Local News Articles

Community Joins in Prayer for Our Schools

August 3, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Local Ministers Offer Prayers for Our Schools
Members of Community Join in Prayer for Our Schools
Annual Prayer for Our Schools Observance

Members of the community turned out Sunday afternoon to join in a special "Prayer Service for Schools" observance at the DeKalb County High School gym.

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. "It started out a long time ago with a group of teachers who got together on the Sunday before school started and prayed. Each year they invited more and more people. Somewhere along the line someone said we need to keep this thing going so we started organizing and getting the ministers involved. We try to get ministers from all across the county from different denominations because it's great when different denominations come together to praise God and pray. I truly believe God blesses those efforts," said local minister Larry Green who moderated the program Sunday.

Among the local ministers participating were Larry Steffee of the Center Hill Brethren In Christ (who prayed for Smithville Elementary School), Jimmy Arms of the Upper Helton Baptist Church (who prayed for DeKalb West School), Isaac Gray of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church (who prayed for DCHS), Phil Tollett of the Allen's Chapel and Buckner's Chapel United Methodist Churches (who prayed for the Transportation Department), Jeff Armstrong of the Smithville Church of God (who prayed for Northside Elementary School), and Don Davidson of the Real Life Community Church (who prayed for DeKalb Middle School)

Green gave persons in the audience an opportunity to offer a prayer. Luke Willoughby stepped forward to pray for parents and their children and School Board member Kenny Rhody prayed for the school board.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby also made some remarks at the beginning of the program on the importance of prayer.

After the program, Green spoke with WJLE. "I think in everything we do, we need to bathe it in prayer. The Bible tells us we need to pray about everything. The scripture says pray without ceasing so prayer is an important part of our lives as Christians and as people of God so we need to pray for our school system. If we don't have enough faith in God to protect our school system and protect our students, teachers, and administration then we need to take a look at what we're really about because prayer is that lifeline," said Green.

(TOP PHOTO: Larry Steffee, Jimmy Arms, Isaac Gray, Phil Tollett, Jeff Armstrong, Don Davidson, and Larry Green)

Almost 2400 Vote Early, Election Day is Thursday

August 3, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

A total of 2,399 persons cast ballots during the fourteen days of early voting for the August 7 elections. Early voting concluded Saturday, August 2

A total of 2,253 voted in person and 146 by absentee.

Of the 2,399 voters, a total of 866 voted in the Tennessee Republican Primary, 696 voted in the Tennessee Democratic Primary, and 835 voted only in the DeKalb County General Election without voting in either state primary. There were three provisional ballots cast.

Thursday, August 7 is election day. Voting at all sixteen precincts will be from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. WJLE will have LIVE election return coverage.

The following is the early voting turnout each day between July 18 and August 2

Friday, July 18: 213 voters
Saturday, July 19: 115 voters
Monday, July 21: 211 voters
Tuesday, July 22: 153 voters
Wednesday, July 23: 147 voters
Thursday, July 24: 210 voters
Friday, July 25: 178 voters
Saturday, July 26: 135 voters
Monday, July 28: 187 voters
Tuesday, July 29: 144 voters
Wednesday, July 30: 132 voters
Thursday, July 31: 223 voters
Friday, August 1: 173 voters
Saturday, August 2: 178 voters

The following is the early voting turnout by precinct:
Alexandria: 122
Temperance Hall: 66
Edgar Evins State Park: 6
Liberty: 96
Dowelltown:66
Snow Hill:143
Church of God:514
Cherry Hill:12
Rock Castle:3
Courthouse:439
Johnson Chapel:60
County Complex:301
Belk: 48
Keltonburg:103
Blue Springs:87
Church of Christ:330

Leadership DeKalb Assisting School Programs

August 3, 2014
by: 
By: April B. Martin, PhD
Leadership DeKalb Assisting School Programs

In his classic essay titled The Servant as a Leader, author Robert Greenleaf introduced us to the concept of servant leadership and defined it as “the desire to serve.” The "servant's heart," is a fundamental characteristic of a servant-leader. It is not about being servile; it is about wanting to help others. It is about identifying and meeting the needs of colleagues, customers, and communities.

