Local News Articles

Plans Underway to Establish Freshman Academy at DCHS

February 28, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Plans are in the making to establish a Freshman Academy at DeKalb County High School, possibly starting with the 2007-2008 school year.

Supervisor of Instruction Carol Hendrix says the purpose of the Freshman Academy is to help first time high school students make the transition.\" The freshman year has never been easy for students. Research shows that among high school students, 9th graders have the most difficult time with academics and transitioning into a new environment. Research has also shown that the best way to solve this problem is for freshmen to transition into a small learning community, specifically a freshman academy. Freshman year has also been identified as a year that students have the greatest problems with the greatest possibility of failure and risk of not being promoted to the next grade and eventually dropping out of school.\"

\"The concept of the freshman academy is relatively simple. The academy operates as a school within a school as it will operate in DeKalb County High School. Students are grouped together to take core courses with the same group of teachers increasing the support received from those teachers.\"

\"Students will have the advantage of a different bell system, a different lunch schedule, and they will have all their classes in one specific area in the building. Students will attend all extracurricular activities such as band, basketball, baseball, etc along with the other student population. We're hoping clubs and events will also be developed for students in the freshman academy. This will include all first time students at DCHS if we implement it this next year.\"

\"This past year and the two years previous, a team from this county visited some of the freshman academies in the state and we decided that this would really be good for our school.\"

Murfreesboro Man Seriously Injured In Motorcycle-Pickup Truck Crash

March 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A Murfreesboro man was seriously injured in a motorcycle and pickup truck collision Wednesday afternoon outside the city limits in front of DeKalb Market on Highway 70.

Trooper Allen England of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 56 year old William Cope, the operator of a 2004 Harley Davidson motorcycle, was airlifted from the scene by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga with serious injuries, especially to his leg.

Trooper England says the accident occurred at 2:45 p.m. when 61 year old Herbert Smallwood of Gainesboro, driving east on Highway 70 in a 1999 Ford Ranger, attempted to make a left turn into the parking lot of DeKalb Market. As he made his turn, Smallwood crossed into the path of Cope's motorcycle, which was traveling west on Highway 70.

Trooper England says Smallwood was cited for failure to yield. He was not injured.

The crash was investigated by Trooper England with assistance from Trooper Keith Maddox. Others providing assistance were members of the DeKalb County and Smithville Volunteer Fire Departments, DeKalb EMS, Sheriff's Deputies, and a Smithville Police Officer.

Investigator Elliott Named

March 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Investigator William Elliott, member of the Smithville Police Department, has been named \"Officer of the Month\".

Signed by Chief Thomas J. Stufano, Mayor Taft Hendrixson, and Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks, the commendation states that \" On behalf of the City of Smithville Police Department I would like to commend you for your recent actions and diligent efforts in your capacity as Police Investigator. Your determination and efforts this month in handling numerous drug investigations and subsequent seizures of property relating to drug activity has resulted in the successful prosecution of offenders that sold drugs within the city of Smithville.\"

\"Due to your professional training, the many hours of dedicated service on your own time and the professionalism displayed during prosecution of these crimes, know that you are making a difference for the citizens of Smithville in our joint efforts to deter drugs in our community. Your expertise enabled the citizens of Smithville, your fellow co-workers and guests of our area to know that their call for ZERO tolerance on drugs is working. You have served with distinction and are a credit to your professionalism as a Smithville Police Officer.\"

\"Additionally, your work ethic and tenacity during the month of February has shown your true commitment to the citizens we serve and your fellow officers.\"

\"I appreciate your input and current performance and for that you are hereby formally recognized and commended with a copy of this Commendation becoming apart of your permanent personnel record for all to see.\"

\"Congratulations on a job well done!\"

Sheriff's Department Makes Arrest In Recent Theft and Vandalism Cases

March 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has charged one man with several recent burglaries and vandalisms and more charges and arrests may be forthcoming.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 39 year old Alton David Estes of Circle Drive, Dowelltown is charged with one count of burglary, four counts of theft, and three counts of vandalism. He is under a $35,000 bond and will be in General Sessions Court on the charges March 8th.

