Local News Articles

Three Charged with Staging Armed Robbery at Convenience Store including Night Manager

July 10, 2007
Dwayne Page

In less than 16 hours after a reported Sunday night Armed Robbery in progress at the BP Gas station on Highway 70, Smithville Police Detectives have arrested three individuals for the crime, including the night manager of the store.

Chief Tom Stufano says 20 year old Michael Dirden, Jr. of 437 West Main Street, Smithville has been charged with setting up the robbery and filing a false police report. He was taken to the DeKalb County Jail. His bond is $10,000.

Others charged include a 17 year old juvenile and the gunman, 18 year old James Wilber of 107 West Bryant Street, Smithville.

Chief Stufano says the incident began at 8:30 p.m Sunday night when Dirden, the night manager of the convenience mart, telephoned 911 to advise that a man brandishing a gun forced him to reopen the store as he was locking up. Video surveillance showed that a person dressed in camouflage, wearing a bandana and sunglasses and carrying a black pistol forced the manager into the store, stole the money bags and then hit the manager in the face as he exited the parking lot on foot. Dirden was taken to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was treated and released.

However, Chief Stufano says investigators, after reviewing video footage and crime scene evidence, found inconsistencies in the story. After numerous interviews, Investigators began to suspect possible employee involvement. Police were able to establish that Dirden had been involved with setting up the robbery and had been planning the incident for three months. Dirden had solicited the help of friends and gave them detailed information as to where the surveillance cameras were setup, how to approach and exit the store, staging how the robber would hit him in the face in front of the camera, and the exact script to be used in filing the police report.

According to Chief Stufano, the 17 year old juvenile picked up the gunman, Wilber, a block away from the store. Wilber was identified as the person who entered the store and allegedly pistol whipped and robbed Dirden, which led to a two and a half hour manhunt by local police. It was discovered that Wilber had used a realistic looking CO2 powered pellet pistol during the incident. The investigation revealed that Dirden, Wilbur, and the juvenile met back up together after Dirden returned from his hospital visit and then split up the cash proceeds. Approximately half of the money was spent in a matter of hours after the robbery.

Investigators found hundreds of dollars of stereo equipment in Dirden's car, and identified debt payoffs the three had made. Additionally, the juvenile had made an early morning bank deposit into his personal account. Detectives were able to retrieve the remainder of the cash and the gun from various locations in the city. The bandana Wilber had used was found in the woods next to the BP station. The remaining camouflage clothes, checks and credit card receipts were burned in a fire pit to conceal their evidence value. Wilber was arrested and charged with the crime with bail set at $10,000. The juvenile was released to the custody of his father and will be charged in a Juvenile Court petition.

Chief Stunfao says \"Although the case was lengthy and complex, Smithville Detectives and residents offering information were credited with a speedy resolution of the case. The partnership with the community in detecting illegal activity continues to show that violent crime will not be tolerated by this community. Police are also crediting the merchants in their active participation and security setups.\"

Smithville Police Charge Two with Stealing Folding Chairs from Family Dollar Store

July 11, 2007
Dwayne Page

Two people accused of stealing lawn chairs from the Family Dollar Store have been charged with theft by the Smithville Police Department.

Chief Tom Stufano say 38 year old Billy Eugene Cook of 6246 Dry Creek Road, Smithville and Amanda Riley of 514 College Street, Smithville are both charged with theft under $500. Bond for Cook is set at $1,000. Riley was also charged with driving on a revoked driver's license and her bond is $2,000. Both were processed and transported to the DeKalb County Jail.

Chief Stufano says police, responding to a reported theft in progress at the Family Dollar Store, were advised by witnesses that a man and woman were removing chairs that were on sale in front of the store and placing them in their BMW car. The store was not open for business at the time of the incident. Officers contacted the driver and a computer check revealed that her license was revoked for a prior DUI. Further investigation also showed that the lawn chairs recovered still had the Family Dollar tags on them and that Cook and Riley could not produce a receipt for them. The store manager arrived and also advised that the items should not have been removed.

School Board Takes Up Light Agenda

July 12, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Board of Education considered a very light agenda Thursday night.

Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore presented Director Mark Willoughby's personnel report. Willoughby was out of town and unable to attend the meeting.

