Episode 051: Jeremy Stout, Byron Edwards, & Brandon Sheckels

August 22, 2022

Three men go missing in East Tennessee within a few miles of each other, leaving three families with nothing but questions. What happened to Jeremy, Byron, and Brandon?

Episode Media
Jeremy Stout (Knoxville PD)
Jeremy’s blue bag (East TN Valley Crime Stoppers)
Jeremy’s route (Google Maps)
Byron Edwards (WBIR)
Byron’s last-known location (Google Maps)
Brandon Sheckels (Knoxville PD)
Brandon’s last-known location (Google Maps)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week we’re headed to Knoxville, Tennessee, to examine not just one missing persons case, but three. There is very little information available about these cases, but I believe they deserve just as much attention as those with national media coverage.

We’ll start with the case of 37-year-old Jeremy Stout. On Saturday, May 7, 2022, Jeremy called his parents, Lisa and Jeff Stout, to let them know that he would be coming home for Mother’s Day. This was a big deal for Jeremy and for his family – Jeremy had been battling addiction for a long time, and his journey toward sobriety had been an emotional roller coaster. But throughout it all, Jeremy had his family’s support. Lisa told local news outlet WBIR, “I never gave up on him no matter what the situation, I was always there for him and he knew he could rely on me.”

So when Jeremy called a little after 5:30 that evening, his parents could hear the excitement in his voice. Jeremy told them that he had a bus ticket from Knoxville to Johnson City leaving at midnight, then he would catch a second bus to Kingsport. He would arrive home early Sunday morning.

But Jeremy didn’t arrive as expected. At first, his parents wondered if he had missed the bus in Knoxville, or if he had gotten stuck in Johnson City and was waiting for the next bus to come along. But all of their calls were going straight to voicemail, something that was very unusual for Jeremy – he was normally in constant contact with his parents, and if he had gotten stuck along the way, he definitely would have called.

Starting to panic, Lisa and Jeff called around to all the local hospitals between Knoxville and Kingsport, just in case Jeremy had been in an accident and wasn’t able to contact them. But no one with his name or fitting his description had been admitted in the last 24 hours. Jeff and Lisa continued to call Jeremy’s phone to no avail. Finally, they couldn’t stand it any longer. They called the Knoxville Police Department and filed a missing persons report.

However, Jeff and Lisa were not about to sit around and wait for answers. They immediately drove from Kingsport to Knoxville to search for their son. They hung fliers with Jeremy’s picture on lampposts around East Knoxville, hoping that someone would recognize him and call Crime Stoppers. They also went on the local news and offered a $3,000 reward for information leading to Jeremy’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, investigators were looking into Jeremy’s last known movements. They knew from his phone call to his parents that he had purchased a bus ticket leaving from the Cherry Street bus stop in East Knoxville at midnight. His bank records showed that he had made several purchases late on the evening of May 7th from a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Dollar Tree on Magnolia Avenue, about three-quarters of a mile from the bus stop. It seemed likely that he was grabbing dinner and a few snacks for his long bus ride. Police believe he walked from the Dollar Tree to the bus stop on Cherry Street. But after that, the details get muddy.

Investigators were able to confirm with the Greyhound bus company that Jeremy’s ticket was used to get on the bus that night, but passengers are not required to show identification when boarding the buses, so there was no definitive proof that it was Jeremy who used his ticket. In addition to that, video surveillance at the Johnson City bus station shows that Jeremy did not get off the bus. Either he disappeared somewhere mid-bus ride, or someone else used Jeremy’s ticket.

Jeremy’s parents believe that something or someone must have prevented him from getting on the bus. Jeremy was so excited to see his family the next day. Jeff told WBIR, “We know beyond the shadow of the doubt that he would have gotten on that bus. There’s no question in our mind.” 

When Jeff and Lisa retraced their son’s steps from Magnolia Avenue to Cherry Street, they were alarmed by what they saw. Jeff told WBIR, “I know that I would not feel safe at this bus stop right here with the conditions as they are.” Jeff and Lisa were sure that something bad happened to Jeremy before he was able to get on the bus.

