Local News Articles

Keaton Charged in Undercover Drug Investigation

December 4, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 57 year old man was arrested Monday in an undercover drug investigation by the Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Larry Junior Keaton is charged with sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (Dilaudid). His bond is set at $75,000 and his court date is December 13th.

According to Sheriff Ray, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant Monday at Keaton's residence at 1662 South Tittsworth Road, Smithville. As a result of the undercover operation, at least one controlled drug buy was made from the home.

The warrant states that "On or about November 27th, 2007, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department made a controlled drug buy of a schedule II drug (Dilaudid) from Larry Keaton at his residence at 1662 South Tittsworth Road in DeKalb County. A confidential informant who was wired was given recorded funds (money) and did purchase dilaudid from Larry Keaton."

During the search, detectives seized cash and records believed to be evidence of the illegal drug trade.

Council May Lift Ban on Fireworks Sales In City

December 4, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The sale of fireworks may soon be permitted within the city limits of Smithville.

Since 1982, the city has prohibited the sale of fireworks but in recent weeks Jewel Redman, owner and operator of Jewel's Market on South Congress Boulevard, has requested more than once that the ban be lifted to give city businesses and others the same opportunity to sell fireworks as those outside the city limits.

Monday night, the board voted to have an ordinance prepared to repeal the ban, paving the way for passage of a new one that authorizes the sale of fireworks with specifics on rules and regulations.

Aldermen Willie Thomas, Jerry Hutchins Sr., and Tonya Sullivan voted for it. Alderman Cecil Burger voted no and Alderman Steve White refrained from voting, citing a conflict since he sells fireworks outside the city during the Fourth of July each year.

In other business, the board adopted a budget amendment ordinance on first reading to appropriate money for the purchase and installation of a sprinkler system at the golf course. If approved on second and final reading, the city will spend $215,000 taking $88,000 from the golf course checking account and $127,000 from the general fund account to pay for the project.

Aldermen Thomas, Hutchins and Sullivan voted for it. Aldermen Burger and White voted against it.

Final passage of the ordinance will be scheduled during the next meeting on Monday, December 17th at 7:00 p.m. following a public hearing.

Alderman Sullivan has apparently given up on her idea of the city possibly purchasing the Magnolia House as a community center for youth, senior citizens, and the public at large.

Monday night, Sullivan asked that the board take no action on it. She said "Parking is going to be an issue and some of the citizens have expressed that they would prefer something more like a gymnasium type (building) that would hold more people and have more functions, so I would not like to take any action on the Magnolia House and would look forward to the city and the county working together to try and meet the needs of the citizens".

In other business, Alderman Sullivan again expressed her concern about the recent transfer of a sewer treatment plant employee, Roger Shaffnit, to the water treatment plant, without board approval.

Sullivan says Shaffnit is not certified. "When we advertised, we advertised for a certified water plant operator. In the requirements, it said you must be certified."

Mayor Taft Hendrixson and Alderman White said the notice made reference to the city seeking an operator or trainee.

Sullivan continued, "At this point, because he's not certified, I would like for him (Shaffnit) to be moved back to the position he was previously in. I would like for him to continue working. I've heard nothing but good things about Mr. Shaffnit, but he needs to be certified. He's responsible for our drinking water, making decisions, our quality of water is dependent on that and it's unfair to put him in that position."

Alderman White pointed out that Shaffnit is trying to become certified.

Mayor Hendrixson added that Shaffnit is due to take his test in May.

Sullivan contended that the city should have conducted interviews of the twenty five persons who applied for the position.

Mayor Hendrixson responded "We didn't get any certified operator applications."

Sullivan suggested that the city could keep Shaffnit in a trainee position, not leaving him with full responsibility, and still fill the position with someone who is certified.

Alderman White made a motion that Shaffnit's transfer as a water plant trainee be made official. Alderman Burger offered a second to the motion. Aldermen Sullivan and Hutchins voted in favor, but Alderman Thomas voted no

Sullivan also asked to meet with Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson to review the budget to see if there is room for another employee at the water treatment plant. She added " I want to look at the overtime that is put in there. There's a lot of stress there and this (another employee) may alleviate some pressure."

Police Chief Richard Jennings has requested that the city employ an investigator and possibly a school resource officer at the middle school.

Sullivan said the city should proceed with advertising for the hiring of an investigator but that funding for the SRO position could wait until next year's budget.

This year's budget includes funds for up to twelve officers working eight hour shifts, but in recent months the police department's eight officers have been working in twelve hour shifts.

Officer Callie Matthews, the ninth officer in the department, has been off duty since she was involved in a fatal accident earlier this year. She has since been given a medical clearance for light duty work. However, since there are apparently no light duty jobs for a police officer, she has not yet been put back to work by the city council.

