In September 1985, a body was discovered by two juveniles riding bicycles along Buttermilk Road off Interstate 40 in Lenoir City, Tennessee. Forensic anthropologists determined that the remains were those of a white male, likely between the ages of 40 and 57. The victim had been shot, and his death was ruled a homicide. According to the University of Tennessee Anthropology Department, the man had been deceased for one to two weeks prior to the discovery of his remains. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) special agents and investigators with the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office worked to determine the identity of the victim through the use of fingerprints and technology available in 1985, but their efforts were not successful. After exhausting all leads, investigators could not determine the victim’s identity.
Attempts to identify the Loudon County John Doe continued, and in 2015, the UT Forensic Anthropology Department submitted a sample of his remains to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI). A sample was also sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime Laboratory. A DNA profile was developed and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, as UP1575, in hopes that the man would eventually be identified, but no developments occurred.
In December 2022, as part of the Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative, TBI agents submitted skeletal remains from the unknown man to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists developed a suitable DNA extract from the skeletal remains and then used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile. Othram's in-house forensic genetic genealogy team used the DNA profile in a genetic genealogical search to produce investigative leads that were returned to TBI agents.
Using the investigative leads, TBI agents made contact with a potential family member of the man and obtained a familial DNA standard. That standard was submitted to Othram for comparison against the DNA of the unidentified man. In parallel, a TBI Intelligence Analyst was able to locate a set of the victim’s post-mortem fingerprints. The prints were submitted to the TBI Crime Lab in Nashville to be manually compared by the Latent Print Unit. TBI was then able to confirm that the unidentified remains belonged to James Keith Nuchols. Nuchols was born October 15, 1926 and was a resident of Blount County, Tennessee. The identification was based on the fingerprint comparison and a DNA profile comparison between the family member and Nuchols.
Now, TBI special agents are hoping the public can help provide information that may help solve the murder of James Keith Nuchols. If you have information about this homicide, specifically any knowledge about individuals Mr. Nuchols may have been with before his death, please call 1-800-TBI-FIND or email tips to TipsToTBI@tbi.tn.gov.
You can read more about TBI’s Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative by clicking here.