Local News Articles

Jury Returns Split Decision in Drug Case

August 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
Vester Parsley, Ronnie Evans, and Jon Slager

A jury, following a day long trial Tuesday, August 11 in DeKalb County Criminal Court, returned a split decision in a drug case against a local man indicted in an undercover investigation by the Sheriff's Department in November 2013.

63 year old Charles Ronnie Evans of Students Home Road, Smithville was found not guilty in a unanimous verdict by the jury on one count of sale and delivery of a schedule II drug (Roxycodone). But the jury, made up of 10 women and 2 men, could not reach a unanimous decision on another count of sale and delivery of a schedule II drug (Dilaudid). The vote was 10 in favor of acquittal with 2 opting for a lesser included offense. As a result, Judge David Patterson declared a mistrial in the Dilaudid case. The District Attorney General's staff must now decide whether to seek a new trial on the Dilaudid charges. An announcement is expected on October 2, the next negotiation deadline date. Evans will remain on bond pending that decision.

Attorney's Jon Slager and Vester Parsley represented Evans during the trial Tuesday, which was covered exclusively by WJLE.

Evans was one of sixty four persons named in sealed indictments by the DeKalb County Grand Jury on Monday, January 13, 2014 after a three month undercover drug investigation by the Sheriff's Department. Evans, an employee in the tire shop at DeKalb Farmers Coop, was accused of selling to a confidential informant one Roxycodone pill on November 8, 2013 and one K4 Dilaudid pill five days later on November 13, 2013. The alleged transactions occurred while Evans was at work in the tire shop. The informant, Chris Hale, was contracted by the sheriff's department to make undercover drug buys during the investigation and was paid for his services from the drug fund. Hale testified that he bought a pill from Evans on both occasions.

But Evans, who has never before been in trouble with the law, took the witness stand in his own defense Tuesday to deny the allegations and to assert that he was the victim of a setup between Hale and a former Coop employee, Chris Pack. According to Evans, Pack had been suspected of stealing tires from the shop and he (Evans) reported that to management. A defense theory was that a plan may have been hatched between Pack and Hale to retaliate against Evans since it was Pack who had put Hale onto Evans. However, Pack himself was indicted in the same undercover investigation for two counts of sale and delivery of a schedule II drug (Roxycodone). Pack was later fired from the Coop.

Hale's credibility was also called into question by attorneys Slager and Parsley since Hale is a convicted felon, having served prison time for multiple thefts and burglaries. Hale admitted to committing the crimes to obtain money to support his drug addiction but claims he has kicked the habit now that he is out of prison after undergoing rehab programs while doing his time.

Hale testified that he was working at a local recycling business when he was contacted by former sheriff's department detective Houston Cantrell about becoming a confidential informant. Hale said he agreed to do it to help fight the drug problem. But attorneys for Evans claim that Hale's motive was more for monetary than moral reasons in that he was being paid up to $100 for every schedule II pill he bought during the investigation and that over a three month period, he earned as much as $10,000 working undercover. It was also during this time that Hale quit his job at the recycling business.

On the dates Evans is alleged to have sold the pills, drug detective Jeremy Taylor and former detective Cantrell testified that they met Hale at a prearranged secure location about a mile from DeKalb Farmers Coop. At the secure location, Hale was made to strip down to his boxer shorts. Both Hale and his car were searched for contraband and he was wired with an audio recording device but no body camera. After being given money to make the drug buys, Hale got in his vehicle and drove to the Coop. Taylor and Cantrell then set up video surveillance near the Coop and monitored audio communication from the wire planted on Hale.

The video tape recording on November 8, 2013, as shown to the jury, revealed Hale driving up to the Coop tire shop. He got out of the car and went into the shop. During his testimony, Hale said both Evans and Chris Pack were in the shop when he arrived and that after speaking briefly to Pack, he and Evans stepped aside in the shop and made the drug transaction. In the video tape of November 13, Hale again is shown arriving at the tire shop as Evans is working on a tire. As the men walk through the shop, they are screened from view behind a portion of the building. In both cases, the video and audio recordings are of poor quality and no drug transactions are discernible.

After the alleged transactions were made on both dates, Hale drove back to the prearranged secure location and met with detectives Taylor and Cantrell where he was again strip searched down to his boxer shorts. According to the detectives, Hale had only in his possession the pills he purchased from Evans. His car was also searched for contraband. Another defense theory is that Hale may have had the pills to frame Evans all along and concealed them from detectives even during a search of his clothing and car.

In addition to Hale and detective Taylor and former detective Cantrell, Sheriff Patrick Ray also testified for the prosecution.

