Richard Beeler, informant in 1980s ‘Rocky Top’ corruption probe, dies in apparent suicide

Former Knox County law director Richard Beeler, an informant in the FBI’s Rocky Top investigation of the 1980s, died of an apparent suicide Thursday, reports the News Sentinel.

Beeler, 57, was law director from 1990 to 2000. Sheriff’s officers and the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office were called to a home on Bernstein Lane about 6 p.m. Thursday, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Beeler was discovered on the back porch of the residence dead from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

His body was taken to the Regional Forensic Center for further examination, according to the Sheriff’s Office news release. An investigation into his death is ongoing.

Beeler aided in the FBI corruption investigation of state Rep. Ted Ray Miller in the late 1980s. That investigation led to a grand jury indictment against Miller, who died of an apparent suicide the day before the charges were expected to be returned.

Beeler later entered private practice after leaving Knox County.

Note: From memory, Beeler — acting as a lobbyist at the time — told investigators that Miller, then chairman of the House State and Local Government Committee, had solicited a bribe in exchange for help in passage of legislation involving a Knox County incinerator project in the committee. Beeler wore a tape recorder while talking to Miller about the deal. Miller also died from a self-inflicted gunshot.