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Suspect Arrested In First Assault on Nuclear Plant Worker

November 9, 1985

CLEVELAND, Tenn. (AP) _ A man was charged Friday with helping plan the first of two attacks on a nuclear power plant worker who was shot to death in a second attack.

James Edwin Walker, 43, of Ringgold, Ga., was arraigned in Bradley County General Sessions Court on a charge of being an accessory before the fact to felonious assault with intent to commit first-degree murder.

Judith Penley, 41, of rural McDonald, died after being shot five times with a .30-caliber rifle as she sat in a car at a Cleveland truck stop.

Three nights earlier, someone had fired at Mrs. Penley with a 12-gauge shotgun as she drove down a two-lane country road near her home. She was not hurt, but 27 pellet holes were found in her pickup truck.

Mrs. Penley worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar Nuclear Plant and was one of about 4,800 employees questioned by a private consulting company about safety.

Bradley County Sheriff Robert Lawson refused to say whether Walker was a suspect in the killing. He said last month that two people had been paid to kill Mrs. Penley.

Judge Andrew Bennett scheduled a Nov. 18 preliminary hearing for Walker, a self-employed carpenter, and set bond at $100,000. He was being held at the Bradley County Justice Center.

On the day she was killed, Mrs. Penley told interviewers from the consulting company hired by TVA that the first assault may have been connected to her comments in an earlier interview. The TVA, the consulting company and investigators said those complaints were minor.

Authorities have said they have found no links between either shootings and Mrs. Penley’s job.

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