Local News Articles

Fincher Captured- Hickson Remains at Large

August 24, 2008
Dwayne Page
Kirk Douglas Fincher-Captured
Nicklas Hickson- Still at large

39 year old Kirk Douglas Fincher has been captured thanks to some heroic efforts of a private citizen.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Fincher showed up at the residence of a woman on Woodard Road, off Old Lancaster Road, in the Temperance Hall area Sunday afternoon in DeKalb County. But as he was standing on the front porch, the woman's son and daughter-in-law arrived. Fincher was held at gunpoint by the son until law enforcement officers got there. Authorities received the call at 2:19 p.m.

The other man being sought, Nicklas Hickson, remains at large.

According to a family member of the woman, Fincher showed up on her front door step, just as her son and daughter-in-law were coming up the long driveway to the house for a Sunday afternoon family meal and visit. When the woman saw her son and daughter-in-law driving up in their pickup truck, she went to unlock the front door. The only other person in the house with her at the time was her 16 year old grandson. As she opened the door, she saw the man (Fincher) standing on the front porch.

Fincher asked her if he could get something to eat and drink.

She answered no and then shut the door.

The daughter-in-law told WJLE that when she and her husband pulled up toward the side of the house, she got out of the truck and noticed movement on the front porch, and then saw a man coming down the front steps. She knew someone was there who wasn't supposed to be because there were no other cars around.

Her husband then reached behind the seat of the truck for a rifle that he had brought so his son could do some target practice. As he got out of the truck with the rifle, the man (Fincher) began walking toward the truck. He held the gun where Fincher could see it and told him to stop right where he was and to put his hands in the air. Fincher was unarmed and did not try to get away. He told Fincher to sit down on the ground while his wife called the law. As she was calling on her cell phone, the woman inside the house was also making a call to police.

Members of the family fixed Fincher a plate so he could have something to eat while they were waiting on law enforcement officers to arrive. Patrol cars showed up minutes later, and several officers got out and took Fincher into custody before he could finish his meal. Among the officers who converged on the scene to make the arrest were members of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the agency's SWAT Team, the White and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, TWRA, and TBI.

Fincher had a lot of cuts and scratches from the briars he had run into while trying to hide in the woods and thickets.

Sheriff Ray says Fincher refused to say anything to officers after he was back in custody, except that he and Hickson had split up and apparently had gone in different directions after a THP pursuit Saturday morning that ended near the Walker Creek bridge, where they abandoned the stolen car they were in and set out on foot.

The family who helped authorities capture Fincher asked not to be identified.

Search Continues Saturday Night for Fincher & Hickson

August 24, 2008
Dwayne Page
THP Officers Survey the Scene Near Abandoned Stolen Car
Sheriff Patrick Ray Sets up Command Post

The search continued into the night Saturday for two men wanted by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE Saturday night that a THP helicopter with a heat seeking device was used in the search and some officers on the ground had hand held heat seekers. Roads in the area were monitored closely by law enforcement and officers checked many vehicles as they passed through, looking for the two men. Officers were concerned that the men, under cover of darkness, might emerge from hiding and try to steal a car to make a getaway. At last report, law enforcement had no reports of any car thefts in the area.

Throughout the day Saturday, officers often went door to door, checking with residents in the search zone to see if they had seen or heard anything of the two men. THP helicopters conducted aerial searches. Central Dispatch employed reverse 911 calling upon request of the THP and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department to alert residents in the area. Tracking dogs were brought in from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, the Mount Juliet and Cookeville City Police Departments K-9 units, as well as the Bledsoe County Correctional Institution.

Among the departments involved in the search are the Tennessee Highway Patrol, who have used two dozen state troopers including K-9 teams and members of Special Operations, the THP Criminal Investigation Division, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, which has set up a command post on site, the White, Warren, and Smith County Sheriff's Departments, the Alexandria Police Department, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Sheriff Ray says the search will continue Sunday. It's being conducted generally in the areas of Temperance Hall, Dale Ridge, Lower Helton, Walker Creek, Hayes Ridge, Lancaster, Brush Creek, and Alexandria.

The two suspects were involved in a pursuit Saturday morning and fled on foot after crashing the stolen vehicle they were riding in. These are believed to be the same suspects who were involved in a separate pursuit Thursday in White County.

Kirk Douglas Fincher and Nicklas Hickson allegedly stole a gold 1997 Toyota Avalon Thursday from a home in White County. A Tennessee State Trooper spotted the vehicle as it was traveling westbound on Interstate 40 near mile marker 268 at approximately 8:15 a.m. Saturday morning.

