WATAUGA — The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office announced Sept. 17 that it has closed the missing person case related to Timothy John “TJ” Trivette, a 36-year-old male from the Sugar Grove area who went missing in 2019.
Remains found in Tennessee in February 2020 were identified as Trivette on Aug. 23, 2021.
Sheriff Len Hagaman said no foul play is suspected. He also said an initial analysis was done “many months ago” on the remains, but the conclusion was probable and not official.
“The official calculated and verified information and analysis was done a couple of weeks ago,” Hagaman said. “It was their analysis that verified the DNA match.”
On March 18, 2019, WCSO began an investigation into a call for a missing person. The missing person reported was Trivette. WCSO Sgt. Lucas Smith was the lead investigator on this case and began reaching out to friends, family and canvassing the area Trivette was last seen. In 2019, Smith also immediately contacted Watauga Emergency Management and App State drone operators.
A search was conducted by the above agencies at the Guy Ford Bridge, the location of Trivette’s vehicle.
On March 19, 2019, Smith organized a search covering more than 1,000-acres, utilizing officers, on and off duty from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Boone Police Department, Watauga Emergency Management, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, NC SBI, Watauga Rescue Squad, TBI, Johnson County EMA, Carter County EMS, Watauga County Medics, Swift Water Rescue Teams from SC, SCSAR, K-9 search and rescue team, Dr. Briggs K-9 search and rescue, K-9 search and special operation Michel Galliot, Avery County Sheriff’s Office, Avery County EM, Appalachian State EM, Jordan Nelson drone operator, volunteers from the Beaver Dam Volunteer Fire Dept., Zionville Volunteer Fire Dept., Cove Creek Volunteer Fire Dept., Linville Fire and Rescue, Fall Creek Volunteer Fire Dept., Red Cross and other volunteers from the area who searched both sides of the river from the Guy Ford Bridge, well into Tennessee.
The search turned up no results.
Smith and Watauga Emergency Management continued searching and investigating for two months with no findings, WCSO stated in a press release.
Several months after the initial search, Hagaman said that Sgt. Smith received information from Johnson County Sheriff’s Office that a fisherman in Tennessee reported seeing a human skull.
WCSO stated in a press release Sgt. Smith assisted in searching for the skull and additional skeletal remains with Tennessee authorities. The skull was sent to the Center for Human Identification at the at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. Smith organized collecting DNA samples from Trivette’s biological parents and submitted it to UNTHSC through NamUs.
On Aug. 23, 2021, the center returned results on DNA from the recovered skull, X-rays from Trivette and comparison DNA from biological parents. The results confirmed that the nuclear genetic profile obtained from the unidentified human remains are consistent with the nuclear genetic profile obtained from a prior arrestee specimen from Trivette, WCSO stated.
Further adding that the nuclear genetic profile obtained from biological parents was consistent with Trivette being the biological child of the two donors. The Watauga County Sheriff’s Office was able to close this missing person case.
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of TJ Trivette,” WCSO stated in a press release.