Local News Articles

Sheriff says Measures Being Taken to Beef up Jail Security

October 22, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

In the aftermath of last week's jail escape, Sheriff Patrick Ray says measures have been and are being taken to beef up security at the jail.

The county commission, on Monday night, authorized an emergency expenditure of up to $15,000 for the purchase of surveillance cameras for the jail annex as well as the installation of a cage around the duct work to help keep prisoners from trying to escape. The county has applied for a grant, which if approved, could provide up to another $12,000 for more surveillance cameras for the jail.

Sheriff Ray says after interviewing the correctional officers, he has concluded that the escape of four prisoners last Wednesday morning was not the fault of the staff, but of the jail infrastructure. "One of the escapees watched the correctional officer, who was in the tower which overlooks the annex dorm, and every time that correctional officer looked away from the window to do some paper work or whatever, that prisoner would motion for one of the other escapees to start climbing the I-beam."

Sheriff Ray says he has been concerned about jail safety since taking office in September, 2006." I addressed the county mayor and county commission about these concerns. Working together with the county mayor and the commission, we have made improvements to the jail and annex."

"First, we fixed the door locks to the old jail and jail annex. We also had the control panel for the door locks repaired. All has worked well since then."

"Second, we talked about security cameras for the old jail and annex cell areas. The commission approved the bid process and we took bids. There were only two bids. One bid was over $50,000 and the other for $27,500. It has been agreed to try and get funding through a grant from the state to fund this project. County Mayor Mike Foster has filed the grant and we are awaiting a response back from the state to see whether or not we will receive funding. If the funding fails, we will still purchase the cameras at full cost."

"We were also concerned about the exposed support I-beams in the annex where the inmates were climbing the beams to get access to the central heat and air duct work and to the ceiling area of the annex. Since then, we welded steel around the I-beams in order to try and stop the inmates from climbing up the beams, but in this incident, the welded steel failed." (Inmates were still able to climb the beams).

"County Mayor Foster has also appointed a jail committee to inspect the jail and for me to address my concerns to."

"The morning of the escape, we were housing a total of 88 inmates and 35 were in the annex dorm. There are a total of 48 beds in there. Since the escape, we replaced all six of the fiberglass skylights with sheets of metal in the annex. We are in the process of trying to figure out a way to keep the inmates from climbing the I-beams in the annex dorm. We are working with the state jail inspector to make sure we stay within codes for the improvement."

"The safety of the public is of the utmost concern for me, the county mayor, and the county commission. We will strive to do everything we can to take care of these concerns."

Sheriff's Department Makes Arrests in Rash of Burglaries & Thefts

October 22, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has apparently solved a rash of recent burglaries and thefts with the arrest of several people.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 19 year old Ricky Workman of Woodland Trail, Hillsboro, Ohio and 19 year old Robert Lydell of South Elm Street, Wallingford, Connecticut are each charged with aggravated burglary after allegedly being caught breaking into a house boat at Center Hill Marina.

Sheriff Ray says on the evening of Sunday, October 14th, one of the boat owners at the marina saw the defendants in a houseboat that didn't belong to them and approached. He was able to detain Lydell until help arrived and an officer caught Workman.

Bond for each is $10,000 and they will be in court November 1st.

29 year old Nicholas Robinson of Village Place, Smithville was charged with theft of property over $5,000 on Saturday, October 20th.

Sheriff Ray says his department received a report on September 26th that three 4 wheelers and a handgun had been stolen from a home on Barnes Mill Road. As the result of the investigation, officers learned that Robinson had possession of two of the 4-wheelers, and that he had stripped them down. According to Sheriff Ray, when Robinson learned he was a suspect, he allegedly took the two stripped down four wheelers and abandoned them in a wooded area on Banks Pisgah Road in an attempt to hide them. Those two 4 wheelers have been recovered.

Robinson's bond was set at $10,000 and he will be in court on the charge November 15th.

