Remains found in burn pile ID’d as missing Tennessee woman; Daughter faces homicide charge

Mary Walker

MARYVILLE (WATE) – Experts with the Knox County Regional Forensics Center have identified the remains found in Maryville last week as Mary Ruth Walker, 69, who was reported missing on May 9.

The remains were found Friday in a burn pile on property belonging to Walker’s daughter, Karen Walker Headrick, off Butterfly Gap Loop Road. A makeshift grave was found a short distance away and additional evidence was found inside Headrick’s residence that she had allegedly used chemicals in an attempt to conceal the decomposed body.

Karen Walker Headrick, 47, is charged with criminal homicide and abuse of a corpse.(Photo: BCSO)

Headrick was arrested on charges of criminal homicide and abuse of a corpse.

Walker’s siblings said the pair had a troubled relationship, with Walker even filing an order of protection against her own daughter in 2012. The report documented that Headrick punched Walker in the face and she had to be treated at the hospital.

“I knew this was her from the very beginning when I found out my sister was gone,” Linda Gentry said. “I just broke down because I just knew who did it. It was her daughter. I have no doubt.”

“I wasn’t surprised because of the history between my sister Ruthie and her daughter,” Donald Patty, Walker’s brother, said. “Karen got in arguments with her over certain things and she actually beat up Ruthie.”

Dorothy Knouff, who lived with Walker for six months after her husband died, said her sister endured continued abuse and lived in fear.

“I’ve just seen her do this so many times for greed and envy that you knew it was going to happen,” Knouff said. “It was just a matter of when.”

Walker’s family wants answers and asks that justice be served for their sister.

“I was her to get the maximum, whatever it is that they can get,” Gentry said. “You wouldn’t even think to believe that someone could do this to a human being and she needs to pay the price for what she’s done to my sister Ruthie.”

Headrick is scheduled to appear in court on July 10 in Blount County.


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