FLAG POND — A man and a woman were being held in the Carter County Jail on murder charges Friday night following the discovery of a body in a remote area of Unicoi County earlier in the day
Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley said the body was discovered “mid-morning” Friday on private property located along Little Bald Creek Road, which is located off Spivey Mountain Road near the North Carolina border.
Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes said the body is believed to be that of a man previously reported missing. Mathes said that on April 17, the Johnson City Police Department began receiving complaints regarding a 78-year-old man who had not been seen for some time. Mathes said officials were unable to locate the man, who lived in the west Carter County area.
“Law enforcement in the Tri-Cities especially has been seeking his whereabouts for quite some time,” Mathes said.
Further investigation revealed no financial activity on the man’s part, Mathes said.
Mathes said authorities received a break in this case Thursday evening that led to Friday’s discovery of what appears to be the missing man. This is pending an autopsy and positive identification, Mathes said. Mathes also said the man’s name is being withheld at this time.
Although Mathes said authorities are also not releasing information on the man’s manner of death, he described the death as “violent” based on what investigators could visibly see at the scene.
“What I can tell you is we strongly suspect this is a homicide, a very violent one,” Mathes said. “I’m not trying to be disrespectful at all, but it saddens us to see someone that has been the victim of serious violent crime like this.”
Mathes said officials suspect the homicide took place in Carter County and the body, which Mathes said was found rolled up in carpet, was taken to Unicoi County where it was dumped.
Taken into custody in Carter County were Timothy Pate, 43, and Whitney Harris, 21, both of west Carter County.
Pate was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree murder in the commission of a felony and tampering with evidence. Harris was charged with accessory after first-degree murder, accessory after first-degree murder in the commission of a felony and tampering with evidence.
Mathes described Pate and Harris as being in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.
Mathes said soil samples and tire track molds were taken at the scene. The remains will be sent to East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine in Johnson City and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will be doing multiple tests to confirm the identity of the victim and manner of death, Mathes said.
“At the end, hopefully we’ll have justice for this gentleman that didn’t deserve the ending of his life to come like this,” Mathes said.
The Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department, Erwin Police Department, Johnson City Police Department, TBI and district attorney general’s office are involved in the investigation, Mathes said. He also lauded the collaborative effort of multiple agencies.
“A lot of folks have been involved in putting pieces of this investigation together,” Mathes said.
Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson also contributed to this report.