Local News Articles

DeKalb Special Education Department Presents "Navigating the Maze"

October 10, 2007

DeKalb County Schools’ Special Education Department in partnership with The Arc of Tennessee’s Project LINK (Leaders In Education Networking for Kids) and, Family Voices of Tennessee and the SIG (State Improvement Grant), are proud to present “Navigating the Maze” with Julie Sullivan.

Families who have children with special health care needs, disabilities are invited to come learn how to navigate the different related systems in Tennessee. The training will happen from 6 to 8 pm, Tuesday, October 23 at DeKalb County High School.

This informative workshop explores services for families with children with special health care needs or disabilities. Programs for children from birth thru adulthood will be discussed, including eligibility criteria, income guidelines, whether program is federally mandated or not, and if is available throughout the state of Tennessee. Laws and federal policies that affect families with children with special health care needs or disabilities will also be explored. Families will learn how to access appropriate services available for their children in Tennessee.

For more information, contact Gina Arnold, DeKalb County Schools’ Special Education Department at 215-2105 or Loria Richardson, The Arc of Tennessee’s Project LINK (Leaders In Education Networking for Kids) at 215-2065.

U.S. Senator Corker Holds Town Hall Meeting in Smithville and Proposes Affordable Health Care Bill

October 10, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

U.S. Senator Bob Corker has proposed legislation to make health care more affordable.

Corker held a town hall meeting Tuesday in Smithville and discussed health care among other issues. "Our Census Bureau says there are 800,000 Tennesseans today that don't have health insurance. It also says we have about 47-million Americans at any one point and time, not everyone at once, that do not have health insurance. I know those numbers are disputed all the time and it doesn't matter. The point is there's a lot of people in our country that don't have health insurance and I think it's one of the major issues that those of us who have the privilege of serving in the capacity that I do, need to deal with. I think we have a moral obligation to deal with that issue."

"Some of the major company CEO's in America are in Washington lobbying to go to a single payer government run health care system. The reason they are doing that is because they are obviously facing International competition, it's a cost in their product, and they don't feel like they can compete. So you combine those efforts with the fact that we have a lot of people in our country that don't have health care benefits, and my concern is that if we don't do something in this country to provide the opportunity for every American to access private, affordable, quality health care, then I'm afraid that we are going to move toward government health care, which I think would be bad for our country."

"I've offered a bill in the Senate, named "The Every American Insured Act". This bill looks at the tax code and makes some changes that create an opportunity for every American to have access to at least, through tax credits, a major medical policy. It is absolutely revenue neutral, meaning that it doesn't add one penny to the federal deficit. By making sure that everybody has access to health insurance, it does away with the cost shifting that occurs in our health care system. Today, if you have a private health insurance plan, the cost of insuring you is in that plan, but also the cost of those 47-million Americans that don't have health insurance and show up in the emergency room is also in that plan, because somebody has to pay the tab, and so by everybody having access to private health care, it actually lowers the cost of insurance to each individual in the country."

Curves and DeKalb Community Hospital are Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

October 9, 2007

Curves® of Smithville, part of the world’s largest franchisor of fitness clubs, and DeKalb Community Hospital today announced they will be teaming up for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fundraiser during October Breast Cancer Awareness month to create awareness of breast cancer and to raise funds to help eliminate it. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States.

Curves of Smithville has plenty of ways for everyone to get involved. New members who join between October 8 and 20 will pay only $25 for their membership down payment when they show proof of a current mammogram or report doing regular doctor check ups. Curves is also accepting donations to the American Cancer Society that can be made to validate a survivor or in memory of a loved one who has fallen to cancer.

“Curves of Smithville is committed to helping the women in our community live healthier, stronger lives,” said Lorraine Snead, Curves Owner. “Breast cancer will touch about one in every eight women, but breast cancer death rates are going down. This decline is probably the result of finding the cancer earlier and having access to improved treatment. Regular exercise is part of the fight against breast cancer. By encouraging women to get mammograms and rewarding them for doing so, we are helping to fight and even eliminate breast cancer in our lifetime. That’s something we take very seriously.”

