Breaking News
More () »

The body found under the tramway identified almost 50 years later

Charlotte Roberta Henry was identified by matching a DNA sample from her remains, according to the city of Gatlinburg.

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Human remains that were found back in December 1974 at Ober Gatlinburg in Sevier County have been identified, according to the city of Gatlinburg.

Charlotte Roberta Henry was identified by matching a DNA sample from her remains, according to a release. The sample was then submitted to Othram, Inc. for forensic genealogy testing. 

Henry's body was found at 9:20 a.m. on Dec. 22, 1974, in an "advanced stage of decay." A hiker was in the remote area, just east of the Aerial tramway, when they came across the remains.

The Gatlinburg Police Department, at the time, responded to the scene, where they found the remains lying face down on a coat. She had been, apparently, sitting against a tree, according to the release. No identification was found near the body. 

On Dec. 22, 1974, the Sevier County Medical Examiner’s office was contacted to aid in identifying the remains, according to Gatlinburg officials. Dr. John Hickey, Sevier County Medical Examiner, and Dr. William M. Bass, State Forensic Anthropologist, decided to transfer the remains to the University of Tennessee Memorial Research Center and Hospital to perform an autopsy.

In January 1975, other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and other surrounding states, were contacted to request assistance in identifying the remains, according to officials.

Other efforts were undertaken throughout the years including using computer technology in 2007 to produce a composite sketch of Henry, according to the release. Also in 2007, a new dental identification was used through NCIC but was unable to produce an identity.

GPD said officers worked with Othram in the past year to continue investigating to identify the remains. In February 2023, scientists from Othram found a potential DNA match of Henry's relative in Arkansas. 

Othram scientists said they created a DNA profile of the remains and compared them to other DNA in their genealogical database. Using potential matches from relatives, they were able to narrow down who they thought the remains belonged to. 

"You are able to get relationships that are very, very distant, so relatives that are fifth-cousins, and sixth-cousins," said Dr. Kristen Mittelman, the Chief Development Officer of Othram. "Relatives you would never know as your own relatives."

GPD contacted the potential match and found that she had a sister who has been missing since August 1974, according to the release. She then submitted a DNA sample for identification. 

The sample positively identified the remains as Henry, who was reported to be last seen by her family at her father's funeral in April 1974, according to Gatlinburg officials. The family last reported receiving a letter from Ms. Henry in August 1974 from a Memphis address. 

Her cause of death is unknown based on the autopsy report filed in 1974, according to the release.

Before You Leave, Check This Out