Local News Articles

Johnson Gets Life Prison Sentence In First Degree Murder Case

August 7, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

33 year old Michael E. Johnson of Sparta, charged in the fatal shooting of another Sparta man in January, appeared in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday and entered a guilty plea to first degree murder. Judge Leon Burns,Jr. gave him a life prison sentence under a negotiated settlement with state prosecutors.

Johnson appeared before Judge Lillie Ann Sells last month to enter the plea, but when she learned that Johnson had previously been treated for a mental condition and was no longer under a doctor's care or taking medication, she refused to accept a plea and instead ordered Johnson to undergo a mental evaluation at Plateau Mental Health Center in Cookeville to determine his competency to stand trial or enter a plea in the case.

Johnson underwent the evaluation later and was found to be competent.

Johnson and a co-defendant, 26 year old Tina Rose Bain, were each indicted by a DeKalb County Grand Jury in April on charges of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, felony murder, and theft over $1,000.

Under the agreement, the other three counts against Johnson were dismissed upon his plea to the first degree murder charge.

Johnson and Bain were charged in the shooting death of 21 year old David Anthony Welch of Sparta and the wounding of 23 year old Heather Trapp of Smithville. Both Welch and Trapp were shot at Trapp's home during the pre-dawn hours of January 6th on Webb Lane.

The indictments allege that the defendants did unlawfully, intentionally and with premeditation kill Welch during the perpetration of or an attempt to perpetrate theft and that they unlawfully and knowingly obtained or exercised control over property including, but not limited to, a necklace and ring valued at over $1,000 belonging to Trapp.

After the shooting, Johnson and Bain left the scene in their car but were arrested later that day in White County. They were brought to the DeKalb County Jail and after several hours of questioning, were charged in the shooting. Their car was also impounded.

Bain's case is still pending in court.

Johnson is represented by attorney J. Hilton Conger. John Pryor is Bain's lawyer

Grand Jury Returns Indictments Against Thirty Eight

August 17, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

A total of thirty eight people were indicted by the DeKalb County Grand Jury Monday including seven named in sealed indictments.

Those indicted will appear for arraignment in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Monday, August 21st at 9:00 a.m.

Those indicted and their charges are as follows:

Ruthie J. Shoemake- prescription Fraud

Bradley Kent Colter- driving while revoked (6th offense)

Clinton Jerome Maples- worthless check (3 counts)

Terry Wayne Knowles- Two charges of driving while revoked (9th offense)

Sonny Gene Smith-criminal trespassing

Samuel Wade Walker- theft over $10,000, burglary (2 counts), sale of a schedule II controlled substance and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance

Gary E. Woodard- driving while revoked (6th offense)

Terry Brandon Maynard-prescription fraud

Kathy Ann Taylor-reckless endangerment and violation of the implied consent law

Anna Lou Adams- possession of a schedule II controlled substance for sale and delivery and possession of paraphernalia

Ana Soto- no drivers license and violation of the financial responsibility law

Natasha A. Helms- reckless endangerment and possession of paraphernalia

Aubrey L. Kilgore- driving under the influence (3rd offense) and violation of the open container law

Harold Bain- driving under the influence, violation of the implied consent law, and reckless endangerment

Elizabeth Ann Chalfant- driving while suspended

Sammy Gene Taylor and Royce Avon Foster- burglary, possession of burglary tools, and evading arrest (2 counts)

Azucena Abraham- speeding 65/45, violation of the financial responsibility law, violation of the seat belt law, and no drivers license

Robert Ernest Rochefort- evading arrest with a motor vehicle, simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance, simple possession of a schedule III controlled substance, and driving while revoked.

Daniel Lloyd Billings- driving under the influence (2nd offense), violation of the implied consent law, possession of paraphernalia, violation of the financial responsibility law, and violation of the seat belt law.

Brian B. Roberts- domestic assault, evading arrest, and resisting arrest

Terry Layne Pedigo- driving under the influence, violation of the implied consent law, and resisting arrest

Martin Riley- possession of drug paraphernalia

Marilyn Elaine Strayn- possession of paraphernalia and theft under $500

Jackie Eston Trapp- violation of an order of protection and vandalism over $1,000

Sonny Gene Smith and Perry Alton Stembridge- theft over $500

Edward Lynn Taylor- driving while revoked (3rd offense)

Clinton Jerome Maples- worthless check (2 counts)

Jacqueline E. Schultz- driving while suspended

Blake Ardell Richardson- illegal consumption of alcohol

Kevin Dewayne Eldridge- aggravated assault

Audrey Kay Ledbetter- simple possession of a schedule II and simple possession of a schedule IV controlled substance.

