Local News Articles

Smithville Police and TBI Investigating Double Homicide

August 7, 2012
Dwayne Page
Smithville Police Detective Brandon Donnell and TBI Agent

Smithville Police and TBI are investigating a double homicide.

M2U00811 from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Two bodies were found at a residence on Tommy Harrell Street Tuesday afternoon.

Police Chief Randy Caplinger said one body was inside the home. Sources say the other body was found under a pile of debris outside the residence. "We received a 911 call around 2:30 p.m. and officers arrived on the scene," said Chief Caplinger. " At the time we were unsure as to what had happened. We entered the house and found one deceased. During the investigation, we located a second deceased so it turns out to be a double homicide," he said

Police haven't released the names of the victims, pending positive identification and notification of relatives
"We think we know the name of one victim but all the family members have not been notified. We're still investigating and interviewing all the witnesses. We're interviewing family members, neighbors, anyone who can give us information," he said.

"We're being assisted by the TBI, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and the Smithville Fire Department has been a great help to us," said Chief Caplinger

No arrests have yet been made. " We're checking into some leads we have but nothing has been confirmed. We're still putting all the information together," according to the chief.

When asked if it was a shooting, Chief Caplinger said "we don't know but that's what we think it is. We're still going through the evidence," he said.

Others assisting in the investigation are the District Attorney General's Office and the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Unit. A special thanks to DeKalb Market and Bumpers Drive-In for providing food for the officers and volunteers at the scene.

City Looks to Simplify Process for Property Rights Voting in November Referendum

August 7, 2012
Dwayne Page
Dennis Stanley

The DeKalb County Election Commission is offering a proposal to the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen that would hopefully make the election process go smoother for city property rights voters in the November

Voters county wide, at all sixteen precincts, will be casting ballots for candidates in the Presidential election along with U.S. Senate and State Representative races in November. But in the City of Smithville, which includes the Courthouse, Middle School, County Complex, and Church of Christ Annex precincts, city voters will also be voting in a referendum on
whether to allow liquor stores in the City of Smithville. Only voters residing inside the city limits and property rights voters, who own property in the city but who live outside the city in DeKalb County and are qualified to vote, will be allowed to cast ballots in this referendum.

Unless the board acts to make the change proposed by the election commission office, approximately 160 property rights voters would likely have to go to two places to vote on election day in November. They would vote at their regular precinct by machine in the county-wide election, and then would have to come to one of the four precincts in Smithville to vote just in the referendum. That referendum vote would likely be on a paper ballot. This process will only apply to property rights voters, those who live outside the city in DeKalb County but who have property inside the
city and are qualified to vote in a city election.

If city property rights voters choose to cast ballots during early voting, they would likely have to come to the courthouse and vote in the county-wide election by machine and then go through the line again to vote by paper ballot just in the city referendum. Again, this process will only apply to property rights voters, those who live outside the city in DeKalb
County but who have property inside the city and are qualified to vote in a city election.

Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, told the mayor and aldermen Monday night that under state law, the city could adopt an ordinance which would allow property rights voters to cast ballots in city elections or city referendums only by paper ballot through the mail. Such an ordinance would have to be adopted on two separate readings, like any ordinance, but this one would have to be approved by September 7 in order for it to go into effect by the November election this year.

Stanley said the city could choose to make this process binding for all future city elections for property rights voters, or it could only be made to apply for this one and only referendum issue in November.

Since no ordinance making such a change has yet been prepared by City Attorney Vester Parsley, the mayor and aldermen have decided to wait until the next meeting to act. If approved on first reading at the August 20th
meeting, a second and final reading would be scheduled following a public hearing at a special meeting the following week.

State law on this issue states that" In the case of individuals who are registered to vote in a municipality as non-resident property owners, the municipal legislative body may, by ordinance, direct such voters to cast the municipal ballots as absentee by mail ballots. Any municipal ordinance adopted pursuant to this section must be adopted and filed with the county election commission office no later than sixty days before the election."

"Upon the filing of the municipal ordinance, a non-resident property owner may not thereafter vote in the election except by absentee ballot. No later than forty five days before the election, the election commission shall mail a notice to each voter registered as a non-resident property owner of the municipality advising the voter of the voting process and
include an application for ballot for the municipal election."

"The election commission shall maintain a record of the municipal ordinance and shall not require a municipality to adopt subsequent ordinances, unless the municipality has repealed such ordinance since the last election".

