Local News Articles

Smithville Fire Department to Apply for FEMA Micro Grant

December 4, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Fire Chief Charlie Parker

The Smithville Volunteer Fire Department is making application for a FEMA Micro Grant under the Assistance to Firefighters Program to purchase new Jaws of Life extrication equipment.

The aldermen authorized the filing of this grant application Monday night during its regular monthly meeting at the request of Fire Chief Charlie Parker.

The $25,000 grant would require a $1,250 local match. Chief Parker said the funding would pay for most of the new equipment needed to replace the older tools, which have been in use for nearly thirty years. " We're looking to write this grant to replace our Jaws of Life equipment. The tools we have we purchased 28 years ago. We are still using them. We've added to them twice through the years but we've still got an old set. We're looking at a new system that cost close to $40,000, which is pretty expensive. It's not something we can buy a little bit at a time because the new system doesn't interchange with the older stuff. The one we're looking at, you've got to buy a new generator, cutter, and spreader and all that," he said.

While the grant will cover most of the expense, Chief Parker said the department will still need some accessories to go with the new system. "Once we get into it, we can add some pieces but the initial set is a lump sum deal. We're looking at applying for this $25,000 grant. We could buy the cutter, spreaders, generator, and hoses for $32,000 to get us started and add to it later. The $25,000 grant would go a long way toward paying for it. Our portion for matching the micro grant would be $1,250. If we decide we can afford to do it, I'd like to put another $3,000 with it and get the rest of the stuff but that would have to be voted on separately by the board. We do have the money in our budget to pay the grant match. There's $10,000 in capital outlay for the department, which is plenty to cover it," said Chief Parker.

Meanwhile, Chief Parker said he has heard nothing yet from the department's application for a FEMA Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant, which was filed a few months ago. This grant, if approved, would fully fund the hiring of two firefighters for up to two years at no costs to the city. The city applied for the grant last year but did not receive approval for funding.

Chief Parker said he is hoping for better fortunes this time. "We applied for the SAFER grant earlier this year. We have not been turned down yet so we're still in the running," he said.

Dixon Gets 35 Year Prison Sentence in Double Murder

December 3, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
David Howard Dixon
Ervin Raymon Beacham
Jose Sagahon Ticante

The man charged with the fatal shooting of two men at a residence on Tommy Harrell Street in Smithville almost sixteen months ago may spend the rest of his life in prison.

45 year old David Howard Dixon, who was indicted on two counts of first degree murder in November 2012, pleaded guilty Monday in DeKalb County Criminal Court under a negotiated settlement to two counts of second degree murder in the August 7, 2012 deaths of 55 year old Ervin Raymon Beacham and Jose Sagahon Ticante.

Judge David Patterson sentenced Dixon to 35 years in each case to run concurrently with each other for a total of 35 years. The term is also to run concurrently with a sentence he is serving for violation of probation. Dixon, who has been incarcerated since the day of the murders, has been given jail credit for those sixteen months behind bars. After being arrested in the case, Dixon was initially held in the DeKalb County Jail without bond for violation of probation and for failure to appear. He was later transferred to the Henderson County Jail.

State prosecutors called only one witness Monday to testify as to the proof in the case, TBI Special Agent Dan Friel.

Dixon was represented by Allison West, assistant District Public Defender.

After being alerted to the shooting, the Smithville Police Department responded to Beacham's residence at 311 Tommy Harrell Street on August 7, 2012 and discovered Beacham shot to death on the couch in his home. Ticante was also found murdered and his body hidden under a tarp and some lumber in the backyard of the residence. TBI investigated the murders with the Smithville Police Department, DeKalb County Sheriff's Office and the 13th Judicial District Attorney General's Office.

