Everett Benning was operating his jack hammer yesterday busting up concrete on Market Square while his best friend, Eugene Humphrey, removed the broken pieces with his Bobcat. As Humphrey backed away with a large chunk of concrete, Benning looked down and noticed a skeleton partially buried beneath it.
“I wasn’t real surprised to find it, you know, after last year when I had to dig that deer up Eugene paved over. But there he was just the same. He sort of grinned up at me right there where he was a-layin’ and it spooked me real good,” Benning said. “We called the foreman over to check what the union had to say about this, you know, trauma and all. So we dug it up and the corona [sic] came over from the police.”
Frances Dulles, county coroner, arrived on the scene to investigate the remains. “I’ve been waiting all week to try out this new equipment I got,” he said. “Crime is down this time of year.”
The body was taken back to the lab after forensics analysis was done on the site. The skull had a small, bullet-sized hole in the back and the pinky on the left hand was missing. The feet were encased in concrete in a bucket. “The cause of death was not immediately apparent,” Dulles explained.
After analyzing the condition of the body and other forensic evidence gathered from the site, officials determined that the person Benning and Humphrey found had been whacked.
“This would be the earliest known incident of a “whack” in Knoxville,” said Dulles. “Up until this finding, the whacking of Jim Scalia in 1886 was considered the earliest. This fella was whacked much earlier, probably on June 26, 1856, which was printed on several sheets of newspaper buried with him.”
Identification recovered from the site indicated the body was of Giuseppe Caprico, who was reported missing in July of 1856. Caprico was a road developer and was rumored at the time to be feuding with an early TDOT commissioner over placement of a Knoxville bypass for freight carriages.
The remains will go on display at the McClung Museum next month due in part to its historical significance, and also since no family members could be found.
“I reckon not to know what else we’ll find out here,” said Benning. “But I hope it ain’t nothin’ but dirt.”