Bedford County: Bobby Smelcer

May 28, 2018 at 12:00 pm by Michelle Willard

Bobby Smelcer

Bobby Smelcer disappeared from his home on Nov. 21, 2010. He wasn't found until April 2012 when a human skull was found in the Duck River and determined to be his.

The skull was found west of Smelcer's hometown of Shelbyville. It took dental records to confirm his identity.

"Today we have news that Bobby has been found -- not alive and happy, as we had hoped and prayed for. But with the discovery of his remains, our hearts bleed for him," his sister Karen Harris told the Shelbyville Times-Gazette in 2012. 

"We do not know how he died or if he suffered, we do know that we, as a family strong, and with determination, will bring him home to a final resting place. Even though the recovery efforts continue, we pray for justice for Bobby."

Even now, no one knows what happened to Smelcer or how his skull ended up in the Duck River.

The Victim

Bobby Smelcer was 52 years old when he disappeared from Shelbyville, Tenn.

"Our family needs answers … It breaks our heart. He has two daughters, five grandchildren, seven brothers and sisters. He is a father, grandfather, son, brother, and grandson," Smelcer's sister Kristy Matheson said in a report on CNN.com

According to a story in the Times-Gazette, Smelcer had hit a few rough patches, but he had bounced back and repaired his relationships with his daughters Brandie and Jennifer, as well as his grandchildren.

Smelcer was a kind man, his daughter Jennifer Vest said in an interview with WTVF in 2015. 

"He has no resting place. There's nowhere for me to take flowers … He deserves to be buried properly," Vest said.

The Crime

On Nov. 21, 2010, Bobby Smelcer went to work where family last saw him, stopped by the grocery store, ate dinner and disappeared into thin air.

Smelcer disappeared from his home on East Lane Street in Shelbyville. Investigators found his cell phone, wallet and keys as his residence, along with "a few small blood spots, which police said 'did not appear to be suspicious,'" the Times-Gazette reported.

The Investigation

Matheson wrote in the CNN report that Smelcer was last seen around 4:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, 2010, by George "BooBoo" Mason, Smelcer's sister Kristy Matheson wrote in the CNN report.

When Smelcer didn't go to work for Shelbyville property owner James Farrar on Tuesday, Nov. 22, some of his coworkers went to check on him but no one answered the door. They went back Wednesday, Nov. 23 "and found the back door wide open, and it was pouring down rain. They said they shut the door, locked it up and left," Matheson said.

Afterward one of Smelcer's coworkers called Smelcer's brother Bryce that the man was missing.

Bryce Smelcer went to his brother's trailer "and found blood drops by the front door, and blue jeans in the bathroom that … were ripped up bad and appeared to have blood on the front," Matheson wrote. Later tests would show the blood to be Smelcer's.

Bryce Smelcer called the police on Friday.

Investigators found his cell phone, wallet and keys but nothing out of place.

Matheson said she was frustrated when the Shelbyville Police Department waited until Monday, Nov. 29, the day after the Thanksgiving weekend, to process the scene.

The police found no leads until Smelcer's skull was found April 16, 2012, by a fisherman on the Duck River. The fisherman was in an area known to locals as "Wolf Meadows," which sits about two miles from Shelbyville.

The skull was taken by TBI to the University of Tennessee Anthropology Department for examination and possible identification.

The forensic anthropologists at UT were able to identify the skull as Smelcer's with help from dental records.

After the identification, searchers and divers combed the Bedford County forest and waterways looking to more of Smelcer with no luck.

Smelcer's sister Kristy Matheson told WKRN that more than 300 properties were searched in the years following his death.

But his skull has been the only part of him that has been found.

Because of the lack of more remains, investigators still haven't ruled a cause of death in his case.

The Theories

Officially, investigators have no leads in tracking down the answer to what happened to Bobby Smelcer.

"The frustration that has come from the Smelcer case is there have been very few pieces of that puzzle that have been put together so far," Shelbyville Police Detective Sgt. Brian Crews said about the lack of evidence or witnesses.

Unofficially, locals believe someone with a score to settle made Smelcer disappear but there is little more than rumors to back up this theory. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Shelbyville Police Department at 931-684-5811 or anonymously call Crimestoppers at 931-685-4300.