MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A Maryville College history professor and her students are exploring a series of unsolved murders.
The cases reportedly date back nearly 100 years – spanning from 1919 to 1926. They’ve now become the subject of a new course at the school.
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It’s a bit of new territory for professor Dr. Nancy Locklin-Sofer. She’s in the history department and a specialist in early modern France. But when students came to her requesting a course on the history of murder, she listened, and she found out a lot about one murder case in particular.
“Every time one of us stumbles on something, or I share the latest development with the students, they’re hanging on every word,” she said.
Locklin-Sofer’s class is digging into a murder mystery from 100 years ago. She says newspapers at the time often referred to the alleged serial killer as the “night marauder.”
The history professor stumbled upon the series of cases by accident. While looking up one crime, she found several more.
“Because the Maryville Times isn’t digitized, I had to go to the public library and use microfilm, which meant I had to roll through the entire year to get to that headline. It was only then that I thought ‘oh my gosh, there are dozens of murders.’ Dozens of them, and they’re in Knox County, Blount County, they’re in Alcoa, they’re out in Sevierville. And it was all connected,” she said.
It has now become the foundation of the course: analyzing sources, studying trials, and writing essays.
“By the end of the semester, my students and I with the generous help of the local history community will have put together I think plenty of material to outline a potential new book,” Locklin-Sofer said.
That’s a big goal for the professor.
But there’s also something else she hopes all of this work can accomplish.
“I’d love to be able to bring some peace to these families, some kind of closure, and recognize them,” she said. “In a lot of ways, the victims are the last people that anybody cares about in a serial killer, people get excited talking about serial killers, and then we forget about all of these families torn apart by tragedy. It’s really appealing to me to think that we might bring some closure to people.”
If you know anything that could help Locklin-Sofer research the cases, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.