Sheriff Ray says Estes was arrested on Tuesday after officers went to his home to execute a search warrant looking for stolen items. He says on January 15th while the business was closed, Estes broke a door upon entry to the Clover Leaf Restaurant in Liberty and stole $60 in cash. He is charged in that case with burglary and theft of property under $500.

On January 31st, Sheriff Ray says Estes went to Tennessee Barn Builders on Highway 70 near Smithville, where he broke into a soft drink vending machine to get the change. On the same night, Sheriff Ray says Estes went to DeKalb Farmers Coop, where he broke into two soft drink vending machines and stole some change. Estes is charged with two counts of vandalism over $1,000 and theft under $500 in those cases.

On February 25th, Sheriff Ray says Estes went to Prichard's Foods on Highway 53 in Alexandria, where he broke into two soft drink vending machines and stole $150 worth of change. He is charged with vandalism over $1,000 and theft under $500 in the case.

Meanwhile, Estes' wife, Cassandra Robinson of Circle Drive, Dowelltown is charged in a separate case of driving under the influence, driving on a revoked license (2nd offense), and leaving the scene of an accident. Sheriff Ray says Robinson was recently involved in a wreck on Highway 70 but fled the scene as officers arrived. They later learned her identity and arrested her on Monday, February 26th. She is under a $6,000 bond and her court date is March 22nd.

Sheriff Ray says 52 year old Charles Earl West of Pine Grove Road, Smithville was arrested February 22nd for violation of the sex offender registration act because he failed to report on time. His bond is $10,000 and he will appear in court on the charge March 8th

Alexandria Mayor Announces Decision To Resign Effective In September

March 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Alexandria Mayor David Cripps has announced his resignation, effective September 25th.

Cripps was appointed Mayor by the Alexandria Aldermen shortly after the elected Mayor Clara Lee Vantrease resigned last summer.

In a prepared statement, Cripps says \"When I accepted the position of Mayor, I accepted it until the next General Election, at which time, a Mayor could be elected, but after speaking with the Election Commission and reviewing the City Charter, I realized that I would have to fulfill the unexpired term.\"

\"By announcing my resignation now, the Election Commission can be notified that a Mayor needs to be elected and any qualified candidates can qualify before the deadline to be put on the ballot for the September election, and the newly elected Mayor can take office on September 25th, when my original four year term will be fulfilled.\"

Six Candidates Qualify For Smithville Election With Deadline Looming

March 6, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Six candidates have qualified to run for alderman in the Smithville Municipal Election this summer with a few more days left until the qualifying deadline.

Those who have qualified to be on the ballot for the June 19th city election include Tonya Sullivan, Willie Thomas, Todd VanDyne, W.J. (Dub) White, Paul Young, and Aaron Meeks.

White, Meeks, and Young are incumbents seeking re-election.

The election commission reports that qualifying petitions have been picked up for two more potential candidates, but they have not yet been returned.

The qualifying deadline is 12 noon on Thursday, March 15th

Richardson Gets Eight Year Sentence For Aggravated Robbery Of Pizza Delivery Employee

March 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 19 year old man charged with the aggravated robbery of a pizza delivery employee received an eight year sentence Wednesday in DeKalb County Criminal Court after pleading guilty under a negotiated settlement.

As part of the eight year sentence imposed by Judge Leon Burns, Jr., Blake Ardell Richardson must pay $140 restitution to the victim. As a range one offender, he must serve at least 30% of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. He was given jail credit of 30 days.

Smithville Police, at the time of his arrest, said that the victim in the case picked Richardson out of a line up and identified him as the man who robbed her at knife point on the night of Thursday, September 29, 2005 in front of a Webb Street residence.

According to police, a call was placed from a pay phone at Mapco Express to Paparoni's on East Broad Street between eight and nine p.m. that night by a male who falsely identified himself.

