Local News Articles

Stepped Up Police Visibility and Enforcement Efforts Lead To Several Arrests

February 5, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police Officers working traffic enforcement and drug interdiction were busy over the past few days in stepped up efforts to have more police visibility.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says on February 2nd Officers stopped 38 year old Celina Rena Tate of 848 Foster Road in Smithville leaving the Bridgeway Motel at 4:30 a.m. on a reported Domestic disturbance complaint. During the course of the investigation Officer?s found that Tate was under the influence of a drug or alcoholic beverage and was acting in a disorderly manner by beating on motel doors disturbing patrons. A records check disclosed that this was Tate?s 3rd offense for driving under the influence. She was eventually charged with DUI 3rd Offense, Refusal to Sign a Citation, Disorderly Conduct and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (Syringes), and Simple Possession of a Scheduled III Drug. She was transported to the Dekalb County Jail under an $8,500 Bond. Tate?s vehicle, a 2000 Chevy S-10 4x4, was seized under the State?s Seizure Statute.

Meanwhile, Chief Stufano says on February 4th, 25 year old Juan A. Hernandez of 962 Blue Springs Road was stopped for a traffic infraction when Smithville Officers learned that Hernandez did not have a license due to it being revoked for a DUI. He was arrested and charged with a traffic citation and Driving on a Revoked License. He was transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,500 bond and his vehicle, a 2002 Chevy Avalanche, was seized under the State?s Seizure Statute.

Also on February 4th, 19 year old Leon Birlain of 122 Delano Street in McMinnville was arrested for having an open container of an alcoholic beverage while driving, speeding and he did not have a valid Driver?s License or Insurance. Smithville Officer?s working a dedicated traffic enforcement detail on Highway 70 originally stopped Birlain for speeding. He was eventually arrested and transported to the Dekalb County Jail under a $1,500 bond.

In a separate case 33 year old Jason Cripps of 774 Four Seasons Road was arrested for Theft under $500.00 from the Walmart store on Highway 70. Smithville Police responded to the store after a Night Manager stated that Cripps was seen concealing a Dremmel Power tool under his clothing and leaving the store. He was eventually stopped and the item recovered. At the time of arrest Cripps had $420 in cash on him. He was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,500 bond.

Chief Stufano says traffic enforcement efforts over the weekend yielded 18 citations for speeding infractions, no driver?s license, no insurance and DUI. The Smithville Police Department is committed to providing the citizens and guests of Smithville a safer driving experience and would like to thank the motoring public for helping identify those drivers that put us in jeopardy.

Mobile Home Destroyed In Early Morning Fire-Two Escape Unharmed

February 6, 2007
Dwayne Page

Two people escaped injury in a mobile home fire early Tuesday morning at 230 Huddleston Loop off Adcock Cemetery Road.

Captain Jeff Williams says firefighters received a call at 3:45 a.m. to come to a trailer belonging to Melissa King being rented by Billy C. Cantrell.

Cantrell and his caretaker Cissy Petty, who were inside the trailer at the time of the fire, escaped unharmed but the mobile home was destroyed.

Captain Williams says Petty told firefighters that she was on the couch asleep when she awoke to the screams of Cantrell, who was in the same room, lying in a hospital bed, which had caught fire.

Firefighters speculate that Cantrell, who was on oxygen, may have been smoking in bed.

Members of the Cookeville Highway, Short Mountain Highway, and Midway Stations responded along with a tanker truck. DeKalb EMS was also on the scene as a precaution.

DeKalb County Gets Two New Physicians

February 7, 2007
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County has two new doctors, Podiatrist Dr. Timothy R. Merrell and Dr. Jyotheen Karam, Board Certified Nephrologist of Nephrology Associates, PC in Nashville.

Dr. Merrell specializes in medicine and surgery of the foot. He treats conditions such as bunions, hammertoes, heel pain, neuroma, ingrown toenails, and diabetic foot care.

Dr. Merrell received his medical degree from the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences in Des Moines, Iowa. He completed his residency program in the James H. Quillen VA Medical Hospital. Dr. Merrell has had a successful practice in Fayetteville, Tennessee for the past nine years.

Dr. Merrell is married to Marnie Merrell and has two great children. His daughter, Rae, is studying to become a Registered Nurse and his son, Blake, is a member of the United States Air Force. His interests include playing the guitar, mountain bike riding, scuba diving, fishing and organic gardening.