Those employed for the 2007-2008 school year since last month include:

Debra Poteete, a teacher at DeKalb West School
John Shockly, teacher at DeKalb Middle School
Penny Smitty, teacher at DeKalb Middle School
William Jennings, Special Education Teacher at DeKalb County High School
Jenny Norris, teacher at DCHS
Rebecca Purdue, teacher at DCHS
Kristin Reagh, teacher at DCHS
Layra Crook, teacher at Smithville Elementary School
Marla Beshearse,, teacher at Northside Elementary School
Jessica Hale, teacher at Northside Elementary School
Cheryl Vance, teacher at Northside Elementary School
Marlene Cook, teacher at DCHS
Vicky Atnip, Special Education Assistant
Shelly Gibson, Special Education Assistant
Jill Herron, Special Education interim teacher

Those transferred since last month include:
Tena Davison to DeKalb Middle School
Lori Isabell to DCHS
Betty Parris to Smithville Elementary School
David Gash to DCHS as Assistant Principal

Special Education Assistants Tamara Lambert and Johnna Goff have resigned

Amy Fox, Special Education teacher, was granted a leave of absence as requested.

In other business, the board voted to sell some surplus equipment from the Technology Department and deferred action until August on approval of school budgets and fundraiser requests for 2007-2008.

The board granted approval for members Charles Robinson, Linda Fuston, and Kenny Rhody to attend the TSBA 19th annual Summer Law Institute in Gatlinburg July 20th & 21st and for Charles Robinson to attend the Policy Update Workshop at TSBA on August 3rd.

Annual Meeting Date Set for DeKalb Telephone Cooperative

July 13, 2007
Dwayne Page

DeKalb Telephone Cooperative (d/b/a DTC Communications) will host its annual meeting on Sept. 15th at the DeKalb County Fairgrounds in Alexandria.

Directors will be elected in four exchanges, including the Auburntown (464), Gordonsville (683), Temperance Hall (548), and Woodland (765) exchanges.

Voting for directors will take place at the cooperative’s annual meeting on Saturday, Sept. 15 and during early voting Monday-Wednesday, Sept. 10-12. Thursday, Sept. 6, will be the last day to make changes to your membership for the 2007 election.

Hours and locations for early voting include:
Early Voting Hours
Mon., Sept. 10 – Noon to 7 p.m.
Tues., Sept. 11 – Noon to 7 p.m.
Wed., Sept. 12 – 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Early Voting Locations
Kenneth Sandlin Building, DeKalb County Fairgrounds, Alexandria
Gordonsville Clinic/DTC Conference Room, 126 JMZ Drive, Gordonsville
DeKalb County Courthouse, Room 100, 1 Public Square, Smithville
DTC Training Center (former Woodbury phone store), located beside the DTC Customer Service Center, Woodbury

On Saturday, Sept. 15, gates to the DeKalb County Fairgrounds in Alexandria will open at 11:45 a.m., with voting from noon until 4 p.m. The business meeting will begin at 4 p.m. or once the last person in line at that time has voted.

Only DTC members may vote, and each member must present identification. For a single membership, only that individual may vote. Either member of a joint membership may vote, but not both. In the case of a business membership, a business affidavit is required.

Individuals interested in becoming a candidate for a director’s position must meet the qualifications as defined in the bylaws and submit a petition by 5 p.m. on August 1, 2007.

For questions regarding membership and voting guidelines, refer to the by-laws section included in the current DTC phone directory.

Mayor and Police Chief Honor Man for Act of Bravery

July 13, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson and Police Chief Tom Stufano honored a man Friday afternoon for his bravery in helping stop a drunk driver from plowing into a crowd during last weekend's Fiddler's Jamboree.

The plaque presented to Chris Walls reads \" Special Thanks to Chris Walls. In appreciation of your bravery and consideration for lives of your fellowman, Chris Walls did risk his own life to stop a drunk driver from plowing into thousands of people at the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree on July 7th, 2007. Your heroic actions did save the lives of many people. On behalf of the Smithville Police Department and all residents of Smithville, we are grateful for your actions.\"

Chief Stufano also commended Walls for his act of bravery. \"Chris, you were able to prevent something that would have been absolutely catastrophic, not only to the residents of this city, but also to the visitors at the Jamboree. I personally appreciate everything you did out there and the many residents and merchants who were in the direct line of this particular car who came to me shortly thereafter and did identify you as the person who was instrumental in doing this. So again, congratulations and thank you very much.\"

Walls explains how he reacted when he saw the drunk driver heading toward downtown. \"We were just sitting around and enjoying the Jamboree when I heard a lady down the street in a panic, screaming out ‘stop that driver'. Once I saw the driver, I didn't have time to think, I just went over toward him and did what I could. It was only maybe thirty seconds, just an instinct reaction. I jumped in front of the car to try to get him to stop but when I saw that he was not going to respond to that, I went to his driver's side window to try and talk to him, but I didn't have much time because he was closing the distance between himself and the crowd. So I reached in the car and threw it (gear) in park. After that, I just opened the door and kept asking him to get out until help arrived.\"

On Saturday afternoon, July 7th, Chief Stufano says numerous 911 calls were placed simultaneously about a vehicle driving in an erratic manner along Church Street and that this vehicle had hit two other automobiles parked along the roadway.

