The cases date back to the 1980s.
Five women with similar backgrounds were all killed within five years of each other.
And investigators now believe there is one thing that could link them all together: the Circle Inn.
The business, once located on Magnolia beside the bus station, had a long history of problems with law enforcement, and was demolished in 1997.
Investigators say it was a place frequented by prostitutes and their johns, and that included the five women murdered more than 20 years ago.
"We started drawing those parallels to them being there, and in some cases, that's the last place they were seen, and certainly had been there in the past few days prior to being found dead," said David Davenport, chief investigator for the Cold Case Unit, a combined unit of officers from both the Knox County Sheriff's Office and Knoxville Police Department.
The unit has linked the following five cases:
- Deborah Kay Pearson: Killed on June 12, 1989. Her body was found under an I-640 overpass in North Knoxville. She had been shot in the back.
- Jamie Darlene Hickman: Killed on April 17, 1989. Her body was found in a ditch near the intersection of Frazier Road and Kodak Road in East Knox County. She had been stabbed and beaten.
- Diane Corbett. Killed on Nov. 24, 1987. Her body was found near the quarry on Asbury Road in Southeast Knox County. She had been beaten to death.
- Betty Joyce Brown. Killed on July 20, 1985. Her body was found in a wooded area on Montlake Drive off Alcoa Highway in South Knox County. She had been stabbed, beaten and burned.
- Sharon Yvonne Robinson. Killed on Aug. 9, 1984. Her body was found in a wooded area off Patty Road, near Asheville Highway. She had been beaten and stabbed.
Four of the cases are county cases, while one is a city case.
And Davenport said the new cold case unit was key in linking the cases and hopefully solving them because of the combined resources and manpower.
"We've been able to access records that probably weren't accessed before just because we're a joint team, and now, we can see that a lot of these people that we're looking at especially, in these particular cases, disappeared from one area and had the same friends and were doing some of the same things, and we feel that there is definitely some kind of connection," Davenport said.
But even with the Circle Inn connection pinned down, there are still challenges in solving the cases, especially when it comes to interviewing witnesses and friends.
"It's very challenging," said Dorothy Barnes, a detective with the Cold Case Unit. "Again, there's several people who may be deceased, within that timeframe, as 20 to 30 years has went by. With their activities and the arrests they had had in the past, trusting law enforcement may not have been what they find to be prominent to that, but they are coming forward, they are talking to us, so I'm hoping that we will get somewhere in helping to solve some of these cases."
Investigators are not searching for one killer though. They believe that, while the cases do have a connection, there is likely more than one person responsible for the women's deaths.
And, despite the length of time that has passed and the challenges in solving these cases, investigators are confident.
"I'm determined," Barnes said. "I feel very passionate about it. It's important to work for the victims here and find justice for these cases, and I'm very determined, our whole unit's very determined."
Anyone with information on any of the five cases is asked to call 865-215-2243.
If you have a cold case you'd like 10News to look into, email firstname.lastname@example.org.