20 year old Eric Dickens of Short Mountain Highway, Smithville and 19 year old Brandon Belcher of Miller Road, Smithville have each been charged with three counts of burglary and theft.

Sheriff Ray says the two men allegedly broke into two houseboats at Hidden Harbour Marina and one boat on Casey's Cove Road, where more than $5,000 in goods were stolen including stereos, gas tanks, fishing poles, speakers, tools, etc. Some of the property has been recovered.

Bond for them is set at $80,000 each and they will be in court on the charges November 15th.

26 year old Shaun Hill of Cordell Love Road is charged with one count of theft and two counts of forgery.

Sheriff Ray says Hill allegedly stole checks from the victim, who lives on Bell Street, and passed a forged check, each in the amount of $500, on August 15th and September 26th at a local bank. Hill also allegedly stole an ATM card from the same victim on October 8th and used it to withdraw some money from the victim's account.

Hill's bond is set at $7,500 and he will be in General Sessions Court on the charges November 1st.

Meanwhile, 25 year old Joshua Flatt of North Hampton Circle, Cookeville was pulled over by a county deputy in the early morning hours of October 13th. The deputy, while on patrol, noticed Flatt's vehicle weaving on Highway 70 east, stopped it, and then had Flatt perform field sobriety tasks. The officer determined that Flatt was intoxicated and charged him with driving under the influence. His bond was set at $1,500.

Others with Flatt were also charged including 27 year old Joshua Thompson of Lake Valley Drive, Cookeville; 25 year old William Holley of West 7th Street, Cookeville, and 26 year old William Overstreet of Epperson Avenue, Algood. All three were charged with public intoxication, but Thompson was also charged with driving under the influence by allowance. Thompson, who owns the vehicle, told the deputy that he let Flatt drive because Flatt was not as intoxicated as he was at the time. Bond for Overstreet and Holley is $1,000 each and $2,000 for Thompson.

They will be in court on the charges November 1st.

68 year old James Frazier of Highway 70 Liberty was arrested for driving under the influence and violation of the implied consent law during the early morning hours of Friday, October 19th..

Sheriff Ray says a deputy noticed Frazier's vehicle weaving on Highway 70 near Dowelltown and pulled him over. The officer had Frazier perform field sobriety tasks and determined that he was intoxicated.

Frazier's bond is set at $1,500 and he will be in court on the charges November 8th.

Another Successful Weekend for the DCHS Band.

October 22, 2007

The DeKalb County High School Band wrapped up Fall Break with another successful weekend at South Doyle High School in Knoxville. After taking the week off, the band met at the High School on Friday for a few of hours of rehearsal to prepare for the trip. Then early Saturday morning, the band gathered at the High School for one more practice, and then got on the road to Knoxville around 8:00am.

“The week off seemed to do us some good,” Field Commander, Dustin Estes said. And he was not wrong. The band placed second in the class against 6 other bands. Estes continued his three year winning streak by beating out all the other field commanders in class, and in the small division. Dustin outscored all but one field commander in the entire contest. (Large and small divisions).

What’s next? The band now goes into intense rehearsals to prepare for the Division II State competition on November 3rd, their biggest challenge of the year. This year the contest is at Independence High School in Thompson’s Station TN and will include some of the best bands in the state. The band is set to perform in preliminary competition at 11:15am in hopes to perform again later in the night for the finals. The band would like to bring as big of an audience as possible to this show.

“We’d like to publicly invite all Football players, Basketball players, Cheerleaders and any other athletes, coaches, teachers or students to attend this contest with us” Band Booster President Teresa Sullivan said. “Busses will be provided as needed, we just want people to go with us”.

The final two football games of the season are also on the band’s schedule. Oct 26th will be the “Halloween show”. They will perform their normal 2007, “A Night on Broadway” show with a little twist. The band members will dress up in their favorite Halloween costumes. This really changes the feel of the show. It’s a lot of fun to perform and watch.