The Leadership DeKalb Class of 2014 was comprised of ten community leaders, citizens, business owners, students, educators, health care professionals, and managers. During our monthly meetings over the last year, we learned an immense amount of information about the community in which we all live. Now, as we direct our energies into our class service project, we are learning the importance of servant leadership.

Our class discussed several worthwhile and deserving projects which we could contribute to, but the one which we felt would have the most impact is what we call “Tools for Students.”

The Leadership DeKalb Class of 2014 is asking for support from the community in assisting our schools with the resources they need to teach arts, music, and the physical education for every student in the DeKalb County school system. This project is being coordinated with the DeKalb County Foundation for Education, which is a 501 (c) 3 organization and will allow contributions to be tax deductible.

How can you help? Our class will be collecting new or gently used art supplies from companies or individuals. Examples include paint, paintbrushes, paper, pastels, and charcoal pencils. To assist with physical education classes, companies or individuals can donate new or gently used sports equipment such as balls, jump ropes, and hula hoops. Music classes need gently used or new instruments.

Who will benefit from your donation? Every child in DeKalb County who participates in any physical education, art, or music class will have the benefit of these resources made possible through your donation. Monetary donations can also be accepted. Checks should be made out to DeKalb County Foundation for Education.

Who do I contact and where can I make my donation? There are three locations in Smithville where donations or monetary gifts can be dropped off. 1) Kim Frazier, DeKalb Community Hospital; 2) April Martin, UT Extension Office; and 3) Eli Gill, DeKalb Tire and Service.

For more information on this project, please contact either April Martin at 615-597-4945, Kim Frazier at 615-215-5000 or Eli Gill at 615-597-9400.

Photo Caption: Leadership DeKalb 2014 Class Members. Front row, left to right: Jen Sherwood, Executive Director of Leadership DeKalb , David Barrett, Lisa Cripps, Alejandra Cisneros Conohan, and Raul Ramirez. Second row, left to right: Shannon Atkins, Joe Green, April Martin, and Eli Gill. Third row, left to right: Jordan Wilkins, Kim Frazier, Shannon Jones, and Emmaly Bennett.

Man Sentenced for Burglary and Attempted Assault

August 2, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Judge David Patterson

A Smithville man pled guilty Monday in DeKalb County Criminal Court to aggravated burglary and attempted aggravated assault for allegedly breaking into his neighbor's apartment and attacking another neighbor with a knife last October.

Judge David Patterson sentenced 38 year old Russell Blackwell to three years of probation in the attempted aggravated assault case with the sentence to run consecutive to a violation of probation against him. The aggravated burglary case was dismissed. Blackwell was given jail credit from November 1, 2013 to July 28, 2014.

According to Detective Brandon Donnell, who investigated the case, Smithville Police received a call of a stabbing on Tuesday, October 15 at City Walk Apartments. "Sergeant Andy Snow contacted me and I initiated an investigation. It was determined that Blackwell forced his way into an apartment, causing damage to the front door, and started fighting with the resident there. As another neighbor got between the two to try and break up the fight, Blackwell allegedly pulled a large kitchen knife and cut the neighbor several times who was trying to stop the fight. After the assault, Blackwell ran out of the apartment and allegedly threw the knife on top of the building before returning to his own residence in the apartment complex," said Detective Donnell.

After witnesses identified Blackwell as the man responsible for the assault, police went to his apartment where they found Blackwell and placed him under arrest. The knife was also retrieved from the top of the apartment building.

The wounded man in the knife attack was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was treated and released.

38 year old David Wayne Dowell pleaded guilty to theft under $500 and vandalism under $500 and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days in each case to run consecutively for a total sentence of almost two years with ninety days to serve.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Thursday, May 16, 2013 Dowell allegedly vandalized a lock on a garage and broke into a residence on Echols Heights in Liberty. Upon talking with the owner, it was determined the following items were stolen: a weedeater and string, boat oars, tool box, tools, orange extension cord, and a yellow five gallon gas can all totaling less than $500. After an investigation, it was determined that Dowell had committed the crimes. He was arrested on Saturday, May 18, 2013.

19 year old Zack Walker pleaded guilty to burglary and received a two year sentence on state probation. He must undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the recommendations.

30 year old Ronald "Jag" Jagnandan pled guilty to sale of a schedule II drug and received a three year sentence suspended to probation. He was fined $2,000 and must make $60 restitution to the sheriff's department.