Judge Sells To Contest Election

August 7, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

It appears Criminal Court Judge Lillie Ann Sells, the apparent loser in her re-election bid last Thursday, is not going down without a fight...a court fight!

The Herald-Citizen of Cookeville is reporting that Judge Sells has confirmed that she is planning to file a lawsuit contesting the results of the election.

Final totals district-wide gave her opponent David A. Patterson, an Independent candidate, nine more votes than she received out of more than 40,000 votes cast.

After the votes were counted district wide on Thursday night, Patterson had a six vote lead over Sells, 20,102 to 20,096 but on Friday when the \"provisional\" ballots were examined in the counties that had them, Patterson had picked up four more votes to one additional vote for Sells increasing Patterson's lead to nine votes.

The count, apparently as it stands now, is 20,106 for Patterson and 20,097 for Sells

Patterson currently serves as an Assistant District Attorney in the Office of Attorney General William A. \" Bill\" Gibson of Cookeville.

According to the Herald Citizen report, Judge Sells said Monday that \"she is working with a Nashville attorney in planning a suit seeking a review of the election results. Such a review could result in a recount of the votes.\"

The report says \"State law allows for a court filing to contest election results, and that would be filed in Chancery Court and reportedly would have to allege some specific reason for seeking a recount.\"

City Board Votes To Remove Three Speed Humps On West Main Street

August 7, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

The three speed humps on West Main Street between Juniper Lane and the four way stop at North Mountain Street will soon be gone.

The Smithville Board of Aldermen Monday night voted to remove them, apparently bowing to public pressure.

Aldermen Stephen White, W.J. \"Dub\" White, and Cecil Burger voted for the removal of the speed humps. Aldermen Paul Young and Aaron Meeks \"passed\" when their names were called to vote on the issue.

The city board, earlier this year at the request of several residents in the area, voted to install the speed humps as a pilot project, but since they were put down most of the aldermen say they have heard nothing but complaints from the public, who often travel the street going to and from the downtown business district.

Residents in the neighborhood, including Bert Driver, Ruth Johns, and others, told the Mayor and Aldermen Monday night that the speed humps have been very effective in slowing traffic on a street where speeding has been a problem and the posted speed limit is 15 miles per hour. They asked that the speed humps not be removed.

Two Smithville residents, who don't live on West Main Street, but who own property in town, expressed opposing views on the issue during the meeting Monday night.

William McKinley Jones spoke out against the speed humps, but former Smithville Mayor Waniford Cantrell said he thought the speed humps should be kept there and asked that another one be installed on the east side of the West Main Street bridge.

Mary McCoy presented a petition to the Aldermen, signed by several residents in the Smith Road area, asking that speed humps be installed on their street because of the speeding problem on that narrow and winding road.

However rather than put down more speed humps, city officials are searching for alternative solutions and Monday night Smithville Police Chief Gus Clemente and the department's new Public Information Officer Tom Stufano pledged a stepped up enforcement campaign on streets with the most problems with speeding.

Yet some question how effective the extra patrols can be with only two to three officers on duty per shift.

TBI Arrests Former Sheriff's Deputy For Rape

August 9, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has arrested a former Dekalb County Sheriff?s deputy on a host of charges including rape.

David Stanley Sharp was charged Monday by the DeKalb County Grand Jury, in sealed indictments, on two counts of rape, two counts of official misconduct, one count of sexual battery and one count of official oppression.

The TBI began investigating Sharp in June after two women came forward complaining that he had pulled them over and demanded sexual favors. Sharp has posted a $10,000 bond.

Fire Damages Center Hill Village Apartments

August 10, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

A fire Wednesday night destroyed one apartment and damaged others at Center Hill Village Apartments on South College Street.

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker says neighbors heard a smoke alarm and saw fire coming from apartments in the \"C\" building.

Firefighters were alerted around 6:30 p.m.

Chief Parker says the apartment of Molly Johnson on the first floor was destroyed in the blaze. She was not at home at the time of the fire and was not injured.

The fire spread to the second floor apartment of Brandon Smith, causing some damage. Smith was also not home at the time of the fire and was not hurt.

Another vacant second floor apartment was heavily damaged by the fire, and another vacant first floor apartment received some smoke and water damage.

Residents in three apartments across the hall from the apartment fires were safely evacuated from the building.

The cause of the blaze is undetermined.

School Board Authorizes Sick Leave Bank

August 10, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night authorized the implementation of a Sick Leave Bank to provide certified employees of the school system extended sick leave benefits to cover catastrophic illnesses.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby says he will request a waiver from the State Education Commissioner to start the program this school year, since by law it must be in place by August 1st.