The caller gave his address as 111 Webb Street, but police say he did not reside there.

Upon her arrival, the employee making the pizza delivery got out of her vehicle, and was met near the front steps of the home by the robber who displayed a knife and ordered her to hand over her money and the pizza. He then went to her car, turned the engine off, threw the car keys into the yard, and fled on foot.

Police say the robber went around toward the rear of the house and was last seen in the area of Calhoun Street behind Pizza Hut and Mapco Express. He got away with the pizza and $35 in cash. The victim was not injured.

Police say during the investigation they received a tip that Richardson might be a suspect in the crime.

Officers also viewed the video tape from surveillance cameras at the Mapco Express, and on the night of the crime, Richardson could be seen in the store only minutes before the phone call was placed to Paparoni's, and he was wearing the same type of clothing described by the victim.

Police say a witness in the case told police that while Richardson was allegedly committing the robbery, another man was in the getaway vehicle, waiting on Richardson in the area of Mapco Express. After the robbery, Richardson allegedly left the scene of the crime, walked to the Mapco Express area, got in the vehicle with the other man, and fled.

In other cases, 46 year old Ricky A. Ashford, Sr. pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and theft over $1,000. He received a five year sentence in the burglary case and four years on the theft charge. The cases are to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to any other sentence against him. In this case,. Ashford will serve a total of nine months, and then be on probation. He must make restitution and perform 100 hours of community service work and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the prescribed treatments. This sentence will begin once he is released from a General Sessions Court case against him in which he is serving 11 months and 29 days.

26 year old Joshua H. Craig pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated burglary and was ordered to serve six years. All counts are to run concurrently with each other and with another sentence he is now serving. He was given jail credit from February 18th, 2005 until now. Craig must also make restitution of $25,605 to one victim and $3,000 to another.

19 year old Justin M. Cripps, charged with theft over $1,000, was granted judicial diversion. He will be on probation for a period of three years. He must pay restitution of $8,744, perform 100 hours of community service work, and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the prescribed treatments.

19 year old Andrew L. Hutchens, charged with theft over $1,000, was granted judicial diversion. He will be on probation for three years. He must make restitution of $8,744, and perform 100 hours of community service work.

William R. Cantrell pleaded guilty to evading arrest and possession of drug paraphernalia. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended. He was fined $150 and will be on probation under DOC community corrections supervision. Cantrell was given jail credit of 166 days.

43 year old Raymond D. Martin pleaded guilty to simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana) and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to PSI probation. He was fined $250 and must perform 25 hours of community service work and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the prescribed treatment.

26 year old Terry B. Maynard pleaded guilty to attempted forgery and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days all suspended to probation. He must perform 100 hours of community service work and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the prescribed treatments. Maynard was given jail credit of seven days.

19 year old Brian D. Thomason pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, burglary of an automobile, and vandalism. He received a four year sentence on the aggravated burglary charge, two years for the burglary of an auto, and 11 months and 29 days in the vandalism case. All the cases are to run concurrently. Thomason will serve six months and then be on probation. He must perform 100 hours of community service work and make restitution. He was given jail credit of 154 days.

Two Arrested By Sheriff's Department in Separate Cases of Burglary and Harassment

March 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has apparently solved a recent burglary and theft as well as a separate case of harassment with the arrest of two people.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 23 year old Bobby Vaughn of Murfreesboro is charged with theft over $1,000, aggravated burglary, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Vaughn is accused of breaking into a residence on Pea Ridge and stealing $2,675 worth of items from the home.

Vaughn faces a contributing charge because he allowed a minor to go with him and participate in the crime.

Bond for Vaughn is set at $40,000.

Meanwhile, 30 year old Brian Lee Adams of Cecil Hale Road, Smithville is charged with harassment after he allegedly went to the home of a female relative and placed a letter containing sexually suggestive remarks on her vehicle.

During questioning, Sheriff Ray says Adams gave a statement implicating himself in the crime..