33 year old Garth Wayne Cantrell pled guilty to attempted sale of a schedule II drug and received a two year sentence suspended to probation. He was fined $2,000.

42 year old Kristie Renea Waggoner pled guilty to a second offense of driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended except for 45 days to serve. She will be on supervised probation for 11 months and 29 days and will lose her license for a period of two years. She was fined $610. Waggoner must complete the Alcohol Safety Education Program and submit to an alcohol and drug assessment and follow any recommended treatment. She must serve seventeen days in jail and will be given twenty eight days credit for in-house treatment as scheduled.

30 year old Erik Cortes Suarez pled guilty to a second offense of driving under the influence and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days suspended to 45 days to serve including twenty eight days in rehab and seventeen days at a DUI education center. He will be on supervised probation. Suarez was also fined $610 and he must complete an alcohol safety education program.

Infinity Athletics Holds Summer Camp

August 1, 2014
Infinity Athletics Holds Summer Camp

Infinity Athletics held their annual Summer Stars Cheer Camp July 28-30 for ages 6-12. The campers learned how to do motions and jumps, and stunt and tumble like an allstar. A 2 minute 30 second routine was performed for the parents on the final day. Each camper received a certificate, t shirt and trophy.

Pictured are:
(Top Row) Kendall Davis, Marissa Clark, Lydia Phillips, Audrey Philips, Sophia Angeletti

(Middle Row) Natalya McCarty, Keara Milligan, Kennedi Clark, Jayme Hayes

(Bottom Row) Lola Colwell, Annabella Dakas, Caroline Crook, Lilly Anderson, Brylee Kirby

DeKalb Jobless Rate Increases to 7% in June

August 1, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for June was 7%, up from the rate for May of 6.3% but still below the rate for June, 2013 of 8.8%.

The local labor force for June, 2014 was 9,260. A total of 8,620 were employed and 650 were unemployed.

DeKalb County's Jobless Rate for June was fourth lowest in the fourteen county Upper Cumberland region.

Here's how they rank from highest to lowest:
Pickett: 10.7%
Van Buren: 10.3%
Clay: 9.3%
White: 9.1%
Jackson: 8.8%
Cumberland: 8.3%
Overton: 8.3%
Warren: 8.2%
Fentress: 8%
Putnam.7.2%
DeKalb: 7%
Macon: 6.9%
Cannon: 6.7%
Smith:6.3%

County unemployment rates for June 2014 show the rate increased in all 95 counties.

Davidson County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate in June at 6.0 percent, up from 5.2 in May. Knox County was 6.3 percent in June, up from 5.3 in May. The Hamilton County June rate was 7.2 percent, up from 6.2 in May. Shelby County was 8.8 percent in June, up from 7.5 in May.

The Tennessee unemployment rate for June was 6.6 percent, up from 6.4 in May; the U.S. rate was 6.1 percent, down from 6.3 in May.

The state and national unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted while the county unemployment rates are not. Seasonal adjustment is a statistical technique that eliminates the influences of weather, holidays, the opening and closing of schools, and other recurring seasonal events from economic time series.

Six Receive Diplomas at Drug Court Graduation

July 31, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Drug Court Graduation

Two adults and four juveniles along with their families, friends and mentors, gathered Wednesday to celebrate their graduation from the DeKalb County Drug Court program.

The observance was held at the county complex. The adult graduates Tim Bogle and Crystal Baker and the four juveniles received a framed diploma certificate noting their completion of the drug court program through which participants commit to becoming clean and sober.

The drug court program provides an alternative to incarceration for eligible non-violent offenders. "Our juvenile drug court program began in 2002. As we speak today there are only four juvenile drug courts in the state of Tennessee. Of course we are one of them. In fact, DeKalb and Putnam Counties were the first two juvenile drug courts in the state of Tennessee. There are quite a few adult drug courts. Our juvenile drug court in DeKalb County was so successful the first few years of its operation that in 2005 we put together a plan to start an adult drug court program," said General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook, II in an interview with WJLE. "Tonight we had four juveniles that graduated and we had two adults who graduated from the adult program. Both of our adult graduates, during the course of their participation, had zero sanctions which is amazing. And when I say sanctions, it could be something as minor as not turning in a budget every week or missing a meeting. Certainly a failed drug test would be a sanction. But both of our adult graduates had zero sanctions. Both have been drug free for more than a year. We're extremely proud of them. Both of them came to us straight from jail as most of our drug court participants do so instead of the county spending some $18,000 or $20,000 a year each on our drug court participants, in drug court I think the figure is like $3,000 or $4,000 a year per person. It's a win-win for everyone, said Judge Cook.