The Sick Leave Bank does not include support staff, but based upon further research, a local policy could be adopted in the future to include non-certified personnel.

The request for the Sick Leave Bank was presented to the board Thursday night by John Isabell, President of the DeKalb County Education Association. \"Last week, some teachers approached me about finding out how we might be able to establish a Sick Leave Bank for teachers. Some of them also contacted Mr. Willoughby and we both have since been researching how one would go about it. Apparently according to Tennessee law, in order to have a Sick Leave Bank, you have to have twenty teachers request it. We have probably over 100 teachers that have requested it.\"

\"A Sick Leave Bank serves the purpose of allowing teachers to contribute some of their stored up sick leave days into a pool that would allow teachers who are experiencing a catastrophic event, such as a sickness in the family or sickness to themselves, who have exhausted their own sick leave, the ability to go into that pool and use some of those days.\"

According to research compiled by Materials Supervisor Larry Johnson, the Sick Leave Bank is a voluntary statewide program for certified employees of Tennessee Public Schools, established by state law. Members donate earned sick leave to the bank (possible 3 days) and are then eligible to supplement normal paid sick leave if diagnosed or an immediate family member is diagnosed with a serious or catastrophic illness.

Certified employees may enroll from August 1st through October 31st. Enrollment forms must be received in the DBE office prior to the enrollment deadline or membership must wait until the next enrollment period.

New employees beginning after October 31st will have 30 days to enroll. Three days will be deducted from the employees total sick days available.

The Sick Leave Bank, if necessary to sustain the program, may request additional donations of sick leave days.

A participant shall not receive any sick leave from the Bank until after having exhausted all accumulated sick, personal, and or annual leave including all paid extensions.

The member must be off the payroll for six consecutive workdays prior to receiving benefits.

Members must submit an application to the Sick Leave Bank Trustees for review. Medical documentation must accompany the application.

The employee will be notified in writing the status of the application.

Days are awarded 20 at a time for up to 60 days the first year with a total of 90 days in two years.

An application for benefits must be submitted for every 20 days of use.

According to state law, the Sick Leave Bank Trustees must include the Director of Schools (chair), two school board members, and two LEA appointees.

In other business, Director Willoughby presented his monthly written report on personnel.

Those employed for the 2006-2007 school year since last month include:

Kristi Sullivan- Educational Assistant at DeKalb West School; Beverly Starnes- part time cafeteria worker; Christie Bates- cafeteria worker; Michael Littrell- Art teacher at DeKalb Middle School and DeKalb West School; Pamela Fults- Chorus Teacher at DeKalb County High School; Ray Robinson- Custodian at DCHS; Rebecca Oliver- half time ESL Teacher; James Ryan Smith- Assistant DeKalb Middle School Football Coach; Eric Drennan- Assistant DeKalb Middle School Football Coach; Pam Eldridge- Deaf Interpreter; Karen Elmore-teacher at Smithville Elementary School Pre-K; and Pamela Fults- Chorus at DCHS.

Those transferred include:

Jamie Vickers- transferred to Central Office Secretary; Teresa Miller- transferred to General Purpose Payroll/Bookkeeper; Kristy Lasser-transferred to Teacher position at Northside Elementary School; Jalene Vanatta-transferred to Secretary at DeKalb West School; Betty Cooper-transferred to Cafeteria Manager.

Resignations:

Gabina Alfaro- ESL Educational Assistant; Jonathon Carter-Art Teacher at DeKalb Middle School and DeKalb West School; and Jamie Vickers- Assistant Basketball Coach at DeKalb West School and Substitute Bus Driver.

Leave of Absence: Tad Webb, teacher at Northside Elementary School, leave as requested.

Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore, on behalf of the school board, expressed appreciation to Fourth District member Keith Garrett whose term expires August 31st. \"We have truly appreciated Keith over the last four years. Sometimes I don't know what we would have done around here without him, especially with his expertise on the budget. He kept us in line on that and has been a great help. But he's done more than that, he's been a good board member.\"

Director Willoughby presented Garrett a plaque for his dedicated service to the board and school system.

Garrett wished his fellow board members, including his successor Joan Draper, Director Willoughby, teachers, principals, and all the school employees the best.

$38,418 Federal Grant Helps Alexandria Fire Department Buy Equipment

August 12, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

A $38,418 U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant will enable the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department to buy new equipment, U.S. Representative Bart Gordon announced today.

