On March 18, 2019, the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation into a call for a missing person. The missing person reported was Timothy “TJ” Trivette, a 36-year-old male from the Sugar Grove area. Sgt. Smith was the lead investigator on this case and began reaching out to friends, family and canvassing the area TJ was last seen. Sgt. Smith immediately contacted Watauga Emergency Management and ASU drone operators. A search was conducted by the above agencies at the Guy Ford Bridge, the location of TJ’s vehicle. On March 19, 2019, Sgt. Smith organized a search covering over 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, searched both sides of the river from the Guy Ford Bridge, well into Tennessee. The search turned up no results.
Sgt. Smith and Watauga EM continued searching and investigating for a solid two months with no findings. On February 17, 2019, Sgt. Smith received information from Johnson County Sheriff’s Office that a fisherman in TN reported seeing a human skull. Sgt. Smith assisted in searching for the skull and additional skeletal remains with TN authorities. The skull was sent to TX, UNTHSC Center for Human Identification with the University of North Texas. Sgt. Smith, organized collecting DNA samples from TJ’s biological parents and submitting it to UNTHSC through NamUs.
On August 23, 2021 UNTHSC Center for Human Identification with The University of North Texas returned results on DNA from the recovered skull, X-rays from TJ, 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 provided by the TBI from TJ Trivette. Further adding that the nuclear genetic profile obtained from biological parents was consistent with TJ 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.
Len Hagaman, Sheriff
Watauga County, NC