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Public Hearing to be held on Status Change of Two County Roads

August 24, 2016
Dwayne Page
County Attorney Hilton Conger and County Mayor Tim Stribling (Older Photo)

The DeKalb County Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on a proposed status change concerning two county roads. The hearing will be held on Monday, September 12 at 6:00 p.m. in the downstairs courtroom of the courthouse.

County Mayor Tim Stribling informed the county commission Monday night that the purpose of the hearing is to receive public input regarding a status change of the end section of Taylor Lane (Andy Redus property) from a county road to a private road in the Wolf Creek Community. Also regarding a status change of approximately 1,600 feet of the end section of Wright Bend Road (Ronnie and Elaine Cantrell property) from a county road to a private road in the Belk community. The September meeting of the DeKalb County Planning Commission will be held following the public hearing.

In other business Monday night, the county commission voted to have County Mayor Stribling assign office space in the courthouse for the judicial commissioners, who have been meeting for the last year in a room at the county complex. The vote was 9-3. Commissioner Wayne Cantrell made the motion and suggested that accordion doors might need to be installed in the hallways to keep the public from accessing other areas of the courthouse after business hours.

Cantrell also asked that copies of county officials’ personnel policies be made available to the county commission. Cantrell first made the request in June but the commission hasn’t yet received copies of the policies. According to Cantrell, each county should have a written personnel policy on file and made available to the county commission. “If they (county officials) don’t adopt one (personnel policy) then the county legislative body adopts the policies. This covers every elected official. But department heads who are not elected officials are not included in this. They have to fall under the general policies of the county,” said Cantrell.

“The county has a personnel policy as a whole and I have a copy of three or four of the (county officials) personnel policies. Nobody has adopted them. They are still in my office. I spoke to the state auditor last week and told him each office was looking to adopt their own personnel policy but you (county commission) will have a copy of them by the next meeting,” said County Mayor Stribling.

According to CTAS, the County Technical Assistance Service, If a county official chooses to prepare separate policies, the policies are required to be reviewed for compliance with the law by an attorney appointed by the county mayor with the approval of the county legislative body, and then the approved policies must be presented to the county legislative body to be included in the minutes and filed in the office of the county clerk. These policies are not subject to approval by the county legislative body. The procedure is set out in T.C.A. § 5-23-103.

If a county official chooses not to adopt separate policies for his or her office, that official’s office will be covered by the policies adopted by the county legislative body and the county mayor for all other county employees.

Meanwhile Commissioner Jerry Adcock made a motion that the budget committee begin another review of the pay scale and salaries of employees of county elected officials starting in January in preparation for next year’s budget to determine if any adjustments need to be made. Commissioner Joe Johnson amended Adcock’s motion to include a review of all county employee salaries, not just the elected officials employees. The motion and amendment were approved.

Red Cross and Sport Clips Haircuts offer free haircut coupon to blood and platelet donors in September

August 24, 2016
Dwayne Page

The American Red Cross and Sport Clips Haircuts are teaming up to offer a free haircut coupon to those who come out to donate blood or platelets during September.

The next blood drive in Smithville will be at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 201 South College Street on Tuesday, September 6 from 1:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

“The Red Cross and Sport Clips have partnered for several years to help ensure blood is available for patients in need leading into fall,” said Donna M. Morrissey, director of national partnerships, Red Cross Biomedical Services. “We are excited to partner once again for this year’s Saving Lives Never Looked So Good campaign and offer a coupon for a free haircut to volunteer blood and platelet donors in appreciation for their lifesaving gift.”

Those who come out to give blood or platelets Sept. 1-30 will receive a coupon for a free haircut via email several days after their donation. The coupon is valid through Nov. 6, 2016, at participating Sport Clips locations, and donors must have a valid email address on record to receive the coupon.

“The need for blood touches so many lives – not just those who need blood, but their family members and loved ones too. This is one way Sport Clips can thank those who give the gift of life to support the lifesaving mission of the Red Cross. They donate blood and we give them a free haircut,” said Amanda Palm, corporate communications manager of Sport Clips.

Donors of all blood types are urged to give. To schedule an appointment to donate, use the free Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Donation appointments and completion of a RapidPass online health history questionnaire are encouraged to help reduce wait times.