"From the drug court staff point of view, we're the ones who really have contact with them all throughout the week," said Norene Puckett, Coordinator of the DeKalb County Drug Court program. "They (drug court participants) have so many requirements so for them to graduate with no sanctions is a very big deal. They have meetings they have to go to every week. Multiple meetings a week. Drug screens. They have to go through random drug screens. They have to turn in all sorts of paperwork to prove they are going to the meetings and have a job. Both of our adults are employed full time now and are active members of the community. The juveniles have all completed their initial treatment. They have completed A and D classes throughout the week. The Positive Action Prevention Program has also been completed by them and they are in good academic standing in their high schools," she said

"The adult program lasts a minimum of twelve months and the juvenile program is a minimum of six months. Any juvenile can be referred to the program through parents, through DCS workers, teachers, and various other ways. Once they are referred to the program, we do different screenings and assessments on them and make a recommendation to the court as to whether they (juveniles) would be good candidates for the program. As far as adult participants, they must have some kind of criminal charge (to participate in drug court). No violent offenders can be in the program. They can come (into the program) through a variety of ways as far as a violation of probation or any kind of drug charge, theft charges, and things like that. Typically they are all facing a minimum of a year to serve so this program is an alternative to incarceration. I've heard the judge tell plenty of participants it's a lot easier to just lay down there (jail) for a year and do their time and we make it very clear to them that it is easier. You can go down to the jail and get served three meals a day or you can get into this program and have a new chance at life. You can graduate like our graduates tonight who have over a year being clean and are working and having their children back and their lives restored. But there are a lot of things they have to do. A lot of the program teaches responsibility and teaches them the tools to stay clean. That's really the benefit to the participants. Of course the benefit to the community is that it saves taxpayer dollars. We get state grants and we're hoping to get a new federal grant that helps pay for the program," said Puckett.

The drug court graduation program Wednesday featured guest speaker Janice Fish-Stewart and former drug court graduate speaker John A. Williams. Stewart currently serves as the Human Resource Manager for YFS Automotive Systems in Gallatin. In her current role as Human Resource Manager, Stewart has designed and implemented Employee Wellness Programs in all of ABC Group's US locations. The program has received recognition from Wellness Councils of America and the Nashville Business Journal being cited as one of Nashville's Healthiest of Employers in 2011, 2012, and most recently in 2014. She served on the Board of the DeKalb County Drug Court in addition to facilitating the Clean and Sober Classes for several years.

Drug court team members who oversee the program locally in addition to Judge Cook and Drug Court Coordinator Puckett are Sheriff Patrick Ray, Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong, John and Kay Quintero from Haven of Hope, primary treatment providers; Assistant Public Defender Allison Rasbury West, Probation Officer Ashley Lasser, Juvenile Case Manager Kristy Longmire, and Adult Case Manager Les Trout.

(PHOTO ABOVE: Seated- Crystal Baker and Tim Bogle. Standing left to right- Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, John Quintero of Haven of Hope, Juvenile Case Manager Kristy Longmire, Kay Quintero of Haven of Hope, Assistant District Public Defender Allison Rasbury West, Drug Court Coordinator Norene Puckett, General Sessions/Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook, II, Guest speaker Janice Fish-Stewart, Matt Boss, Sheriff Patrick Ray, Assistant District Attorney General Greg Strong, and Adult Case Manager Les Trout)

DeKalb Schools Open for Registration Thursday

July 30, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County Schools will re-open Thursday, July 31 with registration for students who have not already signed up. That will be an abbreviated school day from 7:45 a.m. until 9:30 a.m.

An exception will be made for DeKalb West School where construction remains in progress. Only NEW students to DeKalb West School will need to register Thursday, July 31 and that sign-up will take place at Salem Baptist Church in Liberty. All DWS students who were enrolled last year will NOT attend on Thursday. Buses will still transport high school students from the West School on Thursday. The first day of school for DeKalb West is still set for Monday, August 4. Returning students will be given registration packets to take home that day. Workers are burning the midnight oil finishing up the new addition and other renovations at the school.

