Local News Articles

DeKalb County Young Democrats Reorganize

March 16, 2017
by: 
Jordan Wilkins
DeKalb County Young Democrats Reorganize

The DeKalb County Young Democrats held a re-organization convention this month at the courthouse to elect leaders for the next two years. The following officers were elected: Katie Parker-President, Caleb Rowland- Vice President, Dustin Drennan- Secretary, Anna Rachel Blair-Treasurer.

Members of the organization are as follows: Baylee Phillips, Dulce Maciel, Braya Murphy, Malone Fletcher, Calon Arnold, Will Judkins, Haden Cripps, Ashley Phillips, Dailen Brown, Eleonore Atnip, Sabrina Cripps, Robin Pafford, Karleigh Atnip, Delaney Johnson, and Julia Little.

The DeKalb County Democratic Party Chair, Jordan Wilkins, released the following statement. “The Executive Committee and I are thrilled to have so many young people eager to be involved with the Democratic Party . These are our future leaders so encouraging them, and making sure they get firsthand experience of the political process, will be crucial to our party’s success. I look forward to working with all the Young Democrats and party members to help elect progressive candidates up and down the ballot in the future

Smithville First Assembly of God participates in the Tennessee Fine Arts Festival

March 16, 2017
by: 
Josh Issac
Smithville First Assembly of God participated in the 2017 Tennessee Fine Arts Festival

The Smithville First Assembly of God participated in the 2017 Tennessee Fine Arts Festival on March 10-11th at Trevecca University in Nashville.

Fine Arts Festival is in association with The Assemblies of God and encourages all churches throughout the world to develop their Teens and College students talents. 30 Middle and High students competed in 10 different categories. Relentless Student Ministries is under the direction of Iain & Kassy Swisher and Josh Issac. Pastor Donnie and Kathy Kelly have always been very big advocates of Developing and discovering Talents of young people throughout their ministry. These Student from DeKalb, White, Warren, and Hamilton County have been working hard since January to prepare for competition.

"This year these kids have worked harder than ever because of the sickness that hit throughout the state. We had less practices because of having to cancel many rehearsals due of sickness. " said Josh Issac. Relentless not only represented their church but also represented Smithville throughout the competition. They came out as big winners this year".

1st Place - Drama Ensemble Large : Acting OUT

1st Place - Drama Ensemble Small: Bad Girls of the Bible

1st Place - Stand Up Comedy - Elliott Cook

2nd Place- Musical Theater Ensemble : The Leg Breakers

Also qualifying for nationals is:

Human Video Ensemble Large: The Final Fallen

Human Video Ensemble Large: The Judas Effect

Drama Ensemble Small: Bad Boys of the Bible

Vocal Solo Male Sr: Adam Davis

"Competition this year was more elevated than ever and Relentless received scores of 39.65 out of 40 in Drama Ensemble Large and 39.25 out of 40 in Drama Ensemble small. To qualify with invitation you must receive at least a 36 out of 40. We are so proud of all this group has accomplished and many will be traveling in August to Anaheim California for Nationals. In the past Relentless received 3rd out of 97 in Drama Ensemble Large in 2015 and 4th out of 76 in Worship Dance troupe in 2013. They will be working hard all summer fundraising to get them to nationals. Thanks in advance for all who support them in this adventure and honor to represent the state of Tennessee at Nationals. If you are not attending any where else come join us at Smithville First Assembly on Cookeville Hwy Sundays at 10:45 and 6pm, women's Bible Study Tuesday at 6PM a, Wednesdays at 7pm for all ages," said Issac.

Relentless Students:

Allyson Whiteaker, Bella France, Brooklynn Wilson, Dasia Gurley, Gracie Starnes, Haidyn Hale, Jadyn Dawson, Justise Dawson, Kaylee Martin, Kensley Whiteaker, Kenzie France, Paxton Dawson, Hannah Culwell, Joleen Squires, Keri Winchester, Evie Day, Josh moon, Caelin Crips, Desmond Nokes, Elliott Cook, Isaac Robinson, Monte Caldwell, Nick May, Noah Martin, Omar Aldino, Tayvian Nokes, Zach Day, Adam Davis, and Evan Jones.

Sheriff's Department Makes Arrest in Auto Theft and Chop Shop Operation

March 15, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jason Douglas Stembridge

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department has busted a major auto theft and chop shop operation with the arrest of 33 year old Jason Douglas Stembridge of Tisdale Drive.

