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Local News Articles

Austin Bottom Community Included in New Contract on County Lakesite Patrols

February 19, 2016
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

Residents in the Austin Bottom Community can expect to see law enforcement patrols a little more often this summer.

The Putnam County Access is among the lakesite areas covered in a new agreement between the county and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers for extra patrols this year.

Sheriff Patrick Ray presented the proposed new contract to members of the county commission during an all committees meeting Thursday night. The commissioners may approve the deal during the regular monthly meeting Monday night.

Under the new contract, the Sheriff's Department will provide lakesite patrols at Johnson's Chapel, Ragland Bottom, Floating Mill, Center Hill Dam Area, Hurricane Bridge, and the Putnam County Access (Austin Bottom Community) on Center Hill Lake. The contract runs from May 6 through September 5, 2016.

The total amount of the agreement under which the Corps pays the county is $23,571, which is more than last year. The deal calls for 97 patrol periods with six area patrols per period along with an orientation meeting. The Corps has also included options that would allow the county to make this a two or three year contract with the county to receive $24,057 in 2017 and $23,814 in 2018.

Sheriff Ray plans to hire a part time officer funded by the Corps under this contract to patrol all the sites and he wants the part time officer to have POST certification. According to Sheriff Ray, when the officer patrols the Putnam County Access, he will also check out the Denny Bottom Recreation area to further heighten a law enforcement presence in the community.

In response to a public outcry, the sheriff's department stepped up patrols through the end of the summer boating season last year at Austin Bottom.

In August many residents in the Austin Bottom community of DeKalb County met with several local officials and the Corps of Engineers at the fire station there to vent their frustrations about public nuisance issues at a boat ramp in the area.

Corps Resource Manager Kevin Salvilla took questions and comments from the group. County Mayor Tim Stribling, Sheriff Patrick Ray, County Fire Chief Donny Green, and Fourth District County Commissioners Wayne Cantrell and Jonathon Norris were also there.

While most of the residents at the meeting said they didn't want the Putco Boat Ramp (Austin Bottom Lake Boat Access Area) closed, they did want to see more law enforcement to keep undesirables out.

Complaints ranged from issues of illegal drug activity, public intoxication, excessive noise during the night, using the area as a camp ground, non-boaters parking on the ramp preventing access, littering the area with beer bottles, cans, etc. One person was wounded in a shooting there last year

A contributing factor to the public nuisance issues is that the lake level is lower than normal due to work on the dam which exposes more beach area for patrons to congregate.

Sheriff Ray said his officers patrol the area but residents are concerned about the time it takes DeKalb County law enforcement to respond if called. Because the community is cut off from the rest of the county due to the lake, residents say it could be as much as forty five minutes to an hour before help arrives.

DeKalb County has mutual aid agreements with surrounding counties including Putnam to assist in case of emergencies.

Doug Stephens Qualifies for School Board Race

February 19, 2016
Dwayne Page
Doug Stephens

Another incumbent school board member has qualified for the August Board of Education Election

Doug Stephens of the 6th district will be in the race for re-election.

Three school board members will be elected on August 4 including one from the 4th, 5th, & 6th districts. The terms are for four years except in the 4th district. The 4th district winner will fill an unexpired two year term.

Others who have obtained qualifying petitions to date are:
Kate Miller in the 4th district
Barry Mabe in the 5th district
W.J. (Dub) Evins, III in the 5th district (Evins’ petition has been returned and verified)

The qualifying deadline is Noon April 7

Meanwhile, Ronald D. Stanley of Anthony Avenue has picked up a petition to run for Smithville Alderman.

Three aldermen will be elected on August 4. Each term is for four years.

In addition to Stanley, those who have obtained qualifying petitions to date are Shawn Jacobs, Josh Miller, Danny Washer and Gary Durham (Miller’s petition has been returned and verified)

The qualifying deadline is Noon April 7

Over 500 Vote Early

February 19, 2016
Dwayne Page

Over 500 voters have now cast ballots in the Presidential Preference and DeKalb County Democratic Primaries.

Early voting continues through February 23.

