Portland man identified in Florida decades later from DNA match

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PHOTO: Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Relatives of a man who went missing from Tennessee in 1978 now have closure after a DNA match to remains found in Florida in 1981. 

According to the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, 32-year-old James Sanders from Portland was last seen on January 1, 1978, at a bus stop in Tennessee. The bus was headed to North Carolina where he planned to work on his aunt’s tobacco farm, but he never arrived.  

Sanders’ brother, Eddie Sanders, contacted the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office in 2014 when he learned of a man whose body was found burned in La Vergne, however, the family’s DNA did not match those remains.  

The family’s DNA finally turned up a match in Collier County, Fla., last week. Their DNA matched the remains of a body discovered in Immokalee, Fla. back in 1981.  

“Without the combined efforts of multiple agencies, Mr. Sanders would still be unidentified after 40 years,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said. “Now that our victim has a name, the homicide investigation can continue to be actively worked.” 

UNSOLVED TENNESSEE: Find more of the state’s cold cases, missing persons, and other mysteries

Detective Richard Brinkley with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office is still working to identify the man whose remains were discovered in La Vergne. For more information on that man, you can view his NAMUS profile here. Anyone with information on who he might be is asked to contact Detective Brinkley at 615-904-3045.

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