Stembridge is accused of stealing automobiles, skid steers, four wheelers, and gooseneck trailers in DeKalb and Warren County for the intended purpose of either selling them outright or dismantling them to be sold as parts or scrap metal.

Stembridge was arrested Tuesday after sheriff’s department detectives found the stolen vehicles and equipment at his home and other locations in the county.

The total value of the stolen vehicles and equipment comes to $220,000.

Stembridge is charged in DeKalb County with burglary (3 counts), theft of property over $60,000, possession of stolen property over $60,000, and theft of property over $10,000. His bond is $240,000 and his court date is March 30.

“On Monday March 13 an investigation was conducted of Jason Douglas Stembridge at his residence on Tisdale Drive in DeKalb County and it revealed several stolen vehicles, machinery and recreational vehicles that were stolen from DeKalb and Warren Counties. Some of the vehicles were found to be altered, disassembled, and destroyed by unlawful means,” Sheriff Ray told WJLE.

Items stolen in DeKalb County and recovered in the investigation include a 2004 Chevy Silverado flatbed pickup truck; a 2006 Chevy Silverado pickup truck; a 24 foot gooseneck trailer; a 2016 John Deere 323 cab skid steer; and a 1999 Yamaha Banshee 4 wheeler.

Stolen vehicles and equipment from Warren County recovered include a 2017 John Deere cab skid steer; a 1983 Chevrolet Silverado pickup; a 1984 Chevy Camaro; a 1999 Chevy Z71 pickup truck, a 2003 GMC 2500 Duramax diesel flat bed truck, a 2014 Polaris Razor, and a 40 foot gooseneck flat bed trailer.

According to Sheriff Ray, Stembridge tried to deface the VIN plates and attempted to disguise some of the stolen vehicles by painting or adding decals and stickers to them.

Detectives also learned that Stembridge had recently broken into East Side Market in Warren County and stolen two cartons of cigarettes. Entry was made by shattering a glass door.

Sheriff Ray explained how the story unfolded. “On Monday we received two reports of stolen property. The first one was at a business on McMinnville Highway where a 2004 Chevy Silverado flatbed pickup truck, a 2006 Chevy Silverado pickup truck, and a 24 foot gooseneck trailer were taken”.

“A short time later we received a report that someone had found the 2004 Chevy Silverado flatbed pickup truck and gooseneck trailer in a field on Pine Creek Falls Road. Then another report came in concerning the theft of a 2016 John Deere 323 cab skid steer off of Jefferson Road,” said Sheriff Ray.

“Detectives began working the case and developed Stembridge as a suspect. On Monday, detectives went to his home and spotted the stolen 2016 John Deere 323 cab skid steer from DeKalb County at his residence. Other vehicles were also there along with a 2017 John Deere cab skid steer. Upon running the VIN plates of those vehicles and the other skid steer we learned that they were stolen out of Warren County including a 1983 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, a 1984 Chevy Camaro, a 1999 Chevy Z71 pickup truck, a 2003 GMC 2500 Duramax diesel flat bed truck, a 2014 Polaris Razor, a 40 foot gooseneck flat bed trailer, along with a 1999 Yamaha Banshee 4 wheeler reported stolen in DeKalb County in 2003.

Detectives later located the 2006 Chevy pickup stolen off McMinnville Highway in the parking lot of Pates Ford Marina,” added Sheriff Ray.

Again the total value of the stolen vehicles and equipment is estimated at $220,000 including $97,000 in DeKalb County and $123,000 in Warren County.

The warrants against Stembridge alleged that on Monday, March 13 entered an enclosed John Deere 323E Cab Skid Steer and stole it from a location on Jefferson Road in DeKalb County. He was also found to be in possession of a stolen 1984 Chevrolet Camaro; a 1983 GMC pickup truck, a 2017 John Deer Skid Steer, a 2014 Polaris Razor, a 1999 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, a 2003 GMC 2500 flatbed pickup, and a 40 foot Hank gooseneck trailer stolen out of Warren County valued at $125,000. The day before, on Sunday March 12, Stembridge allegedly stole a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado, a 2004 Chevy Silverado, and a 24 foot gooseneck trailer, valued at more than $10,000 all taken from a business on McMinnville Highway.

