Mountain City John Doe

On December 2, 1977, the nearly skeletal body of a male that was approximately 51-60 years old was located near a stream in Mountain City, Tennessee on the property that was once known as Shady Mountain Orchard. He was balding, with greying brown hair that was cut in a short, bowl-type style and was wearing a green shirt with stripes (the 2 top buttons were fastened), an army type jacket with a Sears Perma Prest tag, pants, and a belt. No shoes were located.

Inside his jacket pockets, he was carrying a small plastic container of petroleum jelly, a roll of adhesive tape, a small white bottle of pills, 2 partially smoked packs of Phillip Morris cigarettes, a bottle of pills with no label.

Inside his pants pocket was a key with a round tag marked #503, 2 pennies, 1 partially smoked carton of Pall Mall cigarettes, and there was also a comb found tucked above his belt.

A few months prior to the discovery of John Doe, there were reports of two dozen or so elderly men living in the abandoned buildings and on the grounds of the Shady Mountain Orchard property. Many of them were disabled, had skin diseases that required hospitalization, and in general, they all appeared malnourished and in declining health.  Police interviews painted a pretty horrible picture of what was going on:

Lee Cohn had leased the property in Mountain City after fleeing from his previous property in Atlantic City, NJ. The building he’d been keeping his residents in while in NJ had since been condemned and demolished.  Now at Shady Mountain Orchard police discovered that they were living with no heat in the buildings of the property, and only being fed two small meals a day (a small portion of macaroni and wine), while Cohn was taking all of their veterans benefits and social security and keeping it for himself. One resident showed the County Sheriff a receipt which charged $220 a month for food, lodging, and services, his whole check was $217.50…so he owed a balance of $2.50 at the end of every month.

Charges were soon filed against Cohn, and on September 30, 1977, he was officially made aware of the minimum standards regulations for nursing homes and was advised that he must meet with local officials to “discuss” the problems with his facility. This wasn’t the first time this had happened to Cohn, NJ had also caught on to his ‘scam’ of an operation which is what lead him to Tennessee.

On October 18, the Sheriff made a visit to the property again only to discover that all the residents were gone. It looked like everyone had left in a hurry but an exact date and mode of transportation was unknown…

Police believe that the John Doe was a resident of the home that Cohn was running. I can’t help but think what happened to the rest of those poor residents that were living in his facilities. I wonder if Lee Cohn was ever caught and charged, maybe even got some jail time… Mostly though, I really hope his residents were saved and taken to a good facility.

If you have any information please call 1-855-626-7600. He deserves to have his name back.

NamUs
The Tomahawk

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