\"Many communities struggle to maintain fire-protection services,\" said Gordon, a member of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus. \"Even though demands on firefighters have increased tremendously over the years, the resources they depend on to provide their life-saving services have not.

\"That's why Congress initiated the Assistance to Firefighters Program, which is similar to the highly successful COPS Program that put more than 100,000 new police officers on the nation's streets.\"

Chief Shelie Askew said the 15-member department will use the funds to purchase new turnout gear, such as helmets, boots and any other equipment firefighters wear on call.

\"There are a lot of small towns, like this one, that can't afford new equipment, \"Askew said. \"We've been running on 20-year old equipment. Thank the good Lord they finally approved it.\"

Homeland Security awarded the grant through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, created by Congress to help underfunded fire departments better serve community residents. In addition to funding operations and firefighter safety programs, the grants can also be used to purchase firefighting vehicles.

\"Countless lives and properties have been saved through the valiant efforts of firefighters and rescue squads, \" Gordon said. \"This program is a much-needed opportunity for local fire departments to strengthen their resources and capabilities.\"

Man Suffers Burns In Monday Morning Fire

August 14, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

An employee of West Side Auto Salvage at 823 Dry Creek Road was taken to DeKalb Community Hospital around 9:30 a.m. this morning (Monday) after suffering burns in a fire.

Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker says the man was using an acetylene torch to cut parts off a wrecked car when the gas tank of the vehicle caught fire.

Flames caught the man's clothes on fire and he received some burns as a result.

He was taken by a private vehicle to the hospital and was later airlifted to another hospital for further treatment.

Meanwhile, Chief Parker says the fire, which also spread to another wrecked car and burned the tires off a skid steer loader, was quickly brought under control by the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department.

He says the fire was approximately 200 feet behind the main building and posed no threat to that structure.

Judge Sells Files Chancery Court Lawsuit Contesting Election Results In Her Race

August 17, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Committee to Re-elect Judge Lillie Ann Sells, in a prepared news release, announced Thursday that a suit has been filed in Chancery Court today on behalf of Judge Sells, challenging the results of the August 3rd Election for Criminal Court Judge for the 13th Judicial District (comprised of Clay, Cumberland, Dekalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam & White Counties).

Over 40,240 votes were cast in the seven counties, and the initial, uncertified margin of victory (for Independent candidate David Patterson) was only 9 votes. Among other illegal and irregular activity in this election, the complaint asserts, is that at least 24 absentee ballots were cast illegally; at least 2 felons voted illegally; and at least one voter took part in the election who did not live in the district.

The Tennessee Election Code states that its purpose is to secure \"the freedom and purity of the ballot,\" and to promote the \"maximum participation by all citizens in the electoral process.\"

Don Napier, a spokesman for Judge Sells' campaign, said, \"We want as many people as possible to participate in elections, but when the margin of victory is less than the number of illegal ballots cast, the will of the electorate is unclear and it is necessary to contest the election.\"

A Democrat, Judge Sells, has served as a Criminal Court Judge for the past eight years, and is seeking re-election to the bench. She is represented by attorney Stephen Zralek of Nashville, a partner in the law firm of Bone McAllester Norton PLLC.

WJLE obtained a copy of the lawsuit Thursday afternoon from the Putnam County Clerk and Master's office, where it was filed.

The suit names as defendants, Sell's opponent in the election, David Alan Patterson along with Nancy Bowman, Putnam County Administrator of Elections; and the Clay County, Cumberland County, DeKalb County, Overton County, Pickett County, Putnam County, and White County Election Commissions.

The introduction of the lawsuit states that \"According to the preliminary and unofficial count of the Election Commissions for the seven counties that comprise the 13th Judicial District (Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, and White Counties), Plaintiff (Sells) received 20, 097 votes and her opponent, Defendant David Alan Patterson received 20,106 votes in the Election. However, numerous irregularities occurred and numerous illegal votes were cast, calling into question the accuracy and validity of the results, in violation of the express purpose of the Tennessee Election Code to secure the freedom and purity of the ballot.

Sells alleges that she has investigated the facts to the best of her ability, given the 10 day statute of limitations for an election contest and has sought access to all relevant information from the various County Election Commissioners within the 13th Judicial District, but not all relevant information has been available, given the deadline for each county to certify the election results. Sells claims \"To the best of Plaintiff's knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances, the allegations and other factual contentions herein are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.\"

Lisa Peterson, DeKalb County Administrator of Elections, told WJLE Thursday that Sells has requested, in writing, a list of names of all people who voted on election day in each precinct; a list of all names of all people who voted via absentee mail-in ballot; all applications for absentee mail-in ballot; the permanent absentee voting register and all physician statements required for each person included thereon; all rejected applications for absentee mail-in ballots; and all ballots that at any time during the election were classified as \"provisional\". DeKalb County had one provisional ballot on August 3rd and it was thrown out.