Early voting numbers through Saturday, February 20:

Total Voters--575
In Person---533
Republican Primary---370
Democratic Primaries--205

Local voters are reminded that February 23 is the last day the election commission office can receive a written request for an absentee ballot. The request may be received by mail, by fax or by e-mail with an attached document that includes a scanned signature. A request which contains the required information serves as an application for ballot.

Early voting runs Monday and Tuesday February 22 & 23. The primary election day is Tuesday, March 1. Polls in DeKalb County will be open that day from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.

All Early Voting in DeKalb County will be at the Election Commission Office on the first floor of the courthouse (basement).
Early Voting Hours:
Monday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Voters are urged to take advantage of early voting.

Hendrixson Resigns as Judicial Commissioner

February 19, 2016
Dwayne Page
Taft Hendrixson

The county is in search of a new judicial commissioner.

The issue is expected to be discussed at Monday night's county commission meeting.

Taft Hendrixson has resigned due to health reasons. The county had advertised the opening and received one applicant but she is a spouse of a Smithville police officer, which could be viewed as a conflict. Members of the judicial committee have apparently asked that the county re-advertise in hopes of getting more applicants for the position.

The county has had three judicial commissioners including Hendrixson, James Harvey Barnes, and Tammy Ashburn. They were appointed to the positions for a one year term last September as recommended by the judicial committee.

The judicial committee is made up of the General Sessions/Juvenile Court Judge, Sheriff, Circuit Court Clerk, County Mayor, and a representative of the District Attorney General's Office.

Judicial commissioners are responsible for the issuance of criminal arrest warrants upon finding probable cause. They are subject to call at all hours of the day and night. Judicial commissioners serve at the pleasure of the county commission and their terms of office can be one year to four years.

County Commissioner Announces Resignation

February 19, 2016
Dwayne Page
Elmer Ellis Jr.

A long time member of the county commission has announced his resignation.

Elmer Ellis, Jr., who has served as a commissioner in the 1st district for more than nine years, is stepping down. He made the announcement during an all committees meeting of the county commission Thursday night.

Ellis said he and his wife are soon moving to Texas to be near their daughter due to his wife's health.

Ellis was first elected to the county commission in August 2006. He was re-elected in 2010 and in 2014. His last meeting with the commission will be Monday night.

Filling the vacancy is expected to be discussed during the regular monthly meeting Monday night. Ellis' term expires August 31, 2018

DeKalb Prevention Coalition Recovery Church Planning Workshop Friday

February 18, 2016
Monty Burks

The DeKalb Prevention Coalition has re-scheduled the Recovery Church planning workshop for Friday, February 19, 2016, at the DeKalb Community Center in the History room at 12:00pm. The event will include lunch and is to help the interested churches fill out the application to become a certified recovery church as well as to answer any questions or overcome any obstacles your church or faith based organization may be facing in this process. Monty Burks, who is the Director of Faith Based Initiatives for The State of Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services (TDMHSAS) will be there along with a Certified Recovery Church Pastor to help.

When you successfully complete the certification process, you will be added to the statewide recovery support network, and most importantly, opening your arms to individuals seeking substance abuse services. Church and Faith-Based Organization leadership will be trained in the following areas:

•Providing Spiritual/Pastoral Support.
•Viewing addiction as a treatable disease, not a moral issue.
•Embracing and support people in recovery and walk with them on their journey.
•Providing a visible outreach in the community.
•Sharing recovery information.
•Hosting recovery support groups.

If your church or faith based organization is interested in becoming a Certified Recovery Church please go to and fill out the questionnaire or you can contact Norene Puckett at 615-215-8690 or

*An RSVP is not required, but appreciated, please contact Norene Puckett.

Brewer Gets Three Years Probation for Burglary

February 18, 2016
Dwayne Page
Dustin Matthew Brewer
Craig Yarbrough

A 27 year old man charged in a recent burglary and theft investigation entered a plea Friday, February 12 in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Judge Gary McKenzie presided.

Dustin Matthew Brewer of Barnes Mill Road, Smithville entered a plea by information to burglary and received a three year sentence suspended to probation. He must complete the Safe Harbor Treatment Program and make restitution to victims in the following amounts: $359, $120, and $170. Brewer was given 81 days jail credit.

