Victim of brutal 1978 murder in Middle Tenn. remains a John Doe

(Photo: WKRN)

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Rutherford County detectives continue tosearch for answers in a 38-year-old murder case.

The victim, a white man known only as John Doe, was found by Rutherford County sheriff’s deputies on August 1, 1978.

Deputies were checking out a fire at the Poole Knobs Campground when they made the gruesome discovery.

“Thought it was a pile of trash burning and, upon further inspection, they realized it was a person, and they determined this person was shot multiple times and set a fire,” said Det. Steve Kohler.

The murder was brutal, and the crime scene photos are so bad we can’t show them to you.

“We were never able to identify him or the people responsible for killing him,” said Det. Kohler.

Sketches of the victim were created in the late 70s.

“I look at the sketches and I think, ‘Who is this guy? And where is his family? And where did he come from?” said Det. Kohler.

Detectives have turned to modern day technology to help advance the case. A forensic artist from University of Tennessee-Knoxville provided a clay skull facial reconstruction.

A sketch artist with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation also made a new rendering.

“We compared it to a sketch that they actually did back in 1978; obviously they are nothing, nothing alike,” said the detective.

John Doe is now entered in a national data base of missing adults.

“We have actually gone through and looked at every single missing male in 1978, in the entire decade, and we can’t find anyone that matches him.”

John Doe had scars on his chest, a sign of complicated heart surgery. He also had upper dentures, but detectives can’t track down where they came from.

“We did find out during the investigation that Murfreesboro was a denture bootleg, a bootleg denture hub,” said Det. Kohler.

Cold case detectives followed several leads over the years, including one man who thought John Doe may have been his brother who worked in Gallatin.

Detectives also tracked down a lead in Missouri. They interviewed siblings who had a history of heart and teeth problems who they thought may have been related to John Doe.

“We waited for months and came back, no match,” said Det. Kohler.

Detectives are determined to solve this case.

“My main focus is to find out who this guy is and give him a proper burial and get him back to his family.”

John Doe was one of the first people to be taken to the body farm in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he remains to this day.

His DNA profile is on file and is constantly checked for matches.

If you anything about this cold case, or may have heard someone talking about it, you can reach Det. Kohler directly at 615-904-3046.

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