Local News Articles

D.A.'s Office Drops Drug Cases Against 20 Defendants

October 13, 2015
Dwayne Page

Two months after a not guilty verdict was returned against a man charged in an undercover drug operation by the sheriff’s department, charges against 20 other defendants have been dropped by the District Attorney General’s office.

The cases were dismissed after 63-year old Charles Ronnie Evans took his case to trial and won on one of the charges against him after defense attorneys called into question the credibility of the undercover informant and the audio and video recordings of the alleged transactions proved to be of poor quality. A mistrial was declared on a second count against Evans.

While he said he respects the D.A.’s decision to drop the remaining cases, Sheriff Patrick Ray said he “does not agree it was a practical decision to judge all cases involved on a previous ruling that questioned the integrity of a confidential informant,” adding that “many of the individuals charged in this operation had already pled guilty to buying drugs from the same confidential informant.”

The story began in January 2014 when numerous persons were indicted by the local grand jury following a three-month long drug investigation by the sheriff’s department.

In August, Evans took his case to trial and a jury returned a not guilty verdict on a charge of sale and delivery of a Schedule II drug (Roxycodone). On another charge of sale and delivery of Dilaudid, the jury’s vote was 10 in favor of acquittal and 2 members opting for a lesser included offense. As a result, Judge David Patterson declared a mistrial on the Dilaudid case.

The same informant was used in both cases and in the cases against the other defendants. Because of the informant’s criminal background, his credibility was questioned during the Evans' trial. In addition, video and audio recordings of the alleged drug transactions proved to be of poor quality.

As a result, the D.A.’s office filed court documents late last month to dismiss the charges against 20 other defendants. Judge Patterson then signed the documents the following day and later it was also announced the prosecution was dismissing the Dilaudid charge against Evans.

Sheriff Ray said he respects the D.A.’s decision in light of the recent court ruling, but does not agree it was practical to judge all cases on a previous ruling that questioned the integrity of a confidential informant.

“The use of confidential informants in undercover drug operations is, and has been, a very common practice used by all law enforcement agencies,” Ray said in a prepared statement to WJLE.

“Confidential informants are not our community’s most upstanding citizens,” he continued. “We can’t get teachers, preachers, or any other ethical citizens to act as confidential informants to make drug buys in these operations. Even if they would agree, how many drug dealers would actually sell drugs to someone who obviously does not fit the role of a drug user/dealer?”

Ray said he wanted to make it clear his department conducted the investigation “to determine if there was probable cause to charge the named defendants with crimes” and that his “detectives precisely followed the legal obligation to find probable cause. Probable cause is the standard required to effect a constitutional arrest or to issue a valid search warrant.”

In contrast, he continued, “it is the role of the court (judge and jury) to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Just because a judge or jury does not find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt does not indicate that probable cause to make the arrest did not exist. My department’s job is to investigate and arrest criminals when we find probable cause. It is not our job to determine final guilt or innocence.”

He pointed out that many of the individuals charged in the undercover operation “had already pled guilty to buying drugs from the same confidential informant that was used in the first case in which the court declared a mistrial.”

But the local case may force the sheriff’s office to look at other ways to investigate illegal drug activity.

“It has become obvious that our undercover tactic of using confidential informants is no longer a credible means to get convictions for illegal drug activities,” the sheriff said. “However, we will move forward and continue to explore new ways to effectively investigate and prosecute criminals engaging in illegal drug activities.”

Meanwhile, the following charges against these individuals have been dropped:

36 year old John Miller Alsup: sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance (Dihydrocodeinone) (2 counts)

34 year old Kenny Bain, Jr.: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (2 counts)

61 year old Kenneth Bain, Sr.: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (2 counts) and TennCare Fraud

30 year old Brandy Batey: violation of drug free school zone (4 counts)

31 year old Amanda M. Certain: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance, and sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance (Dihydrocodeinone)

29 year old Nikita Clark: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (2 counts)

58 year old George Divine: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (3 counts)

36 year old Russell Shannon Estes: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance, and sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance

33 year old Jimmy Joel Farris: sale and delivery of a counterfeit controlled substance

37 year old Anthony Glen Johnson: sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance (Dihydrocodