Local News Articles

Plea Agreement May Be Reached In B. Don James Case

February 20, 2007
Dwayne Page

A plea agreement may be reached in the case against B. Don James.

The well known former Smithville businessman is accused of defrauding dozens of people in a so called \"Ponzi scheme\".

The case has been set for trial March 6th in U.S. District Court in Nashville.

James is named in a fifteen count indictment by a federal grand jury charging him with over $1.8 million in wire fraud.

James recently waived an appearance and submitted a written plea of \"not guilty\" at his arraignment

An order, signed by U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell, states that \"The trial in the case is set for March 6th at 9:00 a.m. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for March 2nd at 1:00 p.m.

\"Any plea agreement shall be consummated by February 26th and the courtroom deputy so notified. Any proposed plea agreement shall be submitted to the court by February 27th.\"

\"Any motion to continue the trial, pretrial conference or plea dates, shall be filed no later than one week before the pretrial conference date.\"

The U.S. District Court Clerk's Office reports that the status conference has been held and that the parties have indicated to the court that there were no discovery disputes. According to the clerk's office, The defendant is expected to enter into a plea agreement with the court. That plea is to be heard on March 2nd at 1:00 p.m.

If a plea is not reached and James is convicted at trial, he could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Illegal Alien Charged With Statutory Rape Of Minor

February 21, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police Investigators have made another arrest for the crime of Statutory Rape of a Minor.

27 year old Rafael Murillo of 398 College Street, Smithville, an illegal alien from Mexico, is charged with statutory rape. His bond is set at $10,000.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says\" On Monday, the parents of a 15 year old girl brought their daughter to the Police Department to report that a rape occurred by a 27 old acquaintance of the family. Investigators were able to determine that the 15 year old juvenile had been casually dating the adult with the parents also being aware of the connection. Murrillo stated he had been dating the minor since September 2006. He was routinely invited to sleep over at the juvenile's home in Liberty with the minor and that the parents were aware of the association. During the interview of the parents, minor and Murillo, officers learned that the minor's parents would also drop the juvenile off at Murillo's home late at night where the two would stay until 2:00 - 3:00 am He would then drive her back to her home in Liberty. \"

\"The investigation noted that on Sunday evening the juvenile received a call from Murillo to come over to his house in Smithville to talk about their recent breakup occurring a week earlier. The mother dropped off their daughter at Murillo's home and instructed her to be home by midnight. The minor states that the two were lying on the bed talking and Murillo began touching her without her consent. She stated that she told Murillo numerous times to stop but he continued until the sexual assault occurred. Murillo then brought the minor back to her home.

Murillo was later arrested and charged in the case.

Detectives are continuing with the investigation with additional charges possible.

Smithville Police in cooperation with our citizens, Crime Watch partners, neighboring law enforcement agencies and the media are making a difference in the fight against crime in our community. We are committed to keeping our children safe from those individuals looking for crimes of opportunity.

Woman Injured In Tuesday Night Wreck Faces DUI Charge

February 21, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 37 year old woman faces a DUI charge after being involved in a one car crash Tuesday night.

Trooper Brian Raymond of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Paula Almasri of White Street was driving south on Short Mountain Highway in a 1994 Chevy Cavaliar when she ran off the road, struck a utility pole, and overturned. The vehicle came to rest on it's roof.

Almasri got a ride from the scene and went home. She was later transported by DeKalb EMS from her home to DeKalb Community Hospital

High School Seniors Urged To Submit Scholarship Applications By Deadlines

February 21, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County High School Guidance Department urges parents to encourage their high school seniors to submit scholarship applications by the deadlines.

All local scholarship applications are due at the DCHS Guidance Office by March 20th.

The following scholarships are available:

Smithville Women's Club Scholarship

DeKalb Community Hospital- for students going into the healthcare field

DeKalb Retired Teachers Award for students who will major in education.

Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club Award for female students only.

The Elzie and Nell McBride Memorial Scholarship for future MTSU students only

The DeKalb Farmers Coop Award for students going into an agriculture or related field.

The Kyle and Kenny Robinson Memorial Scholarship for student athletes

The Matthew McAfee Memorial Scholarship for students who are members of both FBLA and FCA

DeKalb Education Foundation Award

The Lucille Stewart Memorial Scholarship Award for basketball players or basketball cheerleaders going into teaching.

DeKalb County Republican Women's scholarship

AmVets Scholarship and AmVets Auxiliary Scholarship for students who are children or grandchildren of a veteran.

The DeKalb Soil Conservation Scholarship is for students majoring in agriculture or related field, biology, or one of the life sciences.