Aldermen Sullivan, Hutchins, Thomas, and Burger voted in favor of advertising for an investigator, but Alderman White voted no. White is not opposed to it but prefers to wait until the city makes a decision on the fate of Matthews.

The aldermen also voted to hire a certified recorder to help Secretary-Treasurer Hunter Hendrixson take the minutes of the meeting, at least until he completes his certification.

Alderman Hutchins made the motion. "We've been having some problems with the minutes and I would like to make a motion that we get a certified recorder to be present at the board meetings until Mr. Hendrixson gets through his schooling since we have had some confusion with the minutes."

A certified recorder was already in place during Monday night's meeting before the council took action, and no mention was made of how much her pay would be, or whether the service needed to be advertised for competitive bidding.

Alderman Hutchins, Thomas, and Sullivan voted for the certified recorder. Aldermen Burger and White voted against it.

Meanwhile, Alderman Thomas took issued with Secretary-Treasurer Hendrixson for not interviewing all applicants for the positions of Police Secretary-Records Clerk and General Secretary.

Hendrixson explained that " We recently put in the paper (advertised) two positions at city hall. We had 45 applications for police secretary and 32 applications for the general secretary position. We held several interviews. We didn't interview every one of them. The charter/code for the city allows the treasurer, commissioners, and mayor to go through the applications, and interview the ones we feel may be best for the job."

City Attorney John Pryor added that the charter does not require all applicants to be interviewed.

Alderman Thomas wanted to table any action to fill those positions until all applicants were interviewed. "I think everybody needs a shot at it. I think if you put out an application, you should interview all of them."

Hendrixson says while not all applicants were interviewed, all applications were reviewed.

The aldermen voted 3 to 2 to hire Dana England as General Secretary, Beth Adcock as Police Secretary/Records Clerk, and James Storie as full time Sanitation Collector. In all three cases, Aldermen White, Burger, and Sullivan voted for them to be hired while Aldermen Thomas and Hutchins voted no.

After the vote, Alderman Sullivan said the city must be consistent with it's hiring process. "I think Hunter has tried to follow what the code and charter say but the code and charter is very vague about who is supposed to be present for interviews, how many people are supposed to be interviewed, and what the process is that we are supposed to be following. We have not been consistent with our hiring process."

In other matters, the aldermen voted to make an emergency purchase at the water treatment plant. City officials say the condition of the filter valves have deteriorated and should be replaced with new electronically operated valves. Mayor Hendrixson says the city has $200,000 in the budget to make the needed repairs. The vote to make the appropriation was 4 to 1. Alderman Thomas voted no.

The aldermen also voted to authorize the city's engineering firm, the J.R. Wauford Company to apply to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to obtain a floating intake and to explore the costs of such a pump. If the lake level falls below 618 feet (above sea level), the minimum depth for the city to produce finished water at an acceptable rate, more than 16,000 customers served by the city and the DeKalb Utility District could be affected.

Mayor Hendrixson says the lake was at 625 feet (above sea level) as of Monday, but the fear is that the lake will fall to 618 or below over time if drought conditions worsen during the repair phase of Center Hill Dam, when the Corps plans to keep the lake level lower.

The aldermen approved the mayor's appointment of Kay Quintero to fill the unexpired term of the late Dr. Jerre Hale on the Smithville Housing Authority Board. The term expires in December, 2008.

Jimmy Ervin was also reappointed to the Smithville Housing Authority Board to a new five year term.

The city board approved on first reading an ordinance to rezone the property of James Cantrell at 1100 South College Street from B-1 neighborhood shopping, to B-2 general business. Second and final reading action will follow a public hearing at the next meeting on December 17th.

The council also adopted on first reading ordinances adopting the International Residential Code, International Plumbing Code, and an ordinance establishing conditions for the temporary parking of recreational vehicles in mobile home parks. Second and final reading action will follow public hearings at the December 17th meeting.

Baker Gets 16 Years in Child Rape Case

December 3, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A Smithville man pleaded guilty on Monday in DeKalb County Criminal Court to the rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery.

Judge David Patterson sentenced 33 year old Steven J. Baker to 16 years on the rape charge and 10 years on the aggravated sexual battery offense. The sentences are to run concurrently as one 16 year sentence.

Baker was given credit for days served since December 8th, 2006.

Former Smithville Police Chief Thomas J. Stufano, in a prepared news release last December, stated that" Officers working with the Department of Children Services had been investigating a third party report suggesting that Baker had possibly been sexually active with a 12 year old family member."

"Upon contacting Baker, the investigators were able to determine that he had a lengthy liaison over the last three years with the minor and other female juveniles living around his residence".

Chief Stufano said "Baker would lure the children into watching pornographic films and then enter into childish touching games that eventually led to more aggressive sexual contact."

According to Stufano, "During the course of this investigation, Baker admitted to his past sexual contacts with children."

