A man whose body was found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year died of a meth overdose before being partially eaten by a bear, an autopsy found.
The body of William Lee Hill Jr., 30, of Louisville, Tenn., was discovered in a wooded area off Rich Mountain Road in Townsend on Sept. 11, 2018 — four days after he became separated from a friend while the pair were searching for ginseng in the park.
Park Rangers started searching for Hill on Sunday, September 9, 2018 when they were notified he was missing.
After search crews found an adult black bear scavenging the body, the animal stayed in the area and exhibited aggressive behavior for hours.
Biologists trapped the bear long enough to apply a GPS tracking collar and recover human DNA from the animal. Officials then released the bear, reviewed the evidence and determined the bear should be euthanized.
"While the cause of Mr. Hill’s death is unknown at this time, after gathering initial evidence, consulting with other wildlife professionals and careful consideration, we made the difficult decision to euthanize this bear out of concern for the safety of park visitors and local residents,” Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a Sept. 12 news release.
Media outlets cited the release to report the bear had been euthanized, which prompted the park to clarify two days later that the animal had not yet been slain. Getting close enough to humanely shoot the bear proved surprisingly difficult, officials said.
The autopsy of Hill's body, performed at the Knox County Regional Forensic Center, revealed "extensive postmortem animal predation," but found no evidence he was attacked by the bear while he was alive, the autopsy report says.
According to the report, Hill initially had to be identified through his personal belongings and tattoos, which included a skull and crossbones with the inscription "AC/DC," and a Confederate battle flag bearing the words, "IT'S A REDNEK THING!"
30 years old
Foul Play Suspected: No
Suspected Suicide: Unknown / Undisclosed
Reported missing on September 9, 2018 - 1016 days, 0 hours, 55 minutes ago
Found on September 11, 2018 - 1014 days, 0 hours, 55 minutes ago
This case file was posted on
Mar 17, 2021 at 12:37
This case file was last modified on
Apr 18, 2021 at 00:48
This case file has been assigned the Missing Persons ID 918
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