Three Smithville Police Officers Commended for Outstanding Service

March 14, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Police Chief Mark Collins, Lieutenant Detective Matt Holmes, Mayor Jimmy Poss, and Police Commissioner Josh Miller
Police Chief Mark Collins, Detective Brad Tatrow, Mayor Jimmy Poss, and Police Commissioner Josh Miller
Police Chief Mark Collins, Patrolman Will Judkins, Mayor Jimmy Poss, and Police Commissioner Josh Miller

Three members of the Smithville Police Department, Lieutenant Detective Matt Holmes, Detective Brad Tatrow and Patrolman Will Judkins have received commendations for outstanding service in the line of duty.

The commendations were signed and presented by Mayor Jimmy Poss, Police Commissioner Josh Miller, and Chief Mark Collins.

Lieutenant Detective Holmes was recognized for his work in solving a vehicle theft. “Recently you were assigned a vehicle theft that occurred within the jurisdiction of the City of Smithville. Because of your dedication and unique investigative skills, you were able to recover said property and charge persons responsible. The commitment and leadership that you have displayed exemplifies your exceptional work ethics,” the commendation stated.

Detective Tatrow assisted in locating a missing juvenile. “ Recently you assisted the Texas Department of Public Safety in locating a missing juvenile. With combined efforts between both law enforcement agencies the juvenile was located in a quick and safe manner,” stated the commendation.

Patrolman Judkins was honored for his courtesy and professionalism. “ Since your employment, the Smithville Police Department has received numerous compliments by the public who have shown gratitude for your professionalism, manners, and kindness in your capacity as a police officer”.

“Recently you issued a citation to a motorist in which the Chief of Police received a letter of appreciation for your courteous and professionalism while carrying out your duties”.

“These characteristics enable the citizens of Smithville and your fellow co workers to know that the Smithville Police Department is continuously striving for quality service,” the commendation stated.

“You (Lieutenant Detective Holmes, Detective Tatrow, and Patrolman Judkins) have served with distinction and have strived to make a difference. On this day, March 14, 2017 you are hereby formally recognized and commended for outstanding service. Thank you and congratulations for a job well done”, the commendations concluded

DeKalb Recovery Court to Host Art Exhibit and Reception

March 14, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Recovery Court to Host Art Exhibit and Reception

The DeKalb County Recovery Court will be hosting an Art Exhibit and Reception April 5-7 at the County Complex History Room in the Mike Foster Multi-Purpose Center.

Recovery Court participants throughout Tennessee will join participants from the DeKalb County Recovery Court Program to share their experiences, strength and hope through art.

“We will be having an amazing art exhibit featuring the works of Drug/Recovery Court participants from across the state in DeKalb County,” said Norene Puckett, DeKalb Recovery Court Program Coordinator.

Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals solicited work from participants and staff in programs throughout the state with the prompt “what does recovery mean to me?” Art has a special way of helping people express their feelings in a safe and non-judgmental format. April is also Alcohol Awareness month so we will have an exciting virtual reality simulation of a drunk driving experience at the exhibit as well,” she said.

“The exhibit will open Wednesday, April 5th at 3:00 p.m. with an opening reception to follow at 5:00 p.m. Please join us in celebrating the work of these participants and the programs that help them be successful. The event is open to the public,” added Puckett.

This event is a partnership between the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals, the DeKalb County Recovery Court, and the DeKalb Prevention Coalition.

For more information call Norene Puckett at 615-215-8690 or norene.drugcourt@gmail.com

Three Involved in Monday Night Crash

March 14, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
2017 Nissan Rogue driven by Cindy Washer
2012 Honda Insight driven by 17 year old boy
Another View of 2017 Nissan Rogue driven by Cindy Washer
Another Angle of 2017 Nissan Rogue driven by Cindy Washer

Three people were involved in a two vehicle crash Monday night at the intersection of Jacobs Pillar and Whorton Springs Roads.

Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that a 17 year old Smithville boy was traveling west on Whorton Springs Road in a 2012 Honda Insight when he failed to stop at the intersection and crossed into the path of a northbound 2017 Nissan Rogue driven by 45 year old Cindy Washer of Smithville. A 15 year old boy was a passenger with the 17 year old youth.

According to Trooper Johnson, the Rogue struck the Honda in the center of the driver side forcing the Honda into a field off the road. The Rogue then went off the road and struck a utility pole, causing the pole to break.

Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department Extrication and Rescue Team were summoned to the scene to help free Washer who was entrapped in her vehicle. She and the 17 year old boy were taken by DeKalb EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital. The other boy apparently wasn’t hurt.

Trooper Johnson said charges or citations are pending against the 17 year old driver. The names of the teens were not released because they are minors.

