HUMPHREYS COUNTY, Tenn. — An investigation is underway like none other in an absolutely bizarre case. This comes after the gruesome discovery of a human heart in a Tennessee Department of Transportation salt barn.
The case is now being treated as a homicide, which is now in the hands of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. They'll work on determining where the heart came from, who it came from and why it ended up in a salt bar. They know there was only the adult human heart believed to be from a male.
"Anytime we go on the scene where there's a body or remains, we treat it as a homicide, and then basically prove different," said Chris Davis, sheriff of Humphreys County.
Authorities have found no other remains on the premises of this TDOT salt barn in Humphreys County.
So, how to explain this one gruesome discovery?
"Somebody, somewhere, knows," said Sheriff Davis, but he added that clues have been hard to come by.
A TDOT worker moving salt discovered the heart last week.
Those who have seen it describe the heart as dehydrated from the salt — about the size of a tennis ball. They told NewsChannel 5 it appeared undamaged as though it had been surgically removed.
"A heart doesn't naturally leave the body as part of the decaying process, so clearly, there is some human involvement here. And the question is if it's criminal in nature," said NewsChannel 5 legal analyst Nick Leonardo.
For now, the sheriff said that's the assumption.
There is now a two-pronged investigation.
First, the TBI will seek to track the origin of the salt delivered to the barn, but that may prove difficult.
Morton provides bulk salt for roads in Tennessee and draws from some 20 facilities across the country.
For now, there's no evidence the heart came from any of those facilities.
And second, the crime lab is working on a DNA sample from the heart ...
It may now be several weeks before authorities can come up with a full DNA profile. Then they can try checking databases to try to determine who or where the heart came from.
Those close to the case admit it's possible the mystery of the heart will never be solved.
Some had wondered if the heart could be that of little Joe Clyde Daniel, a child who disappeared nearly five years ago from nearby Dickson County.
The sheriff says no because the heart found at the salt facility belonged to an adult male.