"He (Dixon) shot Mr. Beacham twice in the chest with a 22 caliber pistol," said Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong in an interview with WJLE on Monday. "He (Dixon) then shot Mr. Ticante once in the chest with a pistol. After the shooting, he (Dixon) pulled Ticante's body from the house and put it in the back yard underneath a stack of lumber. Dixon later sold a pistol and offered a bill of sale with the pistol with his name on it. TBI, the Smithville Police Department, and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department investigated the case and quickly identified Dixon as a suspect. Dixon was picked up and interviewed. He confessed on three different occasions to shooting these two men. The bodies were examined by the medical examiner's office and found to have been shot with a small caliber weapon in the torso area," he said.

Although Dixon confessed to the killings, Strong said he gave no reason to investigators as to why he committed the murders. "We didn't establish a motive. That's all kind of speculation. We wouldn't want to say what we think (the motive was) because we don't know that," he said.

Months after being indicted and arraigned for the double murder, Dixon underwent an evaluation by a Clinical Psychologist at Plateau Mental Health Center in Cookeville to determine his competency to stand trial.

In a letter to the court, Dr. Sandra DeMott Phillips, the Clinical Psychologist who conducted the evaluation, wrote that Dixon "has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against him".

Dr. Phillips further wrote "After completion of the evaluation, it is my opinion that at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the alleged offenses, severe mental disease or defect did not prevent the defendant (Dixon) from appreciating the nature or wrongfulness of the alleged acts."

In July, a December 2 trial date was set for Dixon.

Had he gone to trial and been convicted on the original charges of first degree murder, Dixon could have been facing life with or without parole.

The range of punishment for second degree murder is 30-50 years but under this plea agreement, Dixon is getting a total sentence of 35 years of which he must serve at least 85% or 29 years and nine months before his release eligibility date.

Dixon has a lengthy criminal history in DeKalb County including charges for possession of a handgun while under the influence, manufacture and delivery of a schedule IV controlled substance, assault, public intoxication, violation of an order of protection, aggravated assault, theft, domestic assault, and simple possession.

Mayor and Aldermen Call Special Meeting to Set DUD Rate

December 3, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mayor and Aldermen

The DeKalb Utility District's current water purchase contract with the City of Smithville is due to expire December 31 and no new agreement has been reached between the parties.

During Monday night's regular meeting, the Mayor and Aldermen set a special meeting for Thursday, December 12 at 5:00 p.m. at city hall to set a new rate for the DeKalb Utility District if the two sides cannot agree on a new deal before the deadline.

The City has offered two alternatives for the DeKalb Utility District to consider on a possible new water purchase agreement. The DUD has not yet responded.

"We've given them (DUD) every opportunity to come before us or meet with us and work with us to thrash it out and they're not wanting to do it. I think we ought to have a special called meeting and set the rate and be done with it," said Alderman Danny Washer Monday night.

As WJLE first reported on November 19, City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. sent a letter to DUD manager Jon Foutch, dated Thursday November 14, setting out the proposals being offered by the city for the DUD board to consider.

One of proposals calls for a new ten year deal with the city to charge the DUD $2.20 per thousand gallons for five years and $2.40 per thousand gallons for an additional five years. While these rates are below the city's current cost of producing water, according to a recent study done by Warren and Associates, the city is willing to make this deal provided that the DUD abandon plans to build its own water plant and buy a certain amount of water over the next ten years from the city.

The city offered the same deal to DUD in April. City officials said DUD was willing to accept the rates but did not want to be held to the minimum purchase part of the offer.

In its second proposal, the city seeks to negotiate a new rate based on the sale of three DUD metering points to the City of Smithville.

During a workshop with the mayor and aldermen on Monday night, November 11, the city's utility engineer J.R. Wauford said that if the DUD were willing to sell the city the water lines and customers connected to at least three of its metering points, the city could be in a position to negotiate the price it charges the DeKalb Utility District.

If the DUD rejects either of the proposals and there is no new agreement by January 1, the city may begin charging the DUD $7.50 per thousand gallons, the same rate it charges water customers outside the city.

