Local News Articles

Three Aldermen to be Elected in Smithville Municipal Election in June

December 2, 2010

It may seem early to some, but the Smithville Municipal Election is just around the corner.

The election is set for June 21st and Administrator of Elections Dennis Stanley says interested candidates can pick up petitions as early as December 17th.

Three aldermen seats will be up for election in June. The seats are currently held by Shawn Jacobs, Aaron Meeks, and W.J. White.

Stanley says the qualifying deadline will be Noon March 17th. The last day to register to vote in the Smithville election will be May 23rd.

Vernon Convicted of Reckless Homicide

December 1, 2010
Dwayne Page
James Vernon (at the time of his arrest)

The man originally charged with first degree murder in a brutal beating of another man on Center Hill Lake last year which resulted in his death, stood trial Tuesday in DeKalb County Criminal Court for second degree murder.

But when the jury, made of up six men and six women, returned from it's deliberations Tuesday night, the verdict was something much less, reckless homicide. A blow to state prosecutors.

As a result, 39 year old James P. Vernon of Green Hill Road, Rock Island, who has been in jail for 509 days, could soon be released. He will be sentenced on January 26th . The range of punishment for reckless homicide is reportedly from two to four years. Judge Leon Burns, Jr. has set a $5,000 bond for Vernon, pending the sentencing hearing.

State prosecutors said Vernon was responsible for the death of 24 year old David Joseph Clark, who was severely beaten during an attack on a houseboat at Center Hill Lake July 7th, 2009. Clark died a week later from his injuries at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

The incident occurred in DeKalb County, only a short distance from Horsehoe Bend Marina, which is in White County.

Vernon, who testified in his own defense, said that he met Clark on the fourth of July, 2009 during an outing on the lake. Two days later, July 6th Vernon said Clark showed up at his boat, just to hang out, after going to see his friends on their boat and finding them asleep. Vernon, who was cooking some fish for himself and a friend, claims he invited Clark inside to join them. But a short time later, Vernon said Clark suddenly left, saying he had to go. Vernon looked around and noticed that his wallet, which he kept on the bar near the dining table, was missing. Thinking that Clark took it, Vernon followed after Clark and confronted him about the wallet, which he said contained $50 in denominations of two- twenty dollar bills and a ten dollar bill. Clark apparently denied taking the wallet, but Vernon had him to produce his (Clark's) wallet, which revealed that Clark had two- twenty dollar bills on him. Vernon did not find his own wallet.

The next day, July 7th, Vernon testified that he and a friend, Steve Killion, who had a small houseboat next to his, went looking for his wallet and found a ten dollar bill in the parking lot (near the marina).

That night, July 7th, Vernon said he showed up at Killion's houseboat, and that Clark later arrived. Witnesses testified that Clark was already at Killion's boat when Vernon got there. Vernon apparently confronted Clark again about the wallet, but Clark told him that "we need to get past this wallet. I want you to be my friend." Vernon said he told Clark that he couldn't be friends with someone who stole from him. While Clark denied taking the wallet, Vernon said Clark admitted to stealing from others in the area, and added that they got what they deserved. Vernon said he took the comment personally, became angry and began punching him after Clark grabbed him. But witnesses, Steve Killion and Tanner Muncey, testified that Clark did nothing to provoke Vernon and that Vernon began hitting Clark, after the two men had shook hands. According to the witnesses, Vernon inflicted three or four blows to Clark, and then continued beating him after he fell to the floor unconscious, even though witnesses tried to restrain Vernon and called for him to stop.

After the attack, Vernon said he left Killion's boat to go get some beer to calm himself. Killion testified that he confronted Vernon about getting some help for Clark. Vernon then returned to Killion's houseboat, picked up Clark, apparently in a fireman's carry, and took him to Clark's car, where he placed him in the passenger seat. Others apparently called for help.

White County EMS came to the scene and transported Clark to the White County Hospital where he was later airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. Clark's mother testified that her son never regained consciousness.

