Local News Articles

Six Persons Seek John Green's Unexpired Term on County Commission

May 30, 2013
Dwayne Page

Six people from the fifth district have applied to fill the unexpired term of John Green on the county commission.

Those hoping to succeed Green on the commission are James Young, Anita Puckett, Hunter Hendrixson, Steven Cantrell, Eugene LaFever, and Rick Cantrell.

County Commissioners are expected to interview the applicants soon and then name one of them to serve out Green's term which runs through August 31, 2014.

Green turned in his resignation letter to County Mayor Mike Foster on Monday, April 8 stating that he had moved his permanent residence to White County.

The county recently advertised seeking applications from persons in the fifth district interested in filling the unexpired term. The deadline for submitting applications was Tuesday, May 28.

Green had served on the county commission for eleven years. He was first elected in 2002 and then re-elected in 2006 and 2010.

Liberty and DeKalb County Mourn the Passing of Mayor Edward Hale

May 29, 2013
Dwayne Page
Edward Hale

The Town of Liberty is mourning the loss of their beloved mayor.

95 year old J. Edward Hale, Jr. died Wednesday at DeKalb Community Hospital. The funeral will be Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Salem Baptist Church. Dr. Bill Northcott will officiate and burial will be in Salem Cemetery. Visitation will be Friday from 1:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Love-Cantrell Funeral Home and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until the service at 2:00 p.m. at Salem Baptist Church in Liberty.

In forty two years, Mayor Hale never lost an election, having first been elected mayor in 1971. In most of those years, he didn't even have an opponent in an election. Until his death, Mayor Hale held the distinction of being the current longest serving elected public official in DeKalb County. But rather than seek another term in the August election, Mayor Hale told WJLE earlier this month that he would not be a candidate this year.

WJLE interviewed Mayor Hale on April 4, 2013 for a feature story on his life and career that was aired on WJLE and posted on our website on April 16. You may click the following link to read the article


Mr. Hale was preceded in death by his parents, John Edward Hale and Sadie Hale and two brothers, Dr. Jerre Hale and James Hale.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Gloria Hale of Liberty. Two sons, Tom Hale of Kentucky and Jamie and wife Carol Hale of Liberty. One daughter, Sally and husband Randy Baskin of Mount Juliet. Four grandchildren, Jacob Hale of Liberty, Leah Schitter of California, Anna Baskin of Mount Juliet, and Jonathan Baskin of Mount Juliet. Two great grandchildren, Lucas Hale and Livy Schitter. One sister, Betty and husband Harry Henderson of Martin, Tennessee. Five sisters-in-law, Betty Hale of Smithville, Mary Herbert of Nashville, Judy Sandlin of Alexandria, Jo Hobson and Barbara Hobson of Nashville. Several nieces and nephews survive along with a large loving church family.

Love-Cantrell Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements. In addition to flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to Salem Baptist Church or Cemetery.

Power Outage Wednesday Morning Affects Customers of Caney Fork and Smithville Electric System

May 29, 2013
Dwayne Page

All customers of Smithville Electric System and a large service area of Caney Fork Electric Cooperative in DeKalb County were without power for about an hour Wednesday morning after a problem developed at the sub-station on West Main Street.

"We had a fault on one of our distribution meters that came through to the backup relay and that fault caused that relay to burn up and that actually caused a little fire for a short period of time there," said Michael E. Parker, manager of Smithville Electric System.

"It caused the power to be out. We were able to restore the power by isolating and bypassing the normal backup equipment. The backup relay. We've got it back going for now but we will have to do some more repairs in the future. We hope to limit any future outages to a minimum if at all," said Parker.

Sheriff Releases Annual Report from SRO Officer

May 29, 2013
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

Sheriff Patrick Ray has released the annual report of School Resource Officer Keneth Whitehead at DeKalb County High School.

In his report to Sheriff Ray, SRO Whitehead wrote that "It has been a busy year. I have made many arrests. Sometimes we tend to think the worst of our school system because of those arrests. Regardless of the numbers, I feel that the SRO Program is a great asset to the DeKalb County School System. We should not look at only the arrests and evaluate the success or failure of the program, but look at the overall results both good and bad. I have met with many students and dealt with all kinds of problems throughout this school year. I feel that due to this contact, I have helped these students deal with some problems that the school system just does not have time to deal with. I also feel that just my presence at the school does wonders for the student body. I hope that the school system and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department continues to see the importance of the SRO program and what benefits it can obtain from having it," wrote SRO Whitehead.

