KCSO develops leads in 32-year-old cold case

Knox County Sheriff's Office develops leads in 32-year-old cold case

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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)

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Knox County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Unit says it has developed persons of interest in a 32-year-old case.

Investigators were able to develop the leads after identifying the murder victim, Howard Hardin, then 30, in April of this year. His friends knew him as "Babe."

Hardin's skeletal remains were found in 1982 in an East Knox County field. A forensic examination revealed he had been shot in the head with a small caliber pistol.

Over the years, Knoxville deputies took several steps to identify the body through a missing persons database and 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.

Investigators say whoever committed the murder had to have been familiar with the area in Mascot where the body was found and knew the only way to access the area was Arnold Lane.

"They would have had to have had intimate knowledge of navigating around in the woods to not get lost and be able to get back to a vehicle," said cold case investigator Amy Dobbs.

DNA has been submitted to a private lab and detective are awaiting the results.

Despite the new leads, investigators need help from the public.

They ask for anyone who knows the associates of Hardin's then-girlfriend Linda Cole, or remembers any of her friends who frequented the Magnolia Street area as well as the area off Clear Springs and Arnold Lane, to call the Cold Case Unit at (865) 215-3703 or the sheriff's office at (865) 215-22423.

"The family deserves answers and therefore we're still doing our job," Dobbs said.

Cole reported Hardin missing to the Knoxville Police Department when he failed to return to his Linden Avenue apartment on January 17, 1981. His remains were found almost a year later by the property owner.

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