Knoxville — It was April 13, 1984, when a child made a horrific discovery in a Knoxville park.

"A little girl was playing, she lived next to the park," explained Investigator Jeff Day with the Knoxville Police Department.

Buck Tom's Park wasn't a large space, mostly woods mixed with slides and other playground equipment.

Families used the space to relax and let their children play, others sometimes enjoyed it as a private place to smoke after dark.

To this day, investigators aren't sure what brought Terry Lynn Kirkland there.


"She was laying face down, partially clothed, stabbed multiple times, it was a very brutal, sadistic killing," said Day. "There were some other things done to her. Whoever killed her, was very mad, very angry."

The 23-year-old's death spurred fear among neighbors living nearby.

"It's not something you forget, a murder," said Day. "People in that area talked about it, were scared about it. It was in a public park and was a pretty brutal murder."

At the time, investigators conducted interviews, collected evidence, but no answers ever came.

"There was a knife next to the body, the handle had been broken off, the blade and handle was broken and it had blood all over it," described Day.


Today, that small city park is pretty much nonexistent, covered by woods, and the case is now in the hands of Detective Jeff Day.

"There is a good suspect, can't tell you who," said Day.

He believes Kirkland's killer was no stranger.

"She was there with someone she knew, I would guarantee she knew them," said Day.

The brutal nature of the crime leads him to suspect the close connection.

"The more violent an act is, it's more personal to them," explained Day.

The person responsible, he believes, is likely alive today.

"The suspects in this case are in their 50s now and I imagine at that time, they were 20, 25 years old," said Day.

Detective Day feels they are close to solving this murder.

"It might not take much more, its like a puzzle," he explained. "You need a certain number of pieces before you can prosecute a homicide case. The pieces are there, but some we still need."

The missing pieces, are people.

"It's very very rare for a murder to be committed, and the murderer not confide in someone," said Day.

"I can see why a witness might be scared, that's understandable, maybe now they can come forward and feel safer now. Any tip we could get could prosecute this case, we are close."

A prosecution, Kirkland's loved ones have been waiting on for years to heal the pain of her loss.

"Any time we can bring relief or closure to a family that's what we are here for, it still doesn't bring the loved one back," said Day.