What happened to Clairfield hunter who vanished in 1987?

What happened to Clairfield hunter who vanished in 1987?

Updated: Nov 4, 2010 11:00 PM
Tommy Gene Hatfield (source: family) Tommy Gene Hatfield (source: family)

By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

CLAIRFIELD (WATE) – Investigators with the Claiborne County Sheriff's Office say they're still determined to solve a 23-year-old disappearance case.

Tommy Gene Hatfield, 29, disappeared from the woods behind his home in Clairfield, in the Appalachian Mountains, in September 1987 while he was hunting.

He had five brothers and sisters, parents, and a wife and two kids he loved very much. He made a living driving a truck that hauled rocks.

Today, his children have kids of their own. His five brothers and sisters also have kids and grand kids.

All these years later at packed family gatherings, they still talk about Tommy Gene, and wonder what happened to him.

Probably no one misses him more than his mother, Tilda Hatfield. "At night when I sleep, I think about him. He was a good boy. He never raised his voice at me. He was always so calm and easy going," Tilda said.

She says the whole family lived very close to each other and Tommy would stop by to see her and her late husband every day.

There were several searches done over the years for Tommy Gene, but none turned up a single clue, no body, no clothes. He seemed to vanish without a trace.

"Even today a couple of Tommy Gene's friends go out on horseback looking for him in the mountains," said Capt. David Honeycutt, with the sheriff's office.

Capt. Honeycutt and his team recently began looking into the unsolved case again. "At this point in my investigation, I feel strongly like there's been foul play," he said.

"He didn't get lost in the mountains because he knew the woods too well. He went hunting a lot. I know he didn't get lost," his mother says.

She also says Tommy Gene had no reason to leave. He was very attached to his family. He had recently been called to preach at his church, and looking forward to it.

She says her husband died a few years ago, and what happened to Tommy Gene bothered him until the day he died.

Tilda hopes she can live long enough to find the answer she's been waiting for. "I just want to know what happened," she said.

Since a body has never been found, Tommy Gene Hatfield is still considered a missing person. Even though investigators don't believe he's alive, they have a picture of what he would look like today, as a 52-year-old man.

If you have any information on what happened to Tommy Gene Hatfield, call the Claiborne County Sheriff's Office at 423-626-3385.

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