How to donate blood
Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

About Sport Clips Haircuts
Sport Clips Haircuts is headquartered in Georgetown, Texas. It was established in 1993 and began franchising in 1995. The sports-themed haircutting franchise, which specializes in haircuts for men and boys, is ranked by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the “Fastest-Growing Franchises” and in the top 20 in its “Franchise 500.” There are more than 1,500 Sport Clips stores open in the U.S. and Canada. Sport Clips is the “Official Haircutter” of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), offers veterans preferential pricing on haircuts and franchises, and was named a “2016 Best for Vets: Franchises” by Military Times. Sport Clips provides “haircuts with heart” through its annual Help A Hero fundraiser that has given almost $4 million to the VFW; national partnership with St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants; and other national and local philanthropic outreach. Sport Clips is a proud sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR drivers Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards, and partners with numerous NCAA and professional sports teams. To learn more about Sport Clips, visit sportclips.com.

Newly Elected Officials to Take Oath of Office Thursday

August 23, 2016
Dwayne Page
Assessor of Property-Elect Shannon Cantrell

The new Assessor of Property, Constables, and School Board members elected earlier this month will take the oath of office on Thursday, August 25 at 6:00 p.m. in the downstairs courtroom of the courthouse.

County Mayor Tim Stribling made the announcement Monday night during the monthly county commission meeting.

The new terms begin September 1.

Those to be sworn in are Assessor of Property-elect Shannon Cantrell; Constables Jason Taylor, Thomas Theriaque, Travis Bryant, Paul Cantrell, Mark Milam, Carl Lee Webb, and Johnny King; First District County Commissioner Julie Williams Young; and School Board members Kate Miller, W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, and Doug Stephens.

County Commission Honors Three for Earning Eagle Scout Award

August 23, 2016
Dwayne Page
County Mayor Tim Stribling with Eagle Scouts James Mathis (left) and James Sherwood (right)

Three members of Boy Scout Troop 347 were honored by the County Commission Monday night for earning the Eagle Scout Award.

The commission adopted resolutions paying tribute to Nate and James Sherwood and to James Mathis.

Nate and James’ parents are Scout Masters Will and Jen Sherwood, and Mathis is the son of Richard and Mary Mathis.

For his Eagle project, Nate Sherwood cleared overgrowth and cleaned directional signs around Center Hill Lake. Working with the Corps of Engineers for approval, Nate was able to help 4 million visitors have better visibility of creeks and landmarks from the water when they are enjoying the lake.

James Sherwood planted a tree at DeKalb West School, added four welcoming benches at the entrance of the building, and created a paved walkway from the concrete to the flagpole as his Eagle Scout project. The tree was planted in memory of three individuals to replace other trees which had been removed with the expansion of the West School building and the flagpole was dedicated as a tribute to former DeKalb West School Principal Danny Parkerson.

For James Mathis’ Eagle Scout project, he planted shrubs around the stage at the park next to the Smithville Fire Department adding beauty to the area.

County Mayor Tim Stribling presented copies of the resolutions to the Eagle Scouts. Nate Sherwood was unable to attend the meeting. His parents accepted for him.

Squirrel Season to Open, Tennessee’s Free Hunting Day August 27

August 22, 2016
Squirrel Season to Open

Tennessee residents are allowed to hunt without a license on Saturday, Aug. 27 which coincides with the opening day of squirrel season.

Free Hunting Day is an event the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency annually provides in hopes of increasing interest in hunting. Squirrel hunting is one of Tennessee’s oldest and favorite traditions. The day serves as an excellent opportunity for persons to experience the enjoyment of the sport.

The TWRA encourages regular hunters to introduce friends and family members (young and old) to the outdoors sport. It is also an excellent opportunity for those folks who have not tried hunting in a while to be reintroduced to the sport.

On Free Hunting Day, state resident hunters are exempt from hunting licenses and WMA permit requirements. Many of the WMAs are open to hunters seeking public access on Aug. 27. Hunters are asked to check the information for particular WMAs in the newly-published 2016-17 Tennessee Hunting and Trapping Guide which is available online at www.tnwildlife.org or copies are available at any TWRA regional office or at most outlets where licenses are sold.

The TWRA offers a reminder that hunter education requirements are not waived for Free Hunting Day. Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 is required to have successfully completed a hunter education course. An apprentice license is required for those born on or after Jan. 1, 1969 if the hunter education course has not been completed. This license exempts the hunter from the mandatory hunter education law for one year from the date of purchase, but may only be purchased for up to three consecutive years during the lifetime of the hunter.

