As far as police can tell, it’s been more than three months since Desheena Kyle was last seen by any of her friends or family members.
The 26-year-old Knoxville woman last spoke to one of her relatives on June 14, and she was spotted at her Wilson Road apartment four days later. After that… nothing.
Since then, authorities have repeatedly asked for the public’s help in finding Desheena, blanketing social media and making appeals through news outlets across East Tennessee.
While they hope the young woman will be found alive, it’s clear the odds of that outcome are slim to none by now. But that doesn’t mean the effort to find out what happened to her will stop, police officials said Thursday.
“Based on the lack of sightings, prolonged period without contact with family or friends, and the cumulative evidence, the case is currently being treated and investigated as a possible homicide,” Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland said.
Desheena, an aspiring fashion designer and graduate of Central High School, was reported missing on June 28.
State and federal law enforcement agencies have been brought in to help local authorities with the case, and KPD investigators “have spent hundreds of hours searching various locations, interviewing possible witnesses, or individuals with pertinent information and following up on numerous leads,” said Erland.
Although no criminal charges have been filed in connection with Desheena’s disappearance, one person in her life drew the scrutiny of investigators from the start: John Bassett.
Bassett, 29, was once in a romantic relationship with Desheena and is officially considered a “person of interest” in her disappearance, according to police.
Bassett, who has a lengthy history of drug-related arrests, was charged with domestic assault in 2014 for allegedly hitting Desheena and then using a rock to break the window of her car while she was inside, trying to hide from him. The charge against him was later dismissed, court records show.
On July 7 — more than a week after she was reported missing— Bassett was taken into custody after a very public display of force in the Lonsdale community. Dozens of KPD officers, including crisis negotiators and the department’s SWAT team, surrounded Bassett’s house on Ohio Avenue. Officials said the house was empty when officers searched it, but Bassett was taken into custody “safely and without incident” later that evening.
He was arrested for allegedly violating the terms of his probation for possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute and has been held without bond since then.
KPD Chief Eve Thomas said progress has been made in the case and vowed that she won’t allow the department’s efforts to flag.
“I cannot fathom the intense emotions and grief that Desheena’s family has experienced over the past three months,” the chief said. “We are in complete support of the family’s efforts to find Desheena and involve the community in those efforts to bring Desheena home.”
Several of KPD’s specialist units are actively involved in the investigation, including the Organized Crime Unit, the Special Crimes Unit, the Violent Crimes Unit, and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC).
“KPD has never tired on this case and will continue to work vigorously to find Desheena,” said Thomas. “We have developed significant leads and made substantial progress on this case. We have also received numerous tips on the case, and we know that there are people still out there who have answers. We ask anyone who has information that could assist investigators to please come forward.”
Anyone with information regarding Desheena’s whereabouts or the circumstances of her disappearance is urged to contact East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers by phone at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.easttnvalleycrimestoppers.org or via the free mobile app P3 Tips.
Tipsters will remain anonymous and be eligible to receive a cash reward.
J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published on September 24, 2021.