Should the City of Smithville create an outdoor recreation area for youth to ride bikes and skate?
Will and Martha Puckett came before the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen Monday night with a petition signed by more than 200 people seeking such a place. "I would like to present the idea of an outdoor recreation area for the City of Smithville," said Will Puckett. " We would like an outdoor area to ride bicycles and a place to skate. We got over 200 signatures in less than 24 hours," he said.
Many places in the city are off limits to bikers and skaters, such as the downtown area and at Greenbrook Park and its too dangerous in the streets. " Last Saturday, an event happened. Me and one of my good friends were skating on a road and a car actually swerved and almost hit me," said Will Puckett..
Martha Puckett said grant funding could be available through Walmart. "You can apply for the grants online at Walmart.com, I used to work for Walmart and for community grants, they offer up to $20,000 depending on what its for," said Martha Puckett. " And if money is an issue, we can do fundraisers. Walmart will let us set up a fundraiser outside of the store," she said.
"We want a place where they (youth) can play basketball outside. Where you can skate or ride bicycles, roller blade or anything like that," said Martha Puckett. "We're not allowed to do that at the park. People have told me they want their children to have a place to go out and have fun and there's not that many places to do that," she said.
Alderman Gayla Hendrix urged the Puckett's to apply for the grant."We have, as a board been discussing applying for grants for other recreational facilities for the city so that would be a really good start. If you could start, we could brainstorm ideas for places," she said.
"I would encourage you to get on line and go for it. We'll try to come up with some (city) property somewhere," said Mayor Jimmy Poss.
A tip and a subsequent undercover investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department led to the arrests Sunday, March 3 of two people in an Alexandria burglary and theft.
29 year old Clayton Dwayne Green of Gordonsville is charged with aggravated burglary, theft of property over $1,000, and unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon. Rachel Nicole Green of Gordonsville is charged with aggravated burglary, theft of property over $1,000, burglary, and theft of property under $500. Bond for each is $30,000 and they will be in court on March 14
Sheriff Patrick Ray said after receiving information of a planned break-in at a residence on Lower Helton Road in Alexandria, his department conducted an undercover investigation, placing the home under surveillance. One of detectives saw Clayton and Rachel Green enter the house. When they came out, the two were detained for questioning. They were subsequently arrested.
According to Sheriff Ray, both Clayton and Rachel Nicole Green allegedly entered the residence through a garage door. The two allegedly took a camera, bag of assorted change, knife collection, 38 special Rossie revolver, a 22 Heritage pistol, a chain saw, nail guns, jig saw, 410 shotgun, a 12 gauge bolt action shotgun, several items of gold jewelry, and other things, all valued at over $1,000. Rachel also allegedly entered a pickup truck on the property and took a 22 caliber pistol valued at under $500. While under investigation for the burglary, Clayton Green, a convicted felon, was found to be in reach of two loaded handguns, a 38 and a 22 caliber. He told the officers that he was a convicted felon and was not allowed to have guns.
Meanwhile, 56 year old Johnny Wayne Trapp of Eagle Creek Road, Smithville is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on March 14. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, February 23, Trapp allegedly assaulted a female family member by throwing her to the ground and hitting her several times after she refused to carry him somewhere to get more beer.
28 year old Michael Brandon Redmon of McMinnville Highway, Smithville is charged with public intoxication. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on March 7. Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, February 25 officers were dispatched to Jewel's Market on Highway 56 on an unwanted guest call. Upon arrival, the deputy found Redmon standing in the doorway. He was very wet. His eyes were bloodshot. He was unsteady on his feet and uncooperative. Redmon was arrested for his safety and the safety of the public and brought to the jail for booking.
22 year old Christopher Justin Garrett of Clear Creek Road, Liberty is charged with introduction of drugs into a penal institution. He will be in court March 7. Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, February 26, Garrett was getting booked into the jail on a circuit court violation of probation when a correctional officer asked Garrett if he had anything on him. Garrett replied no. Garrett had piled his clothing in the corner and when he picked them up, a black metal container rolled out of his clothes. It held five diazepam pills and two plastic baggies that contained methamphetamine.
32 year old David Allen Sullivan of Kendra Drive, Smithville is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence, felony evading arrest, and resisting arrest. He was also cited for simple possession and failure to maintain his lane of travel. His bond is $10,500. He will be in court March 7. Sheriff Ray said on Wednesday, February 27, Sullivan was operating a motor vehicle on Dry Creek Road and failed to stop for a sheriff's department deputy who had pulled in behind him. When the officer turned on his emergency equipment, Sullivan fled. The pursuit continued from Dry Creek Road to New Home Road and then to Highway 70 before Sullivan finally stopped. When the officer tried to pull Sullivan out of the vehicle, he grabbed onto the steering wheel. After the officer finally got Sullivan out of the vehicle, he refused to be handcuffed. Sullivan had to be taken to the ground to be cuffed. The deputy detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on Sullivan's person. He had red watery eyes and his speech was slurred. Sullivan admitted to drinking six beers and taking Valium pills. Two blue pills believed to be Valium, a schedule IV drug, were found in the vehicle including one in the drivers seat and one in the floor board. For his safety, no field sobriety tasks were given. Sullivan did submit to a blood test. Sullivan was arrested and brought to the jail for booking. The other prior DUI offense was on February 24, 2006.
A domestic disturbance investigation at a residence on Pine Orchard Road Thursday, February 28 resulted in alcohol related charges against two men who were staying there.
56 year old Howard R. Moon of Elkland, Pennsylvania is charged with a sixth offense of driving under the influence and felony evading. His bond is $20,000 and he will be in court on March 7. A co-defendant, 51 year old David Hugh Flynn of Sabensville, Pennsylvania is charged with public intoxication. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court on March 7.
