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Alleged Berry murderer caught

Taylor Lee Olson, 22, of Knoxville has been indicted by a grand jury on felony murder, first degree murder, attempted first degree murder and aggravated burglary in connection with the murder of Johnia Berry, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday, Sept. 23.

Berry, 21, formerly of Bristol, was an East Tennessee State University graduate who moved to Knoxville to enter a master’s degree program at The University of Tennessee. On Dec. 6, 2004, Olson allegedly entered her apartment at Brendon Park Apartments off Cedar Bluff Road and brutally stabbed her multiple times, killing her.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen signed into legislation what is known as the Johnia Berry Act Wednesday, May 30. The act is DNA legislation that investigators pinned hopes would be used to identify Berry’s killer.

In an interview with farragutpress following his election, Sheriff Jimmy “J.J.” Jones, expressed confidence the murder case of Berry would be solved.

At the time Jones said, “We’ve sent over two hundred pieces of D-N-A to be tested, and we still have some that are out,” while emphasizing his experience as a former homicide lead detective.

“T-B-I has done really good ... they hired six more D-N-A analysis people. There was a big backlog, now we’re down to some 40 pieces that are left, that have been outsourced to another lab. ... It’s a time-consuming process that they have to go through.”

Concerning the Berry family and general public sentiment, “It’s a sad situation ... I understand they’re frustrated,” Jones said, “but we’ve worked that case as hard as we’ve worked any homicide case since I’ve been here, and I’ve been a policeman 28 years [the last 21 at KCSO after seven with the Knoxville Police Department].”

With KCSO Detective Brad Hall assigned full-time duty on the Berry case, “We will solve that case — I hope sooner than later,” Jones said.

Jones added contact with TBI and Attorney General Randy Nichols’ office happens “on a weekly basis.”

“... T-B-I doesn’t have near the manpower we [do]. ... T-B-I works homicides in the smaller counties that don’t have the manpower or don’t have the larger departments.”

Olson, authorities said, has been a person of interest to the Sheriff’s Office since receiving a tip. Olson was charged with violating his probation Friday, July 27, and voluntarily submitted his DNA.

Olson has a criminal history in Knox and Sevier counties. He was charged with credit card theft and forgery in Sevierville in May 2005.

In Knox County, he was charged with failure to give information and render aid, driving without a valid driver’s license, and harassment in 2004. In 2007, he was charged with aggravated burglary and theft.

KCSO detectives have interviewed more than 1,000 people in connection with the case as well as submitted more than 400 DNA samples. Hundreds of tips were received with each one investigated by a detective who was assigned full time to the case.

Jones said the solving of this case was the result of cooperation between many agencies — the TBI, FBI and the District Attorney General’s Office.

“This is a prime example of what can happen when law enforcement agencies work together. I thank all those agencies and appreciate all the professional, dedicated men and women of the Sheriff’s Office who worked countless hours to solve this homicide. It’s impossible to tally the hundreds and hundreds of hours spent to bring this to a conclusion. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Berry family as they now may be able to find some peace knowing Johnia’s killer has been caught,” Jones said.

Olson is being held in Knox County Jail with a $1 million bond.


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