Along with Evans, defense witnesses were Elder Ricky Arnold, pastor of the New Bildad Primitive Baptist Church and Gilbert Martin, a Coop employee. Arnold said Evans is a long time member, deacon, and treasurer of the church. Both Arnold and Martin served as character witnesses for Evans testifying as to his honesty and integrity.

Tenneco to Add New Jobs with Expansion

August 11, 2015
Tenneco to Add New Jobs with Expansion
Tenneco Expanding

The Smithville area economy is getting a boost in the very near future.

Tenneco’s Smithville plant will be adding 150 new jobs by February next year with the completion of a 24,500 square-foot expansion. Work on the expansion, which is already underway, should be completed by the end of this year or early 2016.

Tenneco, which currently employs 481 workers, manufactures mufflers, catalytic converters and exhaust systems for automotive companies, including GM, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Chrysler.

The local facility has been advertising for employees for the past several weeks. Positions include team specialists, welders, maintenance, drivers and team leaders.

Tenneco recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in Smithville and is one of 13 U.S. clean air manufacturing plants under the Tenneco umbrella.
Tenneco has 89 manufacturing facilities in 100 countries.

Cookeville’s J. Cumby Construction Company (JCC) is heading up the expansion project.

Trio Sentenced in Meth Lab, Pipe Bomb Case

August 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
James Lee Adcock
Don Diamond Groshon
April Lee Hollingsworth

Three people were sentenced Monday, August 10 in DeKalb County Criminal Court after entering a plea in a meth case in which live pipe bombs were also found.

46 year old James Lee Adcock, 43 year old Don Diamond Groshon, and 37 year old April Lee Hollingsworth appeared before Judge David Patterson.

Adcock received a five year sentence in each case of attempted initiation of meth, attempted possession of a prohibited weapon, and aggravated burglary all to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to previous charges against him. His name will appear on the state meth registry

Groshon pled guilty to promotion of methamphetamine and a separate case of assault. He received a three year sentence in the meth case and 11 months and 29 days for the assault with the sentences to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to a violation of probation against him. His name will appear in the state's meth registry.

Hollingsworth pled guilty to promotion of meth and received a two year sentence to serve. The term is to run consecutive to other sentences against her. Her name will appear on the state's meth registry.

The trio were arrested on December 8, 2014 after Sheriff's department deputies found a meth lab and two live pipe bombs after arriving at Adcock's home on Jefferson Road to serve a violation of probation warrant. Upon arrival, Sheriff Patrick Ray said officers saw two men running from a barn on the premises. During a search, deputies found Adcock and Groshon hiding in the woods. Hollingsworth remained in the barn. After receiving consent from the property owner to search the barn, officers found a live pipe bomb made of PVC pipe containing explosives, a one liter one pot, a Toastmaster burner, 18 ounces of crystal Drano, 16 ounces of Kingford charcoal lighter fluid, digital scales, a turkey baster, an empty ice compress box, an ice compress pack that had been cut open, 10 hypodermic needles, a funnel, a 16.4 ounce propane bottle, an empty lithium battery pack, four stripped lithium batteries, and three cut straws. A search of Adcock's home turned up another live pipe bomb made of galvanized steel and containing explosives. Due to the discovery of the pipe bombs, Sheriff Ray said members of the Tennessee Highway Patrol Special Operations Unit were called to the scene.

Murder Defendant Arraigned in Criminal Court

August 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
Anthony (Tony) Tyrone Crews Appears in Court for Arraignment

The man accused in the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend in February appeared in criminal court for arraignment Monday.

42 year old Anthony (Tony) Tyrone Crews was transported from the location where he is being housed out of the county and brought to the DeKalb County courthouse Monday morning. Sheriff Patrick Ray and deputies escorted Crews into the courthouse and up to the courtroom where he appeared to formally enter a not guilty plea to a grand jury indictment of first degree murder in the death of 28 year old Ashley Bain, whose body was found lying on the floor of a bedroom at the home she and Crews shared at 3870 Cookeville Highway, Smithville on Thursday afternoon, February 5. At the time of his arrest on the evening of the stabbing, Crews had been charged with second degree murder. The indictment alleges that "Crews, on February 5, did unlawfully, intentionally, and with premeditation, kill Ashley Bain, constituting the offense of first degree murder".

Judge David Patterson appointed the District Public Defender's Office to represent Crews and kept his bond at $2 million.

Along with all others who were indicted by the grand jury on Monday, July 27, Crews case will be back in court for settlement discussions in September and for negotiation deadline in October.