Meanwhile, two people were involved in a pickup truck crash Sunday afternoon on the Old Mill Hill Road.

Trooper Johnson told WJLE that 22 year old Joseph Barrett of Morrison was driving south in a 1982 GMC Sierra pickup truck when he failed to negotiate a curve, went off the right side of the road, and struck a tree. David Hutchings of Liberty was a passenger of the truck.

Both men were taken by DeKalb EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital. Barrett was later airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital. Barrett has been charged with driving under the influence, violation of the implied consent law, a 3rd offense of driving on a suspended license, failure to exercise due care, no seatbelt, no insurance, and a violation of the registration law.

Smithville Police Track Down SUV Thief in Columbia

March 13, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Chandler Michael Maynard
Roxanne Landis
Kenneth Lee Bain Jr.

Good detective work by the Smithville Police Department led to the arrest of a 19 year old Columbia man and the recovery of the 2001 Chevy Blazer he allegedly stole from a local car dealership last month.

(CLICK LINK BELOW TO VIEW MUG SHOTS OF PERSONS RECENTLY BOOKED AT THE DEKALB COUNTY JAIL- Intakes & Releases From: 3/06/2017 Thru: 3/13/2017)

Seagate Crystal Reports - REPOR_14.pdf (3.53 MB)

Chandler Michael Maynard was taken into custody on Monday, March 6 and charged with theft of property. He is under a $7,000 bond and his court date is March 30.

According to police, Maynard went to Glynn’s Auto Sales on Friday, February 24 where he asked to test drive the Blazer. While he had possession of the vehicle, Maynard allegedly went two local businesses where video surveillance showed he tried to have copies made of the ignition and door keys. He was successful at one of the businesses. Maynard returned the Blazer but then went back to the car lot at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Monday, February 27 and drove away in the vehicle, apparently using the keys he had made. During the course of the investigation, a Smithville Police Department detective saw on social media where Maynard, who resides in Columbia, had posted a picture of a Blazer which looked like the one stolen from Glynn’s Auto Sales. In the posting, Maynard claimed to be the owner of the vehicle shown in the photo. Smithville Police contacted the Columbia Police Department and from a street sign in the background on the photo, authorities were able to track down Maynard as well as the stolen Blazer. Maynard was interviewed in Columbia and subsequently placed under arrest. Smithville Police served the warrants and brought Maynard back to Smithville.

30 year old Michael Strange was arrested for domestic assault on Sunday, February 26. Police responded to a domestic complaint and after speaking with the parties it was determined that Strange had allegedly grabbed the victim's neck leaving a red mark. His bond is $2,500 and his court date is March 30.

31 year old Clent Lee Shehane 31 was arrested on Wednesday, March 1 for domestic assault. According to police, Shehane had a hypodermic needle filled with an unknown substance and threatened to stab his victim with it. Shehane’s bond is $3,000 and his court date is March 30.

25 year old Anthony Charles South was arrested for violation of an order of protection on Thursday, March 2. South allegedly posted on social media a communication to his victim who is a protected party in an order of protection of which South is the respondent. South’s bond is $1,500 and his court date is March 30.

18 year old Brandi Leigh Whittaker was cited for simple possession on Friday, March 3. Police spotted Whittaker traveling 60 miles per hour in a 40 mile per hour speed zone. During a traffic stop officers obtained consent to search and found 16.5 round peach colored pills identified as Alprazolam for which Whittaker had no prescription. Her court date is March 30.

35 year old Kenneth Lee Bain Jr. was cited for three counts of simple possession on Saturday, March 4. Police were called to Wade Street in reference to a fight which remains under investigation. Upon arrival at the time, the officer spoke with Bain who informed him that he was the victim in the incident. After taking Bain's statement and speaking with other parties involved, the officer asked for and received permission to search Bain’s person. He found three round pills believed to be Clonazepam, 13 yellow pills believed to be Alaprazolam, 4.5 white round pills believed to be Buprenorphine, and five white gel pills believed to be Lyrica for which Bain had no prescription. His court date is April 6.

