Police hope to solve Knoxville teen's murder from 1987

Police hope to solve Knoxville teen's murder from 1987

Michelle Anderson (source: Knoxville Police Department) Michelle Anderson (source: Knoxville Police Department)

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knoxville police investigator is carefully looking at a cold case involving the disappearance and murder of a teenager over 20 years ago.

In January 1987, Michelle Anderson, 15, was reported missing. Two years later her body turned up in Crossville, TN. Police believe Anderson was murdered and say they have a strong person of interest.

Investigator Jeff Day is still putting together the exact pieces of the story. "She was a very popular girl, very outgoing," he said.

He says it all began when she went out to a party with her friends. Sometime that night, they found an older man named Larry Lee Smith who helped them buy some alcohol. Smith then stayed with the crowd.

"We've found some witnesses from that day. It's hard to find witnesses over 20 years later, but we've found some," Day said.

Day says he's found out Smith was last seen dropping the rest of the group off at an intersection, but left with Michelle still in his truck. That was the last time she was seen.

"What happened after she left with him I don't know, only he can tell us," said Day.

Two years after Michelle was reported missing Dr. Bill Bass was called to the scene of a body being found Cumberland County. Bass was the forensic anthropologist for the State Medical Examiner's system at the time.

"A man walking his dog had found some skeletal remains," said Dr. Bass.

Dr. Bass says the jewelry and dental records from that scene helped them quickly identify the body as Michelle's. They believe she had been murdered, but with two years of decomposition, it was tough to get evidence to link the body to a killer.

With the bones they did gather, they were not able to narrow down an exact cause of death either. They could tell she had not been beaten or stabbed.

"She could have been strangled or smothered. Possibly a drug was used that rendered her unconscious and caused her death," Dr. Bass said.

After Michelle's body was found, Smith, spent time behind bars for an unrelated case where he was charged with sexual battery in Georgia. Today, he's a registered sex offender living in Seymour. It's a case police still hope to solve.

"We're trying to develop some new evidence that may help us break the case," Day said.

If you have information in the Michelle Anderson case, call Knoxville police at 865-215-7212.

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