November 2nd will be Senior Night where the school recognizes the Senior, Football Players, Cheerleaders and Band members. This is a special night for not only the seniors but the whole band. The band gets to salute their student leaders for the year. The show that night will be dedicated to them.

The band boosters would like to encourage you to attend at least one of the next few performances. For a complete schedule of upcoming events log onto www.DekalbBand.com.

Smithville Police Receive Reports of Burglary, Theft, and Vandalism

October 19, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department this week received reports of burglary, theft, and vandalism.

Chief Richard Jennings says around 3:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 18th, officers Matt Holmes and Craig Capps received a call concerning the burglary of an automobile and were dispatched to the Webb House Retirement Center on Jennings Lane where an employee, Phyllis Cantrell, advised the officers that she found a man inside her vehicle as she was preparing to leave work.

According to Officer Holmes' report, " I met with Phyllis Cantrell, who advised me, as she left the building from work and approached the driver side door of her car, she hit the unlock button on her key. When she did so, the back door flew open and a white male, wearing a white shirt exited and ran northbound across the parking lot through the field toward Dearman Street. Ms. Cantrell immediately ran back to the front of the building and called 911. There was no damage determined by myself or the owner. There was a white powdery foot print on the inside bottom door sill of the passenger side rear door indicating the suspect entered the vehicle through the rear passenger door."

The report states that "Officers Holmes, Capps, and County Deputy Jody Johnson followed on foot in the last seen direction of the suspect but were unable to locate him or any clues."

Chief Jennings later went to the scene where photographs were taken of the foot prints and four fingerprints were lifted from inside the vehicle, but the fingerprints were of poor quality and may not be identifiable.

Officers also took a report of a theft of two bicycles at 261 Hayes Street on Wednesday morning, October 17th.

According to Officer Travis Bryant's report, " I met with John Mason and Thomas Harper in reference to some stolen bicycles. They advised that the bikes were discovered missing from their yard at 8:30 a.m. on October 17th. The bikes are valued at $109 and $100.

The bikes were recovered on Thursday, October 18th by the Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Patrick Ray says they were stolen by two of the jail escapees, Jeffrey Hendrix and Larry George, after they left the jail Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, two vehicles belonging to the UCHRA and one owned by Premiere Care were burglarized and vandalized this week at the UCHRA office on West Main Street.

According to Officer Matt Holmes' report, "I met with Mike Baines on Wednesday, October 17th at the UCHRA building on West Main Street who advised me that three vehicles had been broken into. They were parked behind the building. He could not find anything taken from the vehicles.

A 2001 Dodge 35B van, belonging to UCHRA, showed that the medical box had been opened and contents displaced throughout the vehicle.

A 2005 Dodge Caravan, owned by UCHRA, showed the ignition was tampered with and evidence was found in that vehicle.

The third vehicle, a 2000 Ford E350, belonging to Premiere Care, was found to have been tampered with. Information and documents had been displaced throughout the vehicle.

All Four Jail Escapees Now In Custody

October 19, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

All four prisoners who escaped from the DeKalb County Jail early Wednesday morning are now back behind bars.

19 year old Jeffrey Hendrix and 34 year old Larry George were arrested Thursday night in Anderson County.

Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE early Friday morning that after interviewing witnesses, officers learned that the two prisoners had gone to east Tennessee. Authorities notified the Anderson County Sheriff's Department of their whereabouts. He says George has relatives in that area. "When Anderson County officers arrived, they noticed a camp fire burning in a wooded area where the deputies were asked to check. When approached by the officers, the two men fled on foot but were quickly apprehended without incident. Hendrix and George were transported back to the DeKalb County Jail around midnight Thursday."

They are charged with escape and aggravated burglary and two counts of theft over $1,000.

Sheriff Ray says through the investigation, detectives found that after their escape, Hendrix and George allegedly stole two bicycles and rode them to Toad Road where they broke into a home and allegedly stole some money, jewelry, and then made their getaway in a Jeep Cherokee at the residence. The two bicycles have been recovered but the Jeep Cherokee has not yet been found, although officers believe it could still be in the Anderson County area.

