(WJHL) – After possible human remains were discovered in a burned car last week, Carter County authorities are offering a $1,000 reward for information “leading to the arrest of Brandon Clay Carrier,” a person of interest in a multi-agency investigation.

But what is a person of interest (POI) exactly? How does that differ from a suspect, and what can police do once someone is labeled a POI? To help clarify the difference, News Channel 11 spoke with Eric Stanton, an assistant professor for Northeast State Community College’s Criminal Justice Department.

“[Person of interest] is widely used to describe a person who may have been involved in a crime and who the police are interested in finding out more about,” Stanton said. “However, if they don’t have enough evidence to call them a suspect, they are not able to take action.”

Investigators labeled Carrier as a person of interest on Aug. 25 and were still searching for him on Aug. 31. Stanton said the bar is higher to label someone a suspect, but they still may not have been charged when that designation is made.

“A suspect is a person whom the prosecutor believes committed a particular crime or crimes, and they have reasonable grounds based on evidence to make this accusation,” Stanton said. “Though the person is considered a suspect, they may not yet have been formally accused.

“As not all investigations are criminal investigations, there may be some cases where there are no suspects, but law enforcement officers still require information from relevant people.”

On Monday, the Carter County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to Carrier’s arrest without naming him as a suspect in the investigation or even confirming whether human remains were in the car. To do that, Stanton said investigators have to be careful.

“In this case, the investigators are needing to interview Mr. Carrier to ascertain any information that he might have on the crime or crimes,” Stanton said. “It is important to remember that this is an open investigation, and that the investigators are only going to release as little information as possible not to spoil any potential evidence.”

CCSO also released Carrier’s description:

  • Sex: Male
  • Race: White
  • Age: 40
  • Height: 6′ 1″
  • Eyes: Green
  • Weight: 150 pounds
  • Hair: Brown

“The only reason that we know that Mr. Carrier is a POI is because the investigators are needing assistance in locating Mr. Carrier so that they can interview him,” Stanton said. “Otherwise, it is highly unlikely that they would release any information until the case is solved and those responsible are brought to justice.”

Anyone with information on Carrier’s whereabouts is urged to call investigators at 423-542-1845.