Dr. Merrell will be seeing patients at the Family Medical Center.

Dr. Karam specializes in the care of patients with kidney diseases and high blood pressure.

Dr. Karam received his medical degree at the India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India in 1995. He completed his internal medicine residency at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2001. In 2003, he received a nephrology fellowship and joined the faculty at SUNY Buffalo - where he taught until moving to Middle Tennessee.

Dr. Karam will see patients at the Medical Specialty Office.

Fire Damages Two Storage Buildings At Bluhmtown Road Residence

February 7, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded to a reported structure fire at 1:36 p.m.Wednesday at 600 Bluhmtown Road.

Chief Donny Green says some burning trash on the property apparently spread to a storage building and a smaller utility building next to it causing significant damage to both structures. He says firefighters were able to save the buildings and the contents, including tools, workout equipment, beds, and other miscellaneous items were also salvageable.

The fire apparently did not threaten the residence on the property, which belongs to Al Mahan but is being rented by Pam Gaus.

A relative and neighbor of Ms Gaus, Jason Gaus spotted the fire and reported it.

Members of the Short Mountain Highway, Blue Springs, and Cookeville Highway Stations responded along with DeKalb EMS and the Sheriff's Department. No one was injured.

Studio Six Photography Announces Fashion Show Cover Model Winners

February 7, 2007
Dwayne Page

Isabella McCoy of Alexandria and Hannah Watson of Smithville were announced as the official Cover Models of the 2007 Studio Six Fashion Show during a LIVE radio broadcast Wednesday on WJLE. Contestants were voted on by the public through the Studio Six Photography website. The ballots were drawn from two age categories: Ages 6 to 15 and 16 to 20.

\"We were amazed at the response and thousands of votes we received. We personally did not know how this would go, but the success was overwhelming. The fashion show committee was very nervous leaving our cover models up to chance,\" Beth Chandler and Amelia Lynn of Studio Six stated. \"We both agreed that a younger age category needed to be included so that all ages would have an opportunity to win. We could not be happier with the winners. The billboards and promotion will be fabulous because of them!\"

Voters purchased ballots for 25 cents with all proceeds going to the Education Foundation of DeKalb County partnering with Operation Head to Toe. Over 90 children were clothed this year and multiple scholarships given through these two important charitable organizations working specifically for DeKalb County.

\"Now that our Cover Models are in place, our next step is to contact local businesses to help us sponsor the show to raise even more money for these wonderful organizations,\" said Shan Burklow, owner of Studio Six Photography. \"Groups or individuals that would like to volunteer their time or money will have a great time doing something beneficial for their county. Busineses should be on the lookout because I will be coming soon.\"

The cover models will be used in all fashion show publicity including billboards, website, tickets, posters, and all advertising materials. The billboards featuring the 2007 Fashion Show Cover Models will go up March 1st but you can check out a preview on the Studio Six website February 13th. The show will be held Thursday, March 29th at 7:00 p.m. downtown Smithville. Tickets are on sale now at Studio Six Photography or can be purchased online at www.StudioSixLimited.com.

Alleged Big Time Marijuana Dealers Convicted In Federal Court

February 8, 2007
Dwayne Page

Two men, described by Sheriff Patrick Ray as major marijuana dealers in this area for several years, may be going to prison after being convicted by a federal jury in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga Wednesday.

Sheriff Ray says 48 year old Jeffory Carl Young of Short Mountain Road, Woodbury and 53 year old Morris Edward Roller of Lance Road, McMinnville were found guilty on all charges in a 20 count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in May, 2006.

U.S. District Judge R. Alan Edgar will sentence the two men at a hearing on May 7th. Roller is facing a prison term of from five years to forty years and Young's sentence could be from ten years to life in prison. The two men have been incarcerated since their arrests and will remain in custody until the sentencing hearing.

The trial began on Monday, January 29th and continued on Tuesday, January 30th, Wednesday, January 31st, and resumed Tuesday and Wednesday, February 6th and 7th.

Another hearing was held Thursday morning in Chattanooga where a forfeiture agreement was reached between the prosecutors and the defendants and approved by the Judge.

Sheriff Ray says the defendants agreed to forfeit 1,000 acres of property they own jointly in DeKalb and Cannon County, with an estimated value of $1.7 million dollars. The property will be sold at auction by the U.S. Marshal's Service at a later date.