DeKalb Community Hospital is also making strides to help women live healthy and full lives. The hospital is conducting a mammogram drive and is giving out pink totes as gifts to the women who come in and receive their mammogram in October. Carla Mick, Director of the Radiology Department states, “The totes are definitely a hit. We are also providing mammograms at a reduced price this month to help those women currently without insurance or with insurance that doesn’t cover this screening. All women should really get their first mammogram by age 40 and then yearly thereafter. If you have a family history of breast cancer then you shouldn’t wait until you are 40. Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early. We hope as many women as possible will call to schedule their mammogram. You can call 215-5530 to schedule yours”.

October is Fire Prevention Month

October 9, 2007

What should you do if there's a fire in your home? Get Out!

The State Fire Marshal's Office reminds Tennesseans that preparing for a home fire in advance greatly increases a family's chance of survival. That means having an escape plan and practicing it.

Fire death is a serious problem in Tennessee and the State continually ranks among the five worst in fire death rate nationwide. Governor Bredesen has officially proclaimed October as Fire Prevention and Safety Month.

Here are some helpful tips to prepare for a home fire:

· Develop a plan. Draw a floor plan of all levels of the house; find the two best escape routes from each room; make sure each route is unobstructed and if it involves climbing through windows, make sure they are operable; review the plan with your spouse and children.

· Know how to escape. First, feel the door with the back of your hand. A hot door means a fire is on the other side and you should choose an alternate escape route. If the route is smoky, stay low and crawl along the floor where the air is safer to breathe.

· Choose a safe meeting place. Pick a tree or other landmark that is a safe distance from the house. All members of the family should come to this place once they get out.

· Call 911 from a neighbor's house. Never call from inside a burning house. Your chances of escaping decrease every second you remain inside.

· Never go back inside a burning house. Toys and valuables are replaceable. people aren't.

· Practice the escape plan twice a year. If a fire occurs, confusion will set in if the plan has not been rehearsed. There is no time to waste. Practicing will make the response to a fire become second nature.

"There are many things a person can do to reduce fire risks before a fire starts, but one of the most important things is being familiar with an escape route. Many fire deaths and injuries can be prevented simply by getting out of the house," said Tennessee State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman. "We urge all Tennesseans to start preparing and continue fire prevention tactics all year long."

For more information on home fire safety, visit http://www.state.tn.us/commerce/sfm. You may also visit www.dekalbfire.com or www.smithvillefire.com.

Man Arrested for Aggravated Burglary and Evading Arrest by Smithville Police

October 8, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 24 year old man was arrested by Smithville Police Saturday, charged with aggravated burglary, public intoxication, and evading arrest.

Chief Richard Jennings says Gabino Garcia Rosa of 530 Miller Road allegedly broke into the apartment residence of Bridget Annette Brock at 211 West Main Street and then fled in an attempt to escape.

The case was investigated by Officers Joey Jones and Matt Holmes.

According to the Affidavit of Complaint, Smithville Police Officers were at the Brock residence at 211 West Main Street on a burglary call and obtained a description of the suspect. The man was later seen on Market Street and when an officer yelled at him, he ran, but was later found at 303 South College Street, where he was arrested.

Rosa is accused of entering the Brock residence by unlocking the door through a broken window without the owner's consent with intent to commit a felony.

Rosa will be in General Sessions Court on the charges October 18th.

In the arrest report, Officer Jones writes that "At approximately 10:28 p.m., I arrived at 211 West Main Street where I made contact with Brittany Ann Brock, who advised that a Hispanic male, whom she knew, had broken into the apartment where she and her mother (Bridget) were sleeping. This man reached through a window, opened the door, and walked in. Brittany stated that she told him to get out but he would not leave. She then stated that he tried to get her to take something he had in his hand which was in a plastic bag, but she told him again to get out. Again, he would not leave. She then called 911. When the officers arrived, Brock stated that the man darted out of the house and went around back. After a brief search of the area, a neighbor stated that she saw a man running across the road, behind the apartment complex , and up the road."

Officers later found the man under some trees and brush in the back yard at 303 South College Street. He was taken back to the scene of the burglary and Brock positively identified him as the man who broke into her home.

Rosa allegedly told police after his arrest that he had earlier drunk several beers and smoked some marijuana. Police say he could not stand up straight without help and he had a strong odor of beer on his person and breath.

Three Arrested by Smithville Police Department in Theft Scheme

October 8, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department has broken up a theft scheme with the arrest of three people.

