GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — A Gatlinburg detective was finally able to provide answers to one family that’s been waiting for nearly 50 years.
On Friday, the Gatlinburg Police Department announced they had identified remains from a cold case dating back around 48 years ago. Those remains identified as Charlotte Roberta Henry.
According to police, Henry was last seen by her family at her father’s funeral in April 1974. They last heard from her in a letter with a Memphis address in August 1974. A hiker found her body in December 1974 in Gatlinburg.
“It’s amazing how they were able to preserve them from 1974 with the technology they had available then, to the technology we have now,” Detective Cindy Myers with the Gatlinburg Police Department said.
For nearly five decades, the Gatlinburg Police Department, along with several other agencies, worked the case in hopes to identify the remains. Myers is the most recent detective to work the case. She contact Othram, a lab in Texas, about a year ago.
“Othram had been having some pretty good luck,” Myers said. “They had some great success stories, so we contacted them and they were willing to work with us.”
Once Othram received some of the remains, they began their work on identifying them.
“We build a DNA profile that has hundreds of hundreds of thousands of markers, not just 20, but their snip markers,” Dr. Kristen Mittelman, chief development officer at Othram, said. “These markers are then updated to a genealogical database consented for law enforcement use. You can see really distant family relationships.”
Mittelman estimates it takes six to 12 weeks to build a profile. Othram contacted the Gatlinburg Police Department with a potential match to the remains.
“They found a second or third cousin, once we talked to her, they were able to get a great aunt and talk with her,” Myers said. “They both agreed to work with us.”
A DNA sample was submitted, leading law enforcement to one of Henry’s sisters located in Arkansas.
Both Mittelman and Myers believe the identification of the remains gives the Henry family some closure.
“It was great closure for the family to find out what happened to the sister,” Myers said.
“The truth is what is necessary for them to sort of move on from that chapter of their life where they’re sitting there looking for that person every single day,” Mittelman added.
Due to the cold case spanning over decades, many detectives worked the case including Myer’s father.
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“I did get to tell my dad that I solved his case for him,” Myers said.
An autopsy was done in 1974, and the cause of Henry’s death is unknown. However, foul play is not suspected.
According to Myers, once the family finds a funeral home, Henry’s remains will be returned to them so they can give her a proper burial.