Desheena Kyle was only 26 years old when she disappeared a little over three months ago.
The aspiring fashion designer’s life was full of promise when she was last seen alive at her Wilson Avenue apartment in June. The Central High School alumni was loved by a tight circle of family and friends, and there was no obvious reason for her to walk away from her life.
Although no one could prove anything, suspicion immediately fell on her boyfriend, a convicted drug dealer who reportedly had a history of violently assaulting her.
Last week, her body was found in an abandoned house in the 6900 block of Sam Tillery Road and the Medical Examiner’s Office swiftly ruled that she was the victim of homicide.
Desheena Kyle’s case entered a new phase on Thursday with the announcement that a Knox County grand jury had issued an indictment charging her boyfriend, 29-year-old John Bassett, with her slaying.
The indictment charged Bassett with first-degree murder, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence, according to Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland.
Prosecutors haven’t said if they will seek the death penalty against Bassett. If he’s convicted of first-degree murder and isn’t sent to Death Row, the only possible outcomes for him are life in prison with or without the chance of parole.
It wasn’t immediately clear when, where or how Bassett allegedly killed Kyle. For instance, even though the Medical Examiner has ruled that Kyle was the victim of a homicide, “an exact cause of death has not yet been determined,” Erland said.
Bassett was served with the indictment in the county jail, which is where he’s been held without bond following his arrest in July on unrelated probation revocation charges.
Bail on the new charges was set at $500,000, but even if he’s able to raise that much money or collateral it won’t ensure his release because there’s no bond allowed on the earlier probation-related charge.
It wasn’t clear Thursday if Bassett had an attorney to defend him against the new allegations.
After Kyle was reported missing, authorities repeatedly asked for the public’s help in finding her, blanketing social media and making appeals through news outlets across East Tennessee over the following weeks.
State and federal law enforcement agencies were brought in to help local authorities with the case, and KPD investigators “spent hundreds of hours searching various locations, interviewing possible witnesses, or individuals with pertinent information and following up on numerous leads,” said Erland.
Kyle’s death marked the 35th homicide in Knoxville this year, and if the violence continues at its current pace, then 2021 will be the city’s deadliest year on record by far.
The unprecedented rise in the homicide rate began when the number of killings shot up from 22 in 2019 to 37 in 2020, a 72 percent increase. Prior to 2020, the bloodiest year on record had been when 35 people were killed in 1998.
J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on October 8, 2021.