The vehicle then drove around a barricade and entered a parking lot on Church and 4th Street striking another automobile. The vehicle continued to drive around a second barricade and entered 4th Street heading toward the public square.

Walls saw the vehicle trying to enter the crowded area and he was able to get to the car and pull the keys out of the ignition.

Smithville Police were on the scene immediately and placed into custody 39 year old Robin Howard Russell of 861 Ward Mill Road, Baxter.

Further investigation noted that Russell had been drinking from a gallon bottle of whiskey, which police found opened and in his lap at the time of arrest. A computer check disclosed that Russell had just been released from a neighboring county jail the day before for DUI. Additionally, Russell was driving on a Revoked Driver's License. Charges against him included; DUI (3rd) offense, Reckless Endangerment, Leaving the Scene of an Accident (3 times) and Violation of the Open Container law. Russell could not perform a field sobriety test due to his inebriated state. His bond was set at $49,500.

Three Injured In Separate Wrecks

July 13, 2007
Dwayne Page

Three people were injured in separate traffic accidents Thursday night and Friday morning on DeKalb County roads.

Trooper Dewain Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says at about 6:05 p.m. 47 year old Kenneth Dale Nunley of McMinnville was operating a 2003 Honda VTX 1800 motorcycle on Turner Road with a group of other motorcycle riders when he wrecked while attempting to negotiate a curve. The motorcycle exited the roadway to the right, entered a ditchline, and crashed. Nunley was thrown from the motorcycle. He was transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Meanwhile, 39 year old Lisa Dawn Dube of 437 Carter Street, Smithville was hurt in a one car accident on Highway 146 around 9:55 p.m.

Trooper Jennings says Dube was northbound in a 2001 Pontiac Trans Am when she exited her lane into the oncoming lane and left the roadway to the left. As she overcorrected, the vehicle came back onto the roadway and overturned. The car slid some 200 feet on it's top and came to rest in the middle of the highway.

Dube, who was not wearing a seatbelt, got out of the car and walked several yards down the road to a house, where she was picked up by DeKalb EMS and taken to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Dube was charged with failure to maintain the proper lane of travel and for not wearing her seat belt. Trooper Jennings says alcohol was also involved.

The third accident occurred at 1:35 a.m. Friday morning on Highway 146.

Trooper Jennings says 28 year old Shawn Bradley Patton of 318 Oak Place Drive, Smithville, the driver of a 2004 Ford Ranger was northbound when he exited the roadway to the left, struck a culvert, and then hit a utility pole, cutting it in half. The truck then rolled over on it's top. Patton was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was treated and released. Patton is charged with driving on a suspended license, failure to maintain the proper lane of travel, and violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance).

Committee Favors County Getting Back in the Ambulance Service Business

July 14, 2007
Dwayne Page

With less than three months until Sumner Regional Medical Center officially ceases operation of the DeKalb County Ambulance Service, the County's Emergency Services Committee wants to bring the ambulance service back under the county's control.

County Mayor Mike Foster told the county commission last month that Sumner Regional, which has been under contract to operate the local ambulance service for several years, is \"going out of the ambulance business\".

Since then, the county's emergency services committee has been meeting to determine whether or not to contract with another entity to run the local ambulance service.

Foster says the committee met at the courthouse Thursday evening and after reviewing proposals from several companies, including Pro-Med, Pride Care, and Trans-Med among others, decided that the best course would be for the ambulance service to be run by the county. Foster says the most of the companies were primarily interested in only providing convalescent care and one company wanted to take ownership of the ambulances. The current fleet of ambulances is owned by the county. Plus, Foster says the committee felt an urgency to act now with less than 90 days before new management must be in place. \"I had gotten information from about eleven counties on how they were handling their ambulances services. Our options were to contract with one of about six other companies that primarily do convalescent care, or let the county run the ambulance service. I think everybody (committee) is concerned that we maintain the same level of ambulance service that we have and that we take care of the people who work there. We think we have a really good ambulance service and we were well satisfied with the service we were getting. We had some concerns last year about the prices. We talked to them about changing the structure of their prices because we thought they were a little high so they lowered them (prices).\"

