Unidentified Human Remains Initiative

A special agent discusses evidence with a representative from Othram.

In some cases, despite the best efforts of investigators, the identities of individuals who are found deceased remain unknown. With few leads to pursue, the cases often grow cold. However, over the last several years, law enforcement agencies across the country have seen measurable success in submitting skeletal remains of unidentified individuals for forensic genetic genealogy testing.

In 2022, the Tennessee General Assembly recognized the need for specialized testing to fund a DNA cold case initiative, and approved one-time funding of $100,000. The funding is specifically being used for specialized forensic genetic genealogy testing in TBI cold cases in which the skeletal remains of a victim have not been identified.

Fourteen potential TBI cases involving unidentified human remains initially met the criteria for the initiative. In December, agents submitted a portion of the skeletal remains of the victims in ten of those cases to Othram Inc., a private lab based in Woodlands, Texas, to conduct the DNA extraction and sequencing process. 

Our mission with this initiative is simple. We want to determine the identities of the victims so that we can develop information and potential leads about the circumstances leading to each person’s disappearance and death.

The following is a list of the cases submitted for testing, along with information about the date and location each unidentified victim was found.

We will update the list as new information is developed.

Male White 12/2/1977 Johnson 51-60
***Female White 10/21/1981 Cheatham 14-17***
Female White 8/5/1983 McMinn 20-30
****Male Black 8/26/1983 Cumberland 15-20****
**Female White 3/31/1985 Cheatham 30-40**
*****Male White 9/29/1985 Loudon 51-60*****
*Male White 8/24/1986 Claiborne 30-40*
Male White 4/7/1988 Hickman 22-35
Male Hispanic 8/9/1999 Cocke 25-29
Male White 5/18/2018 Dickson 47-67