Local News Articles

Governor Bredesen Announces Grant for Smithville Municipal Airport

May 23, 2007
Dwayne Page

Governor Phil Bredesen announced today an Aeronautics Grant in the amount of $800,000 has been awarded to the Smithville Municipal Airport in Dekalb County to assist with improvements to that facility.

General aviation airports are critical to the economic development of communities across the state, said Governor Bredesen. These airports provide quick access for businesses, serve as reliever airports for local flight centers and are important shipping hubs. In order to stay competitive these airports must be kept up to date.

The grant funds will be used for the construction of a new T-hangar, taxiway and apron.

This grant will help this airport meet the growing needs of the community it serves, added enator Mae Beavers. I'm pleased the state could assist with this project.

This is exactly the kind of investment I hope the state continues to make in our general aviation transportation system, commented Representative Frank Buck. It is extremely important to this area's economy.

Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner Gerald Nicely explained that the grants are made available through the department's Aeronautics Division.

This Division administers federal and state funding to assist in the location, design, construction and maintenance of Tennessee's diverse public aviation system, reported Nicely. We are pleased to be able to provide millions of dollars each year for the betterment of our airports through our grant programs.

Grant applications are reviewed by the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission (TAC), which is a five member board charged with policy planning and with regulating changes in the state airport system plan.

These grants can have a significant impact on the future of a general aviation airport and its economic contributions to our state," said TAC Chairman Lonnie Strunk. "Our board examines the applications carefully to ensure that the funds will be put to good use."

The TDOT Aeronautics Division also has the responsibility of inspecting and licensing the state's 126 heliports and 75 public/general aviation airports. General aviation includes all aircraft not flown by commercial airlines or the military. The Aeronautics Division also provides aircraft and related services for state government executives, staffing for the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission, and numerous educational support programs. The division's offices include Administration, Finance & Grant Management, Engineering & Program Development, Flight Services, and Planning & Programming.

Shockley Named DCHS Girls Basketball Coach

May 24, 2007
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County High School has a new girls basketball coach.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and DCHS Principal Kathy Hendrix confirm that John Michael Shockley will sign a contract to take over the program from Amy Tobitt, who has resigned as coach after two seasons.

Shockley, who is from Winchester, comes to DeKalb County from Loretto High School where he served as girls basketball coach.

Shockley will also be taking over as head coach of the DeKalb Saints Football Program.

Shockley graduated from White County High School in 1975. He then attended the Aquinas Junior College in Nashville for one year followed by three years at Tennessee Tech, where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Education-Social Sciences and did M.S. work with 24 semester hours toward his ASED Degree and one semester hour toward certificate renewal.

His coaching experience includes sixteen years as a high school head girls and boys basketball coach, six years as a head middle school boys basketball coach, six years as an assistant boys basketball coach at White County High School, ten years as a high school head baseball coach, two years as a high school head softball coach, six years as a middle school football assistant, and two years as a high school head golf coach.

His achievements are as follows:
1975- Earned a basketball coach to Aquinas Junior College
1987- Won the Middle School State Basketball Tournament
1979-80 and 1980-81- assisted the White County Boys to the State Tournament
1991- Girls State Runner-Up in the State Tournament as Head Coach at White County High School
1992- Coached the Tennessee Girls All Stars versus Georgia
1992-93- Won 30 plus games and went back to the State Tournament
1993- Won the school's first Regional Tournament in any sport in Triple-A

Shockley's basketball record is 402 wins and 253 losses.

B. Don James Ordered to Serve 97 Months In Federal Prison

May 25, 2007
Dwayne Page

B. Don James is going to federal prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell Friday afternoon in Nashville sentenced James to a total of ninety seven months (8 years and 1 month) in prison on each of fifteen counts of wire fraud totaling $1.8 million dollars, the minimum sentence under the plea agreement's advisory guideline range The sentences are to run concurrently or together as one sentence.

James, who pleaded guilty to all charges in March, must report to federal prison by 2:00 p.m. on June 25th.

After serving his sentence, James will be on supervised probation for another two years on each count to run concurrently.

Special conditions of his supervision require James to make restitution to the victims in the amount of $8,808,716, but any amount the victims have received or may receive from last year's circuit court judgment against Douglas Hodges will be subtracted from the $8.8 million dollar restitution figure.

James must also pay an assessment of $1,500 in criminal monetary penalties.

While each count carries a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment Judge Campbell announced during the plea hearing in March that the anticipated recommended sentencing range, under the plea agreement, was 97 months (8 years and 1 month) to 121 months imprisonment (10 years and 1 month).