In other cases Monday, Gary Gilmore Britt pleaded guilty to sale of controlled substance. He received a four year sentence to serve six months and then be on probation. However, the sentence is to run consecutive to a violation of probation against him in which he must serve 11 months and 29 days. Britt must perform 100 hours of community service work and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment. He was also fined $2,000.

47 year old Nickey R. Cantrell pleaded guilty to simple possession/ casual exchange and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended. He must make restitution of $40. The sentence is to run consecutive to all other DeKalb County convictions against him.

38 year old Michael L. Vance pleaded guilty to evading arrest and received a two year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The sentence is to run consecutive with a violation of probation against him. He was given credit for 157 days served from November 29th, 2006 to May 4th, 2007.

28 year old Robert A. Goff pleaded guilty to sale of a schedule II controlled substance. He received a three year sentence, all suspended to DOC probation except for 120 days to serve. He was fined $2,000 and must make restitution of $80 to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department. Goff must also perform 100 hours of community service work. The sentence is to run consecutive to a White County case against him. He was given credit for days served since June 30th.

One Man Seriously Wounded in Sunday Assault-Two Men Charged in the Case

December 3, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A Holmes Creek Road man was seriously wounded in an assault Sunday and the two men accused of attacking the victim have been arrested.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says upon arrival at the scene on Holmes Creek Road, officers found the victim, 29 year old Billy Joe Madden bleeding from wounds on his head and his neck. After an investigation by deputies,, 43 year old Walter Hartman of Man Hill Road, Dowelltown and 24 year old Johnny Lynn DeVault of Talpha Drive, Dowelltown were arrested.

Sheriff Ray says it is alleged that Madden was at home and was attacked on the outside of his residence by Hartman and DeVault. Hartman allegedly held a knife to Madden's throat and told Madden if he moved, he (Hartman) would cut his throat. As Hartman held Madden, DeVault allegedly struck Madden on the head with a tire iron causing Madden to suffer bodily injury.

After the attack, DeVault and Hartman fled the scene and Madden went into his residence, awoke family members who were asleep in the residence at the time, and told them to call for help. Madden was transported to Vanderbilt Hospital by air ambulance. Hartman and DeVault were arrested a short time later.

Hartman was charged with Especially Aggravated Kidnapping and DeVault was charged with Aggravated Assault. Bond for both was set at $50,000 each and both are scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on December 20th.

Meanwhile, 44 year old Bruce Graustein of Statesville Road, Watertown was arrested on Tuesday, November 27th for theft of property over $1,000

Sheriff Patrick Ray says a theft was reported last Tuesday from a Walker Creek residence. Someone had entered a building and stolen numerous shop tools, including, an air compressor, chainsaw, and other hand tools.

Later that day, the DeKalb Sheriff's Department received a tip where Graustein lived and found that he had possession of the tools and was painting the stolen tools in an attempt to disguise their identity. Local officials contacted the Wilson County Sheriff's Department and deputies there found Graustein and the stolen tools.

Through an investigation, DeKalb County Detectives learned that Graustein had worked on the victim's home at Walker Creek a few weeks ago and had knowledge that the victim would be out of town.

Graustein's bond was set at $10,000 and his court date is December 6th.

Liberty Celebrates Christmas with Sunday Parade

December 2, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Town of Liberty and Liberty State Bank hosted their annual Christmas Parade Sunday and a large crowd turned out to share in the fun and excitement and the chance to win cash, country hams, and other prizes.

Laura Faber of Fox 17 News in Nashville was the Grand Marshal of the parade and she rode into town in Bill and Carol Tate's convertible. The parade also featured floats, the DCHS band, horseback riders, vintage automobiles, tractors, and Santa Claus among many other attractions.

The Liberty United Methodist Church won the float competition and the Cooper's Chapel Baptist Church took second place.

Ron Griffith of Dowelltown won first place for best vintage automobile in the parade with his 1964 Chevy Nova wagon.

Eric Peterson of Smithville received second place for his 1957 Chevy truck

In the tractor category, first place went to Jackie Bryson of Auburntown for his Oliver Tractor and Joe Vickers of Liberty took second place for his 4020 John Deere tractor.

The Liberty elves (J.T. and Peggy Pursell) won first place in the miscellaneous category and MaKenzie Gibson received second place.

Prizes were awarded by the Town of Liberty, Liberty State Bank, and Johnson's Heating and Air.

Look for more pictures of the Liberty Christmas Parade on this web site

Two Injured In Accident After Christmas Parade- Operator Charged with DUI

December 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Two people riding in the Smithville Christmas Parade Saturday were injured and the operator of the vehicle was arrested after he lost control, went off the road on Webb Street, and wrecked after the parade ended.

39 year old Curtis Lee Adams of Dearman Street was charged with driving under the influence.

