In 2022, Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly recognized the need for specialized testing to fund a DNA cold case initiative, and approved one-time funding of $100,000. The funding is specifically used for specialized forensic genetic genealogy testing in TBI cold cases in which the skeletal remains of a victim have not been identified.
TBI special agents quickly began addressing at least 14 cold cases and sent 10 to Othram Inc. labs in Texas. By June of this year, the results for at least one of those cases was reveled. The case involved an unidentified body that was discovered in Claiborne County, Tennessee in 1986. The privately owned lab in Texas was able to positively identify the body that was found 37-years ago as Jerry Harrison from Arkansas. Evidently, his death was ruled a homicide and reports indicate Harrison had been shot. Scroll to bottom of article for photo.
Moving forward to this month in an unrelated cold case, laboratories at Othram Inc. were also able to identify the skeletal remains of a woman who was found 38-years-ago in Cheatham County, Tennessee. There, special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are asking for the public’s assistance in determining who killed the female victim.
In March of 1985, skeletal remains were discovered near a creek bank by a motorist having vehicle trouble along Interstate 24 West in Cheatham County, between mile markers 29 and 30. TBI agents began working alongside the Cheatham County Sheriff’s Office in investigating the death. Forensic anthropologists at the University of Tennessee determined that the skeletal remains were those of a white female. According to the University of Tennessee Anthropology Department, the woman was estimated to have been deceased for two to five months prior to the discovery of her remains. After exhausting all leads, investigators could not determine the victim’s identity, and she was classified as a Jane Doe.
In April 2018, the University of Tennessee Forensic Anthropology Center submitted a sample of the woman's remains to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI). A DNA profile was developed and entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System in hopes that the woman would eventually be identified.
In December, as part of the Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative, TBI agents submitted a sample of the woman's remains to Othram, Inc. in Texas, for forensic genetic genealogical DNA testing. Scientists provided information about possible relatives connected to the woman. A TBI intelligence analyst used that information to locate potential family in Virginia. Agents made contact with a family member and confirmed that he had a sister he had not heard from in more than four decades. Agents obtained a DNA standard from the man to be compared against the victim's DNA, utilizing forensic genetic genealogy.
Earlier this month, Othram, Inc. positively identified the woman as Michelle Lavone Inman from Nashville. At the time of the discovery, the woman would have been a month away from her 24th birthday, which is on April 17th of 1961. Photo below of Inman.
TBI special agents are now hoping the public can help provide information that may help solve her murder. If you have information about this homicide, specifically any knowledge about individuals Michelle Inman may have been with before her death, or recognize any of the clothing from the scene, please call 1-800-TBI-FIND.
Click Here to read more about TBI’s Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative.
Below Photos: Remains found in 1986 confirmed by the TBI to be Jerry Harrison (above photos)