Cocke County animal attack update: Investigation leads to search of home, DNA from dogs recovered

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — An investigation into the deaths of two people in Cocke County led the Sheriff’s Department SWAT team to a home where a man was arrested and DNA from two dogs was taken.

Cocke County Sheriff Armando Fontes provided an update Wednesday on a pair of animal attacks that claimed the lives of two people. Fontes identified Tony Ahrens as the man found unresponsive on April 1 on Jim Town Road. Fontes said, “there was no information and no apparent evidence of dogs being involved at the time.”

“Investigators did see injuries that could have been consistent with some sort of animal in the Ahrens case, but rely on forensics and other special investigators to determine what caused the injuries,” Fontes said in a release.

Investigators identified Charles Owenby as the E911 caller and are still working to determine what caused Ahren’s injuries.

Three months later Newport Medical Center contacted the Sheriff’s Department concerning an injured female, later identified as Amber Miller. Miller eventually passed away as a result of her injuries and an autopsy is pending.

Investigators learned Miller’s injuries occurred near or on Owenby’s residence. On July 19, a forensic team from TBI gathered evidence from Owenby’s residence and property. A few days later, he was interviewed.

Charles Owenby

On July 28 the Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant at a residence of Owenby’s ex-wife in the Edwina community. Owenby was arrested at the scene for possession of marijuana and an aggressive dog was taken into custody.

DNA was also taken from two living dogs. While searching the property a shallow grave containing a deceased dog was found and DNA was also collected from the animal.

So far no charges have been brought against anyone linking them to the deaths of Ahrens or Miller.

“At this time we do not have any evidence that indicates that there is a wild animal, domestic animal, or pack of animals that is frequenting the Jim Town area attacking people,” Sheriff Fontes says. “We, however, are asking people to be cautious in the area as we wait on forensic reports that take a month or so.

“We are asking people to please contact us with any information concerning either of theses cases. Once we conclude a thorough, investigation, have all evidence, all witnesses, and anything that pertains to these cases, we will present the facts to a grand jury for criminal indictments against any person involved in this case. Prematurely charging any individual without all facts may result in a dismissal of the case and justice for these victims will not be served.”

Anyone with information about the deaths of Ahrens or Miller is being asked to call the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department at 423-623-6004.

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