Smithville to Re-Apply for FEMA Grant Funds to Hire Firefighters

August 7, 2012
Dwayne Page
Fire Chief Charlie Parker (older photo)

The Smithville Aldermen Monday night gave their blessing for the fire department to re-apply for a FEMA Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant, which if approved, would fund the hiring of firefighters for up to two years at no costs to the city.

The aldermen first voted to apply for this grant in March but Fire Chief Charlie Parker said Monday night that the application was not approved. He asked the aldermen to allow him to try again. If approved, the grant would fund salaries and benefits for a certain number of firefighters. The city would be under no obligation to keep funding the positions locally after the grant funds are exhausted.

Chief Parker said while the first application was denied, the city fire department drew favorable comments from FEMA officials.

In a letter to Chief Parker, Elizabeth M. Harman, FEMA Grant Programs Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, wrote that "Each SAFER application was subjected to a two-phase review, with each phase carrying equal weight. The first phase was an automated assessment of how well the application matched the Program's priorities. The second phase was a review by a panel of fire service peers. The panelists assigned scores to four elements of your application narrative: (1) clarity of the project description, (2) demonstration of financial need, (3) impact on daily operations, and (4) realization of cost/benefits. Each of the two phases of the review carried equal weight and each phase was worth 50% of the application's overall score."

"Given the high number of applications received, it is not feasible for us to provide a detailed account of how each individual application was rated in the competitive process," wrote Harman. " However, we can tell you that your application faired reasonably well in the automated assessment and in the second phase, the peer review panel scores indicate that your application was generally good and above average but lacked the level of detail needed to be considered for funding. To help you obtain a higher score in a future SAFER grant request, it is recommended that you review the portion of your application in which you addressed the impact of the grant on daily operations, how the community and current firefighters are at risk without the grant, and to what extent that risk will be reduced if awarded."

"To further improve the competitiveness of future SAFER grant requests, we recommend that you review the part of your application that answered specific questions about your proposed SAFER activity."

The city budgeted $35,000 this year to hire a full time fire department administrator. That position has not yet been filled.

Shay Sullivan Wins Nashville's Women's Municipal Amateur Championship

August 6, 2012
Shay Sullivan Wins Nashville's Women's Municipal Amateur Championship

Rising junior Shay Sullivan won Nashville's 2012 James Fyke Municipal Amateur Women's Championship held this past weekend at the McCabe and Harpeth Hills Golf Courses in Nashville.

Sullivan of Smithville finished with a 36-hole score of 136. She carded a round of 66 on Saturday at McCabe and then posted a 70 on Sunday at Harpeth Hills to clinch the title. Shay finished ahead of second place Allyson Agee and third place finisher and fellow Bruin Evin Edens, who shot 143.

Another Bruin, Morgan McQuary, also competed in the tournament and finished with a two-day score of 156.

Sullivan becomes the third Belmont women's golfer to win the Women's Municipal Amateur title joining Esther Moon in 2005 and Evin Edens in 2011.

Murder Trial in the Death of Bob Senick Resumes Tuesday Morning (UPDATED)

August 6, 2012
Dwayne Page
Richard J. Mooney
Senick Home after Fire in October 2009

A DeKalb County criminal court jury of nine women and five men was seated just before noon and began hearing evidence Monday afternoon in the trial of 34 year old Richard J. Mooney of Watertown, charged with felony murder and theft of property over $1,000 in the October, 2009 death of 63 year old Robert "Bob" Senick, whose remains were found in the rubble of his mobile home near Liberty, which had been burned to the ground.

The indictment, returned by the Grand Jury in November, 2010, alleges that on or about October 7th, 2009, Mooney killed Senick during the perpetration of theft of property and that he did obtain or exercise control over property, to wit: cash and drugs with a value of over $1,000, being the property of Senick.

The charges against Mooney came as the result of an investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Department of Bomb and Arson, and District Attorney General Randy York and members of his staff.

Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE that Mooney is believed to have gone to the Senick home sometime either Tuesday night, October 6th or Wednesday morning, October 7th, 2009; shot Senick in the head; committed the theft; and then set fire to the mobile home.

The mobile home, which belonged to Senick, was located in an isolated area about a mile off the Liberty to Dismal Road.

According to Sheriff Ray, the mobile home had already burned to the ground by the time it was discovered and reported Wednesday morning, October 7th, 2009 at around 9:13 a.m.

