One year after the massive search for missing toddler Evelyn Boswell ended with the discovery of her body on family property in Blountville, Tennessee, little is known about how and why she died.
No information about her manner of death, the circumstances surrounding it or a possible motive has been released to the public.
Law enforcement officials remain tight-lipped. Recent requests for interviews about the case to Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy and District Attorney General Barry Staubus were denied.
Sullivan County Judge Jim Goodwin placed all evidence, including the autopsy report, under seal, keeping the public from knowing the circumstances leading to her death. Staubus has declined releasing additional details and confirmed the autopsy report is still under seal this month.
Indictments, a criminal affidavit and a few public statements provide few details into the case, which began in February 2020, when Evelyn’s grandfather reported her missing.
Meanwhile, the 15-month-old’s mother, Megan Boswell, 19, remains in custody on multiple felony charges, including two counts of felony murder.
The case began Feb. 18, when Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office Detective Tracy Haraz said she received a Tennessee Department of Children’s Services referral stating that Evelyn had not been seen since before Christmas, an affidavit filed in Bristol General Sessions Court states. Haraz and a DCS case worker went to a home on Sandy Point Drive to speak with Megan Boswell.
The mother told them that Evelyn was with the child’s father, Ethan Perry. But Haraz said she discovered that Perry, 20, was actively enlisted in the Army, stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and did not have Evelyn.
Initially, the public became aware of Evelyn’s disappearance Feb. 19, when the SCSO announced it was looking for information to help find the girl. Later in the day, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation issued a statewide Amber Alert — which ultimately led to nationwide interest in the case.
The following day, the SCSO said it was looking for the occupants of a 2007 BMW and investigators wanted to speak with its occupants because they might have information about Evelyn.
On Feb. 21, a Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office detective in North Carolina found the BMW. The occupants, William McCloud, 34, and Evelyn’s grandmother, Angela Boswell, 43, were arrested and charged with a fugitive warrant for theft charges related to the car in Tennessee — a grand jury later returned a no true bill in that case, dismissing the charges, according to Assistant District Attorney Teresa Nelson.
Tips took investigators to North Carolina and Virginia, where searches were conducted, including at a pond in Wilkes County adjacent to McCloud’s grandmother’s home.
Mary McCloud told the Bristol Herald Courier that she did not believe her grandson was involved in the child’s disappearance and she had not seen the child. Authorities said they found nothing in either North Carolina or Virginia.
Locally, authorities wrote multiple search warrants in the case, but they have remained under seal and are not available to the public. The TBI confirmed it conducted a search at a mobile home on Sugar Hollow Road in Blountville, but provided no additional information.
Finally, authorities said they had information that led them to Tommy Boswell’s property along Muddy Creek Road on March 6, 2020. The child’s body was found in an outbuilding.
TBI Agent Brian Fraley said Evelyn was found in the “exact” clothing that she was last seen wearing. Investigators also found diapers, toys and other clothing in the outbuilding, he said.
Sheriff Cassidy said that since the child’s body was found, the county’s detectives, as well as agents from the TBI and FBI, worked tirelessly to investigate. Authorities said they determined Megan Boswell was the sole suspect in the case and eventually took the case to a grand jury.
The indictments claim Megan Boswell committed abuse and neglect that caused serious bodily injury to Evelyn in December 2019, although they do not cite specific injuries. The charges also claim the abuse and neglect was “other than by accidental means.”
Prayer vigils and gatherings were held throughout the height of the Boswell case, from the time the Amber Alert was issued until after her body was discovered. Large memorials, filled with flowers, photographs and stuffed animals, were established at the Muddy Creek site and the Sullivan County Justice Center in Blountville.
One year later, the community continues to grieve for Evelyn.
Kandis Crook, a mother of two, is one of six administrators for Evelyn’s Army - May She Rest In Peace, a Facebook group established early on in the case.
“We are all mothers and much like the rest of the community when we got the Amber Alert we all worried and hoped for a good outcome and as the story unfolded it just broke our hearts for Evelyn so we started the group as a way of help the Sheriff’s Office in the search for Evelyn,” said Crook, a Bristol, Tennessee resident.
Evelyn’s Army, which has nearly 5,000 members, fed detectives every day during the investigation.
“Then, when we got the horrible news about Evelyn we wanted to do something to bring light and love to her memory and that is how we came up with Evelyn’s comfort bags,” she said. “They are little bags with toys and coloring books and snacks and a note of love and support that the officers can give to children they encounter on domestic violence calls or just kids in scary situations to bring them some comfort in Evelyn’s name.”
Anyone who wants to help can join Evelyn’s Army on Facebook, where they regularly post updates and upcoming events. There is also a GoFundMe page and a PayPal link where donations can be made for the group’s efforts.
“We are still very active,” Crook said. “We are currently still putting together Evelyn’s comfort bags and giving them to the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office. We plan on doing some fundraisers to help with that once it warms up outside.”
An online petition on Change.org to ask the Sullivan County government to build a playground in Blountville in Evelyn’s honor has garnered nearly 10,000 signatures.
“I feel it only right to have the playground built there in remembrance of her,” said Diane Barnett, who created the petition.
The playground would feature activities for children ages 3 months and older and include an area for disabled children “so that all children can have a place to play and have fun,” the petition states.
Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said last week that no one has contacted him about the playground project.
After stalling in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and budget discussions, local legislators have reintroduced Evelyn’s Law, which would require parents to report a missing child to law enforcement within 24 hours after learning the child is missing.
Legislators note that Evelyn hadn’t been seen for more than two months when she was reported missing in February 2020.
State Rep. John Crawford, R-Kingsport, submitted House Bill 384 on Jan. 22, and state Sen. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, introduced Senate Bill 327 on Jan. 25. It has been placed on the House Criminal Justice Committee’s calendar for Wednesday and is to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Cassidy said he fully supports the legislation.
“Evelyn’s Law is important legislation that would give law enforcement the tools necessary in holding parents or guardians accountable for their inaction,” Cassidy said. “This law would increase the penalties against parents who fail to report their children missing within two days. I appreciate the continued work in strengthening state laws so we can hold those with no regard for the well-being or safety of their children accountable for their reckless behavior.”
The legislation would require that, when a parent knows, learns or believes that a child 12 years of age or younger who is under their care is missing, they report it to a law enforcement agency or the TBI within 24 hours after determining that the child is missing. It would create a Class A misdemeanor offense for failure to do so, according to the General Assembly’s fiscal review committee.
According to the 2002 National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Throwaway Children report, approximately 420,300 children under the age of 11 go missing each year nationwide. Of those, 310,000 are reported to law enforcement.
In 99.8% of all unreported missing children cases, the missing children were returned home or located, the report states. It can be reasonably assumed the vast majority were within the 24-hour window, pursuant to the legislation, the committee said.
Megan Boswell’s case continues to evolve in Sullivan County Criminal Court.
The case in Judge Goodwin’s courtroom has been reset for May 14. She previously pleaded not guilty to the charges and maintains her innocence. If convicted, Staubus, the chief prosecutor, has decided to seek life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Staubus recently told the court that he decided against the death penalty due to a similar case in which the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned capital punishment. In that case, Bobby Godsey, who had no criminal history, like Boswell, was sentenced to death. Godsey was convicted in 1997 of murder in the death of his girlfriend’s child. His attorneys appealed the sentence and the Supreme Court overturned it.
Defense attorney C. Brad Sproles said he continues to review the evidence in the Boswell case, which includes recorded interviews with his client. He has also told the court he plans to seek a change of venue due to pretrial publicity in the region.
Boswell continues to be held on $1 million bail in the Sullivan County jail.