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The search for answers in '77 cold case

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Smith's oldest son, who still lives in Murfreesboro, provided these photos of his father. Stanley Smith was murdered 40 years ago. COURTESY PHOTOS

It was the year it snowed in Miami. Riverdale High School was only about five years old when President Jimmy Carter was sworn in that January, and in August Elvis Presley would be found dead.

But on this day, March 25, 1977, a different body was discovered in Murfreesboro, in an abandoned house.

Stanley Smith was only 26 when he was murdered more than 40 years ago. He left behind a family who loved him, who are still hoping to learn the truth about his death.

"I can't imagine a mother still not knowing after all this time why her son was killed, and she desperately wants answers," said Detective Steve Kohler with Rutherford County Sheriff's Office Cold Case Unit. "His son...feels like he was robbed robbed of a dad, and had to go his life without having that father figure. He gets very emotional about it. It bothers him."

Smith left behind a widow and two young sons. The factory worker lived on Richardson Avenue and had not been reported missing when a passerby happened upon his body in an abandoned house off of Van Cleve Lane, near Stones River National Battlefield.

The detectives who originally worked this case have since retired, and Kohler says they "did an outstanding job.

"They left no stone unturned. Sometimes there's just not much you can do. But we're hoping that with the public's help, and with science's help, that maybe we can bring this one to closure."

He's taking full advantage of scientific advances since the '70s, sending forensic evidence to the TBI. With the passage of time, too, Kohler believes there are folks willing to talk now who may not have been in '77.

"Maybe...they were too scared back then to say something, or for whatever reason they didn't want to come forward."

The detective hopes after all these years someone will come forward with the missing puzzle piece.

"Hopefully somebody'll have some answers. I just want to stress that they can be anonymous, like I said, and nobody's going to get in trouble."

Contact the detective at (615) 904-3046, or call Crime Stoppers at (615) 895-STOP to be eligible for "a reward up to $1,000 leading to the arrest and prosecution of the suspect," according the sheriff's office. Callers may remain anonymous.

Stanley Smith, who was 26 when he was killed in 1977, is believed to have lived on Richardson Avenue. CAT MURPHY
Pictured is an official photo from the investigation, of the abandoned house where Smith's body was discovered on March 25, 1977. CAT MURPHY
Smith's oldest son, who still lives in Murfreesboro, provided these photos of his father to Rutherford County Sheriff's Office. More than 40 years later, he hopes for answers. CAT MURPHY
Murfreesboro as it was in 1976, the year before Stanley Smith was murdered. HISTORIC SOCIETY PHOTO, COURTESY BILL JAKES
Murfreesboro as it was in 1976, the year before Stanley Smith was murdered. HISTORIC SOCIETY PHOTO, COURTESY BILL JAKES
Murfreesboro as it was in 1976, the year before Stanley Smith was murdered. HISTORIC SOCIETY PHOTO, COURTESY BILL JAKES
Murfreesboro as it was in 1976, the year before Stanley Smith was murdered. HISTORIC SOCIETY PHOTO, COURTESY BILL JAKES
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Tags: 
COLD CASE, HOMICIDE, MURDER, RUTHERFORD COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, STANLEY SMITH, UNSOLVED CASE
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