When a teen’s skeletal remains were found in the Tennessee woods in 1983, investigators identified a murder suspect but not the victim.
Now, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has confirmed the identity of the victim using DNA technology, the agency said in a Sept. 6 news release.
Kenneth Levall Thompson of Detroit was born in November 1965. His remains were found in Crossville, Tennessee, on Aug. 26, 1983, the TBI said. Investigators said he was stabbed multiple times.
A forensic pathologist initially estimated the victim was between the ages of 20 and 25, the release said.
A TBI spokesperson told McClatchy News that Thompson was killed “approximately a week or more” before his body was found in Cumberland County.
Without knowing who the victim was, investigators were able to identify a possible suspect, who was charged with second-degree murder in May 1984 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to the release. The suspect was 36 when he was charged, TBI told McClatchy News.
Family told investigators they last had contact with Thompson around 1982 or 1983.
Years went by without a match for the victim’s identity. Investigators submitted a DNA sample to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, according to the release. His DNA was entered into database systems to look for possible matches, but none came.
In December 2022, TBI agents with the Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative sent a DNA sample of Thompson’s to Othram Laboratories in Texas for “forensic genetic genealogical (FGG) DNA testing,” according to the release.
Scientists were able to find possible relatives of the unidentified teen. TBI investigators then located family members in Michigan, including a brother who said he hadn’t heard from Thompson in nearly four decades.
Officials submitted familial DNA to the lab in Texas, TBI said. Othram scientists were able to identify the remains as Thompson’s.
“Investigators hope this development will provide long-awaited answers to Kenneth’s family,” the TBI wrote in the release.
The agency is asking for anyone with photos of Thompson to share them with the TBI.
“The only photo of Kenneth that surviving family members could find was taken when he was a child,” the agency said.