Some DUD customers are concerned that the city may shut off the water supply to DUD if no agreement is reached by December 31.

Mayor Jimmy Poss said the city cannot legally turn the water off, nor does it wish to. "I have had some concerned people who are afraid we're going to cut their water off. We're not going to do that. We can't do that but I am concerned about people thinking that," said Mayor Poss.

Rockwood Crash Claims Smithville Woman

December 3, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 65 year old Smithville woman lost her life in a two vehicle traffic accident on Sunday, November 24 on Gateway Drive in Rockwood.

Dead is Linda Summers.

According to an accident report filed by Sergeant Kelly Pittman of the Rockwood Police Department, Mrs. Summers was a passenger of a 2002 Ford four door sedan, driven by her husband, 70 year old Bobby Summers of Smithville. Mr. Summers, who was south on Gateway Drive, allegedly turned left at a traffic light and into the path of a northbound 2003 Chevy Silverado pickup truck , driven by 74 year old Thomas Mack Wright of Spring City, Tennessee. Wright's wife, 75 year old Dorothy M. Wright was a passenger with him. The truck T-boned the Summers car in the passenger side, where Mrs. Summers was seated.

She was taken by ambulance to the UT Medical Center in Knoxville where she died. No one else was injured in the crash.

In the report, Wright stated that he was traveling north on Gateway Drive when Summers pulled into his path. Wright said that his traffic light was green prior to and while the crash occurred. Summers stated that he observed what he thought was a northbound vehicle in the stopped position on the south side of the traffic light. He stated that he thought or assumed that the northbound vehicles traffic light had turned red. Summers stated that he went to proceed on through the intersection and that's when he was struck in the passenger side by Wright's truck.

A witness to the crash stated that there was a car stopped facing north bound but it made a right turn into a parking lot.

Smithville Man Indicted for TennCare Fraud

December 3, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jackie Darrell Ervin
Jason Walter Ervin
 Joseph Stephen Audas
Blake Ardell Richardson

A Smithville man has been indicted by the Grand Jury for TennCare Fraud.

36 year old Jackie Darrell Ervin of Page Drive, Smithville was named in a sealed indictment last week charging him with three counts of TennCare Fraud and three counts of Prescription Fraud. He was arrested on Wednesday, November 27. His bond is $20,000 and he will be arraigned in criminal court on Monday, December 9.

The indictment alleges that Ervin, a TennCare enrollee, did unlawfully commit the offense of Fraudulently Obtaining TennCare Medical Assistance Benefits to which he was not entitled by knowingly obtaining a prescription for Adderrall in DeKalb County on October 22, 2011 and December 23, 2011 and for Lortab on November 23, 2011. The prescriptions were subsequently filled and paid for by TennCare. The indictment further alleges that Ervin intentionally obtained possession of these controlled substances by misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception, or subterfuge.

In another case, Jason Walter Ervin of Johnson Chapel Road, Sparta is charged in a sealed indictment with manufacture of marijuana. He was arrested on Wednesday, November 27. His bond is $20,000 and he will be arraigned in criminal court on Monday, December 9.

The indictment alleges that on or about July 2, Ervin knowingly did manufacture a Schedule VI Controlled Substance, by cultivating not less than ten marijuana plants nor more than nineteen marijuana plants, constituting the offense of Manufacturing Marijuana.

A Lancaster man accused of assaulting his wife in April has been arrested after being on the run since the offense.

28 year old Joseph Stephen Audas of Jackson Hollow Road, Lancaster is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $25,000 and he will be in court on December 12. He was arrested on Tuesday, November 26.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on or about April 29, Audas allegedly assaulted his wife by beating her all over her body, head, and face. He allegedly told her that she was "going to die today". Audas also allegedly pulled her from a vehicle onto the ground and ripped off her clothing. She later had to be taken to the emergency room of the hospital for treatment.