32 year old Roxanne Landis and 35 year old Kenneth Lee Bain, Jr. were arrested on Saturday, March 4 for public intoxication. Landis was also charged with evidence tampering while Bain was further charged with simple possession of a schedule IV drug. Police were called to do a welfare check for a possible intoxicated person at Taco Bell. Upon arrival, officers found Landis in the men's bathroom where she was observed trying to flush pills down the toilet. Landis’ speech was slurred and she was unsteady on her feet. She could barely keep her eyes open to talk with the officers. Landis was annoying others in the restaurant and she was also determined to be a danger to herself. Police also found Bain in the parking lot and noticed that his speech was slurred. He too was unsteady on his feet and he could barely keep his eyes open. Bain was placed into custody for the safety of himself and others. Upon incident to arrest, Bain was found to be in possession of five round pills believed to be Clonazepam, two small yellow pieces believed to be Xanax, and 13.5 white rectangle bars believed to be Alprazolam. Bond for Landis is $6,500 and $4,500 for Bain. Both will make a court appearance on March 30.

Roxanna Landis got into trouble again on Thursday, March 9. She was cited for simple possession after police were dispatched to Oak & East Main Streets in reference to an intoxicated person. Upon arrival, the officer found Landis in possession of nine Lyrica pills located in another Rx pill bottle that was prescribed to her. She couldn't provide officers with a valid prescription for the Lyrica. Her court date is March 30.

35 year old Jermaica Cherome League was cited for vandalism on Wednesday, March 8. According to Police, League was upset because he believed his victim had stolen some money from him. League allegedly became angry and busted out the window of the victim's vehicle with a steel pipe. His court date is March 16.

29 year old Jamaal Ahmad League was arrested for public intoxication on Wednesday, March 8. Police were called to Taco Bell where a man was reported to be yelling and cussing employees. The man, League, was tracked down by police on Cherry Street. He was found to have slurred speech, blood shot eyes and he was unsteady on his feet. League also had an odor of alcohol on his person. He was arrested for his safety and that of the public. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is April 6.

Woman Charged with Failing to Report Accident

March 13, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Kandy Ashton Beshearse
Thomas Scott Self

A woman has been charged with failure to give immediate notice of an accident after her vehicle ran into a metal pole planted in a concrete flower pot at a local residence.

(CLICK LINK BELOW TO VIEW MUG SHOTS OF PERSONS RECENTLY BOOKED AT THE DEKALB COUNTY JAIL- Intakes & Releases From: 3/06/2017 Thru: 3/13/2017)

Seagate Crystal Reports - REPOR_14.pdf (3.53 MB)

21 year old Kandy Ashton Beshearse of Blue Springs Road is under a $1,500 bond and she will be in court on March 30.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Wednesday, March 8 a deputy was dispatched to a residence in reference to property damage that had occurred by a red car the previous night. The vehicle was determined to have been a red Dodge Avenger. The deputy spoke with a detective about the incident. The detective said he had a prior case involving the same type of vehicle that belonged to Beshearse. The deputy went to Beshearse’s home and found the car. The parts found at the scene of the accident matched those missing from Beshearse’s car. The property damage from the accident came to approximately $2,500. Beshearse admitted to being in the area but didn’t remember anything that night although she claimed to have been drinking.

52 year old Thomas Scott Self of Belk Road, Smithville is charged with driving under the influence. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is March 30.
Sheriff Ray said that on March 8 a detective responded to Belk Road in reference to a suspicious vehicle that had driven through the yard of one home and then parked in the back yard of another residence. The officer spoke with the driver, Self and saw an open container in his vehicle. While speaking with Self, the detective noticed that his speech was slurred and his eyes were glossy. Self was asked to step outside the vehicle but due to his level of intoxication he was unable to perform any field sobriety tasks. Self admitted to having consumed four beers and he had taken some pills. Self was placed under arrest and taken to the hospital for a blood withdrawal.

Sheriff Patrick Ray Defends Death Investigation

March 13, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray
Lauren Taylor Agee

The mother of a young woman found dead on Center Hill Lake almost two years ago is challenging a DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department investigation that concluded the death was accidental.

Sherry Smith, in a recent news report by a Nashville television station, said she believes her daughter Lauren Agee was murdered. But Sheriff Patrick Ray is standing by the findings of the probe and has released a detailed written statement to the local news media in response to allegations that the investigation was insufficient.

Agee, 21, had reportedly been enjoying an outing with friends known as "Wakefest" at Pates Ford Marina in July 2015 and was camping near the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the lake prior to the tragedy. Investigators believe that Agee fell from the cliff into the water resulting in her death.Several hours later Agee’s body was found in the water by a fisherman near Still Point Boat Ramp across from Pates Ford Marina. A subsequent autopsy determined the death to be accidental.