Before the sentence was imposed by Judge Campbell Friday, James addressed the court saying \" I apologize to my family for the embarrassment. I apologize to all these people (investors). Why it happened, I don't know.\"

In the \"Sentencing Memorandum\" filed with the court prior to Friday's hearing, prosecutors argued that \"between 1995 and 2004, James never earned less that $60,000 a year and earned over $80,000 in 2003. Assuming these earnings were legitimate, James had no financial need to engage in criminal conduct to support himself. The calculated and lengthy nature of this crime, and James' lack of any excuse for committing it, both weigh in favor of a serious sentence.\"

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Williamson told the court Friday that \" this is an extremely serious offense and by his own admission, James admits he stole over eight million dollars. He was a successful businessman who should have known better.\"

James' attorney, Hilton Conger asked for a lesser sentence than 97 months, possibly a two to three year term. Conger insisted that a sentence of 97 months to 121 months would amount to a life sentence for James, in view of his poor health. Conger says James could still be a productive member of society and should be allowed to continue working so he could repay the victims.

Conger further stated, in his motion for Downward Departure\" that James was very cooperative with the investors' attorney H. Naill Falls, in their civil case against Hodges. He cooperated and assisted his victims in pursuing recovery from an individual who has aided and abetted and unjustly benefitted from James' scheme. Falls, attorney for 70 of the investors, credits James' cooperation and testimony as being significant in prosecuting the claims which ultimately resulted in a verdict of $8 million, which represented the full amounts invested with James. Attorney Falls is of the opinion the investors will recover the majority of their funds as a result of the verdict obtained.\"

Judge Campbell agreed with the prosecutors stating that \"This was a very serious crime and that incarceration is necessary. The seriousness of the crime outweighs (James) having freedom and the ability to make restitution. The crime was very lengthy, complicated, and involved repeated conduct.\"

Five of the victims (investors) testified during Friday's hearing including Donnette Pack, her father Donald Pack, Haskel Hawkins, Jr., Ronnie Mac Davis, and Nell Beshearse. Ms Beshearse also read a written statement by Lewis Knowles, another victim in the case.

Donnette Pack told that court that \" I cannot describe to you the pain and anguish Mr. James has put on our family. He has confessed to the crime but has shown no remorse. He has wreaked havoc on so many families and diminished our quality of life. He deserves no leniency and should serve the maximum sentence allowed by law.\"

Her father, Donald Pack testified that \"He (James) has destroyed my family and took what I worked fifty years for.\"

Haskel Hawkins, Jr. said he lost his $1.9 million dollar investment or $2.5 million including interest because of James. \" He totally destroyed my life and my family's lives. There is no way to describe the pain and suffering he has caused. I believe he should pay us the principal, interest, and punitive damages, or spend the rest of his life in prison. He's enjoying his life, but I can't enjoy mine anymore. I was going to send my grandchild to college, but I can't now. He took everything I ever worked for.\"

After the investment scheme became public, Ronnie Mac Davis testified that he talked with James who told him that \"I wouldn't blame you if you took a bat and beat me. I knew when I took your money it was gone.\"

Nell Beshearse told the court that she made an investment with James only a few months before his operation went belly up, and lost money like many of the other investors. She said James assured her that she couldn't lose unless he took the money and went off to some lsland.

In a written statement read by Beshearse, Lewis Knowles wrote that \"I would have trusted him (James) with my life. I had known him for years. I would never have believed that he would have been a party to such a scheme. He robbed us and took our dignity and the ability to take care of ourselves in our later years.\"

Three people testified on behalf of James including his son-in-law and family physician Dr Kevin Rhody; his employer, local nursery owner James Pirtle; his long time friend and clergyman Terry Little; and another friend of the family, Janice Stewart.

Dr. Rhody testified that James suffers from multiple health problems including coronary artery disease, hypertension, hernia, abdominal aortic aneurism, and a pre-cancerous lesion of the colon, among others. He says James is a high surgery risk and that he will have a significant (medical issue), if not a fatal outcome, in five to ten years \"on the lucky side\".

After James went out of business, Pirtle testified that he hired James to work for him as a salesman in his nursery operation. Pirtle says James has learned a lot about the nursery business and has developed into a remarkably good salesman. Pirtle says other salesmen who work for him have made $300,000 to $400,000 a year and believes James has the ability to earn that kind of income. Pirtle says he believes in James' honesty.