Hunters are allowed to harvest up to 10 squirrels a day from the opening day of squirrel season through Feb. 28, 2017 with each hunting day beginning a half-hour before sunrise and ending a half-hour after sunset.

In addition to squirrels, those species that have a year-round season will be open as well. The year-round species include armadillo, beaver, coyote, groundhog, and striped skunk.

For more information about hunting in Tennessee, visit TWRA’s website at www.tnwildlife.org or contact your nearest TWRA regional office.

Chancellor to Rule on Temporary Injunction Wednesday

August 22, 2016
Dwayne Page
Chancellor Ronald Thurman

Chancellor Ronald Thurman will decide Wednesday whether Grant Manning should temporarily be enjoined from keeping a gate across Sunset Drive in the Belk Community.

After hearing from four witnesses this morning (Monday), Chancellor Thurman decided to postpone further proceedings in the case until Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. since he had a previously scheduled trial to preside over in Putnam County Monday afternoon.

The hearing, being held in DeKalb County Chancery Court, is to determine whether the Chancellor should issue a temporary injunction to keep Manning from obstructing Sunset Drive, until a separate proceeding is held on a defense motion to dismiss the case.

Manning’s attorneys, Sarah Cripps and Brandon Cox filed motions on Friday, August 19 to dissolve a “temporary injunction” they thought was already in place against Manning pending Monday’s hearing and to dismiss the county’s complaint. But Chancellor Thurman informed Cripps and Cox Monday that he had not issued any temporary injunction prior to the hearing.

The county contends Sunset Drive is a county road and that Manning cannot legally keep a gate across it. Manning denies the county’s claim asserting that Sunset Drive, a gravel road, runs through his property and is a private drive which belongs to him.

County attorney Hilton Conger filed the petition in Chancery Court Friday, August 5 on behalf of the county and Road Supervisor Wallace "Butch" Agee, the Plaintiff, seeking a temporary and permanent injunction to keep Manning from obstructing Sunset Drive.

Testifying for the county Monday were Road Supervisor Agee and County Highway Department employees Charlie Mai Maxwell and Billy Eudean Pack along with Bart Lay, a landowner in the area.

Both Road Supervisor Agee and Maxwell testified that Sunset Drive appears on the county road map and road list and that someone identifying himself as Grant Manning called the road department earlier this year asking for a load of gravel for Sunset Drive. Agee said although Manning later denied making the call, the load of gravel was taken to Sunset Drive and spread on the road. Pack, a truck driver for the department, said he spread the gravel from Manning’s gate, which was open, down Sunset Drive as far as the load would go. Only one load was delivered. Neither of the witnesses remembered the county having done any other work on that road in previous years

Although they had no answer, Cripps also asked the witnesses why county highway department reports from previous years described Sunset Drive as a 16 foot wide road with an oil surface and that the road once had bridge repair and patch work done on it when there is no bridge on the road and it has apparently always been a graveled driveway.

Lay testified that he bought property at the end of Sunset Drive from Manning’s ex-wife last year and that he has a rental trailer there. He said since the gate has been across Sunset Drive, he can only access his land through a field and that the obstruction has prevented him from being able to rent part of the property. “I had one farm renter who didn’t want to be part of it”, testified Lay.

Agee testified that he has removed the gate twice this year. The gate has since been erected again.

Cripps and Cox are asking that the Chancellor dismiss the county’s complaint on the grounds of “equitable estoppel and collateral estoppel” and that the court enter an order requiring the county to pay all of Manning’s reasonable attorney fees in the amount of $9,500 and any other relief to which he may be entitled.

In the complaint, County Attorney Conger states “Sunset Drive is a gravel road which runs generally north and south through the lands of the defendant (Manning) for a distance of approximately .2 of a mile and has been on the official DeKalb County Road list since January 26, 1998.”

In the answer, Cripps and Cox admit that Sunset Drive is listed on the DeKalb County Road list and has been since approximately 1999 but deny that it is a county road and further deny that it is only two tenths of a mile in length. Cripps and Cox also reference action to approve a final subdivision plat for Manning taken by the DeKalb County Regional Planning Commission on July 12, 2004 asserting that the plat contains no public dedication to DeKalb County of Sunset Drive or Hidden Hollow Way by Manning, nor does the plat contain any right-of-way dedication for the two roads.