Dr. Thomas Deering of Nashville, who conducted the autopsy, testified that Clark died from intra-cranial hemorrhaging due to blunt force injury. Clark also had a fractured jaw.

Vernon said he deeply regretted what he had done. When asked by District Attorney General Randy York if he had said "I'm sorry' to anyone. Vernon replied, "Yes, the Lord."

York, in his closing remarks to the jury, said Vernon committed second degree murder, acting intentionally and knowing that Clark could die, especially when he continued the beating even after Clark had lost consciousness. Assistant D.A. Greg Strong assisted D.A. York in the trial.

District Public Defender David Brady and assistant Allison Rasbury, in their closing remarks, said they while Vernon was wrong in the attack, he did not commit second degree murder in that he could not have known with reasonable certainty that the injuries from the fight would lead to Clark's death.

TDOT Awards $26.9 Million Bid to OCCI, Incorporated on Rehab of Hurricane Bridge

November 30, 2010
Dwayne Page
Jennifer Flynn

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has awarded a bid for the rehabilitation of Hurricane Bridge.

Jennifer Flynn, Regional Community Relations Officer with TDOT in Region II, told WJLE Tuesday that OCCI Incorporated of Fulton, Missouri was the low bidder on the project with a bid of $26.9 million. Two other companies had also submitted bids, Bell & Associates of Brentwood at $33.7 million and Kay & Kay Contracting of London, Kentucky at $33.8 million.

"Bids were opened on the project October 29th and the low bidder was OCCI, Incorporated of Fulton, Missouri with a bid of $26.9 million. The contract was officially awarded to the apparent low bidder last week.

Flynn said it's not yet known when construction will begin but OCCI has until October 31st, 2013 to complete the project. "It will take about a month to get all the paper work done. As soon as that happens, then the contractor will hold the pre-construction conference where representatives from the contractor's office and TDOT representatives from the construction field office, the regional construction office, and any utilities that might be involved on the project, will meet at a pre-construction conference and determine how the work is going to be done and how they will approach the job. As soon as that is done, they can get to work on the project. The completion date for this project is on or before October 31st, 2010. "

"This project is being funded through TDOT's Better Bridges (bonding) Program and through this program TDOT will replace, repair, or rehabilitate 200 state owned structurally deficient bridges in Tennessee by 2013. Hurricane Bridge is part of this program."

County Mayor Mike Foster said this is great news for DeKalb County and once construction begins, the county will no longer provide flaggers to control traffic across the bridge, since the state or contractor will be taking over that responsibilty.

Head-On Crash Monday Night Results in Fatality

November 29, 2010
Dwayne Page

A 63 year old Dowelltown woman has died from injuries she received in a head-on crash Monday night on West Broad Street near DeKalb County High School.

Dead is Wanda K. Harrison.

Lieutenant Randy Maynard of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said Harrison was in a 2009 Honda SUV traveling west when her vehicle veered left into a 1994 Chevy pick-up, driven by 55 year old Mary Jo Britt of Dowelltown.

According to Lieutenant Maynard, Britt was east on Highway 70 preparing to make a left turn into the high school parking lot. As she was starting to get into the turning lane, she saw the Honda SUV coming toward her. Britt steered to the right, back into the eastbound lane trying to avoid a collision but the Honda SUV hit her head-on.

Central dispatch received the call at 4:58 p.m.

Harrison was airlifted from the high school/middle school parking lot by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Vanderbilt hospital, where she died. Britt was transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Family members of Ms. Harrison claim she suffered from a medical condition, and Lieutenant Maynard said that may have contributed to the accident.

In addition to the THP, DeKalb EMS, and Life Force, members of the Smithville Police and Fire Departments, and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department were also on the scene.

Hendrixson Among More than 50 Indicted by Grand Jury Monday

November 29, 2010
Dwayne Page
Zachary Ross Hendrixson

A 24 year old man, who allegedly used somebody else's 2006 Mastercraft X45 ski boat several times over the summer without the owner's permission to entertain friends on the lake, was indicted Monday by the Grand Jury with vandalism over $10,000 and joyriding.

