published Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Remains found in Smokies were from Nashville man

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Human remains found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been identified as those of a missing Nashville man.

Park officials announced Thursday that medical investigators have positively identified the remains as belonging to 23-year-old Michael Giovanni Cocchini. He had been staying in Gatlinburg and was last seen by friends at a Sevierville Wal-Mart on March 18.

The National Park Service worked with the Knoxville Regional Forensic Center, the Sevier County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Knox County Sheriff Forensic Unit. Official identification came through comparison of dental records. No foul play is suspected.

Rangers conducted exhaustive searches for Cocchini and another missing man last spring.

According to WVLT-TV, up to 60 people per day had been looking for a week for Derek Leuking, 24, of Louisville, when the car belonging to Cocchini was discovered.

Smokies spokeswoman Molly Schroer said the disappearance of Leuking on March 26 is still an open case.

Just over 9 million people visited the 500,000-acre park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border in 2011.

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