“When plaintiff’s predecessor (former Road Supervisor) Kenny Edge, the DeKalb County Regional Planning Commission, and the DeKalb County Commission took the affirmative action of signing, approving, and accepting Manning’s subdivision plat they did so with full knowledge that Sunset Drive was nothing more than a private “9 foot” gravel driveway. Manning contends that this affirmative action operates to preclude Plaintiff from now asserting that Sunset Drive is a county road,” said Cripps and Cox.

“There has been no other “affirmative action” on the part of the Plaintiff, the DeKalb County Regional Planning Commission, or the DeKalb County Commission to declare Sunset Drive a county or public roadway. Further Plaintiff can produce no document evidencing DeKalb County’s ownership interest in Sunset Drive,” Cripps and Cox continued.

According to court documents filed by Cripps and Cox, Manning and his former wife acquired fee simple ownership of four tracts of real property in the Belk community containing a total of 120 acres, more or less, by virtue of a warranty deed on February 26, 1990. In the spring of 1990, Manning began expending his personal funds to purchase limestone and gravel and to pay for grading in order to improve the path that traversed the lands of Manning. In early 1992, at the request of the DeKalb County E-911 Board, Manning named the two gravel driveways traversing his farm “Sunset Drive” and “Hidden Hollow Way”. Neither gravel driveway appears on the DeKalb County Road Names List for 1997. Manning and his former wife were the only interested parties and abutting land owners to the two gravel driveways. The gravel driveway known as “Sunset Drive” first appears on the DeKalb County Road Names List for February 1999. The gravel driveway known as Hidden Hollow Way never appeared on any DeKalb County Road Names List generated during any year from 1990 to present,” Cripps and Cox state in the documents.

According to Cripps and Cox, Manning admits that he erected a gate across “his gravel driveway known as Sunset Drive” on May 18, 2011. But while Sunset Drive now also serves Bart Lay, an adjoining property owner, Manning asserts the gate does not prevent Lay from accessing his land, although there is no other road into the property.

“Specifically Manning admits that Lay owns a parcel of land identified as the “residual adjoining acreage” in the subdivision plat, but avers that the real property owned by Lay is not landlocked because Lay has access to his property along 260 feet of road frontage on Allen Bend Road”, a county road, which intersects with Sunset Drive,” state Cripps and Cox in their answer to the complaint.

In his petition, Conger states “Unless this Court issues both a temporary and permanent injunction, Plaintiff (County) and its citizens will suffer irreparable harm”. But Cripps and Cox deny anyone will suffer irreparable harm. They claims there is only one other property owner that has any identifiable interest in Sunset Drive (Lay) and that he is not landlocked. Cripps and Cox further point out that Sunset Drive is not listed on any United States mail or postal route and also is not listed on any county school bus route. Specifically, the mailboxes for both Manning and Lay are located on the right-of-way of Allen Bend Road. Manning’s private gravel driveway is not currently, and has not been previously, utilized by the public at large. Therefore, there can be no legitimate claim made that Plaintiff or any citizen of DeKalb County will suffer irreparable harm by Manning’s maintaining an obstruction across his private gravel driveway use,” said Cripps and Cox in the answer.

Should the court rule in the county’s favor, Conger states that it would be in the public interest and that Manning would not be prejudiced. Cripps and Cox dispute that claim stating that “It is axiomatic that Manning is prejudiced by any action constituting a “taking” of his private property “without just compensation” within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and by any action which restricts Manning’s lawful use and enjoyment of his property. Therefore, there can be no doubt that Manning is absolutely prejudiced by this extraordinary relief procured by the Plaintiff”.

In November, 2015 the county commission voted to have Manning’s gate removed, but Cripps and Cox contend that the action was taken “without any comment, investigation, or further due diligence to ascertain the actual status of Manning’s gravel driveway known as Sunset Drive, all without affording any prior written notice to Manning. Further, the Plaintiff (Road Supervisor Agee), entered upon the lands of Manning (January, 2016) and removed the gate that he (Manning) had previously erected across his gravel driveway known as Sunset Drive,” Cripps and Cox stated in their answer to the complaint.

After the gate was removed, Conger said Manning replaced the gate across Sunset Drive and locked the gate with a log chain. Cripps and Cox admit that Manning undertook to replace the gate across Sunset Drive but that on or about August 1, 2016, the Plaintiff (Road Supervisor Agee) and law enforcement officers from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department again removed the gate.

