Hamblen County family hopes to find killer 26 years later

Hamblen County family hopes to find killer 26 years after murder

Beulah Mae Britt (source: family) Beulah Mae Britt (source: family)

6 News Reporter

MORRISTOWN (WATE) – Twenty-six years after a Hamblen County woman was found stabbed to death, her family contacts 6 News hoping for new clues in finding her killer.

Beulah Mae Britt, 42, was the mother of three and had recently been divorced. Her body was found floating in Cherokee Lake in June 1985.

The Britt family called us after watching our cold case series. They say they've often wondered who might have been heartless enough to stab her to death and then dump her body in a lake.

"The body was found by someone coming to camp and fish here," said Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnigan as he showed us the crime scene at Cherokee Lake.

Nearly three decades later, the area is still desolate. Back then though, the sheriff says it was an area notorious for trouble.

"Twenty-six years ago, people would party and smoke dope, marijuana, and raise trouble for the weekend. They were far enough off the beaten path here that they didn't disturb anyone," said Sheriff Jarnigan.

It was at that scene in June 1985 that deputies got the call about Britt's body found floating in the river.

Beulah's younger brother, Rocky, says the news changed his life forever. "It was just so brutal," he said.

Johnson says his sister had a bubbly personality. "She was very petite. She had curly hair, an angel kiss birthmark on her cheek," he described.

Investigators say Britt died from being stabbed in the back. The family says there were wounds that indicated other types of violence in the attack that killed her.

The family says Britt's life had been on track until a few years before she was murdered. She had gotten divorced and had also developed some health problems.

"I think sometime around then, she got introduced to drugs, what kind I don't know," explained Johnson.

He says it was also around that time when she got mixed up with a group of people who frequented that section of Cherokee Lake.

"She was going out there to party with people at the lake. They were people who lived in tents. It was a wild place," Johnson said.

At the time she turned up dead, hundreds were interviewed and the case was given a lot of publicity. Detectives say they never had enough evidence to arrest a suspect.

Over the years the case changed hands several times, too.

The sheriff says in a rural county like theirs, chances are the killer could still be walking around in the community.

"I think as people get older, they want to make things right before they meet their maker. A lot of times people want to clear their conscience so they die in peace," said Johnson.

"I think about it a lot. I do. As long as I live, I'll never forget it," he added.

At the time of the original investigation, the sheriff says a lot of people were given a lie detector test. While they did have some suspects at the time, there was no evidence to link anyone to the murder.

If you have information in the Britt case, you can contact the Hamblen County Sheriff's Office at 423-585-2770.

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