Senick's body was later sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office for an autopsy. Dental records confirmed the identity of Senick, whose body was burned beyond recognition during the fire. The autopsy also confirmed that Senick had a gunshot wound to the head.

WJLE was the only news source covering the trial Monday. The following is a summary of the opening statements by the lawyers and the witness testimony so far. State prosecutors in this case are Deputy District Attorney General Gary McKenzie and Assistant D.A. Greg Strong. Mooney's attorney is Joshua Crain of Murfreesboro. The presiding judge is Leon Burns, Jr.

In his opening remarks to the jury, Assistant D.A. Strong said the state would present evidence that Mooney shot and killed Senick and that his home was burned down afterwards; that during the planning of the robbery of Senick, Mooney sought help from another man (Scotty Frankin) but that Franklin refused to participate in the crime; that the day after the murder, Mooney bought an automobile for $1,200 in cash at a car lot in Rutherford County; that DNA testing confirmed blood smears linked to Mooney were found on the exterior of Senick's car, on canopy poles supporting the awning covering Senick's car, and on a knife found on the hood of Senick's car at the crime scene; and that a few days after the murder, Mooney tried to sell a 9 millimeter pistol. Strong told the jury that there was but "one conclusion you can draw from this and that is Mooney killed Senick to rob him of pills and money".

Crain, Mooney's attorney, urged the jury to keep an open mind and open ears, to listen to all the evidence presented, and not "presume" Mooney guilty because he said the state's case is based upon "presumptions". Crain said the jury would not be able to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that Mooney killed Senick.

The state's first witness was Scotty Franklin of Carthage, a prisoner now serving a twenty year sentence for drug and theft offenses, who had given a statement to TBI agent Billy Miller during the murder investigation, saying that prior to his incarceration and before Senick's death, Mooney had tried to enlist his help in carrying out a plan to rob Senick. Agent Miller had handwritten the statement and Franklin had signed it. But during his testimony Monday, Franklin said he couldn't remember implicating Mooney in the statement to agent Miller nor could he recount the conversation he allegedly had with Mooney about robbing Senick. Franklin also indicated that he was concerned about being labeled a snitch if he testified against Mooney, saying at one point that "if you snitch in prison you'll be dealt with."

James Frazier of Liberty, the first to discover Senick's burned down trailer home, testified that he had picked up a female friend the morning of October 7, 2009 who wanted him to take her to Senick's home to get some pills. But after they arrived and discovered there had been a fire, Frazier said he took her back home and then notified Jerry Wayne Johnson of the fire. Johnson is station commander of the Liberty station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department.

Johnson testified that after being contacted by Frazier, he drove to the scene, saw that the trailer had burned down, and called 911. Johnson said a car was setting in the driveway near the home and he noticed a hunting knife on the hood. Johnson said a fire department captain soon arrived at the scene and a barricade was erected until law enforcement officers arrived.

Dr. Feng Li, a pathologist testifying for the state medical examiner's office, said that Senick's autopsy revealed that he died of a single gunshot wound to the head. The shot entered on the right side of the head behind the ear and exited on the left side of the cheek bone. Dr. Li said the nature of the wounds indicated that the weapon was probably a handgun, but he could not rule out the possibility that it may have been a rifle or some other long gun. Neither the murder weapon nor the projectile fired from the gun had been recovered. While it was the gunshot that killed Senick, Dr. Li testified that the fire, which was set after the shooting, charred Senick's entire body and that dental comparisons were required to make a positive identification.

Greg Whitaker of the Tennessee Bomb and Arson unit testified that the fire started in the south end of the Senick residence and that all reasonable sources, such as it possibly having started from weather or an electrical problem were ruled out. He said the fire appeared to have been incendiary, induced by a human. Whitaker said that while a K-9 was called to the scene, the dog did not indicate the presence of an accelerent, which often times is used to start a fire, but not always.

TBI agent Billy Miller said swipes of red brownish stains, believed to be human blood were found on two of the poles supporting the canopy or awning covering Senick's 1986 Lincoln Towncar which was parked in the driveway near the burned down trailer home. A hunting knife, inside a sheath, was setting on the hood of Senick's car. Stains, also believed to be human blood were found on the knife and the exterior of the car. Agent Miller said the poles, car, and knife were sent to the TBI Crime lab for testing.