The gate was later erected again.

*The following are the minutes from the DeKalb County Regional Planning Commission on July 12, 2004 regarding the "Review of the Robert Grant Manning Subdivision Final Plat.
"Judson Howell was present to submit a final plat containing 1 reviewable lot of 1.81 acres that is being subdivided off 120 total acres of the Manning property off of Allen Bend Road. There is an existing building on the lot (3310 Allen Bend Road) with 1 accessory building".

"The lot under review contains road frontage upon Allen Bend Road. However there is an existing gravel drive, Sunset Drive, that is included on this lot, which continues south and branches off into Hidden Hollow Road. The section of Sunset Drive that is included on the subdivided lot also serves as the primary access for the residence at 500 Sunset Drive and 800 Hidden Hollow Way. These two roads are listed on the 911 Map and the Official County Road List and Map".

"The status of these roads was then discussed in detail".

"If Sunset Drive and Hidden Hollow Way are not considered county roads, then access to the two existing homes could be affected if access is controlled by the subdivided lot. Although the gravel drive is utilized for primary access for both residences, the house at 500 Sunset Drive will still contain approximately 261 feet of road frontage on Allen Bend Road, if the subdivision is approved. Consequently, this house is not being landlocked, but the resident will be required to construct a new driveway to Allen Bend Road if the land is further subdivided".

"After further discussion on the matter, staff recommended granting conditional approval for the plat subject to the signatures and the inclusion of a plat restriction on the plat, if these are not county roads, stating that if the property is subdivided further, a new road will be required to be constructed that meets the county road specifications. A motion to that effect was made by Mike Foster and seconded by Jerry Taylor. The motion passed unanimously," according to the minutes.

Woman Injured in Crash

August 21, 2016
Dwayne Page
Woman Injured in Crash

A 26 year old woman was injured in a one vehicle crash Friday on Jacobs Pillar Road.

Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Martha Almaguer of Smithville was traveling south in a Dodge Ram 1500 Big Horn when she lost control in a curve, went off the right side of the road, and struck a tree. She was taken to the hospital with an ankle injury but wasn’t believed to have been seriously hurt. She was wearing her seat belt.

Family of Student Injured in School Fight Sues for Damages

August 18, 2016
Dwayne Page

A fight among two students at DeKalb Middle School in March has resulted in a Circuit Court lawsuit.

A 13 year old and his parents are suing a fellow 14 year old Middle School student and his parents, Principal Randy Jennings, the DeKalb County Board of Education, and the County Government over an altercation at the school on March 11.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, August 2.

WJLE is not publishing the names of the students because they are parties to a lawsuit as minors nor their parents names since that could essentially identify the students.

The suit claims the 13 year old suffered serious and disabling permanent bodily injuries as a result of the altercation.

The plaintiffs are seeking a judgment against the defendants, jointly and severally, for his bodily injuries, past and future medical expenses incurred or to be incurred for his treatment, past and future expenses incurred for his care and upkeep while incapacitated, past and future pain, suffering and anguish, the loss of future earnings capacity, his permanent injuries including future limitations and restrictions, permanent scarring and disfigurement, past and future loss of enjoyment of life, and other damages, in an amount to be determined at trial.

The lawsuit, obtained by WJLE, alleges “that in the hallway during the March 11, 2016 school day and in conjunction with the change of classrooms by DeKalb County Middle School students, the minor plaintiff was viciously attacked by the minor defendant without just cause or provocation. The defendant’s parents knew or should have known of this child’s tendency to commit assaults or to engage in threatening conduct, and knew or should have known of this child’s tendency to commit wrongful acts. The school administrators and other certified and non-certified personnel for the DeKalb County Middle School were aware of this student’s propensity for violence and his threatening demeanor and conduct toward other students at the school. The minor defendant had bullied and harassed students and employees in the past and, despite protests from other students, the school administrators and other personnel employed by or under the supervision of the defendants failed to take appropriate action to protect the minor plaintiff and other situated parties from this violent individual”.

The suit further alleges that “the minor plaintiff sustained serious and life altering permanent injuries as a result of this assault and the intentional and negligent acts of the defendants.”

“At all times , the minor plaintiff student acted with due care, was without fault or negligence, and did not provoke or insight the attack,” according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs allege that the County, Board of Education, and Principal were negligent for:

*Failure to provide for a safe and secure school and an environment free from attacks, threats, harassment and bullying from third parties, including from other students enrolled at DeKalb Middle School.