Brewer's wife, 24 year old Brandi Louise Brewer is charged in the same case with burglary and theft of property over $1,000. Her case remains pending in court.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on or about Monday, November 9, 2015 the Brewers allegedly broke into a building on South Tittsworth Road and stole two chainsaws, an air compressor, an air tank, two wrench sets, an Impact socket, a socket wrench, a hammer drill, a jigsaw, and a 12 volt drill. The total value of the stolen items comes to $1,374. Some of the goods were recovered and identified by the property owner.

The case was investigated by a Sheriff's Department detective.

Meanwhile, a man accused in a suspected theft of approximately 175 credit cards valued at more than $15,000 and other Walmart merchandise almost two years ago was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday, February 12.

54 year old Craig Yarbrough of McDonald, Tennessee entered a plea to two counts of theft under $500 and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in each case suspended to probation. The two sentences are to run consecutively with each other for a total of almost two years.

A co-defendant, 44 year old Lorie Denise Maclean entered a plea last June to one count of theft over $500. She received a one year sentence, all suspended to TDOC supervised probation. The term is to run concurrently with a Cumberland County case against her. Maclean was given twelve days of jail credit.

The two were arrested by Smithville Police during a theft investigation on Thursday, April 24, 2014 at Wal-mart.

Corporal Travis Bryant told WJLE that Smithville Police were called to Walmart after a woman (Maclean) tried to leave the store with stolen merchandise. "She (Maclean) was caught trying to push items out of Walmart in a shopping cart. But when a loss prevention officer of the store tried to stop her, she abandoned the cart, ran to her pickup truck and drove away. She also left behind her boyfriend, Yarbrough, who was still inside the store," said Corporal Bryant.

After police were notified, Corporal Bryant and Lieutenant Matt Holmes responded and pulled over Maclean's truck at the intersection of Broad Street and Anthony Avenue. As Maclean was placed under arrest, officers noticed items inside her truck that aroused their suspicion. They executed a search warrant and found around 175 American Express prepaid credit cards totaling $15,525 that had apparently not been activated along with approximately $2,700 worth of other merchandise. Police suspect many of these items may have been stolen from various Walmart stores in Tennessee and in other states.

Watkins Gets Two Years for Auto Burglary and Theft

February 18, 2016
Dwayne Page
Dra Watkins
Garrett Michael Buckmaster

A 22 year old man accused of breaking into and stealing items from several automobiles last summer was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday, February 12.

Judge Gary McKenzie presided.

Dra Watkins entered a plea to auto burglary and theft over $1,000. He received a two year sentence to serve in each case to run concurrently with each other. He was given jail credit from July 19, 2015 to February 12, 2016.

A co-defendant, 25 year old Garrett Michael Buckmaster entered a plea by information in November to three counts of burglary and received a three year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other but consecutive to a two year sentence he is serving in Putnam County. He was given jail credit of 111 days.

According to Smithville Police Captain Steven Leffew, the arrests resulted from an investigation by Lieutenant Matt Holmes, Detective Brandon Donnell, and Officer Lance Dillard. Many victims came forward last July to report damage to and missing items from their vehicles. Items from some of these thefts were recovered at the home where Watkins and Buckmaster were residing. Detective Donnell made the arrests on Wednesday, July 22.

Meanwhile in other cases, 24 year old Hillary Elizabeth Knowles entered a plea by information to burglary and theft over $1,000 and received a three year sentence in each case suspended to probation. The sentences are to run consecutively with each other for a total of six years and consecutive to a violation in General Sessions Court . She is to make restitution to victims in the following amounts: $111.50, $7.29, and $50.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on September 13, 2015 Knowles and 25 year old Christopher Alan Medlin allegedly broke into an outbuilding at a residence on Oak Place Drive and took property valued at $550 including a Troybilt pressure washer and a tool box full of various tools. Medlin allegedly admitted to selling the stolen property. The case was investigated by a sheriff's department detective. The case against Medlin remains pending in court.

