In August 1983, skeletal remains were discovered in a wooded area approximately 25 feet from Sycamore Lane in Crossville. A forensic pathologist determined that the remains were those of a black male, likely between the ages of 20 and 25 years old. The victim had been stabbed multiple times, and his death was ruled a homicide. Despite not knowing the identity of the victim, TBI and Cumberland County Sheriff's Office developed a suspect in the case. In May 1984, as a result of the investigation, the individual was charged and later pled guilty to Second Degree Murder in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence.
While the person responsible for the crime was sent to prison, the homicide victim could not be identified. Attempts to identify Cumberland County John Doe continued over the years, and in 2007, the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center submitted a sample of his remains to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI). A DNA profile was developed and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, as UP1580, in hopes that the man would eventually be identified. However, no matches ever came.
In December 2022, as part of the Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative, TBI agents submitted a sample of the man’s skeletal remains to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas for forensic genetic genealogical (FGG) DNA testing. Othram scientists developed a suitable DNA extract from the skeletal remains and then used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown man. Othram's in-house forensic genetic genealogy team used the profile in a genetic genealogical search to help generate investigative leads that were returned to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
An intelligence analyst with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Scientists used the investigative leads from Othram to locate potential family members in Michigan. Agents made contact with one of those individuals and confirmed he had a brother who had not heard from him in four decades. Agents were able to obtain a familial DNA reference sample to determine if the potential family member was related to the unknown man. Additional DNA testing and a follow investigation positively identified the man as Kenneth Levall Thompson (DOB: 11/04/1965) of Detroit, Michigan. Investigators hope this development will provide some long-awaited answers to Kenneth’s family, who last had contact with him around 1982 or 1983.
Unfortunately, the only photo of Kenneth that surviving family members could find was taken when he was a child. Anyone that knew Kenneth Thompson during his life and has access to a photograph of him that was taken in late 1970s or early 1980s is encouraged to reach out to TBI. TBI can be reached at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Read more about TBI’s Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative here.