KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Deaths in Knox and Anderson counties increased by more than 11% in 2020 and homicides jumped by more than 70% according to the Knox County Regional Forensic Center’s 2020 annual report.

The center, which operates year-round, serves as the Office for the Chief Medical Examiner for Knox and Anderson counties, and provides autopsy and consultative services for 21 other counties in Middle and East Tennessee.

The report include only deaths investigated by the medical examiner. 

Last year saw a rise in deaths throughout Knox and Anderson counties compared to 2019:

  • Accidental deaths increased 20%
  • Homicides increased by 72% in Knox County
  • Homicides increased by 71% in Anderson County
  • Natural deaths increased 20%
  • Suicides increased 14%
  • Gun-related deaths increased by 62%
  • Cases requiring autopsies increased 29%

A natural death investigated by the medical examiner would be one where someone died alone and the medical examiner was called in to evaluate the “scene.”

COVID-19 deaths were not included in the report because it isn’t a cause of death that is evaluated by the medical examiner, a spokesperson for Knox County said. This report is a report of work be the medical examiner at the regional forensic center… not of all deaths in the county.

The forensic center reported 29 homicides in 2019 compared to 50 in 2020. The full report can be found online here.

Out of the 734 total death reports among Knox and Anderson counties, 450 were overdoses.

Center staff also worked with the drug task force to identify and research two synthetically manufactured opioids in the area. The annual Drug Related Death Report, which provides an overview of emerging drug trends for the counties the RFC serves, will be released in the coming weeks.

Last July, the Knox County Regional Forensic Center was granted full accreditation by the National Association of Medical Examiners. It has maintained such distinction since May 2010.