After back-up arrived, Troopers attempted to stop the vehicle. Officers pursued the Avalon from I-40 to Highway 53 South and then to Highway 264 where the suspects wrecked the vehicle near mile marker 4, only a few yards from the Walker Creek Bridge.

The two men, believed to be Fincher and Hickson, fled on foot. Officers found a loaded 9 millimeter pistol in the stolen car.

On Thursday, Fincher, a convicted felon from Kansas City, Missouri, was one of three occupants in a 2002 Black Ford pick-up truck who lost control and crashed during a pursuit on Old Kentucky Road in White County. At approximately 8:00 a.m., Thursday morning, Trooper Michael Loftis observed the Ford pick-up on Interstate 40 at mile marker 287 in Putnam County. Trooper Loftis attempted to stop the truck for following another vehicle too closely, and that is when the pursuit began.

Trooper Loftis followed the vehicle on Highway 111 South to Old Kentucky Road before the suspects crashed near the airport area. Authorities believe Fincher later broke into a White County home and stole the Toyota Avalon.

A 17-year-old occupant of the vehicle is in custody. He was spotted near a church by local residents and arrested at approximately 4:20 p.m., Thursday, by a White County Sheriff's deputy and Trooper Loftis.

Fincher was released from a Missouri prison in January 2008, after serving a 17-year sentence for homicide of a police officer. There is no description of Hickson at this time.

Man Hunt Underway for Convicted Felon in Temperance Hall Area

August 23, 2008
Dwayne Page
Kirk Douglas Fincher
Stolen Car Abandoned Near Temperance Hall

The Tennessee Highway Patrol and law enforcement authorities in DeKalb, Warren, and Smith County are searching for two people at this hour, one of whom they believe is the Missouri felon they've been looking for since Thursday. The ground and helicopter aerial search is being conducted in the Temperance Hall community after the men abandoned their vehicle following a THP pursuit around 8:30 a.m. this morning (Saturday). Tracking dogs are also being used to assist officers in the manhunt.

Officials say if one of the men they are looking for is Kirk Douglas Fincher of Kansas City, Missouri, he is considered dangerous. He and the other person, believed to be Nicklas Hickson, were in a gold 1997 Toyota Avalon, the same one they allegedly stole in White County Thursday.

Fincher is a 39 year old white male. He has brown eyes and weighs approximately 215 pounds.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, the THP got in pursuit of the Avalon this morning from Interstate 40 through Smith County and into DeKalb County. The Avalon went out of control on the Temperance Hall Road near the Walker Creek Bridge and spun out. The men abandoned the vehicle and took off on foot. Officers found a loaded 9 millimeter pistol in the car. The men were last seen heading toward Smith County on the Old Lancaster Road. One of the men has black hair and was wearing a black shirt and black shorts. The other man was wearing a light colored vest.

Authorities are asking residents in the Lower Helton, Walker Creek, and Temperance Hall areas to stay inside their homes, keep your doors locked, and make sure all doors to your vehicles are locked.

Fincher was one of three occupants in a 2002 Black Ford pick-up truck who lost control and
crashed Thursday during a pursuit on Old Kentucky Road in White County. At approximately 8:00 a.m., Thursday morning, Trooper Michael Loftis observed the Ford pick-up on Interstate 40 at mile marker 287 in Putnam County. Trooper Loftis attempted to stop the truck for following
another vehicle too closely, and that is when the pursuit began. Trooper Loftis followed the vehicle on Highway 111 South to Old Kentucky Road before the suspects crashed near the airport area.

Fincher was released from a Missouri prison in January 2008, after serving a 17-year sentence for homicide of a police officer. Authorities found ammunition for various weapons in the wrecked Ford pick-up, but no guns were recovered. Later in the day, Fincher allegedly broke into a White County home and stole a 1997 Toyota Avalon. The Toyota Avalon has a moon-roof and non-factory tinted windows with a chrome ring around the license plate.

A 17-year-old occupant of the vehicle is in custody. He was spotted near a church by local residents and arrested at approximately 4:20 p.m., Thursday, by a White County Sheriff's deputy and Trooper Loftis. The third suspect, Nicklas Hickson, at last report was still at-large.

