Officials: Remains found in Smokies may be missing Nashville man
Michael Giovanni Cocchini (source: National Park Service)
GATLINBURG (WATE) - Human remains have been discovered in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and park officials said Tuesday they may be the body of a Nashville man who has been missing since March.
The human remains have not yet been positively identified. The remains were sent to a medical examiner for analysis and possible identification.
Michael Giovanni Cocchini, 23, went missing in the park on the weekend of March 17-18. The park service searched for him, but came up empty and suspended the effort on March 25.
Park employees found items on Friday that are thought to belong to Cocchini. They were near the area where his vehicle was found parked in March along Newfound Gap Road.
"We had researchers out in the park for other park work, not necessarily looking for anyone or any items. They happened upon a backpack," said Molly Schroer with the National Park Service. She says investigators connected a cell phone and other items in that backpack to Michael Cocchini.
"That initiated us to start a larger search for more items. We discovered more clothing, more personal items. Then on Monday human remains were found in the area," Schroer said.
The clothing and other items were consistent with those last seen on Cocchini.
The park service said Cocchini's family has been notified of the new developments.
Derek Lueking, 24, of Louisville, who disappeared in the park on the same weekend as Cocchini, is still the subject of an open investigation. The park service says it has no new information on Lueking.