Special Reports

Family, community fight for answers 37 years after teen sisters murdered

STEWART COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) - Driving into the town of Dover, Tenn., passersby are greeted by a large sign listing the Ten Commandments.  

For many in the community, 'Thou shalt not kill' is a reminder of the biggest unsolved mystery the town has ever experienced.  

The morning of September 17, 1980, 14-year-old Carla Atkins and her 16-year-old sister Vickie Stout left their home and walked up Highway 79 to a convenience store.  

Witnesses said the two sisters left that convenience store and headed back home but never made it.  

"We kind of thought maybe they were just with some friends and just decided not to come back home when they should've," the victim's sister, Patricia Gordon told News 2. 

Covering the case from the initial disappearance of the sisters, newspaper reporter David R. Ross said foul play wasn't suspected at first.  

"There was this three-week span where the girls were missing. The initial reports were that they were runaways," Ross recalled.  

"I never knew them to disappear before. They just, they wouldn't do that. They had no reason to disappear," Gordon said.   

After three weeks, hikers came across the girl's bodies in what is now Land Between the Lakes.  

Autopsy reports showed the sisters each died of a shotgun wound to the head. 

"It's been the most baffling murder case that I've been associated with as a reporter," Ross said. 

"That was totally unthinkable. In this town at this time, it just doesn't happen," Gordon explained. "What was the purpose? Why? Why those two?" 

Investigators had few clues to go on.  

"Some of the witnesses at the convenience store said they were seen talking with a man in a blue truck," Gordon described.  

In 2015, 35 years after the murders, investigators released sketches of the driver who they said was wanted for questioning.  

The following year, Governor Bill Haslam announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to arrest.  

Still, there are no real leads in the case.  

"I don't know how they can live with themselves, but they're able to live day to day and we still have this question mark of who and why that we have to live with daily," Gordon said.  

"I would like to see not only justice for this family but justice for this community," Ross explained.  

"They will get their justice someday. They'll get what's coming to them, whether it be in my lifetime or not," Gordon added.  

Anyone with information in the case is urged to contact the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-TBI-FIND.  


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