Following the brief hearing Monday, Crews was escorted out of the courthouse to an awaiting unmarked patrol car which transported him back to the location where he is being housed.

Home Schooled Students Allowed to Try Out for Sports

August 11, 2015
Dwayne Page

Home schooled students at the middle school level will be permitted to try out for sports in the DeKalb County School System.

The Board of Education gave its approval Thursday night.

"I think we're here to support all the students of the county and I would like to see us allow home schooled students have an opportunity to try out for the school teams," said Fourth District Board member Kate Miller.

"I've had an inquiry from parents who have a sixth grader who is home schooled. This student is interested in participating in athletics at DeKalb Middle School. At the high school level this is mandated by TSSAA bylaws which allow home schooled students to try out for the local public school teams. Since the middle school is not a secondary school and therefore not a member of TSSAA it is not mandated so it is left up to each individual school district to decide," said Miller.

"I have checked with our neighboring counties and Cannon, Putnam, White, Smith, and Overton have already voted to approve this change and they are already allowing home schooled students to participate in school sports at the middle school level. Most of these counties follow the specific requirements similar to the TSSAA bylaws. Our current policy states that the bylaws of the Tennessee Secondary Athletic Association shall regulate the operation and control of athletics so technically we don't even have to change our policy. I think if we did want to adopt this change we could make our policy more specific by referencing the TSSAA bylaws and we could make those changes in the near future," Miller continued.

"I would like to make a motion to allow home schooled students to participate in the public school's interscholastic athletics in the same manner as pupils who are enrolled in the public schools. Eligibility requirements for home schooled students will mirror the TSSAA bylaws," said Miller.

Although home schooled students at the middle school level will be granted permission to try out for sports, they are not guaranteed a place on the teams. Home schooled students have to make their intentions known for trying out for a team by August 15.

Two Served with Grand Jury Sealed Indictments

August 10, 2015
Dwayne Page
Joel Thomas Hayes
Ellissa Sara Howard
Dustin Allen Hale
Sherry May Evans
Dakota James Taylor
Randi Renee Atnip
Amanda Marie Hatfield

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department picked up two people over the weekend who were named in Grand Jury sealed indictments on Monday, July 27.

37 year old Joel Thomas Hayes of Bobby Hayes Road, Dowelltown is indicted for sale and delivery of a schedule II drug (Hydromorphone). He was arrested on Sunday, August 9. His bond is $30,000.

30 year old Ellissa Sara Howard of South Mountain Street, Smithville is indicted on two counts of sale and delivery of a schedule II drug (Amphetamine). She was arrested on Saturday, August 8. Her bond is $60,000.

Both Hayes and Howard appeared in DeKalb County Criminal Court for arraignment on Monday, August 10.

Meanwhile, 23 year old Stephen James Miller of Page Drive, Smithville is cited for simple possession of a schedule II and VI drug. He will be in court September 3. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Friday, August 7 a deputy went to South Mountain Street to serve a civil paper and observed Miller smoking a joint. Upon a search of Miller, the officer found 1.5 grams of marijuana and .1 gram of cocaine.

25 year old Dustin Allen Hale of Jefferson Road, Smithville is charged with resist stop, frisk, halt, arrest, or search. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on this charge August 13. Hale is being held without bond for failure to appear and violation of probation. He will make a court appearance on the failure to appear warrant on September 24. He was scheduled for a court appearance Monday, August 10 for the violation of probation. According to Sheriff Ray, when an officer went to Hale's home to pick him up for the failure to appear and the VOP, he found Hale hiding in the bathroom. When Hale came out, he was instructed by the deputy to place his hands behind his back. Hale refused to comply. As he was being placed under arrest, Hale refused to cooperate with the officer and had to be forcibly taken to the ground.

36 year old Sherry May Evans of Keltonburg Road, Smithville is charged with domestic assault. Her bond is $2,500 and she will be in court August 13. Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, July 12 a deputy responded to Shady Drive in Smithville due to a domestic assault. Upon arrival the officer spoke to a woman who said the she and her sister-in-law, Evans had gotten into an argument. The woman said when she asked Evans to leave her home, Evans grabbed her gown and punched her in the face causing swelling near her left temple. Evans admitted to punching the woman.

23 year old Dakota James Taylor of Manchester is charged with public intoxication. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on August 20. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, August 7 a deputy responded to Pates Ford Marina due to an intoxicated man walking down the roadway. Upon arrival, the officer found Taylor lying on the sidewalk next to the road. He had a strong odor of alcohol on his person. When he stood up, Taylor was very unsteady on his feet. For his safety and that of others Taylor was placed under arrest for public intoxication.

