In 2015, TPIA awarded its third annual "Investigator of the Year"
award to Sterling P. Owen IV. Among his accomplishments, Mr. Owen received the federal National Criminal Investigator of the Year award in 1985 as a result of his coordination and investigation of the Butcher Bank Failure investigation. In 1991, he received the FBI Merit Award for his participation in the hostage rescue at the Talladega Federal Prison riots. In 2012 he received the Carson-Newman University School of Business Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2013, the Optimist Club of Knoxville presented Mr. Owen a Law Enforcement Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2014, TPIA awarded its second annual "Investigator of the Year"
award to William M. (Bill) Bass III, Ph.D. Dr. Bass arrived at The University of Tennessee Knoxville in 1971. He oversaw the development of the forensic anthropology program at UTK, which culminated in the creation of the Forensic Anthropology Center within the Department of Anthropology. This is known internationally as the "Body Farm"
. As a direct result of the efforts of Dr. Bass and the extensive research done regarding the decomposition of the human body, human identification services have now been provided through the State Medical Examiner System for the District Attorney General's Office, arson investigators, and various state, local, and national law enforcement agencies and county medical examiners for over thirty years.
In 2013, TPIA awarded its first annual "Investigator of the Year" award. The first recipient of the Investigator of the Year award was Ronald Lee Lax. Ron Lax, a private investigator working in the Arkansas area, found critical errors in the investigation against three teenagers who were accused and subsequently convicted of murdering three eight-year-old children. These teenagers became known as the "West Memphis Three". Ron Lax found the DNA evidence that proved that the West Memphis Three were not responsible for the murders. Ron Lax succumbed to brain cancer on October 17, 2013.