Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Partners with Othram to Identify Claiborne County John Doe

The skeletal remains of a homicide victim discovered in 1986 have been identified as 28-year-old Jerry Harrison of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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Published June 07, 2023 by Michael Vogen
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In August 1986, skeletal remains of an unknown individual were discovered by hunters along an isolated abandoned trail in the Caney Valley area of Claiborne County, Tennessee. Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) began working alongside the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office in investigating the death of the individual. Forensic anthropologists determined that the skeletal remains were those of a white male, likely between the age of 30 and 40. The unknown man had been shot, and his death was ruled a homicide. According to the University of Tennessee Anthropology Department, the unidentified victim had been deceased for six months to a year prior to the discovery of his remains. After exhausting all leads, investigators could not determine the victim’s identity, and he was classified as a John Doe.

Details of the case were entered into National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) on April 10, 2008 as UP1570. In September 2015, forensic evidence was submitted to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI) where a DNA profile was developed and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) as well as NamUs. There was no matching DNA profile in either system and the man’s identity remained a mystery.

In December 2022, as part of TBI’s Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative, TBI agents submitted forensic evidence to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas in hopes of identifying the man. Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown man. Othram's in-house genealogy team used forensic genetic genealogy to provide TBI agents with investigative leads about the possible identity of the man.

Utilizing these leads, a TBI intelligence analyst located the victim’s potential family members in Arkansas. TBI agents contacted two of these individuals and confirmed they had a brother they had not heard from in more than four decades. With the assistance of the Hot Springs Police Department and Pine Bluff Police Department in Arkansas, agents were able to obtain familial DNA samples for possible siblings of the man, which were submitted to the TBI Crime Lab in Nashville for entry into CODIS for comparison testing against the John Doe's DNA profile.

Follow-up CODIS testing at UNTCHI confirmed the identity of Claiborne County John Doe as Jerry Harrison of Little Rock, Arkansas. Harrison, who was born December 20, 1957, last contacted his family in 1982 after he began traveling across the country. TBI agents need help to solve Harrison's murder. If you have information that may help to solve the murder of Jerry Harrison, specifically any knowledge about individuals Harrison may have been with before his death, please call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

Help fund another case Your contributions pay for lab supplies and research tools

Michael Vogen

Michael Vogen

Director of Case Management

2829 Technology Forest Blvd Suite 100, The Woodlands, Texas 77381

Michael works with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada on “unsolvable“ cases that can benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. He helps these agencies use cutting edge DNA sequencing and new forensic techniques to develop investigative leads for their cases.

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About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at ... Read morerecovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit Othram.com to learn how we can help you with your case. With dnasolves.com anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.