The end of year SRO Report is as follows:
Offense reports including follow-ups: 4
Misdemeanor Arrests: 44
Drug Arrests: 3
Assists with Patrol Division (Police, Sheriff, or other): 39
Assists with Investigation Division (Police, Sheriff, or other) :48
Assists with Warrants or Petitions: 5
Advisory Sessions with Students (School): 1,024
Advisory Sessions with Students (Family): 17
Advisory Sessions with Students (Law Enforcement): 18
Advisory Sessions with Parents: 344
Advisory Sessions with Teachers or Staff: 489
Conflict Resolution: 21
Classroom Lectures: 36
Called out from Classroom: 4
Special School events attended (Ball Games, etc.):23
Meetings attended (school or community): 9
Court Appearances: 33
Medical Assists: 2
Motorists Assists: 37
Club Meetings: 1
Others (Not Categorized): 356

Cigarette Citations: 24
Fighting: 24
Total Value of Reported Stolen Property: $326
Total Value of Recovered Stolen Property: $211
Theft Arrests: 5

SRO Whitehead, at DCHS is the county's only School Resource Officer. Sheriff Ray has asked the county budget committee to include funding for four more SROs in the 2013-14 budget so that each school in the county will have one.

Early Voting Begins for Smithville Municipal Election

May 28, 2013
Dwayne Page
Early Voting Begins for Smithville Municipal Election

Early voting begins Wednesday, May 29 for the Smithville Municipal Election.

Three aldermen are to be elected.

Voting will be May 29 through June 13 on the following days and hours:

Mondays: Noon until 5:00 p.m.
Tuesdays: 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Wednesdays: 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Thursdays: 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.
Fridays: 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. until Noon

Election day is Tuesday June 18. All voting will be done on the first floor of the courthouse.

Candidates for aldermen are incumbents Gayla Hendrix, Shawn Jacobs, and Danny Washer and challengers Aaron Meeks, Josh Miller, and Anthony Scott.

To further protect the integrity of the ballot, all local voters will be asked to turn off or put away their cell phones when entering the polling place.

The DeKalb County Election Commission recently adopted policies relating to activities that are prohibited inside the polling place during early voting and on election day.

“Security and privacy of the voter and the security and privacy of their votes are the overriding concerns of the Election Commission,” said Chairman Walteen Parker. “We felt it was time to update our policies, particularly in light of today’s technology.”

One policy adopted by the commission states that “upon entering the polling place, all voters are to turn off their mobile phones and/or place them securely in a belt clip, pocket or purse. Voters are strictly prohibited from talking or texting on their mobile phone while inside the voting location.”

“Not only is it a distraction, but talking or texting on a phone inside the voting location could be considered voter assistance,” said Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections. “There are laws relating to voter assistance and forms to be completed and signed by all parties involved. Someone on the other end of a telephone conversation obviously would not be here to sign the form.”

In addition, Stanley said using a cell phone could be in violation of the state’s “Campaign Free Zone” law.

“Voters using cell phones inside the polling place only raises unnecessary questions,” Stanley continued. “Who is the voter talking to? Are they talking to their spouse about what to pick up at the store on the way home or to a candidate about who to vote for? The later would be a violation of the Campaign Free Zone. ”

Another policy adopted by the Commission relates to actions inside the actual voting booth. The policy states it is “strictly prohibited to photograph, video or by any other method, record a voter’s actual ballot whether on a voting machine or a paper ballot.”

“These two measures go hand-in-hand and are designed to eliminate the possibility of a voter voting, taking a picture of their marked ballot, casting the ballot, then publishing the picture of their marked ballot to the public,” Stanley said.

“The Election Commission has a compelling interest in protecting voters from confusion and undue influence,” Parker added. “We feel like these measures address those issues and we think the public will agree.”

Nomination Period Underway for FSA County Committee Election

May 28, 2013
Donny Green

Donny Green, DeKalb/Cannon County FSA County Executive Director, announces that the nomination period for the 2013 Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Committee Election is underway. The nomination period continues through August 1, 2013.

