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Skeletal Remains Discovered in Cheatham County Identified After Four Decades

CHEATHAM COUNTY– A juvenile whose skeletal remains were found in the early 1980s in Cheatham County has been identified, and special agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are asking for the public’s help to determine who killed her.

On October 21, 1981, skeletal remains were discovered at what was then the county’s old landfill, on Highway 249 in Ashland City. 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 young, white female, originally estimated to be between 14 and 17 years old. According to the UT Anthropology Department, the girl was estimated to have been deceased for three to nine 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. It would be many years later before DNA technology would catch up and aid in providing information in this case.

In 2007, the UT 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 girl would eventually be identified.

In December of 2023, as part of the Unidentified Human Remains DNA Initiative, TBI agents submitted a sample of the girl's remains to Othram Inc., a private lab based in Texas, for forensic genetic genealogical DNA testing. Scientists provided information about possible relatives connected to the girl. A TBI intelligence analyst used that information to locate potential family members in Middle Tennessee and Florida. Agents made contact with several of those family members and confirmed they had a family member they had not heard from in more than four decades. Agents were able to obtain a DNA standard from family members to be compared against the victim's DNA, utilizing Forensic Genetic Genealogy.

This month, Othram, Inc. positively identified the woman as Linda Sue Karnes (DOB: 8/10/65). Linda was originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but grew up in Cunningham, Tennessee. Prior to her death, she spent time in the Montgomery County Girls Home in Clarksville. TBI special agents are hoping the public can help provide information that may help solve the murder of Linda Sue Karnes. If you have information about this homicide, specifically any knowledge about individuals Linda may have been with before her death, please call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

You can learn more about the TBI’s Unidentified Human Remains Initiative here:


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