CLAIBORNE COUNTY, Tenn. (TCD) -- Officials identified a homicide victim last week whose skeletal remains were found along an abandoned and isolated trail in 1986.
According to a news release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), hunters discovered the remains near Caney Valley on Aug. 24, 1986. TBI agents and the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office determined the victim was a white male between 30 and 40 years old who had been fatally shot. The University of Tennessee Anthropology Department reportedly concluded the victim had been dead for around six months to a year before the remains were found.
According to the TBI, after "exhausting all leads," officials were unable to confirm the victim’s identity, so he became labeled as a John Doe.
The University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center reportedly sent a sample of the victim’s remains to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification in September 2015. Scientists put the DNA profile into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
In December 2022, the TBI said agents sent a sample of the remains to Othram Inc. to perform forensic genetic genealogical DNA testing in the hope of identifying the victim.
Through this testing, officials reportedly found possible relatives connected to the victim in Arkansas. According to the TBI, agents "made contact with two of those individuals and confirmed they had a brother they had not heard from in more than four decades."
Agents obtained "familial DNA standards for possible siblings of the man," and those were "submitted to the TBI Crime Lab in Knoxville for entry into CODIS."
The University of North Texas Center for Human Identification identified the victim as Jerry Harrison of Little Rock, Arkansas, last week. The TBI said his family last heard from Harrison in 1982 after he "began traveling across the country."
Officials have not yet identified a suspect in Harrison’s slaying, and the investigation is ongoing.