Total bond for each is $180,000 and their court date is November 8th.

21 year old Brandon Bias and 30 year old Ernest Hill were arrested on Wednesday. Bias was picked up at a residence on Allen Bend Road, Smithville while Hill was found near his home in Watertown. Both men were charged with escape.

Four others, 20 year old Randi Renee Atnip, 20 year old Julie Diane Ray, 22 year old Nicky Eudene Reece, Jr., and 20 year old Gary Christopher Ponder, were charged with aiding and abetting the escape of Bias by helping him hide from authorities.

The four prisoners made their escape early Wednesday morning by going through a skylight in the roof of the jail.

Sheriff Ray says he wants to thank Special Agent Billy Miller of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, surrounding county sheriff and police departments, local news media, and all citizens who called in information to the Sheriff's Department.

Evins Foundation Developing Natural Park Downtown

October 18, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Evins Foundation, in association with the Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour, is developing a natural park on the vacant lot behind city hall and across from the Smithville Post Office downtown.

The foundation is working with William Kooienga and OBP artists to create the park.

Kooienga told WJLE Thursday that the park is a dream come true for the daughters of the late Congressman Joe L. Evins, Jane Evins Leonard, Mary Evins Overton, and Joanna Evins Carnahan, members of the foundation. "Joe L. Evins left that lot, which was part of his homestead, to the foundation more than twenty years ago on which to build a park. They have been trying to get a park there for many years. Different groups have tried to help and city officials were consulted about it several times."

Kooienga says artists of the Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour, who host the fall event, were looking for a place to do a summer activity and thought this lot would be the perfect location." I liked that space. It's open, close to town, and near the highway. The more I looked at it, I thought, boy, wouldn't it be nice if the city had a park there. I later met with Mr. Evins' daughters and they asked me to design the park. I did that and we decided to go ahead and build it. We started working on it this week."

"It's going to be very natural, kind of a nature space. It'll have curvy paths through the park. There'll be huge boulders, earth berms, and a lot of trees planted around the perimeter. "It'll have an open space in the middle so that campers can still put up tents. They won't be able to pull in motor homes, but they'll be able to put tents in there for the Jamboree and that space could also be used for picnics or for kids to play frisbee or football. There'll be a small stage in one corner so that during the Jamboree, if they want an alternate stage for small performances they will have one. There'll be benches so people can come from downtown to have their lunch. Hopefully, it will be a real peaceful natural space close to town."

Kooienga says donations and volunteer help is desired and appreciated. I've designed it and will oversee the construction. There's not a lot of money for the park so we're trying to get volunteers to donate as much as we can. I'm donating my time and others have come forward to help out. The foundation will own the park and take responsibility for it. Hopefully, the city will keep on mowing the grass like they have been in the past."

He adds that the park should be finished by next spring. "We're going to take a few days off for the tour but right after that we will get back to work on it. Hopefully by late spring it will be finished. That's the plan. We're going to see if some of the nurseries will donate and plant the trees. The fire department is under construction next door and they have agreed to let us take those trees that were planted around the parking lot and move those over to be transplanted in the park."

Sex Offenders Put on Notice: No Halloween Activities

October 18, 2007

The Tennessee Board of Probation & Parole has sent letters to sex offenders it supervises, advising them that they are prohibited from participating in Halloween activities. Board Executive Director Bo Irvin said, “Protecting the safety and welfare of the public, especially children, is our primary goal. We put these restrictions in writing so there can be no misunderstanding about what is and is not an appropriate activity for a sex offender under our supervision.”

The letters advise sex offenders that:

Neither they, nor anyone in their home can answer the door to trick or treaters on Halloween;
They cannot pass out candy;
Their homes cannot be decorated for Halloween, either inside or outside;
They cannot host Halloween parties at their homes;
They cannot go to haunted houses, corn mazes, hay rides or any other seasonal activity;
They cannot be at any function where children are gathered, including private residences;
They cannot give any Halloween treats to children;
They cannot wear costumes and
They cannot take any child trick or treating.