Zachary Ross Hendrixson was also indicted in a separate case, charging him with burglary and theft over $1,000. He will be arraigned in criminal court on the charges Monday, December 13th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said Hendrixson was arrested on Monday, July 19th after the owner of the boat took warrants against him. The boat, which was docked at the time at Hurricane Marina, apparently received some damage to the interior and exterior while Hendrixson was using it. The boat is valued at approximately $100,000.

According to Sheriff Ray, Hendrixson took the boat out on the lake several times. " He has been going down there since Memorial Day, taking people out on that boat, falsely claiming it belonged to his family. He even published pictures of the outings on his Face Book account."

When the owner discovered that Hendrixson had been using the boat, he had him charged in the case.

After a further investigation, Sheriff Ray said Hendrixson was also charged with theft of property over $1,000 for allegedly taking items off another boat."We started an investigation and found that he had stolen a surf board, a wake board, and life jackets from a boat at Cove Hollow Marina, valued at $1,180."

Hendrixson is also accused of committing a theft at a residence on Mullican Drive, where tools and a battery charger were taken, valued at $250. Sheriff Ray said those items were later recovered in Mount Juliet.

Hendrixson is one of more than fifty people who were indicted by the Grand Jury Monday. Three people have been named in sealed indictments but their names cannot be disclosed until they are arrested. All those indicted Monday will be arraigned in criminal court on Monday, December 13th at 9:00 a.m.

In addition to Hendrixson, those indicted and their charges are as follows:

Mark Anthony Violet- theft over $1,000 (2 counts)

Lydia R. Judkins- introduction of contraband into a penal institution

Brandon Gurley- domestic assault

Brandon Gurley & Jamie L. Hodges-manufacture of methamphetamine

Robert "Bobby" Morris Turner- Rape

Ellissa S. Howard- DUI

Corey Wade Thomas- possession of a schedule IV controlled substance

Christopher J. Garrett- introduction of contraband into a penal institution

Justin C. Hale- theft over $10,000 and vandalism over $1,000

Michael E. Brown- driving on a revoked license (9th offense)

Jared M. Staggs-theft over $10,000 and auto burglary (2 counts); and DUI

Brian R. Gadbois- aggravated kidnaping and domestic assault

Barry A. Gibbs- theft over $10,000, evading arrest, and reckless endangerment

Nena B. Sprague- driving on a suspended license

William A. Cantrell- driving on a revoked license (3rd offense)

Chasity J. Phillips- possession of a schedule III controlled substance and possession of paraphernalia

Kenny Ray Herman- driving under the influence

Mary E. Tanner- initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine

Barry Cecil Ford- possession of a schedule III controlled substance, possession of a schedule IV controlled substance, possession of a schedule VI controlled substance, and driving on a revoked license

James Clarence Adamson- aggravated assault, violation of the habitual motor vehicle offender order, driving on a revoked license, and leaving the scene of an accident

William B. Seals, Jr.- driving under the influence (2nd offense)

Johnny A. Murphy, Jr.- possession of a schedule III controlled substance

Michael S. Saylors- possession of a schedule II controlled substance for resale and possession of paraphernalia

Jonathan D. Goff- assault

John A. Judkins, Sr.- assault and evading arrest

Darnell F. Gurley- prescription fraud

Grady L. Murphy- theft over $500

Tracey L. Guthrie- driving under the influence and violation of the implied consent law

David W. Gains- promoting the manufacture of methamphetamine (2 charges)

Melisha R. Cantrell- possession of a schedule IV controlled substance, possession of a schedule II controlled substance, and possession of paraphernalia

Billy R. Huddleston- possession of a schedule III controlled substance and DUI (2nd offense)

Brittney D. Barnes- possession of a schedule IV controlled substance, possession of paraphernalia, and resisting arrest