Terry Little testified that he is a very close friend of the James family and that when Donny lost his home, he allowed James and his wife to move into a home he owns, next door to him, rent free. James and his wife still reside there. Little told the court that up until this matter came up, everyone in the community thought of James as a model citizen. He says James sponsored local athletic teams, supported his church, and did everything he could to make the town and county a better place to live. Little says James is still a good family man and could still be a productive citizen.

Janice Stewart testified that James is a long time friend of her family and that he took special interest in her brother when he played sports many years ago, serving as a mentor and supporting him financially as a sponsor on ball trips, etc. Stewart says Donny is a kind man and goes the extra mile to help people in need. She says he still has a lot to give.

In March, 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 receive 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.

Good Crowd Turns Out for Memorial Day Celebration

May 27, 2007
Dwayne Page

A good crowd turned out Monday morning for a special Memorial Day Celebration at the Veterans Memorial Monument outside at the courthouse.

Chase Ferrell gave a stirring rendition of the patriotic song \"God Bless the USA\" accompanied by pianist Susan Hinton and Dan Gulley, minister of the Smithville Church of Christ, delivered the Memorial Day address.

Gulley says the public's observance of Memorial Day has become rather nonchalant, but he is glad that there are citizens of our town who care enough to organize and carry on a special public ceremony. \" Since the birth of the United States of America on July 4th, 1776, no single generation of Americans has been spared the responsibility of defending freedom by force of arms. More than 42 million men and women have served in time of war and more than a million have helped purchase and maintain our freedom at the price of their lives. Also, of course, millions have served and continue to serve to preserve peace and freedom.\"

\"America's first President, George Washington said, ‘If we desire peace, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war'. Memorial Day is an opportunity for us to remember and pay respect and honor to the memory of the countless men and women who, while desiring peace, proved their full devotion to our democratic ideals, not only being ready for war, but by sacrificing their lives on the altar of freedom. The freedoms and values and way of life we hold so dear in our beloved land have been purchased and preserved literally by the blood, sweat, tears, and lives of those whom we seek to honor on this Memorial Day.\"

\"Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. The point is certainly not to knock family picnics, fun seeking and getting away from the stress and strain of a fast paced world. The point is our nation needs more, not less, events that enable us to celebrate shared values and express support for the ideals and virtues that have made our nation strong and free for 231 years.\"

Sheriff's Department Makes Four Drug Cases and One DUI Arrest

May 28, 2007
Dwayne Page

Five people have been arrested by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department in recent days, four of them on drug charges and one for DUI.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 38 year old Tina Dorton of Luttrell Avenue was charged with sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (Dilaudid) after selling two pills believed to be Dilaudid to an undercover informant.

In another case, 22 year old Shawn Owens of Sparta was charged with simple possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia after a deputy checked the Johnson's Chapel boat ramp site and found Owens lying near the water. The officer also discovered a box containing some marijuana, rolling papers, a pill crusher, and a glass pipe.

Meanwhile, 21 year old Jordan Adams of Game Ridge Road was charged with simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana) and unlawful possession of a schedule IV controlled substance (Xanax) for sale and delivery, after being stopped in his vehicle by an officer on Allen's Ferry Road.

Sheriff Ray says after the drug dog hit on the vehicle, officers conducted a search and found nineteen Xanax pills hidden in a secret compartment of a 24 ounce water bottle.

18 year old Chase Scharff of Colorado, a passenger of Adams' vehicle, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia for having a battery operated pipe.

Officers seized Adams' vehicle and contacted the Tennessee Department of Revenue for collection of the drug tax.

Finally, 40 year old Terry Cummings of Spencer was arrested for a fifth offense of driving under the influence after he was seen weaving on Highway 70 in his vehicle by a deputy who stopped him and administered a field sobriety test.

VFW Hosts Memorial Day Weekend Breakfast

May 27, 2007
Dwayne Page

The VFW POST 7623 held a Memorial Day weekend breakfast service Sunday morning and honored Gold Star Mother Norene Anderson, whose son, Ronnie Reeder, was killed during the Vietnam War.

Other Gold Star Mothers were invited to attend, but apparently could not be present.

Ms. Anderson says she is thankful that there are still some people who recognize the sacrifices of those who have served their country. \"I appreciate the VFW for all they do to remember those people who gave their lives.\"

County Mayor Mike Foster, the guest speaker, says all veterans and those who died in action, should be remembered and those who have survived since World War II should be interviewed and their stories recorded on videotape for posterity. He says the county plans to do that with the help of Historians and local veterans groups.

