Knox County Sheriff - Sheriff J.J. Jones
Knox County Sheriff News
Unidentified Homicide Victim Identified through DNA
A Knoxville man who was killed 32 years ago, but never identified, now has a name. He is Howard Hardin, who was 30 years old at the time of his disappearance. His skeletal remains were found in 1982, in an East Knox County field, the victim of a homicide. Through recent media reports, the family realized that he might be their relative and contacted the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. The mystery was solved when his family submitted DNA and it was a 100% match.
Hardin was reported missing to the Knoxville Police Department by his then girlfriend, Linda Gaile Cole, when he failed to return to his Linden Avenue apartment on January 17, 1981. His remains were discovered almost a year later on January 12, 1982 in an area off Clear Springs Road and Arnold Lane when the property owner found them under some brush. A forensic examination of the remains showed that the victim had been shot in the head, execution style, with a small caliber pistol. Obvious attempts had also been made to conceal the body at the scene.
Over the years, the KCSO worked very closely with the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) and the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Department, which did a cranial reconstruction. An age regression picture was also drawn of what the victim may have looked like as a young teenager. These were distributed to the media, but no one came forward with a possible identification until just a few months ago when a story and pictures in the News Sentinel caught a family member’s attention. The family, which wishes not to be identified, says they are thrilled to finally learn the fate of Hardin after all these years, but at the same time are also grieving his death.
Officials with NamUs are also pleased with the latest development. “The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has done an amazing job utilizing the NamUs program. Their progress was rewarded with results and added value to the national system. Well done!”, said J. Todd Matthews, Director, Communications and Quality Assurance, National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.
Howard Hardin (Above)
(Above left) Clay facial reconstruction of the victim at the time of death.
(Above right) Computer-generated age regression of the victim to approximately 13-14 years of age.