19 year old Samantha Rene Devault of Highland Drive was arrested for forgery. Smithville K-9 Officer Craig Capps says Devault allegedly stole checks from a family member and went to Wal Mart in Smithville, forged the checks, and obtained merchandise, an infant car seat valued at $153.57. After DeVaullt obtained the merchandise, 31 year old Tyrone DeWayne Owens and 26 year old Michael Chad Owens of Shady Drive Smithville allegedly returned the item to Wal Mart and received cash back in the amount of $153.57, knowing the item was purchased with a forged check.

DeVault is charged with forgery and her bond is $25,000. Tyrone Owens is charged with facilitation of a felony (theft) and his bond is $25,000. Michael Chad Owens is charged with facilitation of a felony (theft).

Meanwhile, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has charged Michael Chad Owens with burglary and theft of property under $500.00. Sheriff Patrick Ray says Owens allegdly broke into a house on Shady Drive Smithville and stole a Play Station II game. Owens bond was set at $61,000.

Officer Matthews Cleared for Light Duty Work, but Remains on Leave

October 8, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

She has apparently been given a medical clearance to perform light duty work, but Smithville Police Officer Callie Matthews remains on leave.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says there are currently no light duty police officer jobs in the department and he has not yet been instructed by the Board of Aldermen to put her back to work.

And while a reconstruction accident report has been compiled by the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Critical Incident Response Team, the city's liability insurance carrier will likely seek a second opinion with another independent reconstruction of the accident

Matthews was responding to a prowler call on April 23rd at around 11:30 p.m. when her patrol car collided with an oncoming car, driven by Andrew Ferris. The crash killed Ferris and seriously injured Officer Matthews and a passenger of Ferris' car, Brian Webber.

The following is the report by Sergeant Keven Norris, C.I.R.T. member and reconstructionist with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

"The following conclusions were drawn after examination of all known physical evidence and review of witness accounts of the event that occurred on Foster Road in DeKalb County."

"On the above date, (April 23rd, 2007), at approximately 11:30 p.m., Officer Callie Matthews with the Smithville Police Department was responding to a call and traveling north on Foster Road in a 2001 Ford Crown Victoria police unit."

"Andrew Ferris was operating a Kia Rio passenger car southbound on Foster Road with Brian Webber as a front seat passenger."

"The road surface was dry asphalt with no pavement markings"

"Matthews, upon topping a slight hill crest, locked the brakes on the Ford allowing it to veer to the left of center where it collided with the Kia passenger car."

"The approach angle of the pre-impact skid indicated the Kia was approaching from the center of the roadway when the impact occurred. The skid length is approximately 15 feet."

"Skid marks from the Ford Crown Victoria were approximately 91 feet in length leading up to the impact and were at an angle from the north bound side of the roadway to the southbound side."

"A minimum speed was calculated for both vehicles. The Ford Crown Victoria had a minimum speed of 66 miles per hour, while the Kia was at 16 miles per hour."

"The Ford Crown Victoria was a marked patrol unit and was utilizing its blue lights as emergency equipment."

"Blood samples were taken from the deceased and analyzed for drugs and alcohol. Alcohol tested negative and only drugs administered by emergency medical personnel were present."

"Based on what is known, it is my opinion that the Ferris vehicle was in the center of the roadway, and when the Matthews vehicle came into view, this resulted in a reaction by Matthews which caused her to lock the brakes and go into a skid. The Ford vehicle driven by Matthews was not equipped with an anti-lock braking system, therefore the steering ability of the vehicle would have been inhibited. Ferris was traveling at a slower speed and steered back into the southbound lane before being struck. The Matthews vehicle was traveling at a speed greater than the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour for this particular section of roadway which was also a contributing factor to this crash.'

Sometime before he resigned, former Police Chief Tom Stufano wrote a memorandum to Mayor Hendrixson concerning the accident. In it, Stufano wrote that "The original THP investigation states that Officer Matthews was not using her siren which is mandated by law."

"In review of the preliminary information, although Officer Matthews was acting in good faith during her response, the investigation will show that she has violated both City of Smithville Police Policy and State Law due to her excessive speed and non-compliance and usage of emergency equipment while in emergency response. As a result of her actions, a resident of our city was killed."

"It is my recommendation that upon final conclusion and submittal of the Tennessee Highway Patrol Accident Report, a review board be established so that a review of the totality of the accident can be formulated, and if the findings are conclusive that Officer Matthews did violate emergency response policy, she be discharged from the City of Smithville Police Department."

