An FBI informant involved in a plot to steal Elvis Presley’s body shortly after the rock idol died 25 years ago claims the Presley family staged the grave-robbing to persuade Memphis officials to move him from the public cemetery to Graceland, now a $15 million-a-year tourist attraction, a veteran FBI agent told WorldNetDaily.
The late Vernon Presley, “the King’s” father and executor of his estate at the time, wanted his son buried on the mansion grounds, but it was in an area not zoned for burials.
So three weeks after Elvis died of a heart attack, he had lawyers for the Presley estate petition the Memphis Shelby County Board of Adjustment for a zoning variance. They cited what they called an attempted theft of Presley’s body several days earlier and the expense of round-the-clock security.
Three men were arrested Aug. 29, 1977, near the Forest Hill Cemetery mausoleum where Elvis was entombed in a 900-pound copper coffin. One of them was Ronnie Tyler, who later became an FBI informant.
Tyler “had been in cahoots with a crooked deputy sheriff, who swooped down and ‘captured’ the thieves,” said Ivian C. Smith, former head of the FBI’s Arkansas office.
“The scheme had been hatched after the Memphis board had refused the Presley family’s request to bury Elvis at Graceland,” he said.
Smith says Tyler told him years later that former Shelby County sheriff’s deputy Billy Talley set up the hoax.
Tyler, in a bizarre twist to an already bizarre tale, helped put his old pal Talley away in 1997 for conspiring to kill FBI special agent Eddie Young, who had investigated Talley for drug-dealing. Smith had worked the case.
The Memphis board on Sept. 28, 1977, OK’d Presley’s request to move his son’s body to Graceland. And the singer, dressed in a white suit with dark-blue tie and light-blue shirt, was reburied there Oct. 2.
“After the ‘theft,’ the county made an exception to the law” – and Tyler was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, said Smith, who plans to reveal more details in his upcoming book, “In Sunshine and In Shadow: An FBI Journey.”
Asked about the alleged plot, an Elvis Presley Enterprises spokeswoman stopped short of confirming it.
“I don’t know that for sure,” said spokeswoman Laura Stokes at Graceland.
“But I do know that for security reasons, because his body had been threatened, that they did get special permits from the county to move him back here and have him buried here,” she said.
More than 700,000 people, at about $25 a head, visit Graceland and Elvis’ gravesite each year.