According to Sheriff Ray, Audas has another domestic assault offense against him "of a high and aggravated nature" in Greenville County, South Carolina.

26 year old Blake Ardell Richardson of Terry Lane, Hermitage is charged with driving under the influence. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court January 9.

Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday December 1, central dispatch alerted officers to a report of a reckless driver traveling east on Highway 70 east. A deputy spotted a white Mercedes weaving back and forth, crossing into other lanes. The officer initiated a traffic stop of the car and spoke with the driver, Richardson. When asked by the deputy if he had consumed any alcohol, Richardson replied he had drank three beers. Richardson submitted to but performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks. He also submitted to a blood test. He was arrested and taken to the jail for booking.

Christmas on the Square Thursday

December 3, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Santa will be at Justin Potter Library Thursday during Christmas on the Square

The Christmas season is here which means it’s time to celebrate Christmas on the Square! This holiday event will be celebrated on Thursday, December 5th from 5 PM to 8 PM on the Smithville Public Square.

The Community Chorus & other special music beginning at 5 PM on the west side of the Courthouse. Boy Scout Troop #347 will have a Flag-Raising Ceremony at 5:25 PM.

Tree Lighting Ceremony – Held at 5:30 PM on the west side of the Courthouse. Be there for the countdown!

Courthouse Open House – Stop by to visit and enjoy the refreshments and festive atmosphere. Come by and visit the Chamber office in the Courthouse, Room 201.

A FREE Photo Booth & Christmas DJ Music will be provided by the City of Smithville – Enjoy your favorite holiday music throughout the night plus have a fun, complimentary picture made at the Cosmo Creations Photo Booth located inside the east entrance of the Courthouse.

At the Justin-Potter Library, WSMV Channel 4’s Snowbird will read to the children beginning at 6 PM. The library will have a special visit from Santa immediately after, so don’t forget to bring your camera!

Inflatables & Train Rides for the Children, if weather permits.

There will be extended hours and Open Houses at several downtown stores, offices, and restaurant. This is a wonderful time for Christmas shopping and having a nice meal downtown. Chamber Executive Director Suzanne Williams would like to invite everyone to this enjoyable and heartwarming experience – Christmas on the Square! For more information, call the Chamber office at 597-4163.

Rescue Squad Comes to Aid of Two Hunters Injured in Fall

December 2, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Rescue Squad came to the aid of two coon hunters, 19 year old Chris Chapman and a 17 year old boy, who were injured after falling off a bluff late Saturday night about a mile from Tabernacle Road.

Joe Johnson, member of the Rescue Squad, told WJLE that the two young men were with three other coon hunters at the time. "There were five hunting in the party and they saw the two fall down the bluff. They couldn't get down to them so they walked out on Tabernacle Road and contacted 911. They (911) dispatched us out there. We found a way to get in to the top of the hill with an ambulance and a rescue vehicle and then we used ropes to go down the rest of the way," said Johnson.

Members of the Rescue Squad were on the scene from around midnight until 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning. "We got the call at approximately 11:42 p.m. that these two hunters had fallen into a ravine down through a bluff," said Johnson.

"We had to rappel down with ropes about three hundred fifty feet to get to them and then we had to use manpower to pull each one back up in a basket," added Dustin Johnson, Captain of the Rescue Squad.

"One of the hunters had injuries to his chest area. I'm not sure, it could have been broken ribs. He was in pain. The other man couldn't walk. He had an injury to his knee and possibly a head injury. The juvenile was brought up first and taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital. While they were enroute with him, we brought the other man up. He refused treatment and went home in a private vehicle. We were out until about 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning getting them out and back up that bluff. The terrain was rough. We had to go down with ropes ourselves and then we had to pull each Rescue Squad member back out after getting the patients out," said Joe Johnson.

Injuries to the victims were not believed to have been life threatening.

