Investigators search for answers in 1991 murder mystery

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - It's been more than 25 years since Betty Fuller's sister Pauline George was murdered, but to her it feels like just yesterday.

"I thought I was going to die too. We were just real, real close," said Betty Fuller.

George was an unlikely murder victim when she was brutally killed in her West Knoxville home in 1991.

"She was a typical, middle class-working female," Knox County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Chief Investigator David Davenport said. 

A receptionist at Park West Hospital, investigators said she had just returned from work and was getting ready to go on a date with her boyfriend, Jack Lane, but he arrived at the home to find her dead.

"He found her in her basement area," he said. "She'd been beaten and stabbed multiple times."

A 50-year-old divorcee, George was a mother of two adopted children, a sister and loving friend.

"She was sweet, and loving. There was no one that I knew of that didn't care for Pauline," said Fuller.

She was not known to have enemies, but the gruesome murder scene tells a different tale. 

"You have the assume based on the amount of wounds on her body that somebody knew her and had some kind of grudge against her," Davenport said.

When Lane found George, her body was unrecognizable, and the murder weapon was nowhere to be found. Her killer remains at large decades later.

"Nobody saw anything," Davenport said. "They canvassed the entire neighborhood, and no one could put a strange vehicle at her house or saw anyone go in. You would think with the amount of carnage and blood that was left at the scene, or left a blood trail at the residence, but it's as if the person who did this cleaned up before they left the house."

George's case marked the first time investigators ordered DNA testing in Knox County. With DNA still in its infancy, the results of that test proved inconclusive. George's story joins dozens of other cases in Knox County that have gone cold. Police are still searching for clues from an old crime scene. 

"It's frustrating for me, to the whole department, and to her family and loved ones... that someone can do something like that and still be walking around," he said.

Davenport spends his days combing through the evidence, hoping to find the missing puzzle piece that will finally crack the case. 

"I just think it's close," he said. "That's my feeling investigating the case, and I think [it was] someone knew her that killed her."

Without any new evidence and so many years gone by, the answer investigators have been looking for may not be in the proof, taking a person with knowledge of the crime to come forward and bring an end to the mystery. 

"I think I know who had it done or killed her," Davenport said. "I'd have to go to court and get enough evidence to prove it or somewhere along the line they won't take it to the grave with them and they'll come and clear their soul about what they did and why they did it."

"It's hard to say you can forgive somebody but you have to, to have a little peace in yourself. If it hadn't had been for the Lord in my heart, I wouldn't have been able to withstood it all these years," said Fuller.

If you have any information in this Knox County cold case, you are urged to give investigators a call at (865) 215-2432. Any tips can be helpful and you may remain anonymous.

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