His bond is set at $1,000.

James Pleads Guilty To 15 Counts of Wire Fraud- Faces Possible 8-10 Year Federal Prison Sentence

March 2, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

With attorney Hilton Conger by his side, B. Don James stood before U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell in Nashville Friday afternoon and pleaded guilty to all 15 counts of wire fraud totaling more than $1.8 million dollars as charged in the indictment against him.

While each count carries a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000, Judge Campbell announced during the hearing that the anticipated recommended sentencing range, under the plea agreement, is 97 months to 121 months imprisonment and a fine range of $15,000 to $150,000. The court may also impose an additional fine amount to cover all or part of the costs of any term of incarceration, supervised release, or probation as provided by federal law.

James has not yet been sentenced. That will come during a sentencing hearing set for Friday, May 25th at 1:00 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Nashville.

James will remain free on his current conditions of release pending further order of the court.

During the hearing, Judge Campbell summarized the charges in the indictment and then asked James to tell the court in his own words what he did that led to these offenses. James replied, \" I was proposing to do things with the investors money that I didn't do. I didn't think it would fail, but I was wrong.\"

Judge Campbell asked James if he was under the influence of any medication that would keep him from understanding the charges against him or the terms of his plea. James answered that he was taking prescribed medication for high blood pressure, ulcers, and a mental condition, but that he only took those medicines at night and that they had no affect on his mental state during the hearing.

Investigator Terry Hembree of the 13th Judicial District presented a summary of the prosecution's case against James, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Williamson.

Hembree told the court that \"From on or about 1997 up to and including on or about 2004, James defrauded investors by telling them that their funds would be used to purchase premium financing contracts when in fact James did not intend to use the funds in that manner. In fact, from at least 1997, Investors Insurance Finance did not invest any funds in premium financing contracts.\"

James operated an insurance-related business known as \"B. Don James & Son's Insurance\" and another business known as \"Investors Insurance Finance\" which was brokering investment in insurance premium financing.

According to Hembree, \" James made additional representations to potential investors that if they invested their funds with Investors Insurance Finance, he would invest their funds in premium financing contracts, that the investors would received fixed and guaranteed rates of return, and that the only way that the investors could lose the money that they invested with Investors Insurance Finance would be if James himself stole it.\"

\"In fact, James knew that there were no guaranteed rates of return because he was not investing the money in the manner promised, and that even if he had invested the money that way, he could not have guaranteed the rates of return promised. In order to convince his investors that their money was invested in the manner James represented, he made payments to his investors which he represented to be interest payments accruing as a result of premium finance contracts that James had purportedly purchased on the investors' behalf when, in actuality, the funds used to make the supposed interest payments were other investors' funds that James was using to disguise the fact that he had not invested any funds in premium financing contracts.\"

Hembree explained that on at least fifteen occasions, James caused interstate wire communications to be transmitted from Tennessee to Alabama in order to make deposits of investors funds totaling more than $1.8 million dollars although the total loss caused by the instant fraud, including conduct not charged in the indictment, exceeded $7 million dollars. In addition, more than 50 people were defrauded by James' scheme.\"

The wire fraud apparently amounted to James making deposits in a local bank, which were later electronically transferred to a bank location in another state.

Only two of the investors were present for Friday's hearing but neither of them were asked to speak during the proceedings.

Family Escapes Burning Home Unharmed But Loses All Belongings In Midnight Fire

March 3, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A fire late Friday night destroyed the home of Jerry Ashford at 215 West Spring Street, Smithville.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department received the call around 11:39 p.m. but the fire was well underway by that time and they could not save the home.

Ashford and his wife and son were sleeping at the time of the fire but awoke to the smoke and were able to escape the burning house just in time without injury. However, at least one of the family dogs died in the blaze.

In addition to the home, the family lost all their belongings in the fire.

The cause of the blaze was undetermined at last report.

In addition to city fire fighters, others at the scene included members of the Smithville Police Department and DeKalb EMS.

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