Local News Articles

Kenny Gragg New Manager at Edgar Evins State Park

March 1, 2017
Kenny Gragg New Manager at Edgar Evins State Park

Edgar Evins State Park, Silver Point, has seen a lot of change in the past few years. Now it is welcoming another native son of the area as the new park manager. Kenneth Gragg assumed his new duties at Edgar Evins on January 19th after nine years as a ranger at Tims Ford State Park, Winchester. The last four years of that time he served as the park manager.

Kenny, as he prefers to be called, grew up in Cookeville, the son of Regina and Ken Gragg. He graduated from public schools there and from Tennessee Tech in 2006 with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. Earlier this year he graduated from the National Association of State Park Directors State Park Leadership School.

He is married to Amanda Ballard Gragg, also of the area. They have two children, Gavin who is 6 and Elsie who is age 4. Kenny said he and his wife will be looking for a house fairly close to the park in either Putnam or DeKalb counties.

Gragg will be the second "new" park manager at Edgar Evins since the retirement of Carl Halfacre in the fall of 2014. Carl was followed by Jacob Young, a native of Liberty who was transferred to Fall Creek Falls State Park, Spencer, last October. Since that time Ranger Mark Taylor has been the Interim Park Manager, a role he had also filled in the months between Halfacre and Young. Despite the many changes in leadership of this park in recent years Ranger Taylor, Ranger Brad Halfacre, and Ranger Justin Vaughn, with help of all the support staff, have provided the continuity and stability to keep the park going strong and providing a positive experience for visitors.

Fount Bertram, President of the Friends of Edgar Evins State Park states "We have enjoyed a great relationship with all our previous park mangers and look forward to working with Kenny Gragg. He will no doubt continue the good work while bringing new ideas and leadership. Please drop by to say hello and welcome him home to the community."

Three Boy Scouts Advance at the last Court of Honor

February 28, 2017
Bill Conger
Boy Scouts Advance at the last Court of Honor
Zackary Cantrell moves up for 1st Class.

Three Boy Scouts advanced in their rank with Troop 347 at the last Court of Honor. Zackary Cantrell was promoted from 2nd to 1st class, Carter Dias moved up from Tenderfoot to 2nd class, and Gavin Conger graduated to Tenderfoot. Meanwhile, Sebastian Dodge and his brother, Friedrich are in the final stages of their advancement to Eagle Scout.

Several Boy Scouts also earned Merit Badges from classes taken during summer camp at the Boxwell Scout Reservation in Gallatin and from working on their own. Jonathan Birmingham picked up Mammal Studies and Digital Technology; Zackary Cantrell earned Search and Rescue, Game Design, Citizenship in the Community, Communications, Environmental Science, First Aid; Gavin Conger earned Space Exploration, Leatherwork, Music, and Wood Carving; Carter Dias received Forestry merit badge while Friedrich Dodge picked up Climbing; Sebastian Dodge earned Personal Fitness, Personal Management, Wilderness Survival, Family Life, Climbing, Citizenship in the Community, Communications, and Environmental Science; Jake Ramsey – Personal Fitness, Geology; Cody Robinson – Climbing, Citizenship in the Community, Communications, Orienteering, and Electricity; Nate Sherwood – Canoeing; Brandon Sobotka – Soil and Water Conservation; Will Stephens – Personal Fitness; Arthur Sullivan – Space Exploration; Caleb Taylor – Space Exploration, Wood Carving, and Leatherwork; Darren Waggoner – Shotgun Shooting and Thomas Webb – Personal Management, Medicine, and Citizenship in the Nation.

The next Court of Honor is scheduled for the end of March.

Adams Sentenced in 2014 Shooting

February 28, 2017
Dwayne Page
Jordan Adams

A Smithville man charged in a 2014 shooting was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Friday, February 24.

31 year old Jordan Adams, who was indicted by the Grand Jury for attempted second degree murder and reckless endangerment in the shooting of 40 year old Jamie Murphy, entered a plea to aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. Adams received a six year sentence for the aggravated assault all suspended to TDOC probation except for one year to serve. For the reckless endangerment offense, Adams received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to TDOC probation. The two terms are to run consecutively for a total of almost seven years but he has given jail credit of 302 days. In a separate case which occurred on April 24, 2016, Adams pled guilty Friday to a 3rd offense of driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on probation except for 120 days to serve. He will lose his driver license pursuant to Tennessee Department of Safety regulations. The DUI term is to run concurrently with the other sentences.

The shooting incident occurred on Juniper Lane, August 5, 2014. The case was investigated by the Smithville Police Department.

According to the arrest warrants at the time, Murphy was shot once in the back shoulder and by another bullet which grazed his arm. He was taken by DeKalb EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital for treatment of his wounds. He has since recovered.

