The curious case of Knoxville’s “Missing Girls”

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The evolving story of Knoxville’s “Missing Girls” gained another unexpected element last week, after the two women, Heather Duncan and Anna Settle, as well as Settle’s fiance Bryan Henderson, released a video stating they had not been kidnapped as previous posts hinted, but had rather run away.

Filming from an undisclosed location, the three claim to be fleeing Knoxville as a means to fight for the legalization of medical marijuana. Though vague on specifics, they expressed indignation towards Knoxville area police for several alleged offenses, including an unreasonable search and seizure and a violation of their fourth amendment rights, presumably related to crimes involving marijuana.

Settle and Duncan both claim to have spoken with a Knoxville area officer asking to be taken off the missing persons list, and that the officer recommended they turn themselves in to a local police officer in their area.

“If and because you believe what the cops have told you that all the charges will be dropped, I don’t want to talk to you, I don’t want to see you. I want you to leave me the f*** alone,” Settle said in the video.

Duncan, whose case was handled by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, has been removed from the missing persons list after she spoke with someone there, while the Knoxville Police Department has indicated that Settle hasn’t been in touch and won’t be removed from the list until stopping by in person.

Darrell DeBusk, KPD’s Public Information Officer, says that while the department is not at liberty to discuss the contents of the video, he was “not aware of any charge” on KPD’s behalf related to Settle or Henderson.

The case of Heather Duncan, handled separately by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, was closed last Friday after investigators made calls to Duncan, whom they believe to be in California. In a statement released late last week, the office said they “do not believe foul play or coercion are involved” with Duncan’s leaving Knox County. A spokeswoman with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office says they are not able to comment on Duncan’s case beyond what was stated in the press release.

No missing persons report was filed on behalf of Bryan Henderson.

Throughout the video, the three repeatedly expound on the benefits of medical marijuana, both in their personal lives and throughout the country. In the case of Henderson, who claims to have been diagnosed with, among other things, Acute Anxiety Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, PTSD and Chronic Insomnia, getting access to marijuana was the only way he felt he could get proper treatment. In a separate video, Henderson compares his struggles to those of America’s founding fathers, who were also “considered criminals” at the time.

“We’re simply trying to find cures and help for those who could not afford it, such as myself,” Henderson said. “We understand what’s going on, and we are fighting for everyone, not just ourselves, but everyone who is suffering under these injustices.”

Addressing the rumours on social media claiming the women had been kidnapped or worse, the three reacted with apparent humor, maintaining they were safe and in good hands.

“Nobody’s being sex trafficked, no one is being held against their will. We’re fighting for what we believe in,” Henderson said.

In an earlier report from WATE, Duncan’s parents said their daughter had initially contacted them claiming she was checking herself into rehab. It was only after becoming suspicious of the call that the parents filed a missing person’s report.    

The Knoxville Police Department released a statement on their Facebook page June 9, announcing 23 year old Anna Settle to be a missing person. KPD says Settle’s current location is still unknown. Settle is currently the only one of the three individuals in the video to remain on the missing persons list.

Tanner Hancock is native Nashvillian and 2016 graduate of the University of Tennessee, a little-known school located in Knoxville, Tenn. He spent several years working at the university's student newspaper The Daily Beacon in differing capacities. When not pushing deadline, Tanner enjoys watching obscure samurai flicks or playing Go.

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