Both men were found guilty on a charge that \"they did conspire to manufacture 100 to 1,000 marijuana plants, a controlled substance, from at least 1992 until May, 2006\".

Roller was convicted on nine counts of marijuana distribution on the following dates: January 19th, January 30th, February 18th, July 21st, September 15th, and November 17th in the year 2004, on March 2nd and December 29th in the year 2005, and on May 24th, 2006.

Roller was also found guilty of using a communication facility (telephone) to facilitate the distribution of marijuana on the following dates: September 29th, October 4th, October 5th, and December 21st, 2005.

The jury found Young guilty of aiding and abetting another person in the possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute on August 27th, 2004 and January 31st, 2006

Young was also convicted on charges that he used a telephone to facilitate the distribution of marijuana on December 21st, 2005, January 26th and January 31st, 2006 and twice on December 12th, 2005.

The men, business partners, operated farmland on the Warren-Cannon County line.

The case stems from an undercover investigation by the Warren County Sheriff's Department, the Southeastern Drug Enforcement Agency, the Middle Tennessee Drug Enforcement Agency, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Agency, and the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

Officers say they made many undercover buys leading up to the raids in May.

Sheriff Ray, who worked for the Warren County Sheriff's Department at the time and was involved in the investigation, says these two men were first charged with manufacturing marijuana eight years ago in DeKalb County during Sheriff Kenneth Pack's administration but the trial ended in a mistrial with a hung jury. The men claimed they were cultivating a wildlife food plot and not marijuana, even though pictures had been taken of the men in the marijuana patch, and were entered as evidence during the trial. Sheriff Ray says some jurors later said they could not convict the men because they were fearful of them. \"During 1999, we had a case here in DeKalb County where these two individuals, Morris Roller and Jeff Young were caught in a marijuana patch. We had pictures of them. That jury was a hung jury. After talking with some of the jurors, they advised that they were scared of these two individuals because they were big time drug dealers.\"

Sheriff Ray says the investigation into the Warren County case began five years ago. \"In 2002 while I was an investigator with the Warren County Sheriff's Department, we had an informant go in and buy compressed marijuana from Morris Roller. We were paying anywhere from $1,050 and up for it. We were actually able to make several buys from him for almost four years from 2002 to May, 2006. We were also able to get another informant to go in and buy from Jeff Young. We actually bought up to nine pounds there at one time. After we had purchased some of the marijuana, we went to Chattanooga and contacted the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and they set up what they call a \"pin link\" on their (defendant's) cell phones, in which we could tell who they were making calls to and who was calling them. That evolved into where we could actually listen to the phone calls. We would listen to the calls and if there was any drug transaction we would evaluate what was going on and who was going there to do business with them. They had a connection out of Mexico. It was Mexican marijuana, which was the compressed marijuana. They were also raising homegrown marijuana. There was testimony during the trial that some of the buds of the homegrown marijuana was at least an inch and a half to two inches thick and about a foot long.\"

During the arrest in May, authorities seized 31 parcels of land, equaling 1900 acres with a tax appraisal of $2.5 million; more than $10,000 in cash; and over ten pounds of marijuana.

Investigators also confiscated two farm tractors, a round hay baler, semi-truck, a ton truck, and a bob cat loader, all believed to have been purchased with proceeds from the sale of drugs.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue also levied a $60,000 tax against the two men

Sheriff Ray says more arrests may be forthcoming as a result of this investigation, including some from DeKalb County.

Sheriff Ray also adds that this is an example of a lesson that adults and young people should learn from, that dealing in drugs is dangerous and costly. \"This is an example of what we should try to teach our kids about using drugs. These two guys here were fairly successful businessmen in the cattle industry. They had nice farms, vehicles, farm equipment, and hundreds of head of cattle, and they lost it all, but more importantly they have lost their freedom. We need to teach our children that this is what can happen to you. If you deal in drugs or use drugs, you can lose everything you have, including your freedom.\"

School Board Considers Light Agenda

February 8, 2007
Dwayne Page

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby presented his monthly written report on personnel to the Board of Education Thursday night.

Those hired for the 2006-2007 school year since last month include Deona Thomas, certified substitute teacher at DCHS; Brandy Roller, certified substitute teacher; Tiffanie L. Harness, certified substitute teacher; Benita Byars, school nurse; and Mattie Ruth Frazier, custodian at DeKalb West School.

