CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Almost four decades after a person pleaded guilty to murder, the identity of a teenager found dead in Cumberland County has been revealed as a result of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative.
The skeletal remains of Kenneth Levall Thompson of Detroit, who was born in November 1965, were found on Aug. 26, 1983, in a wooded area near Sycamore Lane in Crossville, officials said.
According to the TBI, he had been stabbed multiple times and the death was ruled a homicide. Despite Thompson’s remains being unidentified at the time, the TBI and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office were able to charge a suspect in May 1984, who later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence.
The attempts to identify Thompson continued. In 2007, the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center submitted a sample to the University of North Texas Center for identification, authorities said. A DNA profile was developed and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The hope was that Thompson would be identified, but no matches ever came.
In December, the TBI said agents submitted a sample of Thompson’s remains to Othram Laboratories in Texas for forensic genetic genealogical (FGG) DNA testing as part of the Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative. Scientists provided information about the victim’s possible relatives. This information was used by a TBI intelligence analyst to locate potential family members in Michigan.
According to officials, agents met with one of the possible relatives, who said he had a brother he had not heard from in about 40 years. The agents then got a familial DNA standard, which was submitted to Othram Inc. for comparison against the DNA of the unidentified victim. Othram Inc. was then able to positively identify the remains as Thompson.
“Investigators hope this development will provide long-awaited answers to Kenneth’s family, who last had contact with him around 1982 or 1983,” the TBI said in a statement released on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
The investigators are still hoping to find a photo of Thompson from the late 1970s or early 1980s, as the only photo of him that surviving family members could find was taken when he was a child. If you know Thompson and have a photo, you are asked to contact the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Thompson’s remains are one of 10 cold cases that the TBI hopes its DNA initiative will solve.