Sheriff Ray said that an officer responded to a call of a domestic disturbance on Pine Orchard Road. The owner of the residence requested that Flynn be removed from the property. He had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. For his safety and the safety of the public, Flynn was brought to the jail for booking.
As the officer was leaving, he saw Moon's vehicle approaching. The officer attempted to do a traffic stop, turning on his emergency equipment, but Moon fled and would not stop until he got to 436 Pine Orchard Road
Moon got out of the vehicle and ran into the house. He eventually opened the door and let the officer in. Moon had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. No field sobriety task was done because of the circumstances. He did submit to a blood test. Other DUI offenses against him were on August 14, 2007, February 17, 2001, July 6, 1995, and May 19, 1989 in New York and June 12, 2001 in Pennsylvania. Moon was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.
He has already served almost eleven years for the fatal shooting of a DeKalb County man, but 40 year old Christopher Nicholas Orlando may be in prison for at least another three years.
After a parole hearing Monday morning, two members of the Tennessee Board of Parole hearing the case, Chairman Charles Traughber and member Richard Montgomery voted to decline parole for Orlando at this time but to reconsider the case in three years. The file now goes to the other five parole board members, who will review it and cast their votes. Four matching votes are needed for a final decision in this case.
(PLAY VIDEO BELOW OF CHRIS ORLANDO AT MONDAY'S PAROLE HEARING)
Orlando is serving a 45 year prison sentence for facilitation of first degree murder in the death of 20 year old Joshua Murphy. Orlando is incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee.
Murphy was shot and killed in a secluded area in the Laurel Hill Community at the end of Old Eagle Creek Road on Sunday, September 15, 2002. His body was discovered three days later. Officials said Orlando and a co-defendant, Melvin Turnbill suspected Murphy of stealing methamphetamine. Orlando was tried and convicted of the crime by a DeKalb County Criminal Court Jury in April, 2004.
Turnbill entered a guilty plea to facilitation to first-degree murder in September, 2003 and was given a 25-year sentence, of which he must serve at least 30 percent. Turnbill remains incarcerated at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville. His parole hearing is set for April, 2014.
The parole hearing for Orlando Monday was held at the Cookeville offices of the Tennessee Board of Probation. Neither Orlando nor the state parole board members were present in Cookeville for the hearing. Traughber and Montomery communicated by video conference from other locations in the state while Orlando was connected by video from the prison where he is incarcerated. Deputy District Attorney General Gary McKenzie who was present in Cookeville, could see Traughber, Montgomery and Orlando on a television monitor and he could be seen by Traughber, Montgomery, and Orlando on a monitor from their locations. No one from the victim's family attended the hearing.
While Orlando said he was sorry for the death of Murphy during the parole hearing Monday, he denied being the triggerman in the shooting, blaming Turnbill for actually committing the murder. "I was there and I made a lot of poor decisions but I didn't shoot him," said Orlando. "Nothing justifies anyone being killed, especially over any kind of drugs. I regret every day that I've been in prison about what happened that day. Let the family know that I am truly sorry for what happened to Josh. It was a bad time in my life and in all three of our lives. We were on meth. It was a horrible thing. I'm trying to do what I can to better myself. I am truly, truly sorry for what happened. Its something that disturbs me everyday. Since I've gotten off drugs, I've seen the bad choices I've made. I know that the drug part of it itself was the main cause of it. If you by chance would let me get parole and let me prove it to the parole board, to Josh's family, and to my family that I can be a law abiding citizen, I'll do the best I can," said Orlando
(PLAY VIDEO BELOW TO SEE MORE OF THE PAROLE HEARING)
Chairman Traughber found Orlando less than forthcoming about his involvement in the crime. " You have not been forthcoming. You have been trying to evade and distance yourself as to your involvement in this crime. Its evident that you were more heavily involved in this crime than you would want us to believe," said Traughber. " The way this man was killed was very horrific. Because of that, my vote is to decline you and see you in three years. You were really involved in this crime. You wanted to distance yourself from it which does not indicate that you really accept the responsibility for your part in this crime. It was uncalled for. Murphy did not have a weapon. He was not threatening you or your co-defendant (Turnbill). To release you at this time would depreciate the seriousness of your crime or promote disrespect for the law. You are continuing to do well while you're in the department of corrections but your behavior and your criminal activity in this crime is why I cannot vote to grant you parole. That's my vote," said Traughber.
"I too agree with the chairman," said Montgomery. "You should serve more time for the seriousness of this crime. Hopefully in three years from now, you will have improved your position on your education and training to hopefully be a productive citizen when you are released, if that's the case in three years. I agree 100% that we should wait and review this case again in three years," said Montgomery.
Earlier in the hearing, Orlando recounted events that led to the shooting that September, 2002 weekend. "I had stayed at his (Turnbill's) house. Turnbill woke me up and said someone had stole his meth lab and that he had to get Josh Murphy because it was his meth lab also. It was poor judgement on my part. I got involved in it. I bought him (Turnbill) the shotgun shells. I met up with them (Turnbill and Murphy) later. They got to arguing and that's when the murder occurred." said Orlando.
"My charge partner (Turnbill) had pulled out the shotgun, loaded it and pointed it at me and Murphy," said Orlando. ‘We (Murphy and I) were standing next to each other. He (Turnbill) said I know you stole my meth lab. At the time all three of us had been doing meth. I looked at Josh and Josh looked at me. He (Turnbill) was talking out of his head. As he (Turnbill) pointed the gun and shot it, Josh and I turned around and ran. I fell down and he (Turnbill) shot Josh," said Orlando.
