KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Grainger County man has been sentenced to nearly four decades in prison for the 2021 rape and kidnapping of a University of Tennessee student.
Tylar Johnson, 29, was sentenced to 36 years without the possibility of parole. A spokesperson for Knox County District Attorney General’s Office said prosecutors cited his additional predatory, criminal behavior in seeking the maximum sentence.
Johnson was arrested and charged with false imprisonment of a woman in June 2021. Police said in a release at the time that he was suspected of committing similar acts on several other occasions in the area.
On Jan. 30, 2021, Knoxville officers responded to the 2200 block of Cumberland Avenue where a woman said her roommate had left a party in the Fort Sanders area without telling anyone. When the victim did not return home, her friend tracked her phone using multiple apps which showed the device leaving Knoxville and ending up in Grainger County.
Friends notified authorities and officers with the University of Tennessee Police Department, Knoxville Police Department and Grainger County Sheriff’s Office began searching for the victim. Friends continued to share her location data with law enforcement during the search.
Hours later, the phone pinged back in the Fort Sanders neighborhood. Officers stopped a Honda sedan driven by Johnson near the intersection of 17th Street and Cumberland Avenue with the victim in the passenger seat.
Officers wrote in the initial incident report that the victim’s clothes appeared disturbed and she was unable to recollect details of that night.
The victim underwent a sexual assault examination that revealed Johnson’s DNA and confirmed the victim had been raped.
“This victim was found because her friends used technology to track her phone,” said DA Charme Allen in a release. “That information was shared with multiple law enforcement agencies and ultimately led to her recovery and the conviction in this case.”
University of Tennessee Police Department records shows Johnson was not allowed on university property due to criminal trespassing warnings. A department spokesperson said he was first encountered harassing women around campus property in 2018 and stopped again in his car in 2021.
The false imprisonment case remains ongoing. He is set to appear in Knox County court for a status hearing on Feb. 3, 2023.