Tennessee fugitive wanted in killing of deputy caught after dayslong manhunt: Authorities

The suspect was sought in the fatal shooting of deputy Greg McCowan.

February 13, 2024, 7:17 PM

A murder suspect wanted in the fatal shooting of a Tennessee deputy has been caught following a nearly weeklong manhunt, authorities said.

Kenneth DeHart was detained in Knoxville on Tuesday, the Blount County Sheriff's Office said on social media while sharing a photo of a large police presence outside a residence.

The 42-year-old fugitive was wanted on first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder charges in connection with the shooting of two Blount County deputies on Thursday, state police said. He also faces one count of being a felon in possession of a weapon.

The shooting occurred during a traffic stop in Maryville Thursday evening, the Blount County Sheriff's Office said. "Erratic driving" prompted the stop, authorities said. Blount County deputy Greg McCowan, 43, was killed and deputy Shelby Eggers, 22, was shot in the leg, the sheriff's office said. She has since been released from an area hospital.

Authorities said they believe the suspect moved around the area over the past five days before investigative work led law enforcement to a residence in Knoxville, located about 17 miles north of Maryville. DeHart was apprehended after stepping into the backyard of the home Tuesday afternoon, authorities said.

"You can't understand how excited I am today to tell you that at 3:22 p.m. today, we arrested the man that murdered my deputy," Blount County Sheriff James Berrong said during a press briefing. "While it's emotional right now, it's a relief to the citizens of Blount County and all of East Tennessee. It's especially a relief to his family and to my deputies."

McCowan's handcuffs were used to detain DeHart, the sheriff said.

The suspect is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday morning. The murder charge is eligible for the death penalty. Blount County District Attorney General Ryan Desmond said he will decide on whether to pursue the death penalty in the coming weeks, after talking to the victim's family.

Kenneth Wayne DeHart was taken into custody in Knoxville, Tenn., Feb. 13, 2024.
Blount County Sheriff's Office

More than $100,000 in reward money was being offered for information leading to the fugitive's arrest, according to the Blount County Sheriff's Office. That includes a $40,000 reward offered by Smith & Wesson, a firearm manufacturer headquartered in Maryville.

No specific tip from the public led investigators to the Knoxville residence, Berrong said, adding that it does not appear at this time that anyone will win the reward money.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had posted billboards across the Southeast region amid the search for the suspect, who was on the agency's most-wanted list.

In the wake of the shooting, the suspect's brother and girlfriend were arrested in connection with the case on the charge of accessory after the fact, according to officials and court documents.

The suspect's brother -- Marcus DeHart, 41 -- was taken into custody Friday "for aiding the defendant after the commission of the homicide," Desmond said during a press briefing last week. He is being held on a $1 million bond.

His attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and argued that the bond was "excessive" during a court appearance on Monday. A bond hearing in his case has been scheduled for Thursday.

The suspect's girlfriend -- Carrie Matthews, 32 -- was also booked into custody in Sevier County after local deputies interviewed her about Kenneth DeHart's whereabouts, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

While being interviewed at her residence Thursday night, Matthews took a call from someone purportedly named "Janeisha" who was later determined to actually be Kenneth DeHart, according to the affidavit. Matthews allegedly told the caller, "They're here," which the affiant claimed warned Kenneth DeHart "of impending apprehension or discovery," according to the affidavit.

She was released from custody on Monday after a judge granted the request for a $350,000 bond with GPS monitors, according to ABC Knoxville affiliate WATE. Attorney information for Matthews was not immediately available.

"If we could identify anybody that helped, assisted or harbored him they will be arrested and charged," Sheriff Berrong said.