Murphy was reportedly behind the wheel of a pickup truck and trying to get out through the passenger side when Adams, who was standing outside the truck, allegedly fired rounds from a .25 caliber pistol, which struck Murphy. A male passenger in the truck with Murphy was not injured.

After the shooting, Adams allegedly got in a different pickup truck driven by another man and left the scene.

Lieutenant Detective Matt Holmes told WJLE at the time that he received an outside tip about the shooting and spotted the fleeing vehicle on Broad Street. He followed as the truck turned onto Dry Creek Road and then into the driveway of a residence. Lieutenant Holmes said he pulled in behind the truck to make a high risk stop, got out of his patrol car and ordered the two occupants in the vehicle to get out. As Adams exited the vehicle and went down, Lieutenant Holmes said he saw a handgun fall to the ground. Adams was then placed under arrest.

The arrest warrants alleged that "On August 5, 2014 Jordan Adams did shoot Jamie Murphy in the back as he attempted to flee his vehicle out of the passenger side door. Mr. Murphy was shot twice, once in the back shoulder and once as a bullet grazed his arm as he retreated. Mr. Adams left the scene and was located by Lt. Matt Holmes where he was found to be in possession of a .25 caliber handgun. Mr. Adams cannot possess a weapon due to being a convicted felon. Mr. Adams did fire multiple shots down the road where multiple people were outside and in or around the line of fire."

Count 1 of the indictment against Adams alleged that "On August 5, 2014, Adams knowingly did attempt to kill Jamie Murphy, constituting the offense of Attempted Second Degree Murder. Count 2 alleged that Adams recklessly did engage in conduct which placed or which might have placed the citizens of DeKalb County in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury, said offense being committed with a deadly weapon, to-wit: a .25 caliber handgun, constituting the offense of Reckless Endangerment with a deadly weapon".

State to Determine Fair Market Value of Cherry Hill Community Center Property

February 28, 2017
Dwayne Page
Cherry Hill Community Center

The state is willing to remove a “public use” deed restriction and allow the county to pay fair market value for the Cherry Hill Community Center property on Cookeville Highway.

During Monday night’s meeting, County Mayor Tim Stribling informed the county commission that the excess land committee of the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Right of Way Division met in January and granted approval clearing the way for the county’s outright ownership of the Cherry Hill Community Center property.

Although the state deeded the 0.24 acre site to DeKalb County in August, 1981, a restriction currently requires the county to use the property for public purposes. After taking control of the site in the 1980’s the county constructed the Cherry Hill Community Center there. In recent years community interest in the center has waned and the building is now in need of repairs. Members of the county commission have expressed an interest in either disposing of the property or leasing it.

In order to have the “public use” deed restriction removed and for the county to assume total control of the property, the county commission recently authorized County Mayor Stribling to file with the Tennessee Department of Transportation an application for “Conveyance of Interest of Surplus TDOT Right of Way”.

County Mayor Stribling explained that this process requests the state to ascertain the fair market value of the property should the county decide to purchase it.

“The committee has determined that the public use restriction can be released if fair market value is paid by the county. Your request has been recommended for approval and will now proceed to the environmental and appraisal processes. After all necessary approvals have been obtained you will be issued and executed a release of all restrictions,” according to a letter to the county from TDOT’s Right of Way Division.

“The way they explained it was they will send an individual out from the state and they will take a look at the Cherry Hill property. If they think the value of it is below $10,000 then the state TDOT office in Chattanooga will come up and do the appraisal on the land only. If they think the property is valued at more than $10,000 then they would get an independent appraiser to come up. If we do buy the property at fair market value then that restriction for public use will be removed from the deed,” said County Mayor Stribling.

The county is not required to buy the property from the state even after the fair market value is determined.

Nichols Gets Five Years In Auto Burglary and Drug Cases

February 28, 2017
Dwayne Page
Robert Lee Nichols, Jr.

A man who was nabbed in a Smithville Police Department undercover drug investigation and months later allegedly burglarized a pickup truck was in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday.

37 year old Robert Lee Nichols, Jr. appeared before Judge Gary McKenzie and entered a plea to sale of a schedule II drug (less than 0.5 grams) and auto burglary. He received a three year sentence in the drug case suspended to 180 days to serve and he was fined $2,000. Nichols got a two year sentence for the auto burglary to serve 19 days. The two terms are to run consecutively for a total of five years but he will be on TDOC probation. He was given jail credit of 106 days. Nichols is to make $48 restitution to the Smithville Police Department and $75 to other victims in the case.