Friday, August 1 will be an administrative day for teachers only.

The first full day of school for all students will be Monday, August 4.

The annual First Day of School Education Celebration (FREE SCHOOL SUPPLIES) will be Thursday, July 31 starting at 6:30 p.m. on the Smithville public square.

(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO VIEW THE ACTUAL CALENDAR)

2014 15 Academic Calendar.pdf (139.97 KB)

County Commission Approves Air Ambulance Deal for Residents

July 30, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Erlanger Lifeforce

In an effort to ensure DeKalb County residents can afford to be flown to a trauma facility for treatment and not be burdened with emergency helicopter bills in the future, the county commission Monday night voted to contract with the AirMedCare Network to provide the service. But County Mayor Mike Foster told WJLE Wednesday that questions have since been raised and the contract won't be signed until more information is provided by AirMedCare.

If the deal goes through, the cost to the county is expected to be more than $71,000 this year. According to Foster, the original proposal by AirMedCare, as discussed in previous budget committee meetings, was too expensive and wasn't included in this year's budget. But after the proposed budget was finalized, the county reconsidered and decided to fund it with a budget amendment after AirMedCare revised its offer. During Monday night's meeting, the county commission adopted the agreement on a 10-2 vote. Those voting in favor were Mason Carter, Elmer Ellis, Jr., Jerry Scott, Bradley Hendrix, Jerry Adcock, Rick Cantrell, Jeff Barnes, Marshall Ferrell, Larry Summers, and Jimmy Poss. Wayne Cantrell and David McDowell voted against it.

The AirMedCare Network is an alliance among Air Evac Lifeteam, EagleMed, REACH Air Medical Services, and Med-Trans Air Medical Transport creating America's largest air ambulance membership network. An AirMedCare Network Membership automatically enrolls patients in all 4 membership programs, providing membership coverage in over 200 locations across 28 states.

According to AirMedCare, the average bill for a medical air flight is now $25,000. But under this program residents who live within DeKalb County and are air lifted by Erlanger Life Force or the Air Evac Life Team from any location in the county for emergency treatment, will not be billed for the flight as long as they are insured at the time of transport. Patients who are not insured will be billed the "Medicare Allowable Rate". The deal does not apply to patients served by Vanderbilt Life Flight or any other service not in the AirMedCare Network.

Coverage is limited to accidents or medical events inside the county unless residents sign up and pay the $35 upgrade membership fee that covers them and their entire household within AirMedCare's network.

Without the county's participation, patients can get the same coverage from AirMedCare by paying an annual $65.00 household membership fee.

According to County Mayor Foster, the numbers show that the AirMedCare Network (Lifeforce or Air Evac) completed a total of 224 medical flights from DeKalb County between July 1, 2013 to July 28, 2014. Vanderbilt Life Flight completed a total of 71 flights from DeKalb County between January, 2013 to July 28, 2014.

AirMedCare apparently proposes to send the following letter to DeKalb County residents if the contract is signed by the county:

"Great news! Your County Commission has partnered with Erlanger Lifeforce to provide you with a tremendous opportunity. As a DeKalb County resident, you are now covered by a limited AirMedCare Network membership. While you are in DeKalb County, and are insured at time of flight, you will have no out of pocket expense. If you are uninsured at the flight, you will have a reduced bill at the Medicare Allowable Rate."

"In addition to this limited membership, you now have the ability to upgrade to full membership benefits with coverage in the entire AirMedCare Network service area. DeKalb County residents are eligible to upgrade your Entire household for only $35 per year."

"As your local air ambulance, serving area residents from our surrounding bases, Erlanger Lifeforce understands the critical aspect of time in treating medical emergencies. For those of us living in rural America, recovery from illness or injury can depend on how much time it takes to be transported to definitive emergency medical treatment. Erlanger Lifeforce can cut that transportation time in half."

"Even with medical insurance, an air medical transport can leave you with unexpected out-of-pocket expenses, burdening you and your family's finances. Upgrading to a full AMCN membership will alleviate this burden. As an AMCN member, if you or family household members are flown by any AMCN provider throughout our 28 state coverage area for a life or limb threatening emergency, you will receive no out-of-pocket expenses. We will work with your benefits provider to secure payment for your flight and what insurance pays will be considered payment-in-full. If you do not have air medical insurance, as a full member of AMCN you will still not be billed."