Gary McKenzie, Deputy District Attorney, speaking on behalf of the victim's family, said Orlando was not being candid with the board. "After 13 years of prosecuting, this is probably one of the more cold blooded cases that I've seen," said McKenzie. " The state had difficulty in proving who pulled the trigger. But that in no form or fashion lessens the responsibility of what Mr. Orlando did. What came out at trial, the facts of the case were that Mr. Turnbill and the defendant here today (Orlando) had a dispute with the victim (Murphy) over narcotics. After that dispute, Mr. Orlando went and purchased the ammunition for the shotgun that was used. The co-defendant in the case, (Turnbill), he and Orlando had agreed upon a secluded area. Turnbill brought the victim to this location where Orlando was waiting. Orlando had possession of the shotgun and ammunition, which he gave to the co-defendant, Turnbill. They went out into the woods. The evidence would have shown that at gunpoint, the victim went out into a secluded location. At this point and time the co-defendant in the case (Turnbill) pulled the shotgun on the victim (Murphy) and the victim fled. The first shot nearly blew the victim's leg off. And as that victim (Murphy) lay dying in the woods, (and would have succumbed to his injuries from the massive blow to the leg and laid there and bled out), the two individuals charged with this crime walked over to where the victim was at and shot him twice in the face with a shotgun at such close range that the wadding used in the shotgun shell that contains the pellets, was deep inside the wound and had to be removed by the Medical Examiner's office. That is the close distance at which this victim received the fatal blow. No question this victim knew it was coming, saw the shotgun in his face, and his last visions were these two individuals standing over him. After this was over with, the evidence was that these two conspired together to hide the evidence to get rid of it," said McKenzie.
"I appreciate the fact that Mr Orlando has tried to better himself but I do believe that he is not being candid about his involvement. I know of no way we can prove who pulled the trigger but certainly his involvement was not just his showing up out there. That is not what transpired at trial. Had it been, he would not be here today in front of you. He was complicit in this crime. He helped set it up. He helped lure the victim out there and he participated in the homicide and participated in covering up the homicide," said McKenzie."
"You have in front of you a man who had probation, had chance after chance, maybe too many chances and he failed. And his failure to follow the rules resulted in the death of an individual in a horrible, horrible way. This is a serious and violent offense," said McKenzie. "Maybe there's one day that he comes in here and he owns up to every part in which he played. Maybe when that day comes he deserves some consideration. I don't think its today. I speak for the victims when I say they don't think its today. That's why I'm here today and I'm asking the board to consider all those things in making a decision to deny his parole," said McKenzie.
Chairman Traughber noted that the board had received two letters in opposition to Orlando's being paroled.
Having once been addicted to methamphetamine, Orlando told the parole board members that he is now clean and sober. "Over the years I've been incarcerated, I've taken these classes (anger management, life skills, and drug classes). I've sobered up," said Orlando. "Over the last eleven years, I've never had any drug offenses. I've passed all my drug screens. I've turned my life over to the Lord. I've concentrated as much as I can on helping my family out from in here. I've realized what I've done wrong. It's something that haunts me everyday. I'm deeply sorry by the pain I've caused Josh's family for my poor judgment and what I've also caused my family because of my poor judgement. I can't describe the pain they're going through because I have a daughter and if something awful happened to my daughter I can't even imagine the pain of that," he said.
This is Orlando's second parole hearing within the last two years. Following the previous hearing on March 7, 2011, Chairman Traughber said that Orlando was declined for two years due to the seriousness of the crime. Orlando also had disciplinary problems (while in prison). The board, at that time, suggested that Orlando enroll and participate in additional programs like anger management and substance abuse and to refrain from any more disciplinary incidents.
While he had no criminal record as a juvenile, Orlando encountered problems with the law as an adult prior to the murder including arrests and convictions for drug offenses along with charges of harassment, domestic assault (later dismissed) obstruction of justice, and several traffic related offenses
Orlando, father of a 16 year old girl, said if he were paroled he would settle in Smithville with his parents, that he would find work, and try to obtain some financial assistance to further his education.
In making parole decisions, board members consider factors such as the seriousness of the offense, time served, victim input, any programs the offender may have completed or disciplinary actions against the offender while incarcerated, etc. Voting ends when four matching votes have been cast, either to parole or not to parole. It should take two weeks to get a decision finalized in this case.
The following story below is an account of the trial of Christopher Nicholas Orlando In April, 2004 as reported by WJLE at that time.
A DeKalb County Criminal Court Jury, in April 2004, found Orlando guilty in the September 2002 killing of 20 year old Joshua Lee Murphy.
Murphy's body was found on Wednesday, September 18, 2002 in a secluded area at the end of Old Eagle Creek Road on Back Bone Ridge in the Laurel Hill Community of DeKalb County.
The motorist who found the body, Larry Young, testified that he was riding down that road when he detected an odor, got out of his vehicle, discovered the body, and then left to alert authorities.
Murphy had been shot several times in the face, legs, chest, and groin by a 12 gauge shotgun. The murder apparently took place on Sunday, September 15, three days before the body was discovered.
The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department (Sheriff Lloyd Emmons administration) arrested Orlando a few days later and another man, Melvin Eugene Turnbill was picked up in Cave City, Kentucky, where authorities there found a meth lab in his pickup truck. Turnbill was eventually returned to DeKalb County to face the murder charge.
In September 2003, Turnbill, under a negotiated settlement, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court to facilitation of first degree murder in the shooting. Under terms of the plea agreement, Turnbill agreed to testify against Orlando. Facilitation of first degree murder is a Class A felony and Turnbill must serve at least 30% of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.
Special Agent Bob Krofssik of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (now deceased), testified during the trial that he went to Kentucky to interview Turnbill after the murder. He said Turnbill claimed that while he was present during the shooting, it was Orlando who pulled the trigger.
