UPDATED Friday Feb 20th 6PM
Eyewitness News Reporter
BRADLEY COUNTY (WRCB/AP) - Kathleen's remains were just returned to the Bradley County Sheriff's Department after a UTC forensic pathologist was able to indentify and confirm that it was in fact her offering the family closure after 53 long years.
"I used to tell my children that it would be solved someday, maybe not in my lifetime but it would be," said Evelyn Wrinkle Cross.
Wrinkle is believed to have left home on an early morning in February 1956 planning to drive 40 miles to Copperhill to find a job in the then-booming copper industry when her car slid on an icy road and into the lake.
The missing persons case was reopened in 2007, and several searches of the lake were made.
She was only a teenager when her aunt Kathleen Wrinkle disappeared but she never gave up hope that authorities would find her aunt.
"It's just like she died all over again so momma never gave up, momma always felt like she would come home," said Cross.
And more than 50 years later the case is solved.
"A case this old you learn a lot of new things," said Sergeant Bill Coultry with the Bradley County Sheriff's Department.
He has worked on the case the past three years exploring every lead.
"She was well-known in the community, very well liked, very nice person and these folks knew her and they just led us down the road where we needed to go," said Sergeant Coultry.
He also worked with several agencies getting a lay of the land and lake trying to determine where she and her car could be.
"We had some good people out there. They were just as interested as I was cause it go their interest and they were gonna keep diving and diving until they find her and they did," said Sergeant Coultry.
Leaving this niece relieved to know her aunt can be laid to rest.
"We're eternally grateful to Sergeant Coultry and Sheriff Gobble and Polk County officials for spending the time and the energy and the money to bring closure to our family," said Cross.
There is a public visitation saturday from 5-7 at the Ralph Buckner Funeral Home. Kathleen will be buried on Sunday, 53 years to the date of her disappearance. Cross tells us this case should offer hope to other families who have lost loved ones and are still struggling with unsolved cases.
FRIDAY February 20th 9AM
A decades old missing person mystery is now solved.
Dr. Darinka Mileusnic, Department of Pathology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, has determined human remains recovered in Parksville Lake in Polk County are those of Kathleen Wrinkle based on the investigation and forensic and physical evidence.
The medical examiner ruled death was due to accidental drowning. Investigators believe Wrinkle lost control of her car and it plunged into the lake on February 22, 1956.
On May 9th, 2008, divers found the rusted remains of what appeared to be a Chevrolet Bel Air in Parksville Lake in Polk County.
That's the same kind of car that Wrinkle was last seen driving. Inside, divers found skeletal remains that were later determined to be that of a young female.
That discovery lead divers back into the water ten days later where they found more remains, some clothing and a Kodak camera.
The family extends its deep appreciation to each person that has been involved in the investigation since Wrinkle was last seen.