Supporting their theory is the fact that the Cherry Street bus stop is well known for its unsafe location. It’s not even really a bus stop in the traditional sense of the word. Back in April, the city of Knoxville closed down the bus station on Magnolia Avenue – the one that had security cameras and indoor bathrooms; instead, passengers would now be picked up from the parking lot of a Marathon gas station on Cherry Street. The new location is exposed, with no seating or shelter from the elements. The Knoxville News Sentinel ran a story a few weeks after the change, in which bus passengers lamented the loss of safety and told horror stories of being stranded for hours, sometimes even days. It’s entirely possible that Jeremy ran into trouble on Cherry Street, and that someone else used his bus ticket to leave town.

On June 28th, nearly two months after Jeremy’s disappearance, Knoxville Police conducted another search of the area near Cherry Street after receiving a tip on the East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers hotline. The search and rescue team was joined by special crime unit investigators as they searched the wooded area where Cherry Street crosses under Interstate 40 as well as a creek near Magnolia Avenue. But the search amounted to nothing.

A spokesperson from the Knoxville Police Department told reporters, “Those searches revealed no sign of Stout or evidence related to the case… Investigators fear the worst and have not ruled out the possibility that foul play was involved in Stout’s disappearance. Investigators are continuing to pursue any and all active leads on the case.”

As the time passes, Jeremy’s parents seem to have accepted the fact that their son is dead. Jeff told WBIR, “At this point in time, we’re not expecting a good outcome.” Lisa expressed a similar sentiment. “Whether it’s good or bad, I need some closure.”

Jeremy Stout is a 37-year-old white male, 5’4” tall and weighs approximately 175 lbs. He was last seen in East Knoxville near the Cherry Street bus stop on May 7, 2022. It is believed he was carrying a small blue duffel bag at the time of his disappearance.

Nearly two months before Jeremy disappeared, another Knoxville man went missing just a few miles away. On Sunday, March 20, 2022, 30-year-old Byron Edwards walked out of his girlfriend’s house and never came back.

Byron and his girlfriend were expecting a baby, and according to his family, Byron was over the moon about becoming a father. His grandmother Marilyn told WBIR, “He was so looking forward to her being born. He was so excited. He was ready to go shopping and get a crib.”

So when Byron didn’t come home, his family was immediately concerned.

According to the family, around 6:30 on Sunday night, Byron left his girlfriend’s house on Riverside Drive in East Knoxville. Byron left the house on foot, and it’s not clear which direction he was headed or what his reason for leaving the house was. 

Riverside Drive is a rural road that backs up against a rock quarry, separated only by a creek. Just beyond the quarry lies the Tennessee River. The house on Riverside is about 2 miles from downtown Knoxville, but the mountainous roads have no sidewalks and only narrow shoulders for pedestrians to walk on. There is a small convenience store about half a mile away from the house, so it’s possible that Byron was merely running a short errand, but that’s just speculation on my part. 

No matter where he was headed, he didn’t reach his destination, and he didn’t make it back home. His family hasn’t heard from him since he left the house. Adding to their concern is the fact that Byron has multiple medical conditions that require medication, and he didn’t have that medication with him when he left. 

Byron was officially listed as a missing person on March 24th, but investigators have very few leads. They do know that his cell phone last pinged on Riverside Drive before the battery ran out, but other than that, Byron seems to have vanished without a trace.

His family has led multiple searches in the area, but it doesn’t appear that law enforcement has conducted anything official. In early April, local news outlet WVLT reported that the Knoxville Police Department was trying to get permission to search “private property” with bloodhounds, but I couldn’t find a follow-up, nor could I find any indication of which private property they wanted to search.

It’s now been five months, and there is still no sign of Byron. His daughter was born on April 14th, and his family knows that he wouldn’t have missed that momentous occasion if he could help it. In a tearful plea for answers, his mother Nicole said, “I love him and I’m ready for him to come home.”