The lawsuit alleges that \"Initial, uncertified results from the Election indicate that approximately 40,203 total votes were cast in the race for Criminal Court Judge of the 13th Judicial District, (20,097 cast for Sells and 20, 106 cast for Patterson) and that Patterson apparently won by a margin of 9 votes.\"

However Sells claims that more than 9 illegal votes were cast by persons who were not eligible to vote, or voted improperly in the Election.

Sells alleges that \"at least three votes were cast by convicted felons who had not had their privileges of voting restored. Such individuals are not qualified voters and are not entitled to be registered or to vote, as provided by state law. Specifically, Sells claims that Leon Meadows, Shannon L. Moore, and Timothy Ray Spivey all had, prior to the Election, been convicted of infamous crimes in a court of competent jurisdiction, and yet all voted on Election Day in White County.\"

The lawsuit further claims that \" at least 24 absentee ballots were cast in violation of the Tennessee Election Code, which mandates that the section governing absentee ballots be strictly construed, pursuant to state law. Specifically, at least 22 applications for absentee ballots in White County, and at least 2 applications for absentee ballots in Pickett County, were submitted without providing the applicant's social security number, as required by state law.\"

\"An initial examination of the Voting List for one county in the 13th Judicial District, conducted within the limited time allowed to file this contest, indicates that at least one voter voted in the Election, despite the fact that he is not a resident of any of the seven counties in the 13th Judicial District, in violation of state law.\"

\"Voters in the 13th Judicial District were permitted to remain in the voting booths on Election Day in excess of the time limit established in state law and the Election officers failed to order the voters removed, as required by law, thus precluding other eligible voters from voting.\"

\"Provisional ballots cast in Putnam County were counted at the precinct, rather than sealed and locked in the provisional ballot box for return to the county Election Commission at the close of the polls on Election Day, as required by state law.\"

\"The election officer in Cumberland County sought the assistance of a member of the media to assist in counting ballots, despite the fact that this individual had not been previously trained and was not an official Election worker, in violation of the Tennessee Election Code.\"

\"The voting machines in Cumberland County contained ballots that showed candidates whose names were already selected when voters first approached the machine, interfering with voters' ability to vote for the candidates of their choice.\"

Sells alleges that \"Based on the foregoing incidents of irregularities, improprieties, and illegally cast votes, she has grounds to bring this Election contest and contest Patterson's apparent victory. Sells claims she should be declared the winner of the Election or, alternatively, the Election should be declared void and another election should be ordered, with proper procedures being followed, adequate protections against election fraud being administered, and with all properly registered voters who are located within the 13th Judicial District being given proper notice.\"

Sells contends that she has \"attempted to examine all voting materials, voting records, related documents and tangible personal property related to the Election in the seven counties administered by the Defendant Election Commissions. Despite her attempts and requests, Sells claims she has not been given complete access, and has not had sufficient time to review all relevant Voting Materials, given the 10 day statute of limitations.\"

Sells claims that \"the foregoing incidents of irregularities, improprieties and illegally cast votes call into question the legality of the entire Election in all seven counties, and indicate that further illegalities and irregularities are likely to be found upon examination of all voting materials, voting records, related documents, and tangible personal property related to the Election Voting Materials.\"

In her petition for relief, Sells asks for the following:

\"That the Defendant Election Commissions in each of the seven counties comprising the 13th Judicial District be ordered to preserve all Voting Materials, so that they are safe from tampering, damage, or loss, preserved in each county's Election Commissions until all investigations and analyses have been concluded, and until this contest has been concluded (except to the extent that such items must be placed in the official custody of the Court, or as otherwise directed by the Court).\"

\"The Defendant Election Commissions in each of the seven counties of the 13th Judicial District be ordered to give Sells access to all Voting Materials and that she be permitted to copy, electronically where available, all Voting Materials.\"

\"That the Court set an expedited discovery schedule so that this matter will be prepared for trial within the time provided by law.\"

\"That Sells be declared the winner of the Election, or alternatively, that the Election be declared void and that each of the seven Defendant Election Commissions be ordered to hold a new election for the office of Criminal Court Judge for the 13th Judicial District, as provided by law.'

\"That Sells be given leave to amend, upon a sufficient review of the Voting Materials as they become available.\"

No date has yet been set for a hearing in the case.

A judge from another judicial district will most likely be appointed to hear it.

The winner of the election is due to take office, September 1st.

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