*Failure to provide proper supervision of other students and third parties, upon and about the campus and school grounds during the school day, including the student who attacked the minor plaintiff.

* Failure to provide training to certified and non-certified staff and employees of DeKalb Middle School in order to recognize the danger to vulnerable or innocent students from other aggressive and unruly students.

* Failure to adopt, follow and enforce policies and procedures to eliminate incidents or threats of violence, to implement appropriate violence prevention and intervention strategies, and to appropriate necessary funds for the purpose of providing resources for such policies or safety plans.

*Failure to provide a safe and civil environment necessary for students such as the minor plaintiff to learn and achieve high academic standards and to enact, enforce and follow policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation, and bullying pursuant to (state law).

The plaintiffs allege that the parents of the minor defendant are:

*Responsible and liable for their son’s actions

*Responsible for failure to properly supervise their child when they knew or should have known of his violent tendencies or tendencies to commit wrongful acts.

*Responsible for liability due to their son’s tortuous activities that causes injuries to persons or properties of third parties. The defendant parents had an opportunity to control their child but failed to exercise reasonable means to restrain his notorious conduct.

The plaintiffs are represented by Attorneys Howard L. Upchurch of Pikeville and William T. Ridley of Crossville.

An answer to the lawsuit by the defendants has not yet been filed.

Mother Files $10 Million Lawsuit Alleging Wrongful Death of Daughter

August 18, 2016
Dwayne Page
Lauren Taylor Agee

A $10 million dollar wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in DeKalb County Circuit Court by the mother of a 21 year old Hendersonville woman who lost her life on Center Hill Lake last summer.

Sherry Smith of Sumner County brought the lawsuit on July 22 against several individuals claiming that her daughter, Lauren Taylor Agee was killed through the intentional, negligent, or reckless acts of the defendants.

Agee’s body was found on Sunday afternoon, July 26 2015 by fishermen on Center Hill Lake near Still Point Boat Ramp across from Pates Ford Marina.

According to reports at the time, Agee had been enjoying an outing with friends known as “Wakefest” over that weekend and was camping near the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the lake prior to the tragedy.

Defendants named in the lawsuit are Aaron Lilly, a resident of Broward County, Florida; Brixner Heydrich Gambrell, a resident of Sumner County, and others including several persons referred to as “John and Jane Doe” or unknown. Two defendants (who may not yet have been served with the lawsuit) are residents of Rutherford County, Tennessee and Broward County, Florida.

Smith is seeking a judgment against the defendants for compensatory damages in the amount of $10 million; a judgment for punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury trial; and costs and such other further relief that the Court deems just and proper.

The plaintiff seeks to recover damages on account of the injuries to and the wrongful death of Lauren Taylor Agee arising out of the events leading up to and her death on July 26, 2015 at Center Hill Lake in DeKalb County.

Smith alleges that the “intentional, reckless, and/or negligent actions by the defendants, their agents, employees, and representatives proximately caused Lauren Taylor Agee’s injuries and death”.

According to the lawsuit, obtained by WJLE, “ In the early morning hours of July 26, 2015, Lauren Agee was killed through the intentional, negligent, or reckless acts of the defendants”.

“Prior to her death, Agee had attended a three-day event, known as “Wakefest” at Center Hill Lake with Lilly and another man and woman during which time she stayed at a campsite selected by Gambrell and Lilly. The campsite consisted of a tent and two hammocks”.

In initial statements to the authorities, a woman claimed that Agee returned to the campsite with all defendants in the early morning hours of July 26, 2015 after visiting a bar on the lake. The woman claimed that Agee wanted to go home, but that she took Agee’s keys. Upon returning to the campsite, the woman claimed that she and her boyfriend, Lilly, went to sleep in the tent while Agee slept in the hammock with the other man in the group.

The woman further claimed that later that morning, she awoke to discover that Agee was “missing”. She said that Agee’s shoes and belongings were still located next to the hammock and that when she awoke the man with whom Agee had shared the hammock to ask him where Agee had gone, he responded that she had been gone for quite some time but that he did not feel her leave.

