Body found in Gatlinburg identified as OK woman missing since 1974
It was Dec. 22, 1974 when a Georgia hiker stumbled upon a body while taking a shortcut near recently renamed Ober Mountain’s Aerial tramway.
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) - An almost 50-year-old cold case is closer to being solved after Othram forensic scientists were able to identify human remains found in Gatlinburg as a woman who went missing in 1974. This, according to the City of Gatlinburg.
It took investigators decades and several tries to identify Charlotte Roberta Henry, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, whose identity was confirmed by a DNA match from a living relative.
It was just after 9 a.m. on Dec. 22, 1974 when a Georgia hiker stumbled upon a body while taking a shortcut near recently renamed Ober Mountain’s Aerial tramway. Former Gatlinburg Police Chief W.B. Ogle and Sergeant J.G. Moore responded to the scene, finding the remains “in an advanced stage of decay” lying face-down on a coat that appeared to have been spread out so the woman could sit against a tree.
Back then, there was no identification on the body, which was sent to the Sevier County Medical Examiner’s Office to be identified. Dr. John Hickey, Sevier County Medical Examiner and Dr. William M. Bass, State Forensic Anthropologist, later decided to move the remains to the University of Tennessee Memorial Research Center and Hospital for an autopsy.
In January of 1975, other agencies, including the FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, were brought in to help in identifying the body, but were not able to. Also assisting in the case were agencies out of South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia, according to Othram.
Investigators tried again throughout the years, producing in 2007 a composite sketch of who we now know was Henry. Also in 2007, investigators at NCIC tried a dental identification tool, but were unable to get an identity.
Throughout the past year, however, Gatlinburg Police Department officials worked with Othram, a company aimed at using DNA identification to solve cold cases, to identify Henry.
An update came in February, when Othram got in touch with GPD about a potential DNA match of a relative in Arkansas. That person, who was contacted by GPD Detective Cindy Myers, said she had a sister who had gone missing in 1974. She submitted a DNA sample and it came back as a match; the body had been identified.
“I want to commend the Investigative Division of the Gatlinburg Police Department for their determination to solve this case,” Police Chief Randy Brackins said. “A number of detectives in our Investigative Division have worked this case throughout the years to determine the identity of Ms. Henry.”
Othram reported that they used a process called Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to build a DNA profile for Henry. From there, an in-house genetic genealogy team worked on finding leads before tracking down Henry’s sister.
Henry was last seen at her father’s funeral in April of 1974 before being reported missing in August that same year when the family stopped receiving word from her in Memphis.
At this time, investigators have not pinned down a cause of death, based on the 1974 autopsy.
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