Nichols was one of eight persons indicted as a result of an undercover drug investigation by the Smithville Police Department

“On January 14, 2016 the Police Department launched an undercover drug investigation based on several complaints of illegal drugs being sold throughout the city. Using a confidential informant we were able to make several buys throughout the city. The cases were presented to the DeKalb County Grand Jury on Monday, November 28, 2016 and sealed indictments were returned against these individuals,” Chief Mark Collins told WJLE.

The indictment against Nichols and a co-defendant alleges that on February 22, 2016 they did unlawfully and knowingly sell and or deliver a controlled substance, to wit: Methamphetamine, a schedule II controlled substance, in an amount under 0.5 grams.

Meanwhile, in November, 2016 Nichols was arrested for auto burglary by the Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff Patrick Ray, said that on Wednesday, November 9, 2016 Nichols and another person broke into a 1998 Nissan Frontier and stole a machete and foldup chair. Entry was made by breaking out the glass window to the truck. The next day, Thursday November 10, Nichols was arrested after being stopped near his home on Hodges Road for driving on a revoked license. The case was investigated by a detective of the sheriff’s department.

County Applies for Clean TN Energy Grant to Install LED lights at Courthouse and Jail

February 28, 2017
Dwayne Page
DeKalb County Jail

Existing fluorescent lights in the DeKalb County Courthouse and the Jail will be replaced and retrofitted with light-emitting diode (LED) lights if the county is approved for a Clean Tennessee Energy Grant through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

During Monday night’s meeting, the county commission adopted a resolution making application for the $37,856 grant through the Upper Cumberland Development District. The county’s matching obligation would be 50% or $18,928.

Environmentally, the reduction in energy usage from this project is expected to result in lowered power plant emissions and overall a lower carbon footprint. Fiscally, the reduction in energy usage will mean lower monthly bills to the county, allowing the savings to be reinvested in other ways.

A TVA Energy walk through lighting audit was conducted recently at the courthouse and jail as a service of Smithville Electric System to provide an energy usage analysis and the potential impact of LED lighting retrofits. Many of the lights throughout the courthouse are currently comprised of T-8, T-12, T-8 U tubes, and linear fluorescent bulbs that use a great deal of electricity. The jail also has a combination of obsolete T-8 and T-12 bulbs. LED lights, while more expensive, last much longer, consume less electricity and will make the buildings more energy efficient.

The total material cost for lighting retrofits at the courthouse would be $7,833 resulting in a simple payback of 1.3 years (76% rate of return) representing a 19.5% reduction in the annual energy cost at the courthouse. Similarly, material costs at the jail would be $5,767 resulting in a simple payback of 1.1 years (92.2% rate of return) reducing energy costs by 20.8% at the jail.

The estimated reduction in electric energy consumption from the project is 94,881 kilowatt hours per year, equating to a financial savings of $11,275 per year. That’s the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions from a passenger vehicle driven 159,809 miles or over 2.1 tons of waste recycled instead of being placed in a landfill.

Officials stress that these are estimates only and that the final cost, savings and payback will depend on a number of other factors including installation costs, disposal costs, etc.

Woman Charged in Pea Ridge Burglary and Theft

February 27, 2017
Dwayne Page
Elizabeth Nell Hodge
Ashley Geekie
Benito Saldivar Narvaez

A 25 year old woman has been arrested in a recent burglary and theft at a home on Pea Ridge Road.


Seagate Crystal Reports - REPOR_12.pdf (4.23 MB)

25 year old Elizabeth Nell Hodge is charged with aggravated burglary, theft of property over $1,000, and vandalism. Her bond is $17,500 and she will be in court on April 3.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on December 5 Hodge was involved in a break-in on Pea Ridge Road in DeKalb County. Entry was made by prying open the front door. Taken from the home was a Remington 1889 double barrel shotgun, a Crescent 1900 double barrel shotgun, a Sentry safe, and a jar of change. The total value of the stolen goods was $1,500.

27 year old Ashley Geekie of West Main Street, Alexandria is charged with failure to appear. Her bond is $1,500 and her court date is March 9. Sheriff Ray said that Geekie was served with a criminal summons on February 7 for assault and she had ten days to report to the jail to be booked in but she failed to report within that time.

56 year old Benito Saldivar Narvaez is charged with aggravated assault and possession of a handgun while under the influence. His bond is $12,500 and his court date is March 30. Sheriff Ray said that on February 26 a deputy responded to a domestic call concerning an unwanted guest at a residence on Jacobs Pillar Road. Upon arrival the officer spoke with a woman who reported that while her three daughters, ages 9, 10, & 11 were taking a shower, Narvaez knocked on the bathroom door saying he had to use the restroom. The girls told him to go away but he came inside and stood there looking at them. Later one of the daughters said that while she was outside, Narvaez pulled a gun from underneath a pillow on the couch and pointed it at the girls saying if he goes to jail he is going to kill one of them. During the investigation, the deputy spoke to Narvaez but he denied having a gun. However the officer found a 22 revolver in the kitchen. Narvaez admitted to having consumed several beers. His eyes were red and bloodshot and he had a strong odor of alcohol on his person. Other charges are pending against him.