Deputies from the White, Putnam and Cumberland County Sheriff's departments, along with the Cookeville and Monterey Police Departments assisted in the initial manhunt. Authorities thought at the time that Fincher may be heading to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Anyone with information regarding Fincher's whereabouts is urged to call the Tennessee Highway Patrol or the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Two Arrested by Sheriff's Department in Drug Bust

August 23, 2008
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department Saturday morning executed a search
warrant at the home of 41 year old Melisa Jean Petty and 39 year old Jeanna Tarron
Bain at 1588 Banks Pisgah Road Smithville.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says officers found hypodermic needles in Petty's bedroom. Petty was found to have on her person 41 ½ dilaudid pills in a small plastic bag. Officers also found a small metal vile containing 9 ½ dilaudid pills under a foam mattress where Bain was sleeping. In addition, officers seized $3,014 believed to be proceeds from drug sales.

Petty was charged with possession of schedule II drug (dilaudid) for
resale and drug paraphernalia. Bond was set at $42,500.

Bain was charged with possession of schedule II drug (dilaudid) for resale and bond was set at $40,000. Both will appear in court on September 4th. More arrests are forthcoming.

If you have any information about any illegal activity you are urged to call the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department Crime Tip Line at 464-6400. All calls are kept confidential.

Tigers Open Season with 42-25 Win Over Warren County

August 22, 2008
Tigers Open Season with Victory

The DeKalb County Tigers opened the football season with an impressive 42 to 25 win over border rival Warren County Friday night in Smithville. It was the Tigers' first win in a season opener since the 2004 season, and the team's first win in their four-game series with the Pioneers.

Junior quarterback, Hunter Poteete, threw for 220 yards and four touchdowns, while the Tiger defense logged six sacks and forced three Warren County turnovers. Poteete got DeKalb County on the board with a seven-yard rushing touchdown to cap off the game's opening drive. The Tigers went up 7 to nothing and never trailed throughout the game.

J.J. Herriott put up the next Tiger score, as he ran in from five yards out, with 5:40 left in the first quarter. Freshman kicker, Zach Taylor, nailed DC's first PAT attempt, but had his second one come up short as the Tigers took a 13 to 0 lead.

The Pioneers scored on their ensuing drive on a 32-yard touchdown run, but the Tigers added two more touchdowns to open up a 26 to 7 lead. Poteete hit Abram Edwards on a 31-yard scoreing strike, then found Nick Lester on a 15-yard pass to the end zone. The Pioneers made it a 26 to 13 game at the half, as they scored on a 15-yard halfback pass to the end zone with one minute remaining in the half,

DeKalb County added another score early in the third quarter on a 12-yard pass from Poteete to Herriott, which gave the Tigers a 33 to 13 lead, but the Pioneers answered with 1:52 left in the quarter on a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown. That score cut the Tiger advantage to 33 to 19 at the end of three quarters.

The Tigers scored their last touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter on a 23-yard Poteete pass to Travon Johnson. Taylor booted the extra point to give DC a 40 to 19 with 7:27 left in regulation.

The Pioneers would get one more score late in the game on a one-yard touchdown run. DeKalb County capped off the season-opening rout with a safety by Matthew Lawrence, who tackled the Warren County quarterback in the end zone, with 17.2 seconds left in the game.

DeKalb County, now 1-0, will travel to Watertown next Friday night.

WJLE will have live coverage.

Home Destroyed in Tuesday Fire

August 22, 2008
Dwayne Page

A fire Tuesday afternoon destroyed the home of Gene Cunnigham at 295 Johnson's Chapel Road.

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department was summoned to the scene around 3:55 p.m. Members of the Short Mountain Highway, Johnson's Chapel, and Midway Stations responded along with the equipment truck and a tanker truck. The Cassville Fire Department of White County also responded providing mutual aid assistance.

Cunningham and his wife were at home when the fire started and he suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation. He was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital and later transported to Vanderbilt Hospital, where he was treated and released. Cunningham later told firefighters that the fire started from curtains in the home and spread throughout the house.

No one else was injured but the family dog perished in the fire.

Local Attorney Seeks State Reimbursment for Accompaniment Assistance in Indigent Cases

August 21, 2008
Dwayne Page
Sarah Cripps

Smithville Attorney Sarah Cripps, like any other local lawyer, is reimbursed by the state for representing indigent clients assigned to her by the courts.

However unlike other local attorneys, Cripps is blind so she must employ, at her own expense, someone to provide assistance to her in the representation of those indigents.

Cripps believes she should be reimbursed by the state for this "accompaniment assistance" but the Supreme Court of Tennessee's Administrative Office of the Courts has denied her requests.

