UPDATE: Suspect arrested for 2017 rape and murder of Etowah teen
The suspect identified during the investigation was a juvenile at the time of the offense.
UPDATE: A joint investigation by Special Agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Etowah Police Department and the 10th District Attorney General’s Office have resulted in the arrest of an Etowah teen, who has been charged with the murder of a female teenager that occurred last year.
Police arrested a then-juvenile, Joseph Roberto Weilzen, and charged him with felony murder and aggravated rape in the death of Kelsey Burnette in 2017.
According to a TBI affidavit released by the Etowah Police Department, Weilzen raped and killed Burnette and dumped her body on Charles Street in Etowah.
The cause of death severe cranial injury tdue to blunt force trauma, according to the affadavit.
The suspect was booked into the McMinn County Jail, where he is being held on a $200,000 bond, with a court date of June 25.
PREVIOUS STORY: The parents of a young woman found dead in Etowah say they're frustrated and upset.
They want to know what happened to their daughter nearly three months ago.
No arrests have been made in this case and Burnette’s family and friends feel uneasy about when they'll have more answers. They hope Saturday's rally will get attention of investigators.
18-year-old, Kelsey Burnette was found dead in a residential area near Charles Street on July 4th.
Many friends and family still can't imagine anyone who would want to kill Burnette.
“She was loved by many not just family if they met her they never forgot her and that's what we're doing this for to show her that we're not going to forget her,” said Virginia Burnette.
Nearly three months after Burnette's death it was ruled a homicide the family still doesn't have the answers they're looking for
So they have taken to the streets of Etowah asking for justice for Kelsey.
“Same song and dance every time we call it's a repeat of everything,” said David Burnette. “They claim they got all this evidence and all the forensics stuff. My personal opinion somebody should be in jail.”
Burnette's parents David and Virginia call police multiple times just to get any information for closure and family members still haven't had a proper funeral for Burnette
“That's what's making it real hard it bout makes it almost where it's not believable because we've not got anything other than a phone call,” said David Burnette.
More than 20 family members gathered for this rally to send a message.
“We want the person that done this to know that our family is not gonna quit until they're arrested for it,” said Virginia Burnette.
The family says they're planning a memorial service for Kelsey Burnette but a date has not been set.
PREVIOUS STORY: After more than 3 months, we are learning the death of an 18 year old Etowah woman was no accident.
Friday, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation revealed it is investigating Kelsey Burnette's death as a homicide, but are not releasing details about how she died.
Burnette's friends and family members tell Channel 3 the community is being left in the dark about how Burnette died and who may be responsible.
"She was so gullible,” Kylee Palmer recalled, “I could tell you so many stories about her."
Those stories are now memories Palmer will treasure forever.
It's been nearly 3 months since Palmer has seen or talked to her friend, Kelsey Burnette.
"I'm trying not to let her name die," Palmer said through tears.
It's not easy to talk about, but her memory is still very much alive.
"She was all about making other people feel good,” Palmer said.
Burnette went missing at the beginning of July.
"I never thought I’d be walking the streets, giving out fliers for my best friend," Palmer said remembering the day she was searching for her friend.
Burnette’s body was found just days later. Investigators have released no information about how she died, and Palmer said that's the hardest part.
"It upsets me and it kind of makes me mad because they haven't released her body and we still haven't laid her to rest," Palmer said.
Friends and family are asking the community to gather for a rally Saturday, September 23, calling for officials to tell them more.
"We're trying to get answers for why and who," urged Palmer.
Palmer is also remembering Burnette in another way- bracelets. While she wishes for more time, stretched across her wrist Burnette’s name is printed on a bracelet. She’s been selling them to friends and family.
For Palmer, the bracelet is a constant reminder of why she is continuing to fight for her friend.
"She's not going to be forgotten,” urged Palmer, “I'll do whatever I’ve got to do to keep her name alive."
The rally next Saturday will be held at the Little Shop of Music in Etowah. Family is asking anyone who attends to bring posters to write on.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation tells Channel 3 that State Medical Examiner's office has determined Kelsey Burnette's death to be homicide.
That ruling was made earlier this week. Burnette's body was found on July 4th on Charles Street in Etowah.
The investigation into the death of Kelsey Burnette remains active and ongoing.
The TBI encourages anyone who may have information about Kelsey Burnette's homicide to call 1-800-TBI-FIND with that information.
PREVIOUS STORY: As a community remembers an Etowah teen tonight, we're getting to know the young woman who is bringing them together.
The TBI identified 18-year-old Kelsey Burnette as the person found dead in the residential area near Charles Street.
Friendly, energetic, and always smiling are how people describe the McMinn Central High School graduate.
They're holding those memories close after learning the class of 2017 lost one of their own on Tuesday.
"For a small community like this, for something like this to happen, it impacts everyone. Everybody is greatly saddened," Mickey Blevins, McMinn County Director of Schools said.
Blevins said there's been an outpouring of support for Kelsey Burnette's family.
As family and friends wait for answers surrounding her death, she's being remembered for much more.
"She was a fine young lady. Everybody that knew her talked about how sweet she was and what a bubbly personality," Blevins said.
Kelsey's impact is what led Pastor Mark Wade to offer up his church's parking lot for a vigil.
Friends will light candles and pay their respects to family members.
"I think the fact that it caught everybody by surprise is really what's speaking to this community coming together," Pastor Mark Wade of North Etowah Baptist Church said.
Although Pastor Wade never met Kelsey, he wants the family to know condolences extend beyond those who knew her.
He said providing a location for the vigil is the least he can do during this tough time.
"We just want to be the church and the community that reaches out to these hurting people just to let them know we love them and most importantly, God loves them," Pastor Wade said.
The vigil is scheduled for 8 p.m. at North Etowah Baptist Church.
As for the investigation, officials with the Knox County Medical Examiner's Office said Burnette's autopsy could take anywhere between 30 and 90 days.
A final report should provide answers about how she died.
PREVIOUS STORY: The TBI has identified the body found in Etowah on the Fourth of July.
The TBI says the body of 18-year-old Kelsey N. Burnette was found Tuesday afternoon on Charles Street.
Officials say Burnette went missing around 5:00 a.m. Saturday.
A missing person flier of Burnette remains stapled to a pole on Athens Pike.
It's across the street from Shannon Spain's home.
Spain says Burnette often stayed in the house next door. She says the last time she saw The 18-year-old was on Friday. The next day she says Burnette's mother came by with missing person fliers, searching for Her daughter.
"She was worried. She didn't know where her kid was. She said she never did anything like this before. She was just praying that they would find her," said Spain. "I was just thinking about the family and what they were going through. I was glad to hear they found the body now if they can find who did it they can get justice."
Investigators have not said how the home on Athens Pike connects to Burnette's death, but on Wednesday, crime scene tape stretched around the home as investigators searched in and around it. They say Burnette's body was found on Charles Street, which is a half block away.
McDonald's manager Jacob Beasley and employee Austin Linander say the restaurant hasn't been the same since Burnette's body was found. They say Burnette worked there for the past about six months. The restaurant is located about a mile away from Charles Street.
READ MORE | Etowah Police searching for missing teen
"It's been very sad you know people keep talking about it. It's not really not a good thing you know how she died. It's very sad," said Linander.
"She would always come in with a smile you know always happy. She was a good worker. Just all around good person," said Beasley.
As the investigation continues, many are hoping this loss will bring the community together.
"We're all going to have to pull together in this community or this whole town you know keep an eye on everybody," said Spain.
The TBI says they're waiting for further results from the Medical Examiners Office that will provide more information on Burnette's death.
If you have any information about this case, please call the Etowah Police Department at 423-263-7088.
PREVIOUS STORY: A death investigation is underway in Etowah, TN.
Police say a citizen found the body of an unidentified woman off of Charles Street on July 4th. Investigators are working to determine who the woman is.
Neighbors describe the block as being peaceful until now.
The find has stunned everyone living in this small tight knit community.
"Heartbroken for sure," said resident Brian Cochran.
Officials have not said where the woman's body was exactly found, but neighbors woke up to blue lights, police tape and a heavy police presence surrounding a home in the 100 block.
Its significance to this case is unclear.
Investigators are keeping tight-lipped about what they know, neighbors say they're desperate for answers.
"If there's somebody running around killing people, they should let you know or at least let you know to watch out," said neighbor John Balsai.
"It's crazy but just got to pray for them and pray for the family," said Cochran.
Investigators say the body of the woman has been sent to the medical examiner's office for identification and an official cause of death.
Just three days before the discovery, the Etowah Police Department opened a missing person case for a young woman.
READ MORE | Etowah Police searching for missing teen
The TBI was assisting in that investigation. Authorities will not say if the two cases are connected.
Anyone if information that can help investigators is asked to call the Etowah Police Department at (423) 263-2202.
Stay with WRCBtv.com for updates to this story.
PREVIOUS STORY: A citizen reported discovering a body on the side of the road on Charles Street in Etowah Tuesday.
Tenth District Attorney General Steve Crump requested that Tennessee Bureau of Investigation handle the investigation, with the assistance of the Etowah Police Department and McMinn County Sheriff's Office.
A positive identification of the deceased female has not yet been made, pending verification by the Medical Examiner's office.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says their agents are investigating the discovery woman's body on Charles Street in Etowah on Tuesday.
Officials say the woman has not been positively identified at this time.
TBI's spokesperson says the investigation is active and ongoing.