospital before returning to work, officials said.

The tenure of Sheriff Pusser and the ambush are the subject of a 1973 film called “Walking Tall.”

No one has ever been arrested or charged in Pauline Pusser’s death.

Now, more than 56 years later, a tip to investigators led them to exhume Pusser’s body, the TBI announced.

The tip prompted investigators to review the case again, and they learned no one had ever performed an autopsy on Pusser’s body, officials told McClatchy News.

Officials visited the Adamsville Cemetery on Feb. 8 and dug up her remains in “an attempt to answer critical questions and provide crucial information that may assist in identifying the person or persons responsible,” a spokesperson for the TBI told McClatchy News.

After speaking with the district attorney, investigators said they exhumed her body with the support of the woman’s family.

A museum dedicated to the legacy of the sheriff regularly honors Pauline Pusser.

“This was the man – Buford Pusser – the man who became the target of many assassination attempts – one of which took the life of his wife and left him emotionally and physically scarred,” the museum’s website says.

McNairy County is in southwestern Tennessee along the border of Mississippi.

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