Cripps believes it's unfair to her and is a violation of federal law, specifically, the "Americans with Disabilities Act". "My battle with the Administrative Office of the Courts really started in 1997. In September of that year, I was hired by Judge Jerry Smith on the Court of Criminal Appeals, as a law clerk. I contacted the Administrative Office of the Courts shortly after I was hired in that full time position and asked them if they would grant me a reasonable accommodation under the "Americans with Disabilities Act" and pay for a full time reader, which I required to be able to perform my job. They denied that request. Then I started in private practice and as one of the duties as a member of the local bar, I began to be appointed to represent indigent people in two circumstances. In the criminal arena, I represent indigent people when the Public Defender's Office has a conflict of interest. The second time this comes up is when there are Department of Children Services cases and the people are indigent. Therefore, we do a lot of representation in Juvenile Court. I have asked the AOC a couple of times over the years to pay for my assistant to help me and nine times out of ten that is Rebecca Reedy, who reads to me the warrants and the petitions filed by the state either criminally and in the DCS cases. She accompanies me to court on all of these appointed cases and assists me in the courtroom setting. The AOC has denied that expense and has refused to pay for the time that she spends assisting me on appointed matters. I don't feel it's fair for me as a private attorney to have to pay additional expenses to render myself capable of doing what a sighted attorney can do without an assistant."

Jeana D. Hendrix, Indigent Defense Manager of the AOC, in a letter to Cripps dated August 19th, 2008, states that " After a thorough and careful review of your inquiry concerning the reimbursement of costs associated with the assistance provided to you in conjunction with your representation of indigent defendants/respondents, the Administrative Office of the Courts has determined that this expense is not reimbursable to you under the current provisions of Supreme Court Rule 13, Indigent Defense Fund. This determination is based on the language of Supreme Court Rule 13, section 4(a)(2), which states that ‘the services or time of a paralegal, law clerk, secretary, legal assistant, or other administrative assistants shall not be reimbursed. Normal overhead expenses also shall not be reimbursed."

Cripps insists that the person she employs to help her in these court cases, Rebecca Reedy, cannot be classified by any of the terms of the section cited by Hendrix. "My answer to that is, I agree with Rule 13 as far as it goes and if I were seeking compensation or reimbursement for a legal secretary or for someone that performs the job of a paralegal with me in court, I think that their answer is correct. However, what they either refuse to see or I have not been able to get them to understand is that she (my assistant) doesn't perform the services of a legal secretary or a paralegal. She is essentially my set of eyes to read to me when we are handed exhibits in court, to describe photographs for me, to locate my clients in the packed gallery, to take me to different rooms to meet with my clients, to find DCS personnel so that I can meet with them because there would be no way for me to find them, to take me to other rooms to find District Attorney Generals to meet with, those are the sundry services that she performs and for which I feel she should be compensated."

"My other response to their argument on Rule 13 and what I am contending is that I'm due reimbursement under the federal law "The Americans with Disabilities Act". I'm contending it's a reasonable accommodation that the state of Tennessee must make on account of my disability, total blindness. They can cite Rule 13 all they like, but one of the first things you learn in law school is where there's a federal law and a state statute, the federal law is going to control every time if there is a conflict. That's called federal pre-emption. So they can cite that rule all they want, but if that rule doesn't make allowance for or is in conflict in any way with the Americans with Disabilities Act, it's my position that the federal act is going to control.'

"They also have given me another argument. I've spoken with Elizabeth Sykes, who is the head of the AOC. Her response was that she felt this was a county problem. In other words, the county should provide a courthouse staff member to assist me on any given day and that I should not take an employee of mine to court with me. My response to that is these cases are brought under Tennessee law. The District Attorney General's Office prosecutes these cases. The cases are prosecuted with state funds and with the aid of state resources. The people who defend these cases are paid for out of a state fund. The Indigent Defense Fund is a state fund. The Public Defender's Office is paid for out of state monies allocated by the legislature. Therefore, it seems very incongruous to say that if state monies are being poured into these cases, that the county then should pay for an assistant on a state case."

General Sessions/Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook II, in support of Cripps' claim, issued a standing order regarding appointed representation on August 1st, 2008. The order states that " From and after this date, all accompaniment expense incurred by Sarah Cripps, Esq., shall be reimbursed at the rate of $12.00 per hour subject to approval by the Director. Such charges shall be included in the Claim for Fees as necessary expenses. The undersigned (Judge) is aware of Rule 13, Section 4 (a) (2) of the Supreme Court Rules, however the Director is advised that Sarah Cripps is totally blind, and must have accompaniment assistance in her representation of indigents, and under any concept of fairness, such expense should be reimbursed to counsel for the indigent parties."