"Erlanger Lifeforce is part of the AirMedCare Network, the largest United States Air Ambulance Membership Network. A full AMCN membership automatically enrolls you in all provider membership programs, (Air Evac Lifeteam, Med-Trans Air Medical Transport, EagleMed, and REACH Air Medical Services) giving you membership coverage in over 220 locations across 28 states. All AMCN service providers work cooperatively to provide the highest levels of care for you, your family, and your community."

"Upgrade today and you can receive a full membership in the AirMedCare Network at an even lower price compared to the standard individual membership programs, giving you membership across four leading air ambulances operators for the price of one," the letter concludes.

Reyes Gets 32 Year Prison Sentence for Child Rape

July 29, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jose Reyes

A man who stood trial earlier this month and was convicted of raping an eight year old boy received a 32 year prison term Monday in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

During a sentencing hearing, Judge David Patterson gave 31 year old Jose Reyes just eight years short of the maximum penalty on the charge for which he was found guilty, Rape of a child. The range of punishment in the case was 25 to 40 years.

A motion for a new trial will be heard on August 28

Reyes is accused of raping the boy between November 2012 and March 2013.

The trial was held on Tuesday, July 1 in DeKalb County Criminal Court and it took the jury of six men and six women only half an hour to find Reyes guilty of the crime.

According to Gary McKenzie, Deputy District Attorney General, one of the prosecutors in the case, Reyes was a trusted friend of the boy and his family prior to this incident and he had been renting a room in the home of the child's aunt. "Jose was an acquaintance of the aunt. Somehow there was a friendship. He asked to rent a room and it kind of went from there. It (offense) occurred at the aunt's home. That's where it took place," said McKenzie following the trial.

The child, who has just turned ten years old, testified during the trial that he was at his aunt's home when Reyes committed the act while the two of them were alone in Reyes' bedroom. Although the child did not immediately report the incident to his aunt, he did relate it to his grandmother later while at her home. When the boy's mother learned of the incident, she took him to the sheriff's department to report it, according to the grandmother.

During Monday's hearing Greg Strong, Assistant District Attorney General, asked Judge Patterson to impose the maximum penalty for the crime of 40 years and argued that several enhancing factors called for it including that the victim was particularly vulnerable because of his age or physical or mental disability; the offense was committed by the defendant to gratify his desire for pleasure or excitement; that the defendant had no hesitation about committing a crime when the risk to human life was high; that the defendant abused a position of public or private trust in a manner that significantly facilitated the commission or the fulfillment of the offense; and that the defendant knew or should have known that, at the time of the offense, he was HIV positive.

Strong noted that the family's Victim Impact Statement further explains how the crime has affected them. The child's mother wrote that the crime of child rape affects the whole family. It has affected her child in many ways. He has been in trouble at school and is not able to concentrate. He has mood swings and suffers from low self esteem. And because of the rape, the child has to be frequently tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

While the family sought the maximum sentence for Reyes, they are praying for him, according to a brief statement from the child's mother read by Assistant DA Strong during Monday's hearing. "I and (the child) forgive you and pray for you daily and pray you find peace and forgiveness for yourself".

In a formal statement to the court, Reyes maintained his innocence. For some thirty minutes, Reyes through an interpreter talked about his relationship with the victim and his family and explained why he was not guilty of the crime.

Allison West, Assistant District Public Defender, asked the court to impose the minimum sentence and to discount the enhancing factors offered by the state prosecutors. " We understand that Mr. Reyes has been convicted of a very serious offense. As the court can tell from what he has to say, he maintains his innocence. Mr. Reyes does not have a significant criminal history. He has only two DUI's (from 2005 in DeKalb County and another from 2009 in White County). He has no felony history and no violent history. He is not a native to our country and does not understand the appropriate actions or consequences of his actions as we might see them. We would ask the court to impose a 25 year sentence," said West.

While Judge Patterson did not find appropriate all the enhancing factors offered by the state in this case , he did take into consideration Reyes' previous history of criminal conviction or behavior; the personal injury inflicted or impact on the victim; and an abuse of Reyes' position of trust in reaching his decision for a 32 year sentence.

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