"I encourage all producers to participate in the county committee election process by nominating candidates by the August 1 deadline," said Green. "We are counting on as much participation as possible, because county committees are an important link between the farm community and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We have seen a trend in recent years of increased nominations of minority, beginning farmers, and women producers and we hope that will continue."
Committees apply their judgment and knowledge to make decisions on county commodity price-support loan eligibility, establishment of allotments and yields, conservation programs, disaster programs, employment and other farm program-related issues. Nationwide, there are more than 7,800 farmers and ranchers serving on FSA county committees. Committees consist of three to five members who are elected by eligible local producers.

To be eligible to serve on an FSA county committee, a person must participate or cooperate in a program administered by FSA, be eligible to vote in a county committee election and reside in the local administrative area in which the person is a candidate.

The 2013 Election will be a transitional election for the DeKalb/Cannon FSA County Committee. As a result, we will have three (3) Local Administrative Areas (LAA's) holding elections this year. Nominees must reside in Local Administrative Area for which they are seeking to be elected. Below are the descriptions of the LAA's that will be conducting elections this year: described as the area that includes:

LAA # 3:
East of Hwy. 56 South beginning at the DeKalb/Warren county line, following Hwy. 56 in a northern direction to the intersection of Highway 56 and Highway 70; south of Highway 70 East to Center Hill Lake; following Center Hill Lake north and northwest to the Caney Fork River thence to the Smith County line; south of the Smith County line and west of the Putnam County line to the White County line; west of the White County line to the Warren County line; north of the Warren County line following the county line back to Highway 56 South at the DeKalb/Warren County line.

LAA # 4:
That portion of Cannon County that lies east of Highway 53 (a state highway that runs south from the DeKalb County line and north from the Coffee County Line).

LAA # 5:
That portion of Cannon County that lies west of Highway 53 (a state highway that runs south from the DeKalb County line and north from the Coffee County Line).

Individuals may nominate themselves, or others, as a candidate. In addition, eligible candidates can be nominated by community-based and other organizations in the county where the election is being held before the close of the nomination period, especially groups representing socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. Nominations and elections are open to all eligible candidates and voters without regard to race, color, religion, nation origin, age, sex, marital status or disability. The nomination form (FSA-669A) is available at USDA Service Centers and online at: http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/publications/elections.

Ballots will be mailed to all eligible voters in LAA's 3, 4, and 5 on November 4, 2013. Completed ballots must be returned, either in person or postmarked, no later December 2, 2013. For more information about FSA county committees, visit the DeKalb/Cannon County USDA Service Center or call 615-597-8225, extension 2.

Man Accused of Shooting Neighbor with BB Gun

May 28, 2013
Dwayne Page
Del Ray Hanna
David Wayne Dowell
Joshua Cripps
Rhonda Joy Goff
Robert Wayne Davidson, Jr.
Ivan Perez Guzman
Tabitha Gay Tidwell
Jakob  Michael Torsten
Larry Eugene Rhoady
Gregory Wayne Roberts
Chad Everette Knowles

A man was arrested Sunday after allegedly shooting a neighbor in the buttocks and arm with a bb gun.

51 year old Del Ray Hanna of Old Snow Hill Road, Smithville is charged with aggravated assault. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court June 27.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Sunday, May 26, Hannah allegedly shot a victim twice with a bb gun. The victim was shot once in the buttocks and once in the right arm, causing it (arm) to bleed. He was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

37 year old David Wayne Dowell of McMinnville is charged with theft of property under $500, vandalism, and burglary. His bond is $4,500 and he will be in court on June 6.

Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, May 16 Dowell allegedly vandalized a lock on a garage and broke into a residence on Echols Heights in Liberty. Upon talking with the owner, it was determined the following items were stolen: a weedeater and string, boat oars, tool box, tools, orange extension cord, and a yellow five gallon gas can all totaling less than $500. After an investigation, it was determined that Dowell had committed the crimes. He was arrested on Saturday, May 18.

28 year old Joshua Cripps of Hodges Road, Smithville is charged with evading arrest. He was also charged with a violation of probation out of General Sessions Court. His bond on the evading arrest charge is $2,500. He has a $250 cash bond on the violation of probation. Cripps will be in court June 6.

Sheriff Ray said that on or about Wednesday, March 27, deputies went to Cripps' home to serve a warrant on him. He was beside a garage when the officers pulled up into the driveway. When he saw the deputies, Cripps ran into the woods. He was subsequently arrested. Cripps' girlfriend told the officers that Cripps had known about the warrant.

