Dunlap police have hired help in two 2018 missing persons cases in Sequatchie County, and for the first time authorities say there are persons of interest in both investigations.
Retired Chattanooga police homicide detective Bill Phillips has entered into a $9,500 contract with the city of Dunlap to help find Matthew Tyler Henry, 29, and Tiffany Diane Holbert, 42, both of whom went missing within two months of one another a little over two years ago. The disappearances are not believed to be related.
The retired homicide detective has been instrumental in solving cold case investigations in Chattanooga over the years, according to Dunlap police Chief Randy Phillips. Chief Phillips and Bill Phillips, who is also from Sequatchie County, are first cousins.
"The big thing is these cases have been through two chiefs and two sheriffs, several detectives and several TBI [Tennessee Bureau of Investigation] agents," the chief said. Phillips took the helm at the department earlier this year after longtime chief Clint Huth retired in January.
Bill Phillips "worked with Chattanooga homicide for years and was supervisor over homicide for several years and headed up the cold case homicides over the years," Randy Phillips said. "He has a lot more experience in those types of cases than any of the officers here have."
Investigators consider the probes to be homicide investigations, he said, and both Holbert and Henry are believed to be deceased. There's new information in both cases.
Matthew Tyler Henry
Henry, described as a white man, 5-foot-9, weighing 170 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes, was last seen at two businesses on the south end of town the morning of April 15, 2018, Chief Phillips said. Henry was seen in a convenience store on State Route 28, near the intersection with Rankin Avenue, and in a farm store parking lot across the street. Henry's car, a white convertible Ford Mustang, was found in the parking lot.
"He was last seen in the Tractor Supply parking lot getting out of his vehicle and getting into another vehicle," Phillips said. "We've identified that vehicle and that person. He has interviewed a couple of times but he hasn't disclosed anything."
That man is among several persons of interest in Henry's case, Phillips said. Since 2018, more than 200 people have been formally interviewed, some more than once.
Phillips said there have been several searches for signs of Henry conducted over the past two years based on tips, including an extensive search of the Sequatchie River and Nickajack Lake in Marion County.
Henry's mother is thankful her son's case is moving forward and she urged people to spread the word. The family has put up a $3,500 reward for information in the case.
"We are so thankful that the city has agreed to contract Bill Phillips," Beverly Barker Henry said Wednesday. "We are hoping that with the added help and his experience with homicide cases, these cases will be solved and justice will be given to our families."
She reflected on the loss.
"You can never move on after the death of your child, but hopefully we can move forward and find peace, and eventually, show forgiveness," Henry said.
Tiffany Diane Holbert
Holbert is described as a white woman, 5-foot-4, weighing approximately 165 pounds with blonde hair and green eyes, according to police. She was last seen June 13, 2018, around 6 p.m. Her daughter told authorities she walked in the direction of the Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative facility on Rankin Avenue, a little less than a mile from her home on Creekview Lane on the north end of Dunlap, Phillips said. It was a route she walked frequently.
Holbert's family members couldn't be reached this week for comment on the contract for help.
A number of people have been interviewed in her case but most ties seem to stem from the Soddy-Daisy and Dayton areas, the chief said.
"There's not a ton of information on the Holbert case because there's only one person of interest in it," he said. "We know she was picked up at the electric co-op and we know who she was picked up by."
The person of interest is a boyfriend with whom Holbert had an on-and-off relationship, he said. Investigators have spoken to him but he didn't agree to a formal interview.
Bill Phillips, who was working on case files at the Dunlap Police Department Thursday, said the contract he signed Monday with the city is for a 10-week period. Phillips is working with Dunlap police investigator Wallace Cunningham.
Phillips retired in March 2017 after 28 years with the Chattanooga Police Department, 23 of those years working homicide cases, he said. In 2004, he started with the department's cold case unit and became its supervisor in 2007, a job he continued until he retired. He also worked with Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston to create the cold case unit in that office, he said.
Phillips said he brings a lengthy experience in cold cases and hundreds of homicides that honed his skills as an investigator. "I can say that when I left in 2017, I was still learning," he said. Both the cases are solvable, he said.
Meanwhile, authorities also need help from the public.
Anyone with any information on the missing person investigations involving Henry or Holbert is urged to contact Dunlap police at 423-949-3319.
Contact Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.