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Appalachian Unsolved: Finding justice for a murdered young father

A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the conviction of the person who shot and killed T.S. Thrasher Jr. in his home in 2014.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — A gunshot in the middle of the night. A man killed in his own home. A wife and two children spared injury.

The Dec. 8, 2014, killing of 29-year-old Thomas S. "T.S." Thrasher Jr. in his family's Oak Ridge apartment remains unsolved.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation doesn't think it was random. His father can't think of any enemies his son had. And TBI agents suspect the gunman was someone he knew, someone he was close to.

So many clues. But still no one has been charged.

Anderson County District Attorney General Dave Clark wants to hold Thrasher's killer accountable. Clark is looking for that key evidence that will allow him to go forward with a murder charge.

Credit: Steve Thrasher
Photos of T.S. Thrasher

"Somebody knows what happened," Clark said this week. "There may be multiple people. And they are out there. And likely they have told other people."

A $10,000 reward is being offered  -- an enticement to get those bits and pieces of information that can help solve the East Tennessee native's homicide. Gov. Bill Lee approved the reward this spring at Clark's request.

"We need a break to bring this matter to a conclusion," the prosecutor said.

Steve Thrasher's heart broke when the gunman killed his son.

"So far we don't have a confession from anybody, we don't have an eyewitness, and we don't have a murder weapon," he said. "One of those three would be helpful. That's what really helps in getting someone convicted in a case such as this."

WBIR tried to reach Thrasher's widow through her mother, but the mother declined comment and hung up abruptly.

Credit: WBIR
Anderson County DA Dave Clark

SHOT IN THE NIGHT

At the time of his death, T.S., his wife and the girls lived in the Rolling Hills apartment complex in Oak Ridge south of the Oak Ridge Turnpike. 

T.S. and his wife had a 5-year-old child together, and his wife had a daughter from a previous relationship, Steve Thrasher said. T.S., who grew up in Oak Ridge, had been attending Pellissippi State Community College and had gotten a job with Advance Financial.

Someone shot and killed him around 4:30 a.m. Steve Thrasher said it's his understanding his son was on the couch.

According to the TBI, while Thrasher had numerous neighbors at the apartment complex where he and his wife lived, none of them recalled hearing or seeing anything unusual before he was shot to death.

Clark said he was prohibited from talking about evidence gathered by the TBI and Oak Ridge police in the case, including the kind of weapon that was used to kill Thrasher.

Steve Thrasher said it's his understanding his son was killed by his own pistol, and that the weapon has disappeared.

The wife called 911 after reporting hearing a loud noise, authorities said.

"It would be reasonable to assume in an apartment complex, even in the early morning hours, that there are people out and about," Clark said. "So, generally speaking, you'd assume there were people who either did see or didn't see something that could be significant in a case."

Investigators continue to work the case. And they're not forgetting T.S. Thrasher and they're not giving up.

Credit: WBIR
Rolling Hills apartment complex in Oak Ridge

NO DETAIL TOO SMALL

T.S. was the kind of kid parents wish for: he smiled a lot, he was loyal to his friends and he looked out for siblings, especially a sister with Down syndrome, in his very large family, Steve Thrasher said. He enjoyed being a dad.

Why anyone would want to kill him confounds his father.

"He just made everyone smile and be happy," Steve Thrasher said. "He was just so pleasant from the time he was a little boy. He never gave us any trouble as a child."

Clark said he's heard nothing disparaging or unflattering about the victim from TBI or Oak Ridge investigators.

The prosecutor said he hopes publicity about Thrasher's homicide will encourage people who may have information to come forward.

No detail is too slight, Clark said. No recollection is minor.

Someone may have heard a suspect say something incriminating or revealing that could lead to charges, he said.

"We are really looking for anything someone may have that may have to do with this case," he said. "We are at a juncture where a small piece of information can make a very big difference."

The $10,000 reward will go to the person who provides information that leads to the conviction of the killer.

You can leave tips by calling 1-800-TBI-FIND. You can email tips through TipsToTBI@tn.gov.

Murder cases remain open forever, Clark said. Authorities want to solve this one now. But they won't ever close it until someone is charged, he said.

An apartment complex resident or visitor may have seen someone go in or leave T.S.'s apartment that morning in December 2014, Steve Thrasher said. 

Whoever killed Thrasher didn't just take Steve Thrasher's son. They took away a friend, a co-worker and a dad.

"If whoever did this  -- if they are afraid that I'm going to do something about it, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I will love you and forgive you, but I probably won't like you," Steve Thrasher said.

"I won't come over and hit you. I won't try to have anything done to you. I want justice served. I just want what my son has coming to him. He deserves justice."

Credit: WBIR
Steve Thrasher