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Appalachian Unsolved: Confrontation ends deadly

“We know she was real feisty, and not afraid of anyone,” Sheriff Tim Hutchinson told WBIR 10News back in 1991.

He was talking about Ruth Eileen Meredith, a 67-year-old woman who had been found dead in her driveway.

“She had the habit of confronting any strangers that came around the apartments and didn't have any business there,” explained Knox County Cold Case Detective Chief David Davenport.

Meredith’s case has been unsolved for more than two decades, but Davenport says he’s close.

It was July 3, 1991 when a neighbor discovered Meredith’s body outside her South Knoxville apartment.

“There had been two apartments that had been broken into. It appears that she confronted the burglars in front of the driveway in front of the apartments,” Davenport said. “I think she caught them in the act coming out of one of the apartments or she may have recognized one of them. They took an object and hit her in the head.”

No weapon was ever found, nor any answers.

Her family offered a $1,000 dollar reward, later upping it to $5,000.

Meredith's daughter, Kay Meredith, remembers a mother who was always there for her and loved to hear her play the piano. 

"We used to get together and cook and go shopping ... so that's the kind of thing I miss," Kay Meredith said. "You miss somebody like that at holidays and birthdays. It stirs up memories for you."

Even at 67, Meredith wasn’t afraid of anybody. During the time of her death, a number of burglary rings were operating around South Knoxville.

“She had a very good reputation in and around the neighborhood, she was proud of her apartments, and tried to keep them as safe as they can be,” said Davenport. “She knew what was going on and made it her business to find out what was going on.”

Earlier that week, investigators say she had confronted some strangers and followed them to nearby Alcoa Highway to get their license plate number.

It was her confrontational habits that would ultimately put her in the face of danger.

Today, Davenport has his eye on several suspects.

”We have it narrowed down pretty well now, mainly three individuals involved,” said Davenport. “It appears that only one of the individuals did the striking and the other two were involved in the burglaries.”

Even this close, he is still looking for secrets people have been holding for more than a quarter of a century.

“We think that if someone would come forward with some information, we are pretty close to putting this one together," he said. 

If you have any information on this case or any other Knox County homicides or missing persons, please call KCSO’s cold case investigation unit at 865-215-2243.

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