Rena Adcock, cafeteria worker was transferred to a full time position at DCHS.

In other business, Terry Ellis from the Energy Division of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development addressed the board concerning no interest loans which are available to retrofit existing local government buildings with new energy efficient lights, insulation and HVAC systems.

Ellis says the school system could apply for a $500,000 loan from the Federal Department of Energy, which if approved, would have to be repaid over seven years. Ellis explained that DeKalb County, as a Three Star community through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, could get the loan, if approved, at 0% interest.

Ellis says energy efficient audits have already been conducted at four of the schools in the county to determine the needs, at no cost to the local government. Findings of those audits reveal that DeKalb Middle School, DCHS, and DeKalb West School need new energy efficient lighting, and that Smithville Elementary School needs the new lighting, in addition to a new energy efficient HVAC system. The total cost to make these retrofits to the schools is projected to be $165,350.

The board took no action on the proposal.

Meanwhile, the board approved a December request made by Jeannie Watson and Shan Burklow authorizing them to produce a school calendar which would include photographs of children and dates of school functions. The calendar would serve as a fundraiser for the non-profit Operation Head To Toe, which provides clothes for needy children in this county. Some ninety children were served this past year.

The board voted to ask the county commission for permission to bid the purchase of three new school buses for delivery in August, to be funded in the 2007-2008 General Purpose School Budget.

In other routine matters, the board approved an overnight trip request for the DCHS Beta Club to attend the State Convention at Opryland in Nashville on April 9-11.

The board also approved an overnight trip request for DCHS football cheerleaders to attend the Contest of Champions National Cheerleading Competition in Orlando, Florida on February 24th.

Permission was granted for an overnight trip for the DCHS basketball cheerleaders to participate in the Smoky Mountain Spring Spectacular on March 10th in Gatlinburg

The board okayed an overnight trip request for the FCCLA to attend the State Leadership Meeting April 10-12 at Opryland Hotel.

Approval was given for board members to attend the ?Day on the Hill\" Legislative Conference on February 27th.

Two Airlifted To Vanderbilt Hospital After Wednesday Night Crash

February 8, 2007
Dwayne Page

Four people were involved in a two vehicle crash around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night on Highway 70 east in Smithville.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says 26 year old Luz Elena Romo of 175 Homestead Lane, Smithville and her 7 year old son were in one of the vehicles while 37 year old Mario Perez Matias of 586 Colvert's Lake Road, Smithville and Oliverio Martinez were in the other.

Upon arrival, Smithville Police Officers found a pickup truck that had left the roadway and run through a guardrail. The truck then apparently flipped ending up against a telephone pole.

Romo and her son were found partially ejected from the vehicle.

Chief Stufano says \"It was miraculous but the child did not sustain any injuries and the mother only sustained slight cuts and bruises.\"

According to Chief Stufano, \"While Officers were tending to Romo and her son, they heard a slight rustling in the bushes located approximately 60 feet away down into a drainage culvert. Further inspection disclosed that there was a second vehicle also involved in the accident. Upon reaching the second vehicle they found Matias, the driver, and Martinez. Both had severe injuries. The Smithville Fire Department and DeKalb EMS responded to extricate the two. Due to the severity of their injuries they were airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital. \"

Chief Stufano says \"Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Raymond along with members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department aided Smithville Police in their investigation and containment of the extensive crash scene. Wrecker drivers worked tirelessly for over an hour as they removed the vehicle from the culvert. The investigation at the scene disclosed that Romo had just dropped off her husband at work and was proceeding east on Highway 70 when Matias, driving in the same direction, hit the Romo vehicle from behind. Both vehicles left the roadway. During an inspection of the Matias' vehicle, numerous cans of beer were found littered throughout the car. The investigation continues with charges pending\".

Smithville Police Make Another Round of Drug Arrests

February 9, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department has made another round of drug arrests.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says \"On Thursday, Smithville Police Officers responded to a domestic violence complaint at 705 Snow Street and made contact with 35 year old Chad Canter who was bleeding from a hand wound he had suffered during a confrontation with his live-in girlfriend. During the investigation, officers found numerous narcotics, syringes and assorted paraphernalia lying about the residence with fresh blood on them. Canter was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a bond of $4,000.\"

Canter is officially charged with simple possession, possession of a schedule IV controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. .