He said Turnbill had been cooking some methamphetamine on Saturday, September 14 near where the murder took place and that Orlando, Murphy, and others were present. Later Turnbill apparently placed the meth and the meth lab components in his pickup truck and went to the home of his girlfriend, Robin Baker, where he and Orlando spent the night.
Krofssik said Turnbill claimed he became angry the next morning when he discovered the meth was gone and threatened to kill Murphy, who he suspected had stolen it. Orlando apparently tried to calm Turnbill down and agreed to help him find Murphy and the stolen methamphetamine.
Krofssik said Turnbill claimed he and Orlando left in Orlando's car and found Murphy at the home of James Reeves, where Murphy had gone to a party the night before. Turnbill alleged that he stayed in the car while Orlando went inside to talk to Reeves. While there, Orlando apparently found the stolen meth and then got Murphy to go back with him and Turnbill to Baker's home.
Murphy then got in Turnbill's truck and the two of them went back to the area where the meth had been cooked the night before, while Orlando got in his car and went back to the Reeves home to retrieve the stolen meth. Orlando also allegedly picked up a shotgun and went to Aaron Tippin Outdoors (no longer in business) to buy some shotgun shells.
Krofssik said Turnbill claimed that after Orlando arrived at the scene, he (Orlando) got the shotgun out of his car and handed it to Turnbill, who pointed it at Murphy and confronted him about the stolen meth. He said Murphy kept running around the truck in an attempt to hide, but that Orlando took the shotgun from Turnbill and fired twice at Murphy. He said Murphy then turned and ran toward Orlando, knocking him down. Orlando then got up and started after Murphy, shooting him again.
Krofssik said Turnbill alleged that Orlando fired all the shots but that he (Turnbill) carried the shotgun in his pickup truck to the home of Michael Ponder, where he tried to hide the weapon and destroy some of the evidence.
Orlando's attorney, Hilton Conger, contended that it was Turnbill, not Orlando, that had the motive to kill Murphy. He said it was Turnbill's meth that had been stolen, that it was Turnbill who became irate when he learned the drug was missing, that it was Turnbill's shotgun that was used in the killing, that it was Turnbill who tried to hide the weapon, and that it was Turnbill who fled to Kentucky after the murder. Conger said Orlando made no attempt to flee, having gone back home on Sunday night and then to work on Monday, prior to his arrest days later.
Kroffsik said four months after the shooting, in January, 2003 investigators found a spent shotgun shell in the backyard of Orlando's residence. Orlando's girlfriend (at the time) Melissa Farley, claimed to have thrown the shell in the yard after she found it in Orlando's clothes.
Conger questioned Krofssik as to why Turnbill's clothes, worn at the time of the shooting, were not sent to the TBI Crime Lab to be examined for blood spatter. He said if Turnbill had done the shooting and fired at close range, it's likely Murphy's blood would have gotten on Turnbill's clothes.
Krofssik responded that the presence of blood spatter would not have necessarily proven Turnbill did the shooting, only that he was at the crime scene, which Turnbill had already admitted.
Conger also pointed out that in the sworn affidavit signed by Krofssik charging Turnbill with murder, Turnbill admitted to Orlando and others that he (Turnbill) killed Murphy. Conger asked Krofssik why Turnbill was now to be believed that Orlando did the shooting, when he (Turnbill) had already confessed to the killing in that affidavit.
Krofssik admited to Conger that he didn't know for sure who pulled the trigger.
Star Manufacturing recently hosted a Chili Cook-Off Contest for their employees.
Twenty-four entries were judged by County Mayor Mike Foster, Sheriff Patrick Ray, Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, and Chamber Director Suzanne Williams. After the judging, all employees were invited for lunch. Chili contest winners: 1st Place -Misty Wilson, 2nd place - Hector Caballero, 3rd place - Sheryl Cripps.
Chamber Director Suzanne Williams, Plant Manager Anthony Brewer; Crystal Rowland, H.R. Clerk; 1st Place Winner Misty Wilson, 3rd Place Winner Sheryl Cripps; Kara Davis, H.R. Administrator; County Mayor Mike Foster
Sheriff Patrick Ray, 2nd Place Winner Hector Caballero, Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss
A bill proposed by state Representative Terri Lynn Weaver would allow Tennessee students to fight back against bullying in schools without fear of punishment.
The Student Self-Defense bill would amend current zero-tolerance policies for fighting in schools that generally punishes any student involved in a fight no matter who initiated the confrontation. The rule calls for all parties involved in a fight to be punished equally.
(PLAY VIDEO BELOW OF STATE REPRESENTATIVE TERRI LYNN WEAVER AND STATE SENATOR MAE BEAVERS IN INTERVIEW WITH WJLE AFTER TOWN HALL MEETING FRIDAY IN SMITHVILLE)
During her "Coffee and Conversations" town hall meeting Friday, Weaver said the bill will give principals more discretion, rather than having to suspend all parties involved. "Throughout the state, not necessarily in District 40, but there has been numerous cases where a child is being beat to heck by a bully and he will not defend himself because he's either a football player or he is in some event in school and doesn't want to be suspended. Some of these cases are pretty brutal. In one case, there was this (fight) going on in a hallway (between two students) and a third (student) was standing by the locker. One of the kids in the fight wouldn't defend himself so the third student went over and started defending this kid. All three of them got suspended. I don't see justice in that," said Weaver. The current law states there is zero tolerance in our schools for this kind of activity," said Weaver.