The DeKalb Firefighters Association Scholarship is for students who have an immediate family member or grandparent who is a firefighter, EMS, or on the rescue squad. Also for students who are in the Explorer Program.

And the Liberty State Bank, DeKalb County Scottish Rite, Studio Six, Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, Allen Hooper Memorial Scholarship, Eddie Crips Memorial Scholarship, DeKalb Funeral Chapel, Smithville Rotary Club, First Bank, Class of 1966, Class of 1969, Luigi's /Bumper's Drive-In, and the Agee Oil Company Scholarship.

Parents of Alleged Rape Victim Charged with Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

February 22, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police have charged the parents of a rape victim with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says the parents knew their daughter had been intimate with the man, prior to the alleged sexual assault.\" During the course of the initial investigation it was found that the parents were aware that their 15 year old daughter had been carrying on an intimate relationship since September 2006 with 27 year old Rafael Murillo, an illegal alien. Admissions by the parents, suspect and the victim established that the parents would allow the suspect to sleep in the same room as their daughter during overnight stays at the family residence. Also the parents would drive their daughter over to the suspect's house late at night with her returning back home at 2:00 to 3:00 am in the morning.\"

The parent's identity and address will not be mentioned to safeguard the juvenile's confidentiality.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, police arrested a 25 year old woman on drug charges Sunday, after investigating a complaint of a suspicious vehicle.

Mechal Harding of 920 South Main Street, Smithville is charged with possession of a schedule VI controlled substance for resale.

Chief Stufano says \"On February 18th at approximately 2:30 p.m. Smithville Police Officers responded to the Mapco Express located at Highway 70 & Highway 56 on reported suspicious activity involving an older model pickup truck. Upon arrival Officer's made contact with Harding A computer check noted that Harding was wanted for a Failure to Appear out of North Carolina and that she also was driving on a Suspended Driver's License. As Officer's continued their investigation Harding was also in possession of a Scheduled VI Drug for resale. Harding was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $26,000 bond. Her vehicle, a 1983 Ford truck, was also seized under the state's Drug Forfeiture Act.

Woman Files Lawsuit Against County and Former Deputy in Sex Complaint

February 26, 2007
Dwayne Page

One of the women who claims that she was forced into engaging in a sexual act with former DeKalb County Deputy David Sharp, has filed a circuit court lawsuit against Sharp and the county, seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

In her lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, February 21st, Lisa Porterfield alleges that \"On or about May 26th, 2006, Sharp, while acting by virtue of or under color of his office, forced her to engage in a sexual act.\"

The lawsuit states that \"The actions of Deputy Sharp were unlawful and constituted an assault and battery upon Porterfield's person, and renders Sharp and the county liable for damages to Porterfield.\"

\"As a direct and proximate result of Sharp's conduct, Porterfield sustained severe emotional distress and mental injury and has had to undergo counseling.\"

\"Sharp's conduct was intentional and reckless and was intended to cause Porterfield severe emotional distress and mental injury and was outrageous. Porterfield's emotional distress, her treatment, and the expense of the treatment, as well as her embarrassment all directly resulted from Sharp's conduct.\"

\"Sharp's conduct was so outrageous such that punitive damages are warranted to deter the defendant's and others similarly situated from engaging in such conduct in the future.\"

\"As a result of the foregoing acts of Sharp, Porterfield suffered bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, disability, mental anguish, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, hospital and medical expenses, and loss of earning capacity. Porterfield believes that the losses she has suffered are permanent, and she will continue to suffer losses in the future as a result of the acts of the defendants.\"

Porterfield names the county as a co-defendant with Sharp claiming that \"the defendant county is liable for the wrongs of it's deputy sheriff's.\"

Earlier this month, Sharp received a total of six years probation after pleading guilty in Criminal Court to two counts of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression.

County Authorizes Another Public Referendum on Proposed Local Option Sales Tax Hike

February 26, 2007
Dwayne Page

The county commission Monday night gave it's blessing for another public referendum to increase the local option sales tax from it's current rate of 1.50% to the maximum of 2.75%, but no date for a special election was set.

The commission has also pledged to reduce the property tax rate by a minimum of nineteen and a half cents, if the referendum is approved by the voters. Last September, the commission raised the property tax rate by 39 cents to $1.90 per $100 of assessed value. A reduction of nineteen and a half cents would roll the property tax rate back to a little over $1.70 cents per $100 of assessed value

County Mayor Mike Foster says a proposed date for the referendum will most likely be set by the county commission at it's meeting in March. Community meetings may be held in the coming weeks to seek more public input on the proposal.

The first referendum to adopt the increase failed at the polls last August by 252 votes, losing 1,898 to 1,646.