“Through the investigation, it was found that Lauren and her friends had been camping atop a narrow bluff across from Pates Ford Marina, where Lauren and another individual had tied their hammock. The body was found face-down in the water in slough behind the bluff where Agee’s hammock was found," according to Sheriff Ray's written statement.

“The medical examiners autopsy report concludes Lauren Agee’s death was accidental with the cause of death determined as “multiple blunt force injuries”. The pathologist further informed the investigating detective that Agee’s injuries are consistent with a fall. The autopsy report further shows multiple injuries to the back of her head, spine, and back, and that drowning was a possible contributing factor to her death,” the statement continued.

Another autopsy was later conducted by the family’s independent pathologist which reportedly found that Agee’s larynx was crushed. Smith told Channel 17’s Dennis Ferrier that she believes her daughter had been choked.

“As far as being choked, as a family member has claimed, the photographs taken during this investigation show no marks or bruising around Lauren’s neck, and the medical examiner’s report supports the detective’s findings. The medical examiner’s report stated the larynx was not crushed, but was intact,” said Sheriff Ray in his written statement.

Although he has no jurisdiction in DeKalb County, a least one off duty White County officer who apparently worked as private security for the marina that weekend has also questioned the results of the investigation. He raised the issue that an autopsy photo apparently shows an imprint on Agee’s midsection that could be the outline of the bow or stern of a canoe suggesting that Agee’s body may have been placed on a canoe after her death.

Sheriff Ray refutes the allegation stating that the imprint is identical to a TWRA boat storage lid where Agee’s body was placed face down during transport to the boat ramp.

“TWRA officers assisted the sheriff’s department detectives in loading the body onto a TWRA boat to transport the body back to the boat ramp. The body was placed face down on the side of one of the TWRA boats,” stated Sheriff Ray.

“There has been some question concerning a photograph taken by a DeKalb Sheriff’s Department detective, on the TWRA boat, showing a resemblance of a canoe mark on Lauren’s chest. After examining the photographs taken before transporting the body to the boat ramp, our investigation determined this mark is an identical match to the TWRA boat storage locker lid where the body was placed facedown during transport to the boat ramp,” Sheriff Ray stated.

"Lauren’s body was taken directly to the hospital in Smithville where investigators conducted further examination and made additional photographs of the body. The body was examined and photographed again. The photographs taken at the hospital did not show the storage locker lid imprint on Lauren’s chest,” Sheriff Ray continued.

“The body was then taken to Nashville to the state medical examiner’s office. Again, Lauren’s body was photographed and did not show any marks on her chest that resembled the claimed “canoe” mark,” he said.

Smith wants to know why Lauren’s friends at the campsite with her never reported her missing or contacted the family immediately after her disappearance. Last year she filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against them which remains pending in court.

The following is a complete text of Sheriff Ray's written statement released to WJLE this morning (Monday).

"First, let me say that I am a parent of a teenager. Although I have not had to bear such a tragedy as the Agee’s, I fully appreciate why the parents of Lauren Agee want closure in their daughter’s death. Additionally, I take my oath of office and accountability to our citizens and visitors seriously. With that said, I want to be as sensitive and understanding as I can while responding to the recent inaccurate statements broadcast in recent news stories by Dennis Ferrier on Fox 17 News.

It is highly unusual for a law enforcement agency to comment on an investigation that has been closed. However, the integrity of this investigation has now been questioned by those who have not sought factual information, and put into a public forum. As a result, I feel it is necessary to share the facts surrounding this investigation that have been vetted by my department, forensic information from the state medical examiner, and the District Attorney’s office. Below are the facts that refute several inaccuracies stated in Mr. Ferrier’s “files”:

•This incident was reported on July 26, 2015 on Center Hill Lake at Pates Ford Marina where a large outdoor event, referred to as “Wakefest”, was going on that weekend.

•A body was found around 4:43 pm by a fisherman. The body was floating face down in the lake.

•The body was identified as that of 21 year old Lauren Taylor Agee.

•Through the investigation, it was found that Lauren and her friends had been camping atop a narrow bluff across from Pates Ford Marina, where Lauren and another individual had tied their hammock. The body was found face-down in the water in slough behind the bluff where Agee’s hammock was found.

•The Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency also responded to the scene that day. TWRA officers assisted the sheriff’s department detectives in loading the body onto a TWRA boat to transport the body back to the boat ramp. The body was placed face down on the side of one of the TWRA boats.