Those injured, Todd Van Dyne and Haston Austin Waggoner, were taken to DeKalb Community Hospital. Waggoner was treated and released but Van Dyne was later transferred to Cookeville Regional Medical Center for further treatment.

Adams was operating an ST 4 x 4 all terrain utility vehicle pulling two small trailers loaded with people, including children, when the accident occurred. Adams had already gone around the public square during the parade. After the parade at the time of the accident, Adams was east on Webb Street near the intersection of First Street. Officer Travis Bryant says the ST 4 x 4 went off the right side of the street, over an embankment, and struck a tree. The trailers jackknifed and some of the passengers were ejected. Van Dyne was pinned between one of the trailers and the utility vehicle. Officer Bryant says the trailer had to be moved to free Van Dyne from the wreckage.

Officials say Adams was no longer in the parade route when he wrecked, since the parade is basically over after it reaches the public square area.

Officer Bryant's arrest report states that " At approximately 1:47 p.m. I responded to Webb Street in response to a motor vehicle accident involving a Christmas Parade float. Upon arrival, I made contact with Curtis Adams, who was the driver of the ATV. As I was gathering information, I spoke with Adams, who appeared to be impaired. I asked him if he would submit to field sobriety tests to which he agreed but he advised me that he had back problems. Adams had slurred speech, was unsteady on his feet, and his pupils were dilated. I advised him that he was under arrest for DUI. He did submit to a blood test."

According to the Affidavit of Complaint filed by Bryant, " Adams had slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet. He performed poorly on all field sobriety tasks and did take a blood test. Mr. Adams has a prescription for hydrocodone by a doctor."

Adams' bond is set at $1,000 and he is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on the charge January 3rd.

Smithville Parade Kicks off Holiday Season

December 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Hundreds lined the downtown streets on a pleasant Saturday afternoon for the annual Smithville Christmas Parade.

As always, the parade featured floats, vintage automobiles, motorcycles, local kings and queens, scouts, horseback riders, the DeKalb County High School Fighting Tiger Band, among many other entries. Of course, the highlight of the parade was the appearance of Santa Claus who rode into town on a fire engine tossing candy left and right to everyone along the parade route.

The Grand Marshal of the Smithville parade was Meteorologist Kelly Cox of NewsChannel 5.

The Cooper's Chapel Baptist Church won first place in the float competition.

DeKalb Community Bank took second place for their float and Walmart received third place and also won the Spirit Award.

The Smithville Parade is sponsored each year by the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department.

Look for more pictures of the Smithville Christmas Parade on this web site

Gordon Encourages Attendance at DeKalb Meeting on Center Hill Repairs

December 1, 2007

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled a public meeting in DeKalb County regarding repairs at Center Hill Dam, and U.S. Representative Bart Gordon is encouraging residents to attend.

"It's important for residents to know how repairs at Center Hill Dam will affect them," said Gordon. "I hope people will go to these meetings and get answers to their questions about the work."

On December 3rd, the Corps will hold a public meeting at the Temperance Hall Community Center at 2760 Temperance Hall Road. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Flood inundation maps will be available at 4:00 p.m. The maps show an estimate of what area would flood based on various failure scenarios at Center Hill Dam.

Construction on Center Hill Dam was completed in 1951. Over time, limestone and sinkholes have taken a toll on the dam and caused seepage.

The rehabilitation plan recommends installing permanent cutoff walls and supplemental grouting into the main embankment and saddle dam foundations to stop the seepage. The plan also recommends replacing the powerhouse station service generator to enhance flow for water quality downstream of the dam.

In August, Gordon went to the dam to meet with representatives from the Corps and local officials about the possible impacts on nearby communities.

"The Corps tells me the dam is in no immediate danger of failure, but these repairs are necessary to ensure the continued safety of residents, " said Gordon.

Gordon Encourages Attendance at DeKalb Meeting on Center Hill Repairs

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled a public meeting in DeKalb County regarding repairs at Center Hill Dam, and U.S. Representative Bart Gordon is encouraging residents to attend.

"It's important for residents to know how repairs at Center Hill Dam will affect them", said Gordon. "I hope people will go to these meetings and get answers to their questions about the work."

On December 3rd, the Corps will hold a punlic meeting at the Temperance Hall Community Center at 2760 Temperance Hall Road. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Firefighters Respond to Wednesday Blaze at Griffith Home

December 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

County volunteer firefighters were called to the residence of Leann Griffith on Highway 70 near Liberty Wednesday afternoon.

Chief Donny Green says a passerby reported the fire after seeing smoke coming from the eaves of the house, which is located just past the intersection of Highway 70 and 96. No one was home at the time of the fire

County firefighters quickly responded and were able to confine the fire damage to the back bedroom, however the home received a lot of smoke and heat damage throughout the structure.

Engines from the Liberty and Main Station responded along with the department's tanker truck.

Chief Green says the cause of the fire is under investigation.

No one was injured.

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