Trucker James Tate disappeared on Dec. 17, 2004, his trailer was found in Bartlett, TN, and his tractor found 10 miles away in Memphis a day later.
Now, more than two years later, a phone tip may have lead authorities to the remains of the Tylertown, MS, man who was in his mid-thirties when he went missing.
According to the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, a caller reported a skull found Friday, Jan. 12, in a wooded area in Lakeland, just east of Memphis. Shelby County Sheriff's Office deputies used dogs to search the area during the weekend and found 20 other bones they believe are part of the same skeleton.
Steve Shular, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, said authorities believe the remains are Tate's because of clothes and personal items found with the remains.
The Shelby County medical examiner told sheriff's officials the bones belonged to a black man and had been in the woods for at least one year.
The trailer Tate was hauling for M and K Logistics was found by Bartlett police along Brunswick Road near Highway 64 in December 2004. One day later, police found Tate's tractor in a vacant lot near Macon Road in Memphis "about 10 miles apart" from the trailer, Shular said.
Sheriff's deputies have arranged for DNA analysis in Texas to match bone fragments with Tate's DNA. Teeth were found inside the skull but Sheriff's deputies don't have Tate's dental records to compare them with.
"We're just not sure what the deal is or what the motivation might have been," Shular said. "We're hoping that letting people know will bring someone forward because someone does know something."
Detectives have no suspects and are asking anyone with information about the case to call (901) 528-2274.
--By Charlie Morasch, staff writer