Meanwhile, in recent undercover drug operations, Smithville Investigators arrested 46 year old Danny Ponder of 7851 Old Mill Road, 39 year old Sonny Gene Smith of 704 Short Mountain Street and 41 year old Tammy Denise Miller of 8956 Short Mountain Street and an un-named juvenile all of Smithville for Sale and Delivery of Narcotics.

Ponder is officially charged with simple possession; Smith is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and sale of a controlled substance; and Miller is charged with possession of a schedule II controlled substance.

Chief Stufano says Smithville Police Officers had setup a series of undercover drug buys where these individuals delivered and sold K-4 Dilauded pills from 704 Short Mountain Street. A vehicle used to transport the illegal drugs was also seized under the state's Drug Seizure Forfeiture Act. A large cache of drugs and money was also recovered. All of the subjects were arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $45,000 bond each.

Shortly after these series of arrests, Chief Stufano says Smithville Police again were able to successfully stage another undercover operation and arrested 40 year old Debbie Cantrell and Gary Lynn Hale both of 848 Foster Road in Smithville for Sale and Delivery of Narcotics from their residence in Evins Manor Apartments. During this sting, officers were able to recover 25 ? K-4 Dilauded pills that sell for $25.00 each, a number of syringes, cash, and over 115 legend drugs commonly used as a numbing agent. Chief Stufano says officers had received numerous complaints over recent weeks from concerned citizens stating that possible illegal drug activity was going on due to the amount of momentary traffic coming and going from the residence. Surveillance had been setup and the buy process put in place. Hale's bond was set at $25,000 and Cantrell's was set at $15,000.

Cantrell is officially charged with sale of a controlled substance and Hale is charged with possession of a schedule II controlled substance.

Chief Stufano says \"Smithville Police in cooperation with our crime watch partners and business merchants are actively pursuing a zero tolerance stance on illegal drug activity in our community. It is through concerned citizen contacts, vigilant watch of suspicious activity and strong partnerships with our neighboring law enforcement agencies that this goal will be possible. Your continued support in helping beautify our community is greatly appreciated.\"

Hidden Harbor Marina Relocating to Holmes Creek Recreation Area on Center Hill Lake

February 9, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved plans for the relocation of Hidden Harbor Marina from its present location at the head of Holmes Creek to Holmes Creek Recreation Area, which is located approximately one mile downstream of the current marina site.

The marina is relocating primarily due to challenges at their existing site, such as shallow water depths, limited or no vehicular access to the area during periods of high lake levels, and site limitations to modernizing the facilities to accommodate modern recreational vessels and equipment.

Various other options were considered, but they were either cost-prohibitive or not environmentally feasible.

The campground and picnic area at Holmes Creek Recreation Area was closed by the Corps under the Recreation Excellence at Army Lakes (REAL) program in 2003. The intent of the REAL program was to transfer the management of some recreation areas to other agencies or concessionaires, while other areas were closed to prevent valuable resources from being expended at little-used areas. In 2004, the area was made available for lease. However, no viable proposals were received.

This relocation is considered to be in the best interest of the Corps, the marina, and the general public. Although the full relocation process will require approximately one year to complete, the public will soon begin seeing the benefits of this relocation. The marina management plans to reopen about 15 campsites with water and electrical hookups for public use later this spring. They are also planning to have at least one boat launching ramp available to the public for a $5.00 launching fee. Relocation of the floating facilities, including the dock store and the moorage slips, to the new site is not scheduled to take place until after the summer recreation season is over. In future years, the marina may also reopen more campsites and provide cabins or other lodging facilities for public use.

Center Hill Lake, which is located near Smithville, Tennessee, is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Primarily due to the outstanding environmental quality and aesthetics of Center Hill Lake and the pristine forested shoreline, the lake and the surrounding public property are well known to a diverse group of outdoor recreationists and attract more than three million visitors annually from Tennessee and surrounding states. The 18,220-acre lake and the 415 miles of beautiful forested shoreline adjacent to the approximately 20,000 acres of public lands draw those visitors and prompt them to add more than $94 million to the local economy as they pursue outdoor recreational activities, such as wildlife viewing and photography, boating, fishing, camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, or just simply sight-seeing. Recreational facilities and opportunities for the recreating public are provided on Center Hill Lake by the Corps, by concessionaires, such as commercial marinas, and by numerous other state and local agencies, such as the Tennessee State Parks and the surrounding county governments.


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