\"What the process basically amounts to now is that the county will probably have to subsidize the ambulance service some. We feel like we can have a better service if the county runs it so the committee voted for the county to run it and not contract with some other service at this time. I'm comfortable with their decision. I think the county will do a better job of overseeing it. We already own the ambulances. Basically, what it boils down to is that the ambulance service is not a money making proposition, but we would like for it to break even. We'll try to structure the salaries and fees so that it provides the best service we can to the county while taking care of the people who work for the ambulance service. There are two or three options in the way we will handle billing, either it will be contracted out to a collection agency or it will be handled out of the county mayor's office.\"

Foster says the ambulance service director would be hired by the county and the EMS employees would work under the director. \"The employees will answer to the director and if they have an issue they can't resolve then they would submit their grievance to the county mayor's office. They would not be permitted to submit a complaint to any individual county commissioner or the county mayor. Once a grievance has been filed, the director would be required to respond in writing, then the director and the employee making the grievance would come before the entire ambulance committee. We feel like this is the fairest procedure and will help keep down problems.\"

Foster adds that the county is currently compiling information from the ambulance service and other counties in order to determine what the annual costs will be as well as the local rate structure.\" We've used a lot of numbers from the ambulance service itself, but we're also getting input from White County, Lawrence County, Stewart County, Overton County, and some other counties, to try to average out to about what they're doing. It will also be based on TennCare and Medicare fees. In the past, they have charged twelve or thirteen hundred dollars per trip and Medicare paid maybe five hundred dollars and the rest was written off, which would not serve our purpose. The ambulance service, last year, made over 2600 runs. We feel like we need to charge what is a realistic fee. Of course, we will bill TennCare and Medicare at the rates they will pay. We just don't feel like it's right for an individual to pay considerably more than TennCare or Medicare, especially Medicare. Medicare will probably govern what we do. These rates will apply to everyone equally with no political favoritism. The committee was adamant about that. Everyone will pay the same rates, whether the billing is done in-house or by another billing system. We're guessing that the cost to run the ambulance service will be about $1.1 to $1.2 million dollars a year and the revenues will be around a million dollars right now. These numbers are based on what they did last year.\"

Sumner Regional Medical Center currently operates the ambulance service for $163,000 per year, and the county, which owns the ambulances, buys a new one each year. Sumner Regional rents the ambulance service building on Cookeville Highway for $600 per month.

Foster says a lot of for-profit companies are going out of the ambulance service business because of the ever increasing costs and government regulations. He says many counties in this region are now operating their own ambulance services and most are breaking even.

Whether the county will officially get back in the ambulance service business will probably be put to the county commission for a vote at it's next meeting on Monday, July 23rd at 6:30 p.m.

Smithville Police Arrest Drunk Driver and Shop Lifter

July 14, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police responded to an automobile accident on West Broad Street last week and later charged 29 year old Joel Hayes of 136 Bobby Hayes Road, Smithville with DUI.

Chief Tom Stufano says \"Officers conducting the investigation found that Hayes was intoxicated, which resulted in the accident. Hayes was arrested for Driving under the Influence. He was transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond. His court date was set for August 2nd.\"

Police also arrested 26 year old Shelly Faye Beene of 104 Cemetery Street, Smithville for Shop Lifting. Officers responded to the Smithville Food Lion after the manager reported that Beene had entered the store, tried to conceal products in her purse, and then left without paying for them. She was stopped by store employees and the items were recovered. The incident was videotaped by store security. Beene was arrested and charged with Theft under $500 and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond.

Sheriff's Department Makes Quick Arrest in Reported Robbery at Nicole's Market

July 15, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department made an arrest Saturday in a reported robbery at Nicole's Market on Short Mountain Highway, only two hours after the incident occurred.

Detectives arrested 27 year old Christopher Mooneyham for Theft of Property.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Mooneyham walked into the market and asked the clerk two fix him a sandwich. When the clerk walked away from the cash register, Mooneyham opened the register, took approximately $128.00 in cash, and then fled in a vehicle. The clerk, who said she did not know the man, called 911 to report the crime.

Detectives, during their investigation, discovered that a man believed to be Mooneyham was seen driving a car in a reckless manner near the Market.

Detectives later located Mooneyham and he confessed to the crime. Mooneyham's bond was set at $3,500. His court date is July 26th.

Sheriff's Department Finds Non-Operational Meth Lab

July 15, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department found a non-operational meth lab last week at Lake Motel on Highway 70 East on a trailer that was filled with trash.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says items found included components such as iodine crystals, ephedrine, red phosphorus, empty pseudoephedrine blister packs, empty heet bottles, and empty brake cleaner cans.

Officers also found receipts from a local business and electronic returned checks from an individual in another county.

Sheriff Ray says detectives are continuing the investigation hoping to find photos of the person on security cameras at the motel.


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