In contrast, Lilly and the other man in the group told authorities that they had spoken to Agee’s ex-boyfriend who allegedly told them that Agee had visited him after returning to the campsite with them on the early morning hours of July 26, 2015. The man with Lilly told police that Agee only stayed at the campsite for a few minutes before leaving. But his and Lilly’s accounts to police were inconsistent with the account given by the woman in the group.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants did not alert authorities that Agee was missing. Instead the woman in the group went looking for Agee because she claimed that she expected to find Agee on the lake.

At approximately 4:00 p.m. on July 26, 2015, two fishermen found Agee’s lifeless body floating in the water in a cove.

“Agee had sustained massive trauma to her body indicating homicide," the lawsuit states.

Around the time that Agee’s body was found, Lilly and the other man in the group approached the crime scene and asked responding officers if they had found their “missing friend".

“Defendants have continued to provide conflicting statements regarding Agee’s death and have conspired to hide their involvement in and the true circumstances of Agee’s death. This intentional and outrageous conduct has resulted in severe injury to plaintiff (Smith), including emotional trauma and pain," according to the lawsuit.

Smith contends that the physical injuries to and ultimate death of Agee were the result of intentional action on the part of the defendants and that the defendants acted intentionally with the conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or to cause the harm to Agee, plaintiff, and others, thereby entitling plaintiff to an award of punitive damages.

Smith seeks damages for wrongful death as permitted by Tennessee law including damages for the pain and suffering that Agee experienced before her death, as well as damages for funeral expenses and the pecuniary value of Agee’s life, including loss of earning capacity and the loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and other losses experienced by plaintiff by reason of Agee’s death.

Smith is represented by a Nashville law firm.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker Visits Smithville (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

August 17, 2016
Dwayne Page
U.S. Senator Bob Corker in Smithville

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, speaking in Smithville on Wednesday, said that it's unlikely either Presidential candidate will emphasize what he considers one of the key issues facing the U.S., the federal budget deficit.

"One of the things that won’t be discussed, unfortunately, is the deficit issue and the huge amount of indebtedness in our country," said Corker, who spoke to a crowd of invited guests -- mainly city, county, and state officials and community business leaders during an appearance at the courthouse.

Corker, a Republican and former mayor of Chattanooga, said that the country is $19 trillion in debt, and tough decisions have to be made that are important to the nation’s future. “ Projections are that in ten years the country will be $29 trillion in debt. We have $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities where we’ve made commitments to people that we don’t have the money to honor. I think this is the number one threat to our country. Military leaders that you talk with will say Russia or China is a threat overtime. ISIS is a threat. Certainly Iran getting a nuclear weapon is a threat. But the greatest threat to our nation is our own inability to deal with our fiscal issues. Yet, my guess is that during this campaign there will be zero discussion about that issue which is disappointing,” said Senator Corker.

“This Presidential race has been something very different than what I think a lot of people thought it was going to be a year ago. A big part of that I think has been driven by some of the economic insecurity people are feeling. If you look around our state, people who have high school degrees and have done everything they thought was right in life or even those with a couple of years of community college, in many cases people are just not seeing the opportunities they thought they would see. Wages have been stagnant in many ways and that has spread a lot of concern. The world is changing. Technology is changing and its changing the way we do business and a lot of folks are being left behind. Its creating insecurities and I think in many ways that has affected this race. I hope by the time we all do the early voting or reach the first Tuesday in November we’ll have a good sense of what the main Presidential candidates are going to propose as it relates to economic growth,” said Senator Corker.

Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also spoke about the importance of U.S. leadership in the world. “We’ve had a lot of foreign policy decisions made by people on both sides of the aisle that have turned out to be mistakes and that has caused a retrenchment to take place in many of Americans minds relative to what the U.S. role in the world needs to be. A world without U.S. leadership is a world that I don't think that people here would want to live in. We don’t need to be the cops of the world but we do need to continue our leadership in the world. We cannot just focus within our borders. While we’re paying a lot of attention to this Presidential race, people around the world are doing the same thing even if they don’t agree with us on a number of things because they are aware of the tremendous difference that the United States makes in the world in espousing free enterprise and making sure the world moves more in that direction which has made our nation great. We also need to do what we can diplomatically to try and diffuse conflicts before they turn into a great problem,” said Corker.

Corker’s visit in DeKalb County is part of his four-week, 32 county tour meeting with community and business leaders. The senator is traveling across the state this month to hear from Tennesseans and share his perspective on how to address some of the major challenges facing our nation. The senator has visited 21 counties over the last two weeks and will visit a total of nine counties this week.


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