45 year old James Madison Currie entered a plea to sale of a schedule II controlled substance. He received a three year sentence all suspended to supervised probation. He is requesting judicial diversion. The indictments allege that Currie knowingly sold a schedule II drug, to wit: Dihydrocodeinone on or about the 29th day of January, 2015 and the 5th day of February, 2015,constituting the offense of sale of a schedule II controlled substance, to wit: Dihydrocodeinone.

44 year old Jimmy Chris Haggard entered a plea by information to reckless driving and received a sentence of six months on supervised probation. Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, May 25, 2015 a deputy stopped a dark colored SUV for a light law violation. Upon speaking to the driver, Haggard, the officer noticed a strong odor of alcohol on Haggard's person and that his eyes were bloodshot. Haggard admitted to having consumed seven beers. He performed poorly on field sobriety tasks and was arrested. In the vehicle with Haggard was his friend's eleven year old child. Haggard was charged with reckless endangerment for putting the child's life in danger by driving under the influence with the youngster in the SUV with him

Skinner Enters Plea in Dairy Queen Theft Case

February 17, 2016
Dwayne Page
James Anthony Skinner

A 21 year old man who allegedly participated with his girlfriend in a theft from the Dairy Queen last May appeared for sentencing in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday, February 12.

Judge Gary McKenzie presided.

James Anthony Skinner entered a plea to theft of property over $1,000 and received a two year sentence on supervised probation. He was granted judicial diversion and must make restitution.

Skinner's co-defendant in the case, 21 year old Rebecca Dawn Duffield, a Dairy Queen Manager at the time of the crime, entered a guilty plea in December to theft of property over $1,000 and received a two year sentence but was granted judicial diversion. She is on supervised probation by TDOC. A vandalism charge against her was dismissed. She is to make restitution to the Dairy Queen in the amount of $380.27.

According to Smithville Police, Duffield and Skinner were inside the Dairy Queen on Sunday night May 3, 2015 cleaning up before closing when they stole more than $6,800 from the safe and then ransacked the office. Before they drove away in a blue Dodge Durango, Skinner was observed by a witness breaking out a glass in the drive through window apparently to give the impression that someone had broken into the business. The witness notified police and Officer Joey Myers responded to the scene at around 11:55 p.m.

Upon further investigation, Captain Steven Leffew said that the Durango was found parked at a residence on Short Mountain Highway and that both Skinner and Duffield were inside the home. Lieutenant Matt Holmes was informed that Duffield had just closed up the Dairy Queen and left moments prior to the incident. Lt. Holmes went to the residence and requested permission to search both the home and the Durango where evidence was collected. Police recovered over $6,800 which was returned to the owners of the Dairy Queen.

Two Men Sentenced in Burglary at Broad Way Market

February 17, 2016
Dwayne Page
Anthony W. Hale
Jeremy W. Fenton

Two men charged in a December burglary and theft at Broad Way Market in Smithville were sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday, February 12.

Judge Gary McKenzie presided.

24 year old Anthony W. Hale and 38 year old Jeremy W. Fenton each entered a plea by information to burglary and theft under $500.

Fenton received a five year TDOC sentence in the burglary case to serve 120 days. He is to make restitution of $220 jointly and severally with Hale. Fenton received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in the theft case suspended to probation. The two terms are to run concurrently with each other. He was given jail credit of 58 days.

Hale was sentenced to three years for burglary suspended to supervised probation. He also got a sentence of 11 months and 29 days for theft also suspended to probation. The two terms are to run concurrently with each other. Hale is seeking judicial diversion.

Smithville Police Chief Mark Collins said that at 1:56 a.m. on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 police were dispatched to Broad Way Market due to a burglar alarm. Upon arrival, officers noticed the front door broken and a large rock lying on the floor inside the store. The owner provided video surveillance footage which showed two persons making their way through the store and taking 10 cartons of cigarettes. Later that day detectives identified the men and spoke with them at their residence. Another person, 36 year old Tara Kay Campbell gave police consent to search the premises where they found the stolen carton of cigarettes taken from Broad Way Market along with two scales used in illegal drug activity and four hypodermic needles. As a result of the investigation, Hale and Fenton were placed under arrest. Campbell was cited for possession of drug paraphernalia.


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