Mark W. Green- promotion of the manufacture of meth, possession of a schedule II controlled substance, and possession of paraphernalia

Bradley Shane Redmon- promoting the manufacture of meth

Felicia Ann Walz- driving on a suspended license

Aaron D. Ponder- theft over $1,000; theft under $500; and driving on a suspended license

Aubrey Lee Kilgore- driving under the influence

Tracy A. Thomason- auto burglary and theft under $500

Kenny W. Dyal, Jr.- aggravated burglary (8 charges), theft over $1,000 (5 charges), theft over $500, theft under $500

David Dixon- aggravated assault

Johnny L. Devault- driving under the influence and violation of the implied consent law

Nieka D. Barrett- theft under $500

Gwynn G. Prater- theft under $500

Carlos L. Godsey- theft over $1,000

Edward L. Judkins, Jr. & Marie E. Biddle- aggravated burglary, theft over $500, vandalism under $500

Tony J. Reeder- driving under the influence (3rd offense) and violation of the implied consent law

Man Charged with Statutory Rape

November 29, 2010
Dwayne Page
Mark Fish, Jr.
Nathan Joseph Trower

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has arrested a Smithville man for statutory rape.

24 year old Mark Fish, Jr. of Holmes Creek Road is charged with statutory rape. He is under a $50,000 bond and his court date is December 16th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on or about October 12th while at a residence on Blue Springs Road, Fish allegedly unlawfully had sex with a 15 year old female without her consent. Sexual penetration was made by force. The female stated that she was asleep at the time of the incident and when she awoke, she told him to stop, but he did not.

Meanwhile, 28 year old Nathan Joseph Trower of Baxter is charged under an April 16th, 2007 sealed indictment with sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance. He is under a $10,000 bond and he will be in court on December 13th. Trower has been out of state in another correctional institute and was only recently arrested.

Alexandria Parade Kicks off Christmas Season in DeKalb County

November 28, 2010
Dwayne Page
Santa Arrives in Alexandria
West Main Baptist Church Wins Float Competition

An enthusiastic crowd gathered downtown Alexandria Sunday afternoon for the annual Christmas parade to help kick off the holiday season.

Hundreds turned out to experience the sights and sounds of this annual event and to have a chance at winning some prizes. The honorary Grand Marshal of the parade was Caleb Brown, the young child who was seriously injured after being struck by a large rock on an outing with his family several weeks ago at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Caleb remains hospitalized so family and friends represented him in the Parade.

Click here to see more

The West Main Baptist Church of Alexandria won first place in the float competition. Jesus Loves You Tabernacle took second place and the Malone's Chapel Baptist Church received third place.

Ronald and Cathy Clayton were winners of the best vintage automobile category for their 1969 Camaro Z-28. Doyle Slager took second place for his 1960 Chevy Impala and Brad Driver received third place for his 1969 Camaro.

In the tractor category, Chris Hale won with his 1952 John Deere MT. Steven Cook received second place for his 1942 Farmall B and Travis Agee took third place for his 1936 John Deere-A.

The parade featured many other vintage cars and trucks, tractors, church floats, horseback riders, the DCHS band, Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins, Sheriff Patrick Ray, members of the Alexandria city and county fire departments, among others including Santa and Mrs. Claus. Veterans, who rode in the parade, were transported by a trolley borrowed from the town of Watertown.

Deb McCoy and Denise Barrett, organizers of the parade, wish to thank everyone for their participation and attendance and the sponsors for their support.

Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church to Present "The Living Christmas Tree- a Child of Wonder"

November 28, 2010
Dwayne Page
Living Christmas Tree- Photo by Randall Duke
Living Christmas Tree- A Child of Wonder (photo by Randall Duke)

The Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church is presenting "The Living Christmas Tree- a Child of Wonder" on Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday, December 11th, 12th, and 15th at 7:00 p.m. each night at the church gymnasium. Christmas music will be presented prior to the featured program at 6:00 p.m. Admission is FREE!