Liberty Celebrates Christmas (VIEW ENTIRE PARADE VIDEO HERE)

December 1, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Santa's Arrival, the highlight of the parade
FIRST PLACE FLOAT:Huff & Puff Trucking, Incorporated
First Place Childrens Catefory-Eli Layne Laxton of Liberty

Main Street in Liberty was lined with enthusiastic holiday celebrants and Christmas lovers of all ages on Sunday for the town's annual Christmas Parade.

Liberty Mayor Dwight Mathis and wife Shirley served as the Grand Marshals.

Huff & Puff Trucking, Incorporated of Woodbury received first place in the float competition. Second place went to a float entry from Smithville called "True Meaning of Christmas-the Birth of Christ".

First place in the children's category went to Eli Layne Laxton of Liberty for an entry called "Sugar & Spice". Brandon and Ava Kent of Lascassas received second place.

Billy Joe and Ann Cripps of Dowelltown were awarded for best vintage automobile, a 1956-210, two door hardtop. Tommy Mullins of Readyville received second place for his 1970 Nova SS.

The parade also featured other floats and vintage automobiles, tractors, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, horseback riders, the DCHS band, local law enforcement, fire departments, DeKalb EMS, DeKalb Rescue Squad, political candidates, and of course Santa Claus.

After the parade, drawings were held for cash giveaways.

A sign on the front of the fire engine bearing Santa, read "Mayor Hale you will be missed". A reminder of Mayor Edward Hale's passing in May. Mayor Hale always looked forward to and enjoyed the Liberty Christmas parade each year.

M2U01339 from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Bill Conger to Host Book Signing at F.Z. Webb & Sons Gifts

December 1, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Bill Conger
"Rejoice in the Lord Always: The Jeff Hillman Story"

“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” is a commonly held belief that many Christians hold dear to their hearts. For one family, this statement could not be any truer.

The Ralph Hillman family of Murfreesboro lived a picture perfect life until a mysterious illness called Reye’s syndrome, struck their seven year old son. “Rejoice in the Lord Always” by Bill Conger follows the story of Jeffrey Hillman’s journey living with Reye’s syndrome, which is a potentially fatal illness that affects the brain and liver.

Conger was inspired to write Jeffrey’s story in order to show others the awesome power of God’s presence through faith.

Conger will be in Smithville for a book signing of "Rejoice in the Lord Always: The Jeff Hillman Story" at F. Z. Webb & Sons Gifts Thursday, December 5 from 3:30-7:00 p.m. and Saturday, December 7 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. He will also have a book signing at Justin Potter Library on Saturday, December 14 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon.

“I think seeing a family face a crisis with faith and an attitude of ‘why not us’ rather than ‘why me’ is in direct contrast to society’s usual victimized mentality,” said Conger. “This attitude shows real strength and inspired me to want to write their story so I could share it with others.”

In an interview with WJLE recently, Conger said he learned of the story in a public speaking class at MTSU taught by Jeff's father, Ralph. "The family had taken a trip to Canada on a family vacation. On the way back, Jeff started to feel poorly. His folks gave him some children's aspirin to try and help him feel better but that didn't help. A few days later he contracted Reye's syndrome, which was practically an unknown disease at the time. He was later hospitalized at Vanderbilt hospital," said Conger.

As the story unfolded, Conger learned how the boy experienced a dramatic healing, after coming face to face with death. "I was pretty amazed with this story, just from a writer's standpoint but in the beginning I was cynical. While I am a Christian and grew up in the church, somehow I expected the miracles of today to be more outstanding like when Moses parted the Red Sea instead of coming in small increments. I was also jaded having seen some shady characters in TV ministries at the time that purported to heal people. I was kind of turned off by that and it made me skeptical. But the more I got to know Ralph and his family and saw that they weren't charlatans and that they were sincere Christians and walked the Christian walk, I started to believe more and more in their story. It changed my life spiritually and I grew more as a Christian and deeper in my faith as a result of learning more about Jeff," said Conger.

