Body found in Kyle case

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Desheena Kyle (Photo provided by KPD)

Police investigating the disappearance of Desheena Kyle found a corpse Tuesday in a house in North Knox County. 

Although details of the discovery were sparse, a Knoxville Police Department spokesperson confirmed the corpse was found in a house in the 6900 block of Sam Tillery Road.

“The identity of the deceased has not yet been confirmed,” spokesperson Scott Erland said. “The body was transported to the Regional Forensic Center for a full autopsy and identification. The investigation into Desheena Kyle’s disappearance is continuing and an update will be provided when one becomes available.”

Erland declined to explain what caused investigators to focus on the house, saying only that they were looking into the young woman’s case at the time. He also didn’t say whether anyone was living in the house.

It’s been more than three months since Desheena was last seen by any of her friends or family members. The 26-year-old Knoxville woman last spoke to one of her relatives on June 14, and she was spotted at her Wilson Road apartment four days later. After that… nothing.

Desheena, an aspiring fashion designer and graduate of Central High School, was reported missing on June 28.

Since then, authorities have repeatedly asked for the public’s help in finding Desheena, blanketing social media and making appeals through news outlets across East Tennessee. 

State and federal law enforcement agencies have been brought in to help local authorities with the case, and KPD investigators “have spent hundreds of hours searching various locations, interviewing possible witnesses, or individuals with pertinent information and following up on numerous leads,” said Erland.

Although no criminal charges have been filed in connection with Desheena’s disappearance, one person in her life drew the scrutiny of investigators from the start: John Bassett.   

Bassett, 29, was once in a romantic relationship with Desheena and is officially considered a “person of interest” in her disappearance, according to police. 

Bassett, who has a lengthy history of drug-related arrests, was charged with domestic assault in 2014 for allegedly hitting Desheena and then using a rock to break the window of her car while she was inside, trying to hide from him. The charge against him was later dismissed, court records show.

On July 7 — more than a week after she was reported missing — Bassett was taken into custody after a very public display of force in the Lonsdale community. Dozens of KPD officers, including crisis negotiators and the department’s SWAT team, surrounded Bassett’s house on Ohio Avenue. Officials said the house was empty when officers searched it, but Bassett was taken into custody later that evening and arrested for allegedly violating the terms of his probation for possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute.

John Bassett Source: Knox County Sheriff’s Office

He has been held in the county jail without bond since then.

While officials have held out hope they might find the young woman alive, it’s become clear in recent weeks that the odds of that outcome are slim to none.

“Based on the lack of sightings, prolonged period without contact with family or friends, and the cumulative evidence, the case is currently being treated and investigated as a possible homicide,” Erland said recently. 

Several of KPD’s specialist units are actively involved in the investigation, including the Organized Crime Unit, the Special Crimes Unit, the Violent Crimes Unit, and the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC).  

 Anyone with information regarding Desheena’s whereabouts or the circumstances of her disappearance is urged to contact East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.easttnvalleycrimestoppers.org or via the free mobile app P3 Tips.

Tipsters will remain anonymous and be eligible to receive a cash reward.    

J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at jjstambaugh@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on September 24, 2021.