Foster says that while the proposed sales tax hike would not be enough to roll back the entire 39 cent property tax increase from last fall, it would still create enough extra revenue to allow for a significant tax cut to property owners. \"We think it's fair. According to numbers supplied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, there are approximately four million people who visit Center Hill Lake each year. That's why our sales tax numbers are higher in July than in December. If we have to answer emergency calls down there (lake), you and I are paying for of the sheriff's calls, all of the benefits, and all of the infrastructure for the tourists. But this way (sales tax hike), they get to pick up part of that bill. Plus, it gives our taxpayers at least a 10% cut in property taxes.\"

Foster added that \"Everybody on this board (county commission) has agreed that they would sign a statement guaranteeing that they will take this (19 ? cents) off the property tax rate if the referendum is approved by the voters. We will publish it in the newspapers and announce it on the radio so that the people will understand what we're doing.\"

Plans Underway to Establish Freshman Academy at DCHS

February 28, 2007
Dwayne Page

Plans are in the making to establish a Freshman Academy at DeKalb County High School, possibly starting with the 2007-2008 school year.

Supervisor of Instruction Carol Hendrix says the purpose of the Freshman Academy is to help first time high school students make the transition.\" The freshman year has never been easy for students. Research shows that among high school students, 9th graders have the most difficult time with academics and transitioning into a new environment. Research has also shown that the best way to solve this problem is for freshmen to transition into a small learning community, specifically a freshman academy. Freshman year has also been identified as a year that students have the greatest problems with the greatest possibility of failure and risk of not being promoted to the next grade and eventually dropping out of school.\"

\"The concept of the freshman academy is relatively simple. The academy operates as a school within a school as it will operate in DeKalb County High School. Students are grouped together to take core courses with the same group of teachers increasing the support received from those teachers.\"

\"Students will have the advantage of a different bell system, a different lunch schedule, and they will have all their classes in one specific area in the building. Students will attend all extracurricular activities such as band, basketball, baseball, etc along with the other student population. We're hoping clubs and events will also be developed for students in the freshman academy. This will include all first time students at DCHS if we implement it this next year.\"

\"This past year and the two years previous, a team from this county visited some of the freshman academies in the state and we decided that this would really be good for our school.\"

Murfreesboro Man Seriously Injured In Motorcycle-Pickup Truck Crash

March 1, 2007
Dwayne Page

A Murfreesboro man was seriously injured in a motorcycle and pickup truck collision Wednesday afternoon outside the city limits in front of DeKalb Market on Highway 70.

Trooper Allen England of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says 56 year old William Cope, the operator of a 2004 Harley Davidson motorcycle, was airlifted from the scene by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger hospital in Chattanooga with serious injuries, especially to his leg.

Trooper England says the accident occurred at 2:45 p.m. when 61 year old Herbert Smallwood of Gainesboro, driving east on Highway 70 in a 1999 Ford Ranger, attempted to make a left turn into the parking lot of DeKalb Market. As he made his turn, Smallwood crossed into the path of Cope's motorcycle, which was traveling west on Highway 70.

Trooper England says Smallwood was cited for failure to yield. He was not injured.

The crash was investigated by Trooper England with assistance from Trooper Keith Maddox. Others providing assistance were members of the DeKalb County and Smithville Volunteer Fire Departments, DeKalb EMS, Sheriff's Deputies, and a Smithville Police Officer.

Investigator Elliott Named

March 1, 2007
Dwayne Page

Investigator William Elliott, member of the Smithville Police Department, has been named \"Officer of the Month\".

Signed by Chief Thomas J. Stufano, Mayor Taft Hendrixson, and Police Commissioner Aaron Meeks, the commendation states that \" On behalf of the City of Smithville Police Department I would like to commend you for your recent actions and diligent efforts in your capacity as Police Investigator. Your determination and efforts this month in handling numerous drug investigations and subsequent seizures of property relating to drug activity has resulted in the successful prosecution of offenders that sold drugs within the city of Smithville.\"

\"Due to your professional training, the many hours of dedicated service on your own time and the professionalism displayed during prosecution of these crimes, know that you are making a difference for the citizens of Smithville in our joint efforts to deter drugs in our community. Your expertise enabled the citizens of Smithville, your fellow co-workers and guests of our area to know that their call for ZERO tolerance on drugs is working. You have served with distinction and are a credit to your professionalism as a Smithville Police Officer.\"

\"Additionally, your work ethic and tenacity during the month of February has shown your true commitment to the citizens we serve and your fellow officers.\"

\"I appreciate your input and current performance and for that you are hereby formally recognized and commended with a copy of this Commendation becoming apart of your permanent personnel record for all to see.\"

\"Congratulations on a job well done!\"


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