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Bowling alley owner to plead 'not guilty' in cold case

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Johnny Mack Salyer
Billy Hawk
The location of the body when it was discovered in 1981
Billy Hawk
Hawk in the pro shop of Pro Bowl West in 2013.
Pro Bowl West
Pro Bowl West

A Hamilton County judge has set a hearing date for William Frank Hawk, 61, of Greeneville, who is expected to plead 'not guilty' to first degree murder charges for the 1981 death of Johnny Mack Salyer.

Hawk, who owns Pro Bowl West in Lebanon on Baddour Parkway, was indicted on Monday, Sept. 21, and was arrested and placed under a $500,000 bond.

Salyer and Hawk were co-defendants in a pending cocaine distribution case at the time of Salyer's disappearance. His body was later found inside a 55-gallon drum in the Tennessee River in Hamilton County on June 3, 1981.

According to the Hamilton County District Attorney's office, Hawk was the primary suspect in Salyer's murder but was never charged. Because of the condition of the body, cause of Salyer's death was undetermined.

A third co-defendant, Debra Bales, married Hawk several months after their arrests.

The crime was investigated by a recently-formed Cold Case Unit formed by Hamilton County District Attorney Neal Pinkston. Investigators were compiled from several different agencies and included several of the retired detectives who originally worked on the case.

Hawk, who graduated from Baylor School in Chattanooga in 1973, was described by his classmates as "an unpredictable mixture of hell, fuel and muscles, which is very hard to control when properly mixed."

Cleveland attorney Jim Logan is representing Hawk.

Hawk owned and operated Pro Bowl West in Lebanon with his wife Sarah since 2007. The Wilson Post interviewed Hawk and published a feature about the alley's financial troubles in early 2013.

The couple had invested more than a $650,000 into facility since they purchased it, he said in the article.

According to the article, Hawk has spent nearly 50 years working in the bowling business. His father and grandfather opened their first bowling center in Chattanooga in 1959.

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#crime, Billy Hawk, Lebanon, murder, Pro Bowl West
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