Cripps says she hopes the Judge's order will have an impact in her situation. "What impact I hope that it may have is that it will be another voice of reason and, unlike mine, a voice of authority who is in control of the appointments that I get. I could not ask for someone to be more supportive of me than Judge Cook. He has backed me 150% on this issue because he see's what Becky (my assistant) does everyday, all day long , sometimes until 6:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on the juvenile dockets and he knows what Becky does. So what I hope this order will do is to bring reason to chaos and help them realize that I'm not seeking paralegal reimbursement."

DeKalb Jobless Rate Holds Steady at 6.2% in July

August 21, 2008
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's preliminary unemployment rate for July was 6.2%, the same as the revised rate for June, but up from 4.5% in July, 2007.

DeKalb County's Labor Force for July was 10,420. A total of 9,770 were employed and 650 were unemployed.

Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July, 2008 was 6.9 percent, 0.4 percentage point higher than the June revised rate of 6.5 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of July was 5.7 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for July 2008, released today, show that 60 counties increased. The rate decreased in 29 counties and remained the same in 6 counties.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 4.6 percent, down 0.2 from the June rate of 4.8 percent. Perry County had the state's highest at 20.3 percent, up 5.5 percent from the June rate of 14.8 percent, followed by Lauderdale County at 14.5 percent, up from 11.4 percent in June.

Knox County and Davidson County tied for the state's lowest major metropolitan rate at 5.5 percent. Knox County's rate increased 0.1 percentage point from the June rate of 5.4 percent. Davidson County's rate decreased 0.1 from the June rate of 5.6 percent. Hamilton County was at 6.1 percent, up 0.2 from the June rate of 5.9 percent, and Shelby County was 7.4 percent, down 0.1 from the June rate of 7.5.

More Marijuana Spotted in Aerial Search

August 21, 2008
Dwayne Page

More marijuana was found Tuesday during a helicopter fly over of portions of the county.

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, in cooperation with the Warren County Sheriff's Department Marijuana Eradication Team, conducted the aerial search.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says "Officers in the chopper spotted some marijuana plants in the Dry Creek and Pea Ridge areas." Some of the marijuana was in patches and the rest was scattered among thickets on hillsides. According to Sheriff Ray, about 200 marijuana plants were found, from about one to four feet tall and it was all cut and destroyed.

Sheriff Ray encourages anyone having knowledge of drug manufacture or drug use to call him at 597-4935 or call the Drug and Crime Tip Line at 464-6400. You may also email him at sheriffray@dtccom.net. All calls are kept confidential.

Sparta Woman Wanted by White County Authorities Still at Large After Tuesday Car Chase

August 20, 2008
Dwayne Page
Audria LeeAnn Estes (picture courtesy of The Expositor)

An 18 year old Sparta woman, wanted by the White County Sheriff's Department, remains at large today.

Audria LeeAnn Estes was last seen Tuesday afternoon in DeKalb County in the Hillcrest Hills area, after escaping on foot into the woods following a high speed car chase.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says White County deputies got in pursuit of Estes' car Tuesday morning in White County. The woman is apparently wanted there for violation of probation and four other active warrants. The chase continued into DeKalb County, until she wrecked her car, a purple cavalier, behind Hillcrest Restaurant on Highway 70 east. Estes then got out of the car and ran into the woods where the undergrowth is thick and the terrain is very steep.

Sheriff Ray says his department received the call around 11:00 a.m. and joined in the search for the woman.

In addition to officers of the DeKalb County and White County Sheriff's Department, members of the Cookeville Police Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol came to the scene with tracking dogs, and TWRA officers and Corps of Engineers officials monitored the shoreline by boat from the lake, but the woman could not be found.

According to Sheriff Ray, Estes did emerge from hiding briefly late Tuesday afternoon. Some men working on a house at Hillcrest Hills reported seeing and talking with her. Sheriff Ray says the men tried to get her to surrender, but she refused and took off running again. That was apparently the last time she was seen.

Estes was unarmed, wearing a white shirt and blue capris pants. She is white, medium complexion, with black hair and brown eyes. She weighs 130 pounds and stands 5 feet, 4 inches tall. She also has a tattoo of a rose on her right upper arm.

Sheriff Ray says officers suspended the search Tuesday night around 10:30 p.m. The search resumed Wednesday morning, with local officers monitoring roads and lake homes in the area.

Estes now faces additional charges as a result of Tuesday's events.

If you have information that could lead to her arrest, call the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department at 597-4935 or the White County Sheriff's Department at 931-836-3621


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