•There has been some question concerning a photograph taken by a DeKalb Sheriff’s Department detective, on the TWRA boat, showing a resemblance of a canoe mark on Lauren’s chest. After examining the photographs taken before transporting the body to the boat ramp, our investigation determined this mark is an identical match to the TWRA boat storage locker lid where the body was placed facedown during transport to the boat ramp.

•Lauren’s body was taken directly to the hospital in Smithville where investigators conducted further examination and made additional photographs of the body. The body was examined and photographed again. The photographs taken at the hospital did not show the storage locker lid imprint on Lauren’s chest.

•The body was then taken to Nashville to the state medical examiner’s office. Again, Lauren’s body was photographed and did not show any marks on her chest that resembled the claimed “canoe” mark.

•The autopsy toxicology results document her blood/alcohol levels were over twice the legal limit.

•As far as being choked, as a family member has claimed, the photographs taken during this investigation show no marks or bruising around Lauren’s neck, and the medical examiner’s report supports the detective’s findings. The medical examiner’s report stated the larynx was not crushed, but was intact.

•The medical examiners autopsy report concludes Lauren Agee’s death was accidental with the cause of death determined as “multiple blunt force injuries”. The pathologist further informed the investigating detective that Agee’s injuries are consistent with a fall. The autopsy report further shows multiple injuries to the back of her head, spine, and back, and that drowning was a possible contributing factor to her death.

•During the investigation, I personally went with the detective to speak with Lauren’s mother. Her mother began to tell a story of a security officer who was working at the Wakefest event at Pates Ford Marina. The security officer told Lauren's mother he was present at the lake the evening Lauren’s body was found. She said the security officer told her a story of one of the people that was with Lauren. She said the security officer commented that this individual was on the boat with him and was starring at the security officer’s sidearm (handgun) and made a remark about wanting to get off the boat. This security officer never mentioned this to law enforcement on the scene and it created great concern for my detectives.

•After hearing Lauren's mother's comments, my detective and I immediately located this security officer who was, at this time, employed with the White County Sheriff’s Department. We met with him in Sparta and his only information to us was that he just felt like something was not right. He gave no leads or evidence of any foul play. Since that time, FOX 17 News reported that we haven’t spoken to either of the two security officers who were there. This is completely not true and causes immediate concern for this security officer’s credibility and motive.

•One of the security officers is also shown on FOX 17 News throwing a weighted dummy down an embankment. There has been no evidence provided to indicate the location where Lauren could have possibly fell. The slope below the make-shift campsite, on both sides of the narrow bluff, ranges from very steep to vertical. If the security officer knew that Lauren fell, and from which location she fell from, why would he not be cooperative with detectives by sharing this pertinent information?

•After the investigation was over, the sheriff’s department detective, who was assigned to the case, met with the district attorney’s investigator and shared all information involving this case. The district attorney’s office concluded the detective’s findings were documented and justified as being consistent with accidental death.

•I told Lauren’s mother, step-father, and father if they obtain any additional information about this case, my department would make every effort to follow up. On September 23, 2015, we sat down in a follow up conference with the family to discuss our investigation and findings and to answer questions from the family. Lauren’s father and step-father attended the meeting, but didn’t have any questions. They picked up Lauren’s personal belongings inventoried as part of the investigation and then departed. Lauren’s mother chose not to attend the meeting.

As I said when I opened this statement, I deeply regret to have to publically respond to misinformation that has been instigated and broadcast through the Nashville news media and social media. These matters are painful to the family and friends of Lauren Agee, and I have tried my best to protect the integrity of this case and the sensitivity and privacy of this family. It has never been a practice of mine to publically reveal, through any media source, details of the DeKalb County Sheriff Department’s investigations; for this case, or any other case. However, serious, unfounded, and harmful allegations have been leveled towards my department in reference to the proper investigation of this case. I feel I owe it to Lauren, her family, and the citizens that my department is sworn to protect and serve to provide a factual rebuttal to these allegations.

It is very difficult for any law enforcement agency to conduct an investigation when the media and people using social media throw out rumors and opinions that cannot be substantiated. It’s extremely difficult and challenging for law enforcement to decipher all this information and sort out rumors from facts. When the district attorney’s office reviews a case with us, we always discuss whether or not there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed. From the beginning of this investigation until now, there is simply no evidence in this tragic case that will support Lauren’s death being considered homicide or foul play. If someone has credible information or evidence that shows otherwise, it is my duty, obligation, and desire to further pursue this investigation. I find it shameful that some of our Nashville news sources choose glamour and controversy over facts and integrity. That’s not fair to Lauren, her family, her friends, or the justice system.

