Knoxville police seeking leads in 2016 cold case

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - Knoxville police canvassed neighborhoods around Forsyth Street on Monday afternoon to try to uncover information about a cold case.

On October 8, 2016, Ben Jernigan was shot and killed in what is believed to have been a robbery. Officers found his body after responding to a call about a car stopped in the roadway near the railroad tracks.

"If you remember something, please let us know," said one officer to a neighbor near Fairfax Avenue and Forsyth Street. 

"It's got my heart beating, beating really fast," said Barbara Carter, Jernigan's mother. 

Carter and Jernigan's father, Guy Jernigan, were out with officers, too. Carter's been here before many times because she lives around the corner. She says she frequently runs in this area, sometimes after dark. 

"I'm not going to be held hostage by a date, a place, I'm going to live each day to the fullest. That's what we've done," said Carter. 

Her son, Jernigan, was 28 years old, a University of Tennessee senior, when he was found dead in a car near Fairfax Avenue. Since his death, Carter and Guy say they've patiently waited for investigators to find answers. 

"We're determined to honor his life and to not let this man take more from us than what he's already taken. he's taken our ben, but if we let him take us, then we just lose again," said Carter. 

Knoxville police officers walked door to door, in pairs of two, asking neighbors if they remember anything about that night. If no one answers, they leave behind a flyer, written in bold along the top: "Unsolved," along Jernigan's photo and information on how to contact KPD investigators written at the bottom. 

It's a small reminder of how the public's help could shape this case. That's the point of a canvas, like the one Carter is doing for her son's case. 

"It's to show the family we're still on it, to show neighbors we still need information, and to show a suspect we're still on it too," said John Shaffer with KPD. 

Ben Jernigan's father says it helps. 

"I wanted to know you've got Ben's back. He (the investigator) said, 'I've got Ben's back,'" said Guy Jernigan. 

At 28, Jernigan is described by his family as a self-taught musician who loved adventure. They share stories of Jernigan's willingness to find adventure, even if it meant being out of touch for a few days at a time. 

His father calls him sweet and funny. His mother said he taught her how to live her life to the fullest. 

"This is how we honor Ben's life by living our lives to the fullest. He's taught us, he taught us that. He was so fun loving, and funny," said Carter. 

The Knoxville Police Department is asking anyone with information to call Investigator A.J. Loeffler with the Violent Crimes Unit at 865-215-7206. 

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