Rutherford County Sheriff's Office Partners With Othram to Identify the Victim of 1978 Tennessee Murder

Detectives hope that identifying the murder victim may uncover clues as to who may have been involved in his death
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Published November 30, 2020 by Michael Vogen
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In August 1978, Rutherford County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a boat ramp fire at the Poole Knobs Campground in LaVergne, Tennessee and made a gruesome discovery. What was initially thought to be a pile of burning trash was in fact the remains of an unidentified male. The homicide victim was wrapped in a blanket and had been shot four times, twice in the face. Investigators suspect he was shot at another location before being dragged to the campground and burned.

The victim is described as a white male between 30 and 40 years old. He stood 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighed approximately 160 pounds and had medium length brown hair. The only clues to his identity were a partial set of dentures and scars on his chest from a possible heart surgery. He also had a quarter-sized mole on his torso, about two inches from his waistline.

Over the last several decades, many leads were exhausted. Fingerprints, from one hand that was not burned, were collected but generated no matches to an identity. His DNA profile has not produced a match in CODIS. In 2018, a facial reconstruction and sketch of the victim were generated but, to date, have failed to produce leads. Now, over forty years later, investigators are still looking for leads that might point to the identity of the victim or those that might be responsible for his death.

Although there was no match in CODIS, detectives are hopeful that advanced DNA testing and searches in genealogical databases might help identify the victim's family and perhaps the victim, himself. The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with Othram to identify the 1978 Rutherford John Doe using these advanced methods. Anyone with information about the victim is encouraged to contact the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office at 615-898-7770. A fund has been established to cover the costs of testing for this case. This case is logged in NamUs as #UP1585.

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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 to learn how we can help you with your case. With anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.