27 year old Randi Renee Atnip of Miller Road is charged with failure to appear. Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court August 20. Sheriff Ray said that on June 26 Atnip failed to report to the jail to serve a 30 day sentence for violation of probation.

23 year old Amanda Marie Hatfield of Adcock Cemetery Road, Smithville is charged with domestic assault. Her bond is $2,500 and she will be in court on August 13. Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, August 9 a deputy responded to a residence on Adcock Cemetery Road due to a physical domestic. Upon arrival he spoke to Hatfield and a man. The man told the officer that he and Hatfield had gotten into an argument over a phone and that she grabbed his shorts. When he stepped away from her, she slapped him in the face.

Local Health Information Professionals Honored at Conference

August 10, 2015
Andrea Puckett and Tabitha Anderson

The leaders of the Health Information Department at NHC Smithville recently received the prestigious Roundtable of Excellence Award for the second year in a row at the annual NHC Health Information Conference. Accepting the award was Tabitha Anderson, Health Information Manager, and Andrea Puckett, Health Information Assistant. Anderson and Puckett both reside in Smithville. The conference was held July 22-24 in Gatlinburg, TN. The Roundtable of Excellence Award is given to the Health Information Department that continues to achieve high results in their respective discipline. To win this award, the department must have also recently won the Department of the Year Award within the past 5 years. NHC Smithville’s Health Information team won the Department of the Year in 2013.

“Ensuring that each patient’s medical record is accurate and complete is of paramount importance at NHC Smithville,” Anderson said. “This recognition is a team accomplishment because it takes each partner: CNA’s, nurses, therapists, and physicians, to assist with health information.” Clint Hall, Administrator, added, “Tabitha and Andrea are a tremendous asset to NHC Smithville. They perform their work in a timely, organized, and skilled manner. They also have a deep commitment to excellence that shows in the professionalism of their work and the way they lead themselves personally. This is a great accomplishment for them and for NHC Smithville.”

NHC Smithville offers inpatient and outpatient rehabilitative care and accepts Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, workers compensation, managed care, and private funds. The inpatient healthcare center offers skilled nursing and rehabilitation services to adults of all ages on a short-term and continuing care basis. NHC Smithville’s outpatient clinic offers physical, occupational, and speech therapy services. For more information about NHC Smithville, visit www.nhcsmithville.com or call (615) 597-4284.

New Sligo Bridge Now Open, Old Bridge Closed (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

August 9, 2015
Dwayne Page
The new Sligo bridge is open. Vehicles shown here are the first to cross from the Sparta side. Traffic was shifted to the new bridge at 12:33 p.m. Saturday. The old Sligo bridge is closed.
Vehicles shown are among the last to cross the old Sligo Bridge
County Mayor Tim Stribling and Larry Langford, Operations Technician for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Road Crew painting stripes on roadway and bridge prior to opening
The driver of this truck was officially the first to cross the new Sligo bridge when opened to the public
Road alignment to Old Sligo Bridge on Sparta side to be closed to the public and access to the old rock quarry from the road will be cut off with no parking allowed

After more than two years since construction began, the new Sligo bridge is now completed.

Traffic was shifted from the old bridge to the new one at 12:33 p.m. Saturday. County Mayor Tim Stribling and the local media were present for the occasion. TDOT will have an official ribbon cutting later in the year.

"We've been working on this bridge project since May, 2013 and we've finally got the bridge to the condition where it's completed. We have turned traffic across the new bridge and the new alignment on State Route 26 (Highway 70)," said Larry Langford, Operations Technician for the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

"It's been a long time coming. There's a lot of history with the old bridge and people hate to see it go but with progress we sometimes have to do things differently. The old bridge has been a part of DeKalb County for years but it's time to make improvements to keep people safer and allow traffic to flow better by cutting out a curve or two. People will eventually get used to this and there will be history with the new bridge," said County Mayor Stribling.

Although actual construction of the bridge is finished, Langford said work remains to be done including bridge painting and asphalt grade adjustments on each end. Motorists are urged to exercise caution in traveling the bridge while this work is being done. "The bridge is actually complete. All we have to do is some painting. We have to paint the piers and columns and we still have to paint the railing. The top of the rail and the traffic face will get painted white and the remainder of the bridge will be painted a mountain gray. We can't paint the railing until we get our paving done. We still have to do some grade work on each end of the bridge and we have to do our final coat of topping on our paving. Of course we still have to do our paved shoulders. Hopefully that will take place within the next two to three months," he said.

Preparations for demolition of the old Sligo bridge are expected to begin as early as this week.