A Smithville native, Conger is a freelance writer who has penned articles for publications and websites including American Songwriter, CMT.com, VH-1.com, GACTV.com, Bluegrass Unlimited, Homecoming, Fostering Families, and ParentLife. He was a reporter and anchor for WSM AM and a news reporter for local stations in Middle Tennessee. Conger's first broadcasting job was as a part time staff announcer at WJLE during his high school years in the 1980's. Conger now lives in Mount Juliet with his wife Alyssa, and son, Gavin Conger. He is a school counselor at DeKalb West School in Liberty.

To learn more about the book visit www.jeffsmiracle.com.

Cantrell Gets Six Year Sentence for Aggravated Burglary

November 29, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
William Andrew "Andy" Cantrell
Rhonda Murphy
Dakota Stith

A 45 year old man, charged with breaking into a home, an outbuilding, two vehicles, and a church on Veterans Day last year, appeared in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday, November 25

William Andrew "Andy" Cantrell pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated burglary and received a six year sentence to serve at 35% before his release eligibility date. He was given jail credit from November 11, 2012 to November 25, 2013.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Sunday, November 11, 2012 Cantrell allegedly broke into a residence on Big Woods Road by prying open a back door. He also broke a window. Cantrell allegedly stole from the home a 22 caliber H & R target pistol, valued at $400. Cantrell also allegedly broke into an outbuilding at the residence. Entry was made through a window. Once inside he took a four wheeler and burst through the doors of the outbuilding.

On the same day, Cantrell allegedly broke into two vehicles at another residence on Big Woods Road. Both vehicles were unlocked so entry was made by simply opening the doors. Cantrell allegedly tried to steal one of the vehicles. He damaged the steering wheel column around the ignition keyhole as well as the glove box. The total amount of the vandalism to that vehicle was estimated at $1,000. Cantrell allegedly tried to steal the radio in the other vehicle and caused damage to the dashboard around the radio.

Cantrell also allegedly broke into the Old Fashion Free Will Baptist Church on Blue Springs Road. Entry was made through a back door. He allegedly stole a laptop computer, two wireless keyboards, a projector, and a black bag with a total estimated value of $2,200.

After being arrested and taken to jail on Monday November 12, 2012 Cantrell was searched by correctional officers and they found on him a small red plastic container with a powdery substance believed to be methamphetamine.

Meanwhile in another case, 31 year old Rhonda Murphy pleaded guilty Monday to one count of aggravated burglary and received a three year sentence all suspended to probation. She was given seven days of jail credit.

Murphy and 27 year old Eric Wayne Tramel were co-indicted last year on charges of aggravated burglary, theft over $1,000, and fraudulent use of a credit card.

Murphy's boyfriend, 23 year old Jason Kyle Shepard of Dowelltown was charged on a state warrant for fraudulent use of a credit card.

Sheriff Ray said that Murphy, Tramel, and Shepard were accused of using a credit card, taken from the home of a person on the Old Blue Springs Road that Murphy had been caring for. According to Sheriff Ray, while at the residence of the person she was caring for on September 28, 2012 Murphy left a window unlocked to allow Tramel to enter and steal some items from the residence. Tramel allegedly stole two laptop computers, valued at $2,000 along with assorted jewelry, valued at $3,000. Sheriff Ray said the three defendants participated in using the stolen credit card over a three month period to purchase an assortment of items.

Tramel pleaded guilty in this case and another in August and was sentenced on two counts of aggravated burglary. He received a six year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other. He must serve at least 35% of the sentence before his release eligibility date. Tramel must make restitution in one case of $234 and in an amount to be determined in the other case. He was given jail credit from November 11, 2012 to July 22, 2013.

Shepard's case apparently remains pending in court.

21 year old Dakota Stith pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated burglary and received a four year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other. He will be on state probation. Stith was given 90 days jail credit. Restitution to be determined.

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