Weaver said her bill doesn't promote violence but rather allows students to stand up for themselves without retribution. Sometimes bullies are enabled by zero-tolerance policies knowing the punishment will be the same for victims she said. "Am I promoting fighting? No. I just want the principals to be empowered to make a common sense decision because most of these principals know who these agitators are. This bill would allow principals to suspend that kid or that troublemaker and not suspend the kid who didn't want to do anything. Some of these kids have walked away (from a fight) and they are still being beat up," said Weaver.
A 36 year old McMinnville man was airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital after a two vehicle crash Sunday afternoon on South Congress Boulevard in front of Jewel's Market.
Central dispatch received the call at 3:11 p.m.
Corporal Travis Bryant of the Smithville Police Department told WJLE that 39 year old Carol Ann Tipton of McMinnville was driving south in a 1999 Chevy Cavalier when she turned left into the path of a northbound Jeep Cherokee, driven by 19 year old Jason Michael Petre of McMinnville. Tipton was attempting to pull into the parking lot of Jewel's Market. The impact forced Tipton's car into a wooden fence by the highway.
A passenger of Tipton's car, 36 year old Christopher Daniel Gibbs of McMinnville, was trapped and had to be extricated by members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department. A Life Force helicopter ambulance landed in the highway near the scene to airlift Gibbs.
Petre was not injured but Tipton was taken by DeKalb EMS to the hospital.
According to Corporal Bryant, Tipton was cited for improper turn and violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance)
Corporal Bryant was assisted at the scene by Captain Steven Leffew of the Smithville Police Department and Constable Johnny King.
Local attorneys, judges, court clerks and others who work in the judicial system Friday morning met with State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver and State Senator Mae Beavers during a town hall meeting urging them to vote against a proposed judicial redistricting plan that would make DeKalb County part of a new eight county district.
"We don't think there is a problem," said General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook, II who is president of the DeKalb County Bar.
(Play Videos Below)
The proposal to move DeKalb County from the current makeup of the 13th Judicial District to a new district is among options being considered by the Republican leadership in the Tennessee General Assembly, particularly Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey. But both State Representative Weaver and State Senator Beavers said they don't know yet what the final proposal will be for lawmakers to consider. "I've not heard from Mr. Ramsey yet. I've asked for an appointment but I haven't gotten one yet," said Representative Weaver. "I'm still pursing that. But as soon as I sit down and listen to the story then I will consider both sides and get back with you and give you my decision. But right now I'm not for it," she said.
"I'm very concerned about access to justice," said Representative Weaver. "I am also concerned about the children of this state. I'm concerned about what happens to kids in child cases and if
redistricting is going to destroy those relationships. That's my priority. Because for some kids these caseworkers is all they have," said Representative Weaver.
Judge Cook said while judicial redistricting has not occurred in nearly thirty years, judgeships have been created across the state to meet needs in specific areas. "I just got back this week from our General Sessions Judges Conference in Nashville where Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court Gary Wade explained that under the current system and the way we do it now based on weighted caseload, if there is a particular area that needs a new judge then that's where the judge goes. He said since 1984 there has been 31 new judgeships created to fill those spots across the state that need it without having to go in and start carving up districts. That has worked well. Plus, the legislature paid about $250,000 to get a study done just four years ago that says the way we're doing it now is working fine," said Judge Cook.
In addition to the fact that it is not needed, Judge Cook said redistricting could create more hardship in terms of travel for litigants. The proposed new district would stretch from Macon County to Coffee County. "The farthest we have to drive right now is Livingston. I can be there in 55 minutes. " I hardly ever have to though because the judges come to DeKalb County often enough that we don't have to go there. But look at the litigants who would have to drive from Macon or Trousdale County almost all the way to Alabama and there is no easy way to get there," said Judge Cook.
Representative Weaver said a judge from another district recently expressed to her support for redistricting suggesting it might get more prisoners through the system quicker and save the state money. Judge David Patterson disputed that claim. "Public defenders, judges, and district attorneys move cases along as quickly as they can. It cannot be done any quicker by redistricting. It will not make things happen faster," he said.
"One of the things that has concerned all of us is the way this has been handled," said attorney Hilton Conger. "Nobody heard about it. I think it was leaked out about three months ago. You (Weaver) have not even seen a fiscal note on it," said Conger.
Since the proposal was revealed, Lieutenant Governor Ramsey has requested input from others on alternative redistricting plans, but Conger asked why submit a plan when none is needed? "When he says we want to see what your plan is, our plan is leave it just like it is. The Lieutenant Governor had said I want input by today (March 1). Now he has moved it up to next Friday. He says send me a proposal. Our concern is if we don't propose something, it may be taken as acquiescence in his plan. We don't think there is a problem so the message we need from you as our representative to get to him (Lieutenant Governor) is just because you haven't heard from these folks presenting some plan doesn't mean they are in favor of your plan because we are not," said Conger.
Representative Weaver and Senator Beavers said they understand the concerns of the legal community and will express them to the Lieutenant Governor and the sponsors of the Judicial redistricting legislation. "We have to look at the big picture. We haven't really seen the bill yet. We haven't heard all the pros and cons. We've heard some pros and cons from the locals here in DeKalb County today. We will take everything into consideration before we vote to make sure we cast our vote the right way," said Senator Beavers.
The District Attorney General's Office is not conducting an extortion investigation in connection with allegations made by two former employees of DTC Communications who have brought a wrongful termination federal lawsuit against the company and it's CEO Craig Gates.
In an interview with WJLE Friday, Randy York, District Attorney General for the 13th Judicial District, said that "an attorney for one of the plaintiff's had contacted the district attorney general's office and asked that we open an investigation. He had some material he wanted me to look at. I reviewed the material and I did not see a violation of our criminal statutes and did not authorize an investigation," said York.