"Hopefully we'll start the demolition of the old bridge Monday. They won't be actually blasting it down Monday but they will start doing some preparation. A lot of stuff has to happen before they start to shoot the bridge down or a portion of it down. When they shoot it down, if they do it like bridges I have seen done in the past, they will take the concrete deck off it first and they'll even possibly take some of the floor beams out of it to where it is still structurally sound but anything they can take out without it being in the water, naturally they want to do that. But they will shoot it up kind of in pieces and when it falls in the water then they have to retrieve it out. They will put the pieces on barges and ship it out for waste or scrap metal," said Langford.

A portion of the concrete piers supporting the old bridge will also be removed. "They will shoot the piers down into the water but not all the way to the bottom of the lake. The Corps will do a final sonar of the bottom of the lake and anything (piers) that is above elevation 600 feet (mean sea level) has to be removed. The water today (Saturday) is around 637 (MSL) elevation so the concrete piers will actually remain in the water. They won't shoot them out all the way to the bottom of the lake," Langford continued.

Since the bridge has a new road alignment on the Sparta side, Langford said the old alignment will be closed to the public however utility companies will have access through a gate to service existing electric and telephone poles and lines there. And the public will no longer be allowed to park on the side of the road and walk down to the rock quarry to swim. "We have no parking signs posted on both sides of the road and the access of going down to the swimming area that people have used for years is being cut off. There will not be any more access down there to it," said Langford.

The road alignment on the Smithville side will also change somewhat including the access to Sligo Marina. "When we get completely done with the new alignment going down to the marina it will actually kind of go over against the bluff. We've not got it constructed yet but eventually when we get it complete it will go over against the bluff and that sharp curve won't be near as bad and there will be some parking (area) on top (for the marina) when we get that completed. There's still a lot of work yet to do cosmetically on that side. It will change a whole lot in the next couple of months," Langford said.

Once the work is completed and the cranes and barges are removed from the lake via Highland Trail Boat Ramp near Riverwatch, the state will have a new 20 foot wide concrete boat ramp built there and the parking area will be expanded and paved. The state will also have the county road repaved from the boat ramp to Highway 70. The county will be responsible for having the boat ramp parking area striped according to Corps standards.

Work began on the new $39.2 million Sligo bridge on May 23, 2013. The contractor is Massman Construction Company, Incorporated of Kansas City, Missouri. The completion date under the contract is June 30, 2016 but according to Langford, the project should be finished by the end of this year.

Two Involved in Saturday Wreck at Liberty

August 8, 2015
Dwayne Page
Two Involved in Saturday Wreck at Liberty
1967 Chevy pickup with utility trailer, driven by 63 year old Tollie Cantrell

Two people were involved in a rear end collision Saturday on Highway 70 at Liberty.

Trooper Mark Jones of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that 38 year old Tammy Taylor of Carthage was east on Highway 70 in a 1993 Ford Ranger when she struck the back of a utility trailer being pulled by an eastbound 1967 Chevy pickup, driven by 63 year old Tollie Cantrell of Auburntown. According to Trooper Jones, Cantrell was turning toward the Liberty Stop N Buy Market at the time. The force of the crash caused Taylor's truck to overturn on its side while one of two lawn tractors aboard Cantrell's utility trailer came loose and landed in the highway.

Trooper Jones said Taylor was transported to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital with minor injuries. Cantrell was not hurt. A passenger was reportedly with Taylor at the time of the crash but had left before the Trooper arrived.

Taylor was cited or charged with following too closely and violation of the financial responsibility law for no insurance.

Members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and Liberty Station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department rendered assistance at the scene.

School Enrollment Numbers Keep Changing

August 8, 2015
Dwayne Page

Enrollment numbers in the DeKalb County School System keep fluctuating.

As WJLE reported last Tuesday, enrollment was down slightly from last year as of Monday morning. But by Thursday, enrollment was up by ten students over last year.

According to Attendance Supervisor Joey Reeder, a total of 2,909 students were enrolled as of Monday, August 3. But during Thursday night's Board of Education meeting, Reeder said numbers taken from the computer showed that district-wide there were 3,015 students enrolled, up from 3,005 a year ago.

"These (numbers) are pretty fluid and will be until Labor Day. We'll have people coming in and moving out," said Reeder.

As of Thursday, enrollment at each school was as follows compared to last year:

DCHS: 867 (up by 37 students)
DeKalb Middle School: 536 (down by 18 students)
Northside Elementary: 658 (up by 35 students)
Smithville Elementary: 569 ( down by 40 students)
DeKalb West School: 382 (down by seven students)


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