Byron Edwards is a 30-year-old black male, 6’1” tall and weighs approximately 200 lbs. He was last seen on March 20, 2022, in the 2300 block of Riverside Drive in East Knoxville. He left the house on foot and is in need of medication. If you spot him, please call 911.

The final case I want to bring to your attention is that of 35-year-old Brandon Sheckels. Unfortunately, even less is known about Brandon’s case than Jeremy’s or Byron’s. According to local news reports, Brandon was last seen on August 2, 2022, when he left his home on Shangri-La Drive in Northeast Knoxville. According to a Facebook post by his cousin Stephanie, Brandon left the house around 8pm to go for a walk. After that, no one knows what happened.

Shangri-La Drive is the main road running through Brandon’s neighborhood, and if he was just going for a walk, it seems most likely that he would walk through the circular streets of the neighborhood. Otherwise, the road leads out to a more industrial area along Interstate 40. From what I could tell on Google Maps, there doesn’t seem to be many nearby options for food or shopping. Add to that the fact that the sun was going down right around the time Brandon left the house, it doesn’t seem likely that he planned to be gone for very long.

But again, that’s just speculation on my part. There is shockingly little information about Brandon’s disappearance, but the Knoxville Police are investigating, and Brandon’s family is not giving up.

Brandon Sheckels is a 35-year-old white male with blue eyes and dark blonde hair. He is 5’10” tall and weighs approximately 175 lbs. He was last seen leaving his house on Shangri-La Drive on August 2nd, wearing dark-colored basketball shorts, a blue t-shirt, and tennis shoes. 

If you have any information about the disappearances of Jeremy Stout, Byron Edwards, or Brandon Sheckels, please contact East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers at 865-215-7165. You can also submit an anonymous tip on their website, which I will link in the show notes for this episode.

Pictures of Jeremy, Byron, and Brandon are available on the podcast website as well as maps of their last-known locations. Please take a moment to share their stories on social media so that their names and faces are seen by as many people as possible. You never know who may hold the missing piece.

Case Updates

Updated January 2023 – On November 28th, Knoxville Police responded to a report of human remains. In an abandoned school building just one block away from the Cherry Street bus stop, officers recovered the body of Jeremy Stout. His wallet and duffel bag were with him. He was identified through dental records and his family was notified.

Jeremy’s parents were surprised at how close Jeremy had been the whole time, and they expressed frustration that the area hadn’t been properly canvassed. Lisa Stout said, “It’s just hard for me to believe that someone would be in the vacant school… for seven months, and nobody noticed.” Jeremy’s father Jeff agreed, saying, “We were probably within 25 feet of him and didn’t even know it. I think God showed mercy to us by not finding him that day because we probably would have found him in a state that would’ve been very scarring in our memory.”

On a recent trip to Knoxville, I drove past the abandoned building where Jeremy was found, and I can understand how it could have been overlooked, but I can also understand how Jeremy may have wanted to seek shelter there. The weather on the night of May 7th was cool and rainy; perhaps Jeremy found an unlocked door and sneaked inside the run-down school rather than stay out in the elements at the gas station. According to news reports, Jeremy was discovered inside an electrical closet – his parents have wondered if he went in there voluntarily to prevent someone from taking his stuff. His parents have also considered the possibility that Jeremy may have relapsed, although at the time of his disappearance he was sober and doing well. Of course, police still haven’t ruled out foul play, and more information may come out in the next few months.

Updated February 2024 – On January 25, 2024, a Knoxville Police officer participating in a training session discovered the remains of Brandon Sheckels in the woods behind an old gas station on Rutledge Pike. He was just a mile away from home.

According to the family, the medical examiner’s office has not yet determined a cause of death and told them that because of the state of Brandon’s remains, they may never know the truth. In a statement on GoFundMe, his aunt Stacy wrote, “We are glad to have him home, but we are devastated by this outcome. Brandon was a loving, kind, gentle soul who never met a stranger and touched the lives of many with his kindness, laughter, and warmth.”