As WJLE reported earlier this week, Claiming they were the victims of a scheme to get rid of them and others, James A Vaden of Carthage and Kevin C. Young of Smithville, the two former DTC employees, filed a federal court lawsuit against DTC Communications and Craig Gates in November claiming they were the victims of extortion and wrongful termination. Vaden and Young contend that the defendants, DTC and Gates, wrongfully interfered with their employee benefits and improperly denied them their severance benefits.
Attorneys for Vaden and Young included in the lawsuit that "As of the date of filing this Complaint, investigators in the 13th and 15th Judicial Districts are exploring criminal charges of extortion against Gates based on his actions leading up to Vaden's and Young's termination, focusing in particular on the specifics of the Agreement of Suspension".
Again, York said neither Gates nor DTC Communications is under investigation for extortion by his office.
The dismissal of both Vaden and Young apparently was the result of a probe into allegations that a group of DTC employees had participated in a scheme to sell copper cable owned by the company for their own benefit. Vaden and Young claim they did not participate in such a scheme.
Gates and DTC Communications have answered the lawsuit, denying the allegations made by Vaden and Young.
Trooper Dewaine Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, for the second time in four years, has been named Trooper of the Year for the Cookeville District.
Jennings, a resident of Smithville, was among twelve members of the THP who were honored as Troopers of the Year for their individual districts during a special ceremony held Thursday evening in Murfreesboro.
The overall 2012 Trooper of the Year for the state is Trooper Nathan W. Hall in the Fall Branch District that includes Sullivan County. In addition to Trooper Hall's statewide recognition, State Troopers in each of the THP's districts received district Trooper of the Year honors. Awards were also given to the Investigator of the Year and Interdiction Trooper of the Year, while 10 troopers were recognized for their DUI enforcement.
"Each award recipient has shown their dedication to public service and to the safety and security of the state of Tennessee by their extraordinary accomplishments," Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. "It's an honor to recognize them for their service tonight and to honor their sacrifice year-round." Trooper Hall earned the honor after preventing a possible suicide attempt by a juvenile last December in Sullivan County.
"Trooper Hall is a great example of what is expected of a Tennessee State Trooper. He's professional, courageous, works hard and has a positive attitude. His actions on the night of December 16, 2012 were nothing short of heroic. Trooper Hall is an outstanding representative of our agency and deserves the Trooper of the Year recognition," Colonel Tracy Trott said.
Trooper Jennings was named the 2012 Trooper of the Year in the THP's Cookeville District after looking beyond the ticket on a traffic stop made on August 25, 2012. Trooper Jennings stopped a vehicle for speeding and upon contact with the two occupants noticed suspicious behavior. He then ran a validation check on the 19-year old driver and discovered he had an outstanding warrant for statutory rape. Trooper Jennings detained the driver and began questioning his female passenger. It was discovered that the female passenger was 13-years old and was the girlfriend of the male driver. Trooper Jennings contacted the girls' mother and transported the two to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office for further investigation. It was later revealed that the 13-year old female had been raped by an older adult and the mother had been advised to keep her away from older men. The boyfriend admitted to a sexual relationship with the female juvenile, and her mother admitted to being aware of the relationship. Both the 19-year old male and the juvenile's mother were arrested. Trooper Jennings thorough investigation in this case resulted in the discovery of a crime. Additionally, his trooper activity ranks second in the district with 23 DUI arrests and second in total citations with 837.
Trooper Nathan W. Hall earned the Trooper of the Year honor after responding to an alleged suicide attempt by a 15-year old female in Sullivan County on December 16, 2012. Trooper Hall responded to Interstate 26 near the Meadowview Convention Center following a request for assistance from the Kingsport Police Department. After searching the area for nearly one hour, Trooper Hall located the juvenile on a rock cliff approximately 60 – 70 feet high. Trooper Hall scaled the cliff, while talking to the young female in attempt to keep her calm. Once he reached the juvenile, he handcuffed himself to her for her safety. With the help of the Kingsport Fire Department's truck ladder, Trooper Hall then escorted the juvenile down to safety. Trooper Hall's quick and decisive actions led to a safe conclusion.
Trooper Eric Miller received the THP Knoxville District's Trooper of the Year honors. His responsibilities as a road trooper in Loudon County include serving as a member of the district's Strike Team and Honor Guard, as well as the Executive Security Detail. He also handles security for the University of Tennessee Football Coach and security assignments for both home and away games. Due to his work as a Field Training Officer, he has been asked to assist the THP Training Center with the upcoming trooper cadet class. In 2012, Trooper Miller had made 54 DUI arrests and 64 physical arrests, conducted 64 commercial vehicle inspections, and issued 638 citations.
Trooper Charles "Tommy" Lyles earned Trooper of the Year honors for the THP Chattanooga District after leading the district in DUI enforcement. He has arrested 95 individuals on suspicion of driving under the influence and made 106 other arrests. Trooper Lyles, who is stationed in Franklin County, has issued 1,028 citations and conducted 69 commercial vehicle inspections. He is a five-year veteran of the THP, during which time he has earned the respect and admiration of his peers and supervisors. Trooper Lyles has a tremendous work ethic and is a valuable asset to the THP.
The Nashville District presented Co-Trooper of the Year awards to Trooper Vincent Turocy and Trooper John Grinder. Trooper Turocy has set an agency record with 227 DUI arrests for 2012. The 14-year veteran also issued 1,674 total traffic citations for the year, the second highest in the district. Trooper Turocy's work-ethic is unmatched. He has consistently led the district in both DUI arrests and overall traffic enforcement. Trooper Grinder joined the THP in 2005 and is currently assigned to Robertson County. Trooper Grinder is runner-up in DUI arrests across the state with 134 cases. His DUI arrest totals are especially impressive because he works in a rural county with approximately 50,000 licensed drivers. He also has 349 commercial vehicle inspections, with an overall out of service rate of 29 percent. Additionally, his persistent investigative skills in a recent fatal crash case led to a vehicular homicide indictment, when the crash was initially deemed non-criminal by other investigators. Together, Trooper Turocy and Trooper Grinder have saved countless lives due to their combined DUI arrests and are deserving of this recognition.
