KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Jermey Hardison, also known as “Big Country,” is a person of interest in the disappearance of three individuals in 2018: Bonnie Drane, William Inklebarger, and Brenda Carroll.
Hardison was convicted of voluntary manslaughter back in 2005. In a new murder sentence, prosecutors said Hardison shot someone in the back at the intersection of Salma Avenue and Ben Hur Avenue in September 2017.
Now that Hardison is serving a life sentence, Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen wants witnesses to come forward and not be afraid of repercussions.
The family of one of the three missing persons, Bonnie Drane, learned about Hardison’s arrest through watching the news. They are hoping this is one step closer to finding justice.
According to Knox County District Attorney General’s office, Drane was last seen on Dec. 27, 2017, while visiting a family member at UT Hospital.
Her daughter, Carlie Benton, said she knew something was wrong when she didn’t hear from her mom for a few days.
“Me and my granny reported her missing, and they said she wasn’t missing, that she didn’t want to be found,” Benton said.
Drane’s other daughter, Crystal Benton, said she knew her mother was struggling when she went missing,
“She was a working addict. So it was weird for her to miss work.”
Since then, police have been investigating her disappearance along with two others, William Inklebarger and Brenda Carroll.
Crystal said she’s got mixed emotions about Hardison’s conviction.
“It makes you feel good now that something’s happening … but it makes me mad that it took this long and for somebody else to get hurt and now they see.”
Drane’s mom, Lucille Roberts, said even through her struggles, Bonnie had a heart of gold and never met a stranger.
“It drives me crazy that she’s not going to be able to see her grandkids grow up, get married, have kids of their own, or anything and it breaks my heart,” Roberts said.
Drane’s family hopes others will come forward and lead to a break in the case.
“We’re not asking for trouble,” Crystal Benton said. “We’re just asking for answers.”
She adds that they just want to bring their mother back home.
“Whether it’s having a funeral or having a bringing her home party, it doesn’t matter how we do it, we just want to do that.”
Inklebarger’s family is also seeing answers and closure.
“We believe the case of the three missing didn’t get the attention it needed from the beginning based on the lifestyles of the three missing,” the family of Will Inklebarger said on Friday. “They are still people regardless. We have been diligently sharing on social media for years asking for the publics assistance as we were told from the get-go that the investigators worked off of leads and that they felt we as the family would be more apt to get those leads than them.
“We have been in touch with the investigators on almost a weekly basis since the disappearance. We were also told from the get-go by other families of missing persons cases to remain diligent .and we have and plan to continue to be that way. We will not give up. We need your help. We need your prayers.”
If you have information about this case you can contact East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.easttnvalleycrimestoppers.org, or via the P3 Tips mobile app.