A Circuit Court lawsuit was filed in June against the City of Smithville, the Police Department, and Police Officer Matthews.

Ferris' mother, Angela Ferris, is suing individually and as next of kin to her son.

Ferris basically claims that the officer was negligent in following city policies and state laws regarding public safety and that the city has failed to properly train and discipline it's officers, including Matthews.

She is seeking a judgment for compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, as well as attorney fees.

Ms. Ferris claims that Officer Matthews failed to follow established departmental policies regarding the use and operation of that vehicle and it's safety/emergency equipment and that she was traveling at a very high rate of speed.

Four Year Old Child Seriously Injured in Dog Attack

October 7, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A four year old child was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga Saturday night after being attacked by a neighbor's dog in Liberty.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says his department received a call around 6:15 p.m. that a child had been mauled by a dog, a blue heeler mix, at a residence on Greenhill Road in Liberty. The four year old boy reportedly suffered serious facial injuries, especially around his left eye.

The child, Joseph (Joey) Hall, is the son of Alan and Teresa Hall of Highway 53 near Liberty.

Mrs. Hall spoke by telephone with WJLE this morning (Sunday) from the hospital. Several stitches were required due to head and facial lacerations but Mrs. Hall says Joey's eye is going to be okay and he is expected to be released from the hospital today (Sunday).

According to Mrs. Hall, her children were with the kids at the next door neighbor's home of Tony and Carol Stevens, when the incident occurred. She says the other children went inside the house to do something, and asked Joey to stay outside for a minute, and when the children came back out moments later, they found him injured and bleeding.

Mrs Hall says according to Joey, as he was waiting for the other children to come back outside, he gave the dog a loving stare, when the animal attacked him. No one else was injured.

She says the dog is a stray animal that the neighbors have kept for about eight months, and Joey had been around him before.

Local authorities and EMS were notified and arrived on the scene. The child was later airlifted on site to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

The dog is now in the custody of the Sheriff's Department, being kept at the local dog pound.

Sheriff Ray says the investigation continues.

Richard Jennings Named Smithville Chief of Police

October 5, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Almost four years after a previous city council demoted him from Chief to Lieutenant for the "betterment of the department", Richard Jennings has been returned to the position of Police Chief, a job that six different men have held since 1994, five within the last four years.

The Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen met in special session Friday evening and voted to make Jennings the next Police Chief. The vote was 3 to 2.

The position has been vacant since the resignation of former Chief Thomas J. Stufano last month. Sergeant Steven Leffew has been serving as Officer in Charge of the department.

Jennings told WJLE after the meeting that he is honored to once again serve the citizens of Smithville as Police Chief. "It's a humbling experience to be given this opportunity again to serve my community. I want to thank everybody who supported me. I want to thank the people who came to the meetings to support me, who talked to me on the street and supported me, and to those who called me at home, and I had some who wrote me letters. I really appreciate that and I certainly will try to do the best job that I possibly can for this community. I will work closely with the board of mayor and aldermen and together I think we can bring this department up to the level that the citizens deserve and expect."

Jennings took over from Tom Hopkins as Chief in 1994, after Hopkins resigned. Jennings served until November, 2003 when the city council demoted him to the rank of Lieutenant. Jennings was succeeded by Jim Baker as Chief, but Baker was demoted back to the rank of patrolman in July 2004. Sergeant Sam Dunbar followed Baker as Chief, but Dunbar resigned in January 2006 under a cloud of controversy after being accused of falsifying documents. Augustine (Gus) Clemente was hired to replace Dunbar in March, 2006 but he resigned five months later, accusing city officials of interferring in police operations and making racial slurs against him. Stufano was named Chief in November, 2006 and resigned in September, 2007.

Alderman Jerry Hutchins Sr. made the motion Friday evening to hire Jennings as Chief. Alderman Willie Thomas offered the second to the motion. Alderman Tonya Sullivan joined them in voting for Jennings.

Aldermen Cecil Burger and Steve White voted against Jennings.

Burger, who is also a former Mayor, said "I'll agree that he (Richard) is certified. He's capable of doing it but he won't. If he couldn't do it before, how could he do it now? He's spent money and started programs that he never would finish. I don't think he's capable of doing it any more now than he did then. I was here when he came here and we've worked together all these years. I don't have to be told about Richard. We've never had no problems or trouble. His operation just don't fit the project."