Sheriff Says Two Female Prisoners Lie About Sexual Assault

February 27, 2017
Dwayne Page
Natalie Gail Barrett
Sharon Joyce Malone

Two female inmates at the DeKalb County Jail have been charged with filing a false report after lying about being sexually assaulted by another female prisoner at the jail.


Seagate Crystal Reports - REPOR_12.pdf (4.23 MB)

24 year old Natalie Gail Barrett of Miller Road, Smithville and Sharon Joyce Malone of Toad Road, Dowelltown are each under a $5,000 bond and they will make a court appearance March 9.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Friday, February 17 Barrett and Malone filed a complaint with the Sheriff’s Office stating that they were sexually assaulted by another female inmate while incarcerated. Detectives conducted a lengthy investigation which included viewing video surveillance, reviewing jail reports, and conducting interviews of other inmates and determined that the statements given by Barrett and Malone were false.

DeKalb Students Participate in Invention Convention

February 26, 2017
Best Presentation - 4th Grade Games: Andrew Dakas, Dare Collins, and Kora Kilgore from Northside Elementary School, for their "Let's Get Fit" game.

A group of 4th-6th grade students from DeKalb County Schools participated Thursday, February 23 in the 25th annual Invention Convention at MTSU. The competition allows students from Middle Tennessee to compete for the opportunity to move on to the national competition in Washington D.C. Each individual or team must create an original game or invention to “make life better” with a budget of $20. Eleven teams from Northside Elementary School (NES), DeKalb Middle School (DMS), and DeKalb West School (DWS) participated in the competition. Three of the teams locally received awards for their entries.

The winners include:
Judges Choice - 4th Grade Games: Zoi Hale & Karson Smallwood from DeKalb West School, for their "Droughts Around the World" game.
Best Presentation - 4th Grade Games: Dare Collins, Andrew Dakas, Kora Kilgore from Northside Elementary School, for their "Let's Get Fit" game.
2nd Place - 6th Grade Games: Zoe Cripps & Sheridan O'Connor from Dekalb Middle School, for their "Extinction" game.

Additional Participants - Games:
"The Fruit and Veggie Game" - 4th grade (NES) - Katherine Knowles, Caleb Gray, Allison Goodwin
"How to Stop Litter" - 4th Grade (NES) - Keara Milligan, Landon Perdue, Madeline Martin
"Slapparoo!!!" - 5th Grade (DWS) - Jackson Vantrease & Alex Antoniak
"Mathy- Moo" - 5th Grade (NES) - Alia Hawkins & Ian Colwell
"Through the Eras" - 5th Grade (NES) - Laila Clark & Evan Carmichael
"History In the Bag" - 6th Grade Games - Cameron Miller & Darrah Ramsey

Additional Participants - "Make Life Better:"
"Boardzilla" - 4th Grade (NES) - Ian Barnes, Tyler Belcher, Jordan Parker
"The Magnetic Powered Car" - 6th Grade (DWS) - Alex Moreno & Isaac Brown

Judge Grants Probation for Man Involved in September Crash

February 25, 2017
Dwayne Page
2004 Dodge pickup driven by 21 year old Brandon Winne
2003 Volkswagen Jetta driven by 66 year old Julian Smart of Smithville

A man believed to be responsible for a traffic accident involving nine people in September was in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Friday.

21 year old Brandon Dale Winne entered a plea by information to reckless endangerment and received a two year sentence suspended to TDOC supervised probation. He is expected to be on judicial diversion.

The crash occurred on Friday night, September 16 on Highway 146 near the Cannon County line.

Trooper Jason Cobble of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Winne was traveling north in a 2004 Dodge pickup truck when he crossed the center line into the southbound lane and sideswiped an oncoming 2003 Volkswagen Jetta, driven by 66 year old Julian Smart of Smithville. After impact the truck went off the left side of the highway, into a ditch and through a fence. The truck overturned but came to rest upright off the road.

Passengers of Winne’s truck were 19 year old Eli Porterfield of Dowelltown and two juveniles. Riding with Smart were 48 year old Brenda Smart of Smithville, 31 year old Trisha Peachey of Liberty, and two juveniles.

All were taken by DeKalb EMS to the hospital except for Porterfield who was not injured.

Trooper Cobble was assisted in the crash investigation by Trooper Tommy Cooper. Others on the scene were members of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department.


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