Curfews are another tool probation and parole officers can use in supervising sex offenders. During the rest of the Halloween season, officers will also be making extended visits, both announced and unannounced, to verify compliance.

The Board of Probation and Parole (http://www2.state.tn.us/bopp/home.htm) is an independent seven-member board whose members are appointed by the Governor. The Board is charged with the responsibility of deciding which eligible felony offenders will be granted parole and released from incarceration to community-based supervision. Along with the supervision of those granted parole, the Board is also responsible for supervising felony offenders who are placed on probation by criminal courts.

Two Jail Escapees Caught

October 18, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Two of the four prisoners who escaped from the DeKalb County Jail early Wednesday morning are now back in custody.

Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE early Thursday morning that 21 year old Brandon Bias of High Street, Alexandria was arrested Wednesday at a residence on Allen Bend Road, Smithville. Four others have been charged with aiding and abetting Bias by helping him hide from authorities.

30 year old Ernest Hill was picked up at a residence Wednesday evening on Chumbly Hollow Road in Watertown where he is from.

The other two prisoners, 19 year old Jeffrey Hendrix of East 10th Street, Cookeville and 34 year old Larry George of Georgia Street, Romulus, Michigan are still at large.

According to Sheriff Ray, these four men escaped from the DeKalb County Jail Annex between 2:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Wednesday by going through a skylight.

After their escape, Sheriff Ray says at least two of the prisoners, Hendrix and possibly George broke into a home on Toad Road, through a window, where some cash and jewelry were stolen along with a 1991 2-door Jeep Wrangler bearing a DeKalb County license tag number of 635-PTR.. No one was at home at the time of the break-in. Sheriff Ray says authorities know Hendrix had been there because he made some telephone calls from the residence before he left.

Clothing worn by one of the prisoners was also found behind a barn at the Toad Road residence, including parts of the orange and white striped pants, and a white thermal shirt. Sheriff Ray says it appears that the prisoner may have made shorts out of the pants by cutting off the lower part of the pant legs and discarding the cut off material behind the barn.

Whether on foot or by someone giving them a ride, authorities don't yet know how the prisoners got to the Toad Road residence, and why they went there, but officers got a break in the case Wednesday afternoon.

Sheriff Ray says " After receiving a tip about Brandon Bias' whereabouts, DeKalb County Officers picked Bias up at a residence on Allen Bend Road, Smithville. Bias tried to outrun the officers, but was caught without incident. Bias was charged with escape and his bond set at $100,000."

Four others were helping Bias hide from authorities. 20 year old Randi Renee Atnip of Adcock Cemetery Road, Smithville was charged with aiding and abetting. Her bond is $5,000 and her court date is November 8th.

According to Sheriff Ray, " Early in the morning of the escape, Atnip, a friend of Bias', was contacted by Bias. Atnip met Bias and gave him a ride to the Allen Bend address.

20 year old Julie Diane Ray of Allen Bend Road, Smithville was charged with aiding and abetting and her bond was set at $5,000. Ray's court date is also November 8th. Sheriff Ray says she was charged because she had knowledge of Bias' escape and gave him a place to hide out.

22 year old Nicky Eudene Reece Jr. of Miller Road, Smithville and 20 year old Gary Christopher Ponder of Old Man Hill Road, Dowelltown were charged with aiding and abetting. According to Sheriff Ray, these two men were at the residence on Allen Bend Road and had knowledge of Bias' escape, but failed to report it to law enforcement officers. Bond for both is set at $1,000 each and their court dates are November 8th. Bias was returned to the DeKalb County Jail at approximately 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Wednesday evening, Wilson County Dispatch received a tip that Ernest Hill was at a residence on Chumbly Hollow Road Watertown. Sheriff Ray says when Wilson County officers arrived they found Hill at the residence. Hill was then arrested and transported back to the DeKalb County Jail at approximately 8:30 p.m. He is charged with escape and his bond is set at $100,000. Hill's court date is November 8th.