Sergeant Jamie Jarrett of the Memphis District received that district's Trooper of the Year nod. On August 30, 2012, the Memphis Police Department advised THP dispatch to issue a "be on the lookout" for a Chevrolet SUV traveling eastbound on Interstate 40. The driver of the vehicle was wanted in connection with an alleged homicide that occurred earlier that day. Sgt. Jarrett was near the Haywood Scales Complex, where he is assigned, when he observed the suspect vehicle. Sgt. Jarrett had dispatch run the vehicle registration and confirmed it was the suspect wanted by MPD. He then requested backup before activating his emergency equipment to initiate a traffic stop. The suspect failed to stop and a pursuit ensued, continuing across the division line into the Jackson District. A Jackson Trooper deployed spike strips and the suspect crashed at the 76 mile marker with no other vehicles involved. The suspect was apprehended and later released to the Memphis Police Department. Sgt. Jarrett's actions kept citizens from harm, as he utilized the training he has received over his 12-year career as a State Trooper.
The Lawrenceburg District Trooper of the Year was awarded to Trooper Jon Judge. On August 20, 2012, Trooper Judge stopped a vehicle on US Route 431 in Marshall County for speeding. The male driver did not have a driver's license in his possession and gave conflicting information. Upon further investigation and several failed attempts to verify the driver's status, Trooper Judge attempted to arrest the driver for no driver's license. The suspect then fled on foot towards his own vehicle, but Trooper Judge thwarted his attempt to flee. Trooper Judge gave verbal commands, however, the suspect failed to comply and charged Trooper Judge. During the confrontation, the suspect re-entered his vehicle. Trooper Judge attempted to subdue him, but the suspect ignored the commands and drove away, dragging Trooper Judge down the roadway. Trooper Judge was able to fire his weapon and struck the driver in the left arm. Trooper Judge was freed from the vehicle and a pursuit followed. Trooper Judge apprehended the suspect in Lincoln County. It was later revealed that the suspect was wanted in Indiana on escape warrants and in Alabama on robbery charges. He also had a lengthy criminal history out of six different states. Trooper Judge's actions reflect his dedication of duty and service to the state of Tennessee.
Trooper Jason Kirk earned the Trooper of the Year award for the THP Jackson District. After graduating from the Trooper Cadet School in March of 2011, Trooper Kirk has served as a road trooper in Hardin County.
During 2012, he had 12 drug-related cases and led the district in all four quarters in DUI arrests (68). Trooper Kirk investigated 116 crashes during the year and made 104 other arrests. Additionally, he completed 69 commercial vehicle inspections and issued 1,570 citations. He has shown consistent activity to reduce crime and make roadways safe in Tennessee. Trooper Kirk is also a member of the District 8 Strike Team.
The THP's Investigative Trooper of the Year was awarded to Trooper Jeffrey Boyd. Trooper Boyd recovered significant amounts of illegal drug proceeds from two investigations. The first was on several warrants served by Trooper Boyd in April 2012 in the Lawrenceburg District. This investigation led to the seizure of vehicles, boats, and campers paid for with illegal drug money. Trooper Boyd worked with the Nashville Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) throughout this investigation. In December 2012, Trooper Boyd completed a more than two-year investigation that resulted in 22 arrests (19-TN; 3-TX), and the seizure of 41 kilos of cocaine and illegal drug proceeds.
Trooper Jeffrey Buchanan was named Trooper of the Year for the THP's Administrative District (9). On November 2, 2012, THP Special Operations/Aviation Unit were requested to help a stranded hiker on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smokey Mountains. The hiker had suddenly encountered four to five foot snow drifts due to Hurricane Sandy traveling inland and was unable to continue the journey. Park Rangers had attempted to locate the hiker, however, chest deep snow and the hiker's location enabled them from proceeding with the search. The THP Huey helicopter launched into action and after almost an hour of searching, spotted tracks in the snow and followed them for approximately a mile and a half before observing the hiker's camp. Trooper Buchanan was lowered to the ground, where the snow was chest deep. He then made his way to the hiker, evaluated his condition, outfitted him with a harness, and gave the signal for him to be hoisted from the ground. Trooper Buchanan remained on the ground to collect the hiker's gear and supplies, before being raised to safety. It was determined the hiker would not have survived another night in the harsh weather conditions. Trooper Buchanan's commitment during the rescue mission likely saved the hiker's life.
Sergeant Wayne Dunkleman earned the Interdiction Trooper of the Year honors after his own success and leadership of the THP West Bureau Interdiction Plus Team. Sgt. Dunkleman made 15 felony arrests, eight DUI arrests and assisted in seizing more than 330 pounds of marijuana in 2012. He also conducted 76 motor vehicle inspections during the year. Most notably, Sgt. Dunkleman made a drug arrest that was adopted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This case involved a narcotics trafficking ring covering three states, including Tennessee, Texas and Alabama. It led to the arrest of seven individuals and the seizure of illegal drug proceeds. Sgt. Dunkleman leads by example and always goes the extra mile to make the Interdiction Plus program a success
The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) named Tonya Hattaway of Smithville as the 2012 Dispatcher of the Year at a special award ceremony held Thursday evening in Murfreesboro. Hattaway, who is assigned to the THP’s Cookeville District, earned the honor for an incident last February in which she helped find a woman who was thought to be harmful to herself and sent a trooper to the woman’s aide.