At the conclusion of the program, a wreath was laid at the monument outside the VFW building, which bears the names of local servicemen who died during the nations wars.

Smithville Police Make Another Arrest in Recent Theft Investigation

May 28, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police Investigators assigned to investigate a lost purse last week ended up charging two people who used the victim's credit card to purchase and outfit their house with a big screen TV, Surround Sound Stereo System, curtains and a variety of other items.

Detectives initially charged Nicholas Mongello with the theft of the purse.

Chief Tom Stufano says \" Further investigation discovered that Montgello's roommate was also involved. 23 year old Daniel Rose of 1222 South College Street in Smithville was charged with Criminal Conspiracy after he admitted to escorting Mongello to other area merchants with the intent to defraud. Items were eventually recovered. Mongello was additionally charged with Fraudulent Use of a credit card. Both were taken to the DeKalb County Jail under a $3,500 bond.\"

On Sunday May 27th , Smithville Detectives were contacted by the US Secret Service to accompany them to 620 Short Mountain Highway.

Chief Stufano says \"Federal agents had received information that a resident of that address had made threats against the President. Further information disclosed that the 62 year old woman being investigated had recently received notification that she would be allowed to visit the White House with other family members. After an hour and a half interview, Federal Agents and Smithville Police concluded that the woman was not a threat, although she had admitted that she had made the verbal threat against the President and had weapons in her house. A family member had phoned the information to the US Secret Service.\"

In another investigation, Chief Stufano says a flim-flam may have occurred recently at the Smithville Post Office. A female victim reported that she had run into the Post Office for just a few minutes and upon leaving she was distracted by an unknown white male in his 40's approximately 6'1\" with a slender build and sporting medium length dirty blonde hair. The subject was wearing a green tee shirt with blue jeans and driving a green Chevy pickup. During the course of the investigation she stated that the conversation was odd as it did not have any specific content. Upon returning to her vehicle the woman found her purse missing. Police are advising that these types of crimes do occur and usually involve 2 to 3 people with distraction techniques.

Chief Stufano says \"The Police Department is advising our residents to remain vigilant to suspicious activity and call when they feel something just doesn't seem right. Smithville Police are committed to investigating any and all crimes committed against our residents and guests.\"

Two Injured In Monday Afternoon Wreck

May 29, 2007
Dwayne Page

Two people were injured in a one car accident Monday afternoon on Short Mountain Highway.

Trooper Jimmy Tisdale of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 33 year old Rodney Gora II of 1031 Short Mountain Street, Smithville was driving north when he went off the right side of the road into a ditch.

Both Gora and his wife, 23 year old Tiffany C. Gora, a passenger of the car, were injured and airlifted from the scene by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

Trooper Tisdale was assisted by members of the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Critical Incident Response Team (CERT) made up of Lieutenant Brian Lawson and Troopers Johnny Farley and Shannon Brinkley.

Others on the scene were members of the DeKalb EMS, DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Trooper Tisdale says traffic was tied up for a period of time while the accident was being investigated.

Police Make Arrest In Child Assault Case

May 30, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police recently investigated a Domestic Assault and found that the victim was a 4 year old female child.

Chief Tom Stufano says police arrested the 28 year old father of the child who lived in the 100 Block of Village Place in Smithville. Investigators were summoned to the complainant's sister's address to be advised of the assault. Once at the scene, Police found that the child had a number of bruises and marks. Contact was made with the father at his address and he was intoxicated. Investigators also discovered that the father had been assaulted by 2-3 other individuals who had left the scene just prior to police response. The subjects were identified and contacted but the father refused to prosecute. The father was subsequently arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $5,000 bond.

Chief Stufano did not identify the man charged in the case.

Meanwhile, Chief Stufano says on Saturday, May 26th, Smithville Police arrested 31 year old Christopher Gibbs of 221 Sims Street in Dowelltown for DUI, Driving on a Revoked License 2nd Offense and Sale and Delivery of a Schedule III Drug. Officers responded to a citizen complaint of a possible intoxicated driver at State Route 56 and North Congress Boulevard. Upon contact, Smithville Police observed Gibbs in an intoxicated state and found an open container of beer in the front console. Field sobriety tests were administered and he performed poorly. Gibbs also had (14) Lortabs Pills concealed in cellophane in his pocket. Gibbs was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $9,500 bond.

Chief Stufano says \"Smithville Police are ever vigilant for drunk drivers and actively patrol our streets in an effort to identify suspicious activity. The interest and support the community has shown in helping deter crime has shown to make a significant difference in the safety of our neighborhoods.\"


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