28 year old Rhonda Joy Goff of Students Home Road, Smithville is charged with five counts of forgery. Her bond is $25,000 and she will be in court on July 17. Sheriff Ray said that Goff allegedly went to Jewel's Market on South Congress Boulevard and passed forged checks in the following amounts on these dates: $45 on May 2, $45 on May 3, $30 and $60 on May 14, and $45 on May 15. She allegedly admitted to a detective to having committed the forgeries.

18 year old Robert Wayne Davidson, Jr. of Short Mountain Street, Smithville is charged with theft of property under $500. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court June 6. Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, May 21 Davidson allegedly took a Kenwood CD player out of a vehicle on Love Colony Road. It was valued under $500. Davidson allegedly admitted to taking the CD player.

23 year old Ivan Perez Guzman of Smithville is charged with public intoxication. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court June 6. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, May 24, Guzman, holding a beer, was found walking in the middle of Highway 146 (Short Mountain Highway). An officer made contact with him. Guzman was apparently so intoxicated he did not know his name or where he lived. Guzman had previously dialed 911 because he was confused and did not know his whereabouts. Guzman had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. For his safety, Guzman was brought to the jail for booking.

39 year old Tabitha Gay Tidwell of Woodbury Highway, Liberty is charged with driving under the influence. She was also issued a citation for violation of the implied consent law for refusing to submit to a blood test and for simple possession of a schedule II controlled substance (oxycontin). Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court on June 6. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, May 25, a deputy responded to a 911 call about a vehicle sitting in the roadway on Woodbury Highway. The officer spotted the vehicle and stopped to check on the welfare of the driver, Tidwell. He found her passed out under the steering wheel. The engine was running. The deputy had trouble waking her up. After she awoke, Tidwell told the officer that she had taken oxycontin earlier in the day and that she still had some of the drugs in her purse. A silver pill container was found. Inside were one and a half oxycontin pills Tidwell was very unsteady on her feet. She submitted to but performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. Tidwell refused to submit to a blood test. For her safety and that of the public, Tidwell was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

48 year old Jakob Michael Torsten was arrested on Saturday, May 25 for domestic assault. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court June 6. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, May 24 Torsten allegedly assaulted his girlfriend on Highland Avenue by striking her in the back and pushing her down. The woman claimed she suffered a cigarette burn on her right arm. Torsten was arrested and brought to the jail for booking. The woman said the reason she did not call for help until the day after the assault was because Torsten was intoxicated.

54 year old Larry Eugene Rhoady of West Greenhill Road, Smithville is charged with driving under the influence. He was also issued citations for failure to maintain lane of travel and for violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance). His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court June 6. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, May 25, Rhoady was operating a vehicle on Highway 70 when he was stopped by an officer for failing to maintain his lane of travel. Rhoady had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. Rhoady performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. He submitted to a blood test. Rhoady was arrested and brought to the jail for booking. He allegedly admitted to the officer that he had been drinking beer.

34 year old Gregory Wayne Roberts of Midway Road, Smithville and 42 year old Chad Everette Knowles of the Loop, Smithville were arrested Sunday, May 26 after a pursuit from Highway 70 to Old Mill Hill Road.

Roberts is charged with resisting arrest, felony evading arrest, driving under the influence, and a fourth offense of driving on a suspended license. His bond is $14,000 and he will be in court on June 6. He was also issued citations for violation of the implied consent law and for failure to maintain his lane of travel.

Knowles is charged with driving under the influence by allowance for letting Roberts drive his (Knowles' vehicle). His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court June 6.

Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, May 26 an officer tried to pull Roberts over on Highway 70 for failing to maintain his lane of travel. When Roberts refused to stop, the officer initiated his patrol car's emergency equipment and began a pursuit. From Highway 70, Roberts turned onto the Old Snow Hill Road, to New Home Road, and finally to Old Mill Hill Road where he turned onto a driveway and into a front yard. Because he evaded arrest, Roberts was taken out of the vehicle at gunpoint. Roberts made an attempt to put his hands in his pockets, but the officer grabbed his arm and put him on the ground. While on the ground, Roberts continued trying to resist arrest, pushing against the officer. It took two officers to place handcuffs on him. Roberts, who had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person, told the officers he had been drinking. No sobriety tasks were given because Roberts had resisted arrest. He also refused to submit to a blood test. Roberts was in possession of an ID only license. A computer check revealed that his license were suspended. He was taken into custody and brought to the jail for booking.

