DNA evidence helps Knox County Sheriff's Office ID 1982 murder v

DNA evidence helps Knox County Sheriff's Office ID 1982 murder victim

Posted:
An age regression image of Hardin. (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office) An age regression image of Hardin. (Source: Knox County Sheriff's Office)
Two images of Hardin before his death. (Source: Hardin family via Knox County Sheriff's Office) Two images of Hardin before his death. (Source: Hardin family via Knox County Sheriff's Office)

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knoxville deputies have identified the man whose body was found in an East Knox County field in 1982.

DNA evidence has confirmed the body to be that of Howard Hardin, who was 30 at the time of his death.

Hardin's family came forward several months ago after seeing a report in a local newspaper about an effort to identify his remains.

Hardin's body was found on January 12, 1982, in an area off of Clear Springs Road and Arnold Lane when the property owner found his skeletal remains under some brush.

A forensic investigation found that Hardin had been shot in the head execution style with a small caliber pistol. Obvious attempts had also been made to conceal the body.

Hardin was originally reported missing almost a year earlier on January 17, 1981 by his then-girlfriend, Linda Gaile Cole, when he failed to return to his Linden Avenue apartment .

Over the years, Knoxville deputies took several steps to find the identity of his body through a missing persons database and even by working with anthropologists to reconstruct his cranium and create age regression images of him.

None of their efforts paid off until earlier this year, when the Knox County Sheriff's Office sought the help of the Smithsonian Institute to provide new information in the case.

Smithsonian involvement brought new media attention to the story, catching the eye of Hardin's family.

They contacted the Knox County Sheriff's Office and submitted a DNA sample. The sample was a 100% match for Hardin. The family finally knew their brother had been killed.  

Officer Amy Dobbs with the Knox County Sheriff's Office says the family had mixed emotions when learning of his fate.

"Angry, shocked, happy because we had continued to work on the case and not just put it on a shelf and leave it," said Officer Dobbs.

The Knox County Sheriff's Office and Knoxville Police Department will work together to follow leads and hopefully find the murderer.

"You always want to get the suspect, especially right after a crime happens, but it's just as fulfilling to get them years later when they think they've beat the system," said Knoxville Police Department Spokesperson Darrell DeBusk.

Now that the victim has been identified, investigators can interview his associates and search for new leads into his murder.

If you knew Howard Hardin or have any information about the case please call the Knox County Sheriff's Office at 865-215-2243.

Also, if you have a loved one who is missing, law enforcement encourages you to give a sample of DNA to put in the The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

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