Hill is in jail on burglary and theft charges and Bias is incarcerated for violation of probation.

Hendrix is charged with burglary and theft. He is a white male, 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and weighs 130 pounds. He has brown hair and green eyes.

George is charged with evading arrest. He is a white male, 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and weighs 170 pounds. He has brown hair and blue eyes.

Sheriff Ray says if you have any information as to the whereabouts of Hendrix and George, please call the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department at 597-4935. Please do not send e-mails.

Mayor says Portable Pump May Be Needed to Support Water Supply

October 17, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson is concerned about the falling level of Center Hill Lake, due to the drought, and how that could affect the city's water supply.

During Monday night's council meeting, Hendrixson told the aldermen that if the lake level continues to fall, the city may need to purchase and install a portable pump to help support the water supply intake at the lake. "As you know, we are in an extreme drought. We've had very little rain in the last year. Center Hill Dam is leaking. They're (Corps of Engineers) going to spend $240-million dollars to repair the dam and one of the hillsides before you get to the dam, that the water is going through. They're pulling the lake down drastically. They've been operating what they call the sluice gates under the dam, 24 hours a day. They have now stopped that (24 hours) and are now doing it seven hours a day. There is no water going into Center Hill Lake from any run off anywhere because there is no rain."

"I went to a meeting two weeks ago. The Corps of Engineers was fairly confident that they weren't going to pull the lake any lower than a 623 level elevation above sea level, and we're fine at that level. I went to another meeting Friday at the dam, and they are now saying there's a great possibility of pulling it to 618 and that is the absolute lowest we can pump water. The pumps that run 2,900 gallons a minute create a swirl and at 618 they're probably going to get air which will cavitate the pumps, or stop them from working until they can get the air out of them."

"We certainly hope it doesn't get to that point, but if it does, we will have to take immediate action before it gets there, or the City of Smithville and 90% of the households in DeKalb County will be without water."

Mayor Hendrixson says he will check with the city's engineers to see if any grants are available to help fund a portable pump. The council took no action Monday night.

DeKalb County Could Receive $30.6 in State Appropriations

October 17, 2007

State Senator Mae Beavers (R – Mt. Juliet) announced that during fiscal year 2007-2008 DeKalb County will receive approximately $30.6 million of state appropriations. Also, DeKalb County will receive a portion of the $9.5 billion of federal funds included in Tennessee's $27.8 billion budget as adopted by the 105th General Assembly.

Senator Beavers listed budgeted state appropriations benefiting DeKalb County in the following general categories: $12.3 million for education (kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education); $2.6 million in state shared tax collections; $10.4 million for health and social services; $2.1 million for justice and public safety; $1.2 million for recreation and resources development; and $1.1 million for state highway projects. The remaining $540,230 is for miscellaneous items.

"The Legislature provided $290 million in new funding to address a significant portion of the amended funding formula called the Basic Education Program. The Basic Education Program formula was redesigned to better address funding for at-risk students, enrollment growth, English language learners, teacher salaries and state contribution levels. The plan will also redesign the way Tennessee allocates money to school systems by replacing the current formula with a new calculation that is simple, fair and transparent. The county's share of the Basic Education Program is estimated to be $11.6 million in the current fiscal year," Senator Beavers said.

Senator Beavers further stated that health and social services' appropriations benefiting DeKalb County residents include: $4.7 million for Human Services' programs; $131,746 for Community Mental Retardation; $248,200 for Children's Services; and $9.5 million for Health services, with $9 million of the Health funds for TennCare.

Senator Beavers said, "I think DeKalb County fared well in this budget considering the available resources. These figures represent the best estimates at this time and will materialize if state revenues are collected as estimated."

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