Hutchins responded, saying "I think Richard has done a good job with the police department. He's been with them a long time."

White claims that Jennings remains under investigation based on allegations of misconduct made against him several weeks ago (concerning removal of weapons from the police department) and suggested that the case could be presented to the Grand Jury for indictment in December. (Jennings had been terminated by a three man disciplinary hearing board but he appealed the decision to the entire board of aldermen and was re-instated as Lieutenant following a hearing in August). According to White, "The investigation over when we had a hearing here awhile back is still open and on-going with Richard."

In response, Hutchins said " He has not been convicted of anything".

White answered "No, but remember what happened not long ago with another Chief (apparently referring to Tom Stufano concerning allegations made against him in a federal court lawsuit by Roy Ray over a traffic stop). The reason we're in this process to begin with is because allegations was put forth and the chief was voted out.(Stufano was placed on administrative leave with pay pending an independent investigation but he was returned to office on a mayoral veto of the council's decision) According to White, "his (Jennings') case is not over or closed. So remember that and the legality of it."

Sullivan says Jennings had the most experience of any of the applicants for the job and she has been assured by the proper authorities that Jennings will not be charged with a crime. "I made some phone calls and I took a look at his files and contacted the proper authorities to ask if there was going to be any charges against Mr. Jennings. I was told there would be no charges."

Sullivan then asked White, "Do you have different information that says that he will be charged versus the information that I have received directly?"

White replied, "I don't know where you got your information, but it's supposed to come up in December(Grand Jury), the last that I heard."

Sullivan asked, ‘What are the charges"?

White answered, "I'm not really for sure, all of it is in the D.A.'s hands but the prosecutor has not been notified that anything has changed and that he was still going to be subpoenaed to go in December"

Sullivan replied, "I was told by those authorities that there would be no charges".

Sullivan then added, "After interviewing, I didn't see anyone in the interviews that was more qualified than Mr. Jennings, or had more years of service."

Prior to the vote on Jennings, White made a motion to hire Kenneth D. Smith of Watertown as Police Chief. Smith, one of the seven applicants for police chief, is currently employed with the Mount Juliet Police Department. He worked for the Lebanon Police Department from 1986 to 2006. Burger seconded the motion, but the vote to hire Smith failed on a 3 to 2 vote. Aldermen Hutchins, Thomas, and Sullivan voted against Smith.

Jennings began his law enforcement career with the City of Smithville in 1976. He joined the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department in 1977 working for then Sheriff Dwight Mathis until he left office in 1986. Jennings rejoined the Smithville Police Department in 1986 and was appointed Police Chief in 1994, a position he held for nine years before being re-assigned by the city council in November, 2003.

Meanwhile, Hunter Hendrixson has been hired as Secretary/Treasurer and Financial Officer for the city while Kevin Robinson is the new Public Works Director. The aldermen voted unanimously, 5 to 0, to hire them.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says Hunter Hendrixson will be paid $37,500 per year until he becomes certified as the state requires. He must complete certification in a timely manner. Once he becomes certified, Hendrixson will be paid $42,500 per year.

As Public Works Director, Kevin Robinson will be paid at $15.38 cents per hour or $32,000 per year. Mayor Hendrixson says this job will require some mandatory overtime because Robinson will be called out on holidays, weekends, and nights due to water or sewer line breaks, etc.

Hendrixson and Robinson will replace Burnace Vandergiff, who was paid $52,000 per year.

Man Threatening Officers with a Meat Cleaver Arrested for Aggravated Assault

October 3, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 37 year old man, allegedly causing a disturbance, was arrested Tuesday afternoon by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Richard Scott Adams of Redman Road, Smithville is charged with three counts of aggravated assault, public intoxication, resisting arrest, and evading arrest. His bond is set at $96,000 and his court date is October 18th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says the Sheriff's Department received a call from someone, where Adams resides, reporting that the man was creating a disturbance, tearing up things in the home, and making threats.

Upon arrival, the officers confronted the man on the front porch of the home. According to Sheriff Ray, the man was swinging a meat cleaver at the officers in a threatening manner.

After Sheriff Ray arrived on the scene, Adams surrendered the meat cleaver, but ran back inside the house when told he was under arrest. Deputies followed Adams into the house and he grabbed a gallon bottle of vodka and began swinging it in a threatening manner toward the officers.

He was eventually brought under control and placed under arrest.

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