By Hayes Hickman
The Knoxville News-Sentinel
KNOXVILLE — The smell had been getting progressively worse for about a week, but she still couldn't pinpoint the source.
Then on Wednesday, while hunting for Easter eggs with her 3-year-old son in the backyard, Tara Hanouskova took another look under the deck.
And there it was — at the back of a dark crawl space, far beyond reach, near the wall of the house — something with a pair of feet, clad in tennis shoes.
Authorities are working now to determine the identity of the man whose fully clothed, decomposing body apparently had been under the back deck of Hanouskova's West Knoxville home for at least a week.
"I really don't even know how he got there," she said Thursday. "(The odor) wasn't very strong. It was kind of every once in a while. If the wind was blowing in that direction, I would notice it. And then it just sort of got worse. And I thought that it was time to find out what it was."
Investigators with the Knoxville Police Department's Major Crimes Unit and the Knox County Medical Examiner's Office responded to the scene on the 700 block of Forest View Road, amid a small cluster of homes tucked behind the Cagle Terrace apartment buildings along Sutherland Avenue.
A Knoxville Fire Department hazardous materials team handled the delicate task of removing the remains.
There were no obvious signs of foul play. An autopsy is expected to determine the cause and approximate time of death, KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk said.
"They assumed natural causes, just from what they saw," Hanouskova said. "I guess because there was no ID, the suspicion was that it was someone who was probably homeless, or at least confused."
Amid the alarm of it all, Hanouskova still managed to bring her special-needs son back inside before he noticed anything. Knox County E-911 dispatchers later passed along her request that the emergency responders be sensitive to his situation. The police cruisers and the firetruck arrived without the normal spectacle of flashing lights and blaring sirens.
"They were very respectful -- they tread lightly," Hanouskova. "My son has no idea what happened."
She's now eager to put the surreal evening behind her.
"It's a quiet neighborhood, mostly older people and young families. I was very surprised to say the least. But it's all over now. The police will do their job to try to find our who he is and let his family know. ... Very, very surreal."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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