Pastor Bill Robertson said this program is the church's Christmas gift to the community. "This is our sixth year. This has become a tradition for us. The presentation lasts about an hour. The music is sung from the Christmas tree. There'll be about sixty five people singing. The lights on the tree flash during the singing which makes the presentation very appealing. Along with the music, there will be a little bit of drama calling your attention to the Christmas story. This is our Christmas gift to the community. We invite everyone to come. We'll have seating for about 500 or so people. It'll be very enjoyable."

Students Return to School after Thanksgiving Break

November 28, 2010
Dwayne Page
Jonathan Fontanez speaking at recent school board meeting

DeKalb County students will be heading back to school Monday after taking three days off for Thanksgiving last week.

Students will soon be out of school again. The winter break will be December 20th through December 31st. Friday, December 17th will be the last day students attend before winter break and that will be an abbreviated school day. Students will return after the holidays on Tuesday, January 4th to begin the third nine week session.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Fontanez, Supervisor of Instruction for grades 7-12, reminds students and parents about the upcoming state assessments. "We have our high school state assessments coming up for the first semester. We want to make sure students are prepared and that parents are ready to help their students get prepared for these state assessments."

"We have our AYP end of course assessments which are mandated by the state that go toward adequate yearly progress on December 7th, 8th, and 9th in the subjects of algebra I, English II, and biology I. These assessments help us to measure our student's growth and how well they are mastering material."

"In addition to those AYP end of courses, we have another set of state mandated end of course assessments which will be on the following week in December, in U.S. History and English IX. Additionally, we have finals coming up as the semester closes out prior to Christmas. Those final exams are scheduled to be on December 15th & 16th with the last day of school before the Christmas break on December 17th."

"We just want to remind everyone to make the necessary preparations for these assessments. Be sure that your student gets enough rest the day prior to these assessments and has adequate preparation."

"Our annual writing assessments will be held in February in grades 5, 8, & 11."

"School has been going very well this year. Our students are working hard and our teachers are doing a diligent job and we are so thankful for the community's support. You send your students prepared each day and we're so thankful for that."

The rest of the school calendar is as follows:

Schools will be closed for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 17th and for President's Day, Monday, February 21st.

Schools will be closed for spring break March 21st-25th and for Good Friday, April 22nd.

Students will not attend on Wednesday, May 25th. That will be an administrative day and all teachers must attend. The last day of school will be Thursday, May 26. That will be an abbreviated school day and report cards will be sent home.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held Tuesday, March 15th at DeKalb County High School from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will also be held from 3:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Thursday, March 17th at DeKalb Middle School, Northside Elementary, Smithville Elementary, and DeKalb West School.

Report cards will be sent home on Thursday, January 6th, and Monday, March 14th.

AYP-EOC/Gateway Testing at DCHS will be Tuesday through Thursday, December 7th-9th and May 3rd-5th at DCHS and a make-up AYP-EOC/Gateway Test will be Friday, December 10th and May 6th.

ACT Test for the 11th grade will be Tuesday, March 8th

Writing Assessment for the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades will be February 1st. Writing Assessment make-up will be February 2nd..

TCAP testing of elementary students will be April 13th-20th

(Stockpile Days) Professional Development/Instructional Days will be held from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Monday, January 3rd, and Friday, March 18th. Students will not attend on those days.

"Kingsmen" and 'Right on Time" to sing for Toys

November 26, 2010
Dwayne Page
Kingsmen Quartet

A "Singing for Toys "will be held Thursday, December 9th at 7:00 p.m. at the DeKalb West School Gym in Liberty featuring the Kingsmen and Right on Time.

Sean Driver, a member of the group "Right on Time" said your admission is a donation of a small toy per person or a large toy per family.

All toys donated will be given to needy children. All children served will also receive a Bible. A love offering will be accepted for the Kingsmen to further their ministry. All churches are urged to participate in the donation effort and provide a list of children who are in need.

For more information, call Chad at 615-563-2423


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