With that said, I welcome and encourage the District Attorney’s Office and/or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to review this case again and make their own conclusions about my department’s handling of this case. I pledge my department’s continued cooperation.

This case is officially closed, but I can assure anyone that if any new credible information or evidence is received, it will be properly and thoroughly investigated; just as we would with any other closed or open case," concluded Sheriff Ray's statement.

Award Winning Duo Dailey & Vincent Inducted into Grand Ole Opry

March 12, 2017
Photo by Chris Hollo for Grand Ole Opry

Multi-GRAMMY® nominees and three-time International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainers of the Year Dailey & Vincent were formally inducted into the Grand Ole Opry Saturday night by Opry members Old Crow Medicine Show and Jeannie Seely. The duo had been invited to join the Opry by Marty Stuart during their 100th Opry appearance in December.

Seely, who will celebrate 50 years of Opry membership later this year, presented an Opry Member Award to Jamie Dailey, while Old Crow lead singer Ketch Secor did the same for Darrin Vincent.

“I had the honor of introducing Dailey & Vincent for their first Opry appearance,” Seely began. “I thought to myself that night, ‘I hope one day I get to see them become members of the Opry one day because they epitomize everything the Opry is on stage and off.’”

“They honor the traditions and respect their elders, but most of all they entertain,” Secor said. “Tonight they join the ranks of country music’s greatest entertainers. … Welcome Dailey & Vincent to the first family of country music.”

“We love the Grand Ole Opry. It’s in our DNA,” Dailey said as he and Vincent recognized family, friends, their band, and members of their organization who’d helped make the night possible. The duo closed their Opry segment with “I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You,” a hit by one of their musical heroes, The Statler Brothers.

“We are very excited to welcome Dailey & Vincent into the fold,” said Opry General Manager Sally Williams. “Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent have been proclaimed the best in their field across the board, winning awards and media acclaim for their songs, their musicianship, and their one-of-a-kind live performances. Over the past 10 years and more than 100 Opry visits, they’ve brought crowds to their feet both with country, bluegrass, and gospel standards as well as their brand new material. We look forward to Dailey & Vincent being active, beloved Opry members as the Opry looks toward the century mark and beyond.”

Among artists scheduled to play the Opry later this month are Opry members Charlie Daniels Band, Del McCoury Band, Rascal Flatts, and Carrie Underwood, along with special guests Brandy Clark, Chris Janson, The Mavericks, and Scotty McCreery. Opry Country Classics continues throughout the spring at the Ryman Auditorium with upcoming Spotlight Artist appearances by Brenda Lee, Lorrie Morgan, Oak Ridge Boys, Tanya Tucker, and more.

ABOUT DAILEY & VINCENT:
Five-time GRAMMY® award winners individually, three-time GRAMMY® award nominees collectively, four-time DOVE Award winners, and winners of 35 IBMA Awards altogether (including 3-time IBMA Entertainer of the Year Award winners and 3-Time Vocal Group of the Year Award winners), Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent, backed by one of the best bands on tour today, are some of the most reputable and elite entertainers in American music; bluegrass, traditional country and gospel music. The concoction of the fantastically instinctive vocal blends of Dailey’s tenor and Vincent’s reedy harmonies has gained them well-deserved praise for their own distinctive style and worldwide recognition as American Music gold. Dailey & Vincent has garnered world-wide attention with their first national, top-rated television series, “The Dailey & Vincent Show,” on RFD TV and over 500 airings of their PBS special “Dailey & Vincent ALIVE - In Concert.” Their most recent CD, Dailey & Vincent ALIVE, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass charts and remained at the top position for over 15 weeks. For more information, visit daileyandvincent.com.

ABOUT THE GRAND OLE OPRY:
The Grand Ole Opry® is presented by Humana®. Opry performances are held every Friday and Saturday of the year, and Tuesday Night Opry shows will return February 14, 2017. To plan an Opry visit, call (800) SEE-OPRY or visit opry.com. The Opry presents the best in country music live every week from Nashville, Tenn. Marking more than nine decades of entertainment, the Opry can be heard at opry.com and wsmonline.com, Opry and WSM mobile apps, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and its flagship home, 650 AM-WSM. The Grand Ole Opry is owned by Ryman Hospitality Properties (NYSE: RHP). For more information, visit opry.com.



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