Knowles admitted to drinking alcohol and said that was the reason he allowed Roberts to drive his automobile. Knowles is an habitual motor offender.

Funeral for Jacob Billings Set for Thursday

May 27, 2013
Dwayne Page
Jacob Davis Billings

14 year old Jacob Davis Billings of Smithville died Sunday at DeKalb Community Hospital after being involved in a bicycle accident. He had just graduated from the eighth grade at DeKalb West School. He played football for the DeKalb Saints and had made the DCHS Tiger Football Team.

The funeral will be Thursday at 1:00 p.m. at DeKalb Funeral Chapel. Michael Hale will officiate and burial will be in DeKalb Memorial Gardens. Visitation will be Wednesday from noon until 8:00 p.m. and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until the service at 1:00 p.m.

He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, Ammon Billings, Jr.

Survivors include his parents, Trey and Heather Billings of Smithville. Two sisters, Jessica and Tori Billings of Smithville. His maternal grandparents, Eugene and Linda Waggoner of Alexandria. His paternal grandmother, Teresa Billings of Smithville. His maternal great grandmother, Delores Murphy of Liberty. His paternal great grandmother, Willadine Guy of Sparta. Aunts and uncles, Tonya and Kevin Roberts of Alexandria, Scarlett Adcock of Murfreesboro, Tonya Evans of Smithville, Aleisha Fuson of Smithville. Cousins, Brandon, Megan, Zackary, Noah, Emily, Madison, Olivia, and Skylar.

The family asks that donations be made to DeKalb Funeral Chapel to help with funeral expenses, in lieu of flowers. DeKalb Funeral Chapel is in charge of the arrangements.

Jacob Billings Killed in Bicycle Accident Involving Two Motorists

May 27, 2013
Dwayne Page
Jacob Billings Killed in Bicycle Accident Involving Two Motorists (WJLE PHOTO)
Bicycle Runs Into Honda CRV (WJLE PHOTO)
After Impact with Honda, Teen is Hit by F150 (WJLE PHOTO)
THP Officers Mark Point of Impact with F150 Pictured Above (WJLE PHOTO)

A 14 year old boy was killed while riding a bicycle down Casey's Cove Road Sunday evening after he ran into an oncoming Honda CR-V and was then hit by an F150 pickup truck.

Dead is Jacob Billings.

911 was first notified of the accident at 6:58 p.m.

Trooper Craig Wilkerson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE Sunday night that the boy was riding his bike east on a steep downhill grade, trying to negotiate a curve, when he crossed the double yellow line into oncoming traffic and ran into a westbound 2011 Honda CR-V, driven by 31 year old Sarah Atkinson of Lexington, Kentucky.

After impact, the boy came off the bike and was hit by a 2006 F150, driven by 22 year old Dalton Parker of Murfreesboro, who was traveling west behind Atkinson's vehicle.

The boy, who was not wearing a helmet, reportedly suffered severe head trauma and was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Atkinson had three passengers with her. Parker's brother was riding with him. Neither of them were injured.

Another teenage boy was also reportedly riding his bike down the hill at the time but he was not involved in the crash and wasn't hurt.

The road was closed to traffic from Lighthouse Christian Camp to Hidden Harbour Marina for several hours during the investigation.

Trooper Wilkerson was assisted by THP Sergeant Dan Thweatt, Johnny Farley of the THP Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), and THP Sergeant Randy Crain of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID). Officers of the Sheriff's Department and members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were also on the scene.

No charges have been filed. Trooper Wilkerson said the case will be reviewed by the District Attorney General's Office.

Woodbury Man Airlifted After Sunday Crash

May 27, 2013
Dwayne Page
Woodbury Man Airlifted After Sunday Crash (WJLE PHOTO)
EMS Treats Woodbury Man On Scene of Wreck(WJLE PHOTO)

A 38 year old Woodbury man was airlifted after he crashed his car on Highway 83 (New Home Road) Sunday afternoon.

Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Jack Christopher Surguy was driving south on Highway 83 in a 1991 Olds Cutlas when he went off the right side of the road, entered a ditchline, struck a culvert, and then crossed over a driveway. The car came to rest in the ditch on the other side of the driveway.

Surguy was treated at the scene by DeKalb EMS and then taken to a helicopter landing zone set up in a field nearby. He was airlifted by Lifeflight and flown to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville.

Members of the Sheriff's Office and DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were also on the scene.


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