TBI identifies killer in 1985 Campbell County murder

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Thursday they’ve identified the now-deceased killer in a 1985 Campbell County murder.

TBI officials said Thursday if he were alive today, there is now sufficient evidence to indict Jerry Johns of Cleveland, TN with the first-degree murder of Tina Marie Farmer, who was found strangled along I-75 in Campbell County on Jan. 1, 1985.

Jerry Johns. Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Johns died in December 2015 while serving a 73-year prison sentence in Knox County, Tennessee for felonious assault with intent to commit first-degree murder with bodily injury to the victim.

The 1985 autopsy results revealed the victim had been strangled and likely died several days prior to her body being discovered. Investigators were unable to determine the identity of the victim and she was listed as a Jane Doe. All leads were exhausted, and the case remained unsolved.

RELATED: TBI says 1985 Campbell County murder victim identified thanks to blog

Last year, the TBI announced they’d identified Tina Marie Farmer as the Jane Doe in a 30-year-old homicide cold case after agents were made aware of a missing persons blog post that described a missing woman from Indiana who matched the description of the Campbell County Jane Doe.

Tina-Farmer_1536256661880.jpg
Tina Marie Farmer
Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

A TBI analyst was able to track down a fingerprint card on Farmer from the early 80s. Those fingerprints were compared against the postmortem prints of the Campbell County Jane Doe, resulting in a positive identification.

According to an Associated Press story from the time, Johns had initially been ruled out as a suspect by Knox County detectives.

During the investigation, Agents learned that two months after Ms. Farmer’s body was located in Campbell County, Jerry Johns picked up a woman in Knox County and proceeded to strangle and bind her before dumping her body along Interstate 40.

RELATED: East Tenn. high school class raises awareness of decades-old cold case

The woman resembled Tina Farmer, and the circumstances in both cases were strikingly similar. The victim in that case miraculously survived, and her statement led to the arrest of Jerry Johns on several charges, including aggravated kidnapping and assault. He was convicted on those charges in 1987.

Johns died in December 2015 while in custody, before new leads were developed in the Tina Farmer case.

On Wednesday, after hearing the evidence and facts collected as part of the investigation into the murder of Tina Farmer, the Campbell County Grand Jury found that if Jerry Johns were alive today, he would be indicted on a charge of First-Degree Murder.

“While I am extremely disappointed that this case has not ended in the prosecution of Jerry Johns, I am pleased that this investigation has answered questions for Ms. Farmer’s family that heretofore had gone unanswered for over thirty-four years,” said District Attorney General Jared Effler.

Cold Case: Murder victim identified in 33-year-old Kentucky cold case

“We hope this will help provide long-sought answers for Tina Farmer’s family,” said TBI Director David Rausch.  “We also want this case to provide hope for other families in our state who are still waiting for answers. Our team will never give up on unsolved cases like this one as long as there are viable leads to follow.”

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