“Hattaway always goes the extra mile for the safety of her colleagues and the public. She strives to go above and beyond in every situation and lives have been saved because of it,” Colonel Tracy Trott said.
Tonya Hattaway earned the THP Dispatcher of the Year honor for preventing a possible suicide attempt in February 2012 after she received a call from a distressed woman who believed a loved one was traveling by car to Crossville with intentions of taking her own life. Hattaway requested the troubled woman’s cell phone number and contacted her several times to establish her location. Hattaway spent three hours trying to locate the woman. Once she did, Hattaway dispatched a trooper to her location; the trooper made contact and transported the woman to a hospital where she could receive help. Hattaway was also instrumental in the arrest of a child predator in Dekalb County. Hattaway and the trooper she was assisting looked beyond a “normal traffic stop” and determined the driver, who had a teenage girl with him, was wanted for child molestation in another county.
In addition to Hattaway’s statewide recognition, dispatchers in each of the THP’s districts received district Dispatcher of the Year honors.
“The THP dispatchers are unsung heroes, the ones who keep in constant contact with all troopers to help ensure their safety and the safety of the public,” Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. “They are an absolute vital part of the Highway Patrol and share the title of ‘Tennessee’s Finest,’” Gibbons added.
Trina Hinchey is the Dispatcher of the Year from the THP’s Knoxville District. Hinchey was on duty last year when a man from Michigan, who was on his way to Atlanta for cancer treatment, was involved in an accident on Interstate-75 in Knox County. The man’s dog ran from the crash scene after the accident. Hinchey took it upon herself to get and send out information on the lost dog. Hinchey continued to keep in touch with the man throughout the day, even going to visit him at a local hotel and brought him food and money. While she was visiting the man, he was reunited with his dog after a citizen found and returned it. Hinchey was also on duty March 13,2012 when a crash occurred on I-75 in which a truck driver was burned inside. Her supervisors say she displayed professionalism, sent extra personnel and TDOT workers to the scene to detour traffic. This occurred on the same day as a rockslide in the area, and the same day that a state trooper was involved in a serious injury accident. Despite the busy day, Hinchey’s supervisors say she “handled it all in a calm, professional, and efficient manner.”
The Dispatcher of the Year from THP’s Chattanooga District is David Josh Winters. He is described as “an example of what we would like all employees to be.” Winters serves his colleagues and the public in a an efficient and professional manner each day. Winters has been the key to improving the training program in the Chattanooga District and is one of the primary certified training officers there. His dedication to training new employees shows in the daily performance of the personnel in the communications center. That dedication to making the THP a better organization has set Winters apart from others and has earned him this honor.
In THP’s Nashville District, Darlene Hauskins is the Dispatcher of the Year. Hauskins performed her duties in 2012 with a zero percentage error rate. Her supervisors stress that she demonstrates her dedication to her job as a dispatcher and making sure her job is done right. Her on-the-job mentality has been described as “results, not excuses.” Hauskins spent many hours in 2012 training four new dispatchers hired that year. She stepped up and gave them extra time and effort that they needed to complete the program and be successful dispatchers. Hauskins was essential in training and maintaining qualified dispatchers to ensure the safety of the troopers and the public.
Tequilla N. Daniels is the Dispatcher of the Year from the THP’s Memphis District. Daniels was contacted by the Memphis Police Department last August about a homicide suspect who was thought to be travelling on Interstate-40 in the district. Shortly after an advisory was issued, a trooper observed a vehicle matching the description of the suspect’s vehicle. Daniels confirmed this was the suspect wanted for allegedly murdering his wife, and dispatched another THP unit to assist. A 15-mile pursuit of the suspect ended after the vehicle hit deployed spike strips and crashed. During the course of the pursuit, Daniels remained calm and provided pertinent information, directions, and updates to the troopers involved. Upon learning that the suspect had planned to commit “suicide by cop,” Daniels understood the heightened risk and broadcasted the information immediately. Daniels’ ability to stay focused and remain calm may well have thwarted a potentially deadly situation.
The Dispatcher of the Year from the THP’s Fall Branch District is Rebecca Casey. Described as dependable and efficient, Casey is credited with improving and streamlining the various job tasks that are required in the radio room. Casey also serves as one of the radio operators for the Tennessee Highway Patrol at the Bristol Speedway. Each year, the district office receives compliments from the other agencies involved on how well Casey performs her duties to keep the public safe during this event. Casey’s supervisors say she is “truly an asset” to the THP.
Cynthia Krause is the Dispatcher of the Year for the THP’s Lawrenceburg District. Krause is credited for going above and beyond the call of duty to help a trooper in need. Last August, Krause was assisting a trooper who was attempting to arrest a man during a traffic stop for not having a license. An altercation occurred between the subject and the trooper. The trooper shot the subject, who got back in his vehicle and pursuit ensued. Krause handled the incident with the utmost professionalism. She was methodical in her approach and was extremely supportive of the trooper. Krause used her dispatch knowledge, experience, and talent to attempt to find any information on the subject. After a lengthy search, she found that the subject had a warrant issued out of Indiana, his driver license had been suspended, and he had a long criminal history in several states. Krause was a tremendous asset in finding the identity of the subject and located information on him when no one else could. The subject was ultimately apprehended and arrested.
The THP Jackson District has named Adam Forsythe as the 2012 Dispatcher of the Year. Forsythe is known as a dedicated and loyal employee. He has been instrumental in establishing the original dispatcher training program for the Jackson District. Forsythe has also provided valuable input and assistance during the design and remodel of the radio room at the Jackson Headquarters. His supervisors say that Forsythe cheerfully assists with computer projects and with the daily operations in the radio room. He is described as displaying “the attributes that any dispatcher should strive to attain.”