Agent Miller testified that during the course of the investigation, he learned that Scotty Franklin, a prisoner, had some information about the case and was willing to give a statement. Miller said he met with Franklin on December 1, 2009 and took a statement from him. Prior to his incarceration, Franklin apparently had been approached by Mooney about helping him rob Senick. Agent Miller said Franklin did not appear to be under the influence of any drug or intoxicant while giving the statement.

After identifying Mooney as a suspect, Agent Miller said he met with him on November 12, 2009. When questioned about the killing, Mooney told Miller that he would not admit to anything, saying that he lived by the code not to talk to the police. According to Agent Miller, Mooney said it had been at least a month or more prior to Senick's death since he had been to Senick's home.

Almost ten months later Agent Miller obtained a search warrant to collect a DNA sample from Mooney. Miller met with Mooney on September 2, 2010 and asked him to give a sample voluntarily. Agent Miller testified that Mooney initially refused. But when Miller told Mooney that he had already obtained a search warrant and that a DNA sample could be taken involuntarily, Mooney agreed to a Buccal Swab, in which the inside of the mouth is gently rubbed with a cotton swab to collect cells for DNA testing.

When the trial resumes Tuesday morning, Agent Miller will be back on the witness stand with Mooney's attorney having his turn at asking questions.

The state still has several more witnesses to call. After the state rests, Mooney's attorney can then put on his defense. The trial is expected to go through Wednesday.

If convicted as charged, Mooney could be facing a life prison sentence.

Community Gathers to Pray for Our Schools

August 6, 2012
Dwayne Page
Community Gathers to Pray for Our Schools
Prayers for Our Schools

A large group turned out Sunday afternoon to join in a special "Prayer Service for Schools" observance at DeKalb County High School.

The prayer service has become an annual event conducted by local ministers offering prayers for each school as well as the students, teachers, transportation staff, and other employees.

Among the local ministers participating were Bill Robertson of the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church, Don Davidson of the Real Life Community Church, Dr. John Carpenter of the Smithville First United Methodist Church and Bright Hill United Methodist, Dan Gulley of the Smithville Church of Christ, Mark Bass of the Smithville First Baptist Church, Billie Friel of the Alexandria First Baptist Church, and Austin Norton, Youth Pastor of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby also made some brief remarks

The first full day of school for all students is Monday, August 6.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver to Face Sarah Marie Smith in November

August 5, 2012
Dwayne Page
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver
Sarah Marie Smith

With the primaries now over, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver and her Democratic opponent Sarah Marie Smith will be looking toward the November General Election.

Weaver was unopposed in the Tennessee Republican Primary Thursday and received 5,492 votes district-wide while Smith defeated Wesley Duane Hodges for the Democratic nomination district-wide 2,036 to 491.

Weaver is seeking her third, two year term. Smith is making her second run for this office. She ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 2008.

The 40th district now includes all of Smith and Trousdale County and a portion of DeKalb and Sumner Counties.

The following are the results of the election Thursday in each of those counties:

Democratic Primary:
DeKalb County:
Sarah Marie Smith- 399
Wesley Duane Hodges-125

Tennessee Republican Primary
DeKalb County:
Terri Lynn Weaver-802

Smith County:
Sarah Marie Smith- 1,014
Wesley Duane Hodges-133

Terri Lynn Weaver- 1,375

Trousdale County:
Sarah Marie Smith-357
Wesley Duane Hodges-94

Terri Lynn Weaver-536

Sumner County:
Sarah Marie Smith- 266
Wesley Duane Hodges-139

Terri Lynn Weaver-2,780

Death of Moore Creates Vacancy on the DeKalb Election Commission

August 5, 2012
Dwayne Page
Barbara Vanatta, Kenneth Moore, Walteen Parker, Jim Dean, Harry Lasser

With the recent death of Kenneth Moore, the DeKalb County Election Commission has a vacancy.

Moore had served as one of the democratic members of the commission since 1980. His term expires next April.

No one has yet been named to succeed Moore, but someone could be selected to fill his unexpired term. The appointment would be made by the Tennessee Election Commission.

The DeKalb County Election Commission is made up of five members.

Three members, Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean, were reappointed by the Tennessee Election Commission in April 2011. Vanatta and Dean are in their second terms. Parker has served since 1992. All three are republicans.

Harry Lasser was named to replace Nolan Turner as one of the two democratic members of the local commission in April, 2011. Moore had also been re-appointed to another term at that time.

Since the state legislature is made up of a majority of GOP lawmakers, Republicans have the right to hold majority memberships on the Tennessee Election Commission as well as all county election commissions in Tennessee. The appointments to local commissions are made by the state election commission. The term of each member is for two years.

Regarding the political division of county election commissions, state law states that " three members shall be members of the majority party and two members shall be members of the minority party".

"The members of the majority party on the state election commission shall appoint the persons who are required to be members of that party on county election commissions."

"The members of the minority party on the state election commission shall appoint the persons who are required to be members of that party on county election commissions."

"When members of another statewide political party are required to be appointed to a county election commission, they shall be nominated by the party's state primary board."

"Before appointing county election commissioners, the members of the state election commission shall consult with the members of the general assembly serving each of the counties as to the persons to be appointed to the county election commissions".

Several Local College and High School Rodeo Students Compete at State and National Finals

August 4, 2012
Brady Foster and Cody Hattaway with their 1st place  State Team Roping run
Cody Hattaway with 1st place win at State Finals
 Upper Cumberland High School Rodeo Club ( 4 are from Smithville)

Several local high school students have recently competed on both state and national levels of rodeo competition.

The Upper Cumberland High School Rodeo Club is a local group of students from the Upper Cumberland Region. These students compete in High School Rodeo's in Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and some even go on to compete at National levels such as Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Local students placed in the State Finals and the National High School Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Brady Foster a 2012 graduate of DeKalb County High School placed in the top 10 at the Tennessee State High School Rodeo Finals and placed in the top 10 for the 2012 season with Team roping partner Cody Hattaway. Brady also went on to the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Srings, Wyoming where he placed in the top 15 in light rifle firearms competition.

Cody Hattaway a Junior at DeKalb County High School placed in the top 10 with Team roping partner Brady Foster, Cody also placed 2nd at the Tennessee High School Rodeo Finals in steer wrestling or also known as bull doggin. Cody went on to compete at the National High School Finals in the trap shooting and placed in the top 20. Cody placed 13th in the Steer Wrestling.

Shara Adcock a sophomore at DeKalb County High School placed in the top ten in Team roping with partner Ramsey Goolsby from Watertown and placed in the top 10 in both break away roping and goat tying at the Tennessee High School Rodeo Finals.

Ramsey Goolsby a sophomore at Watertown High School won Rookie of the year at the Tennessee High School Rodeo Finals. Kelsy Bussell a senior at Cookeville High School also placed 13th at the National Finals.

Upper Cumberland Rodeo Club members for the 2012-2013 year are Katlyn Franklin, a senior from Sparta, Kelsy Bussell, a senior from Cookeville, Cody Hattaway, Waylon West, and Brandon Barnes, all juniors from Smithville, Shara Adcock, a sophomore from Smithville, Ramsey Goolsby, a sophmore from Watertown, Bubba Allison, a freshman of McMinnville, and Katie Bilbrey, a freshman from Cookeville.

On the College Level Clark Adcock from Smithville and Ben Walker from Cookeville, both students at the University of Tennessee at Martin placed 5th at the College National Rodeo Finals in Wyoming in the Team roping competition. The Upper Cumberland High School Rodeo will also be hosting a High School Rodeo at the Hyder-Burks Paviliion in Cookeville on October 6-7. There will be a special needs rodeo on Saturday October 6th at 2:00.

Suspicious Fire Under Investigation

August 3, 2012
Dwayne Page
Suspicious Fire Under Investigation

A fire that destroyed the residence of Marlene Goodwin on Tramel Branch Road near Alexandria Thursday is under investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Section.

Central dispatch received the call at 12:58 p.m.

County Fire Chief Donny Green said members of the Liberty, Temperance Hall, and Main Stations responded along with a tanker truck. Under a mutual aid agreement, the City of Alexandria Fire Department sent additional manpower to assist the county fire stations at the scene.

Although the home belonged to Goodwin, her daughter had apparently been living there and had either moved out or was in the process of moving. No one was there at the time of the fire. The family reportedly had a lease to own agreement with another person

Chief Green said the cause of the fire has not been determined but because it appeared suspicious, the sheriff's department was notified, who in turn contacted the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Section.

A member of the Temperance Hall Fire station received medical treatment after he collapsed from being overheated upon returning to the fire hall. He is now okay.


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