Police Uncover Grisly Connection After Conducting DNA Test on Skull Kept on Fireplace Mantle


A human skull that allegedly was found in a wooded area of Morgan County, Tennessee, before being placed on a fireplace mantle in a home has been discovered to belong to a man who went missing in 2012.

The skull was found above a fireplace in a home in the county in March 2019. Someone had added sunglasses to the skull, which had sat in the home until the sheriff’s office was informed of its existence, according to a news release Monday from District Attorney General Russell Johnson.

The skull reportedly was discovered last year in the Gobey area of Morgan County, about 50 miles northwest of Knoxville, Johnson said.

The tenant of the home where the skull was sitting said his dog found it when they were walking in the woods behind his Anderson Road home, WBIR-TV reported, citing a March 2019 report from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office.

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The tenant has been identified as Brian Kennedy, according to WBIR.

Deputies retrieved the skull last year and sent it for DNA testing to the Knox County Regional Forensics Center and the University of Tennessee Department of Anthropology, WMC-TV reported.

Authorities compared the skull to DNA samples from relatives of 79-year-old Junior Willie McCann, who last was seen in Morgan County in 2012, according to the Miami Herald.

A year after the discovery of the skull, investigators made a positive match to McCann on Oct. 19, according to WBIR.

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The deputies also conducted an extensive search of the area where the skull allegedly was found but did not discover any other remains, according to the DA’s news release.

“Speculation and rumor is that Junior McCann was possibly killed by a family member who is now deceased as well,” Johnson wrote.

Regardless, Johnson asked anyone with information to call the Morgan County Sheriff’s office 423-346-6262.

According to a Sept. 12, 2012, sheriff’s office report, McCann’s younger brother Clarence reported Junior McCann’s disappearance after he hadn’t seen him for four days.

The brothers shared the Anderson Road home then, WBIR reported.

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“Victim’s brother stated that he doesn’t know of any medical problems, but the victim does take an aspirin on a daily basis and (may be) hypoglycemic,” the report read.

The report said McCann’s brother also said that if he had any notion that “something bad” was going to happen, he would have gone walking with his brother.

Junior McCann left behind two daughters as well as several other family members.

According to court filings from January 2012, there was a business dispute between a William McCann Jr. and a man identified as his brother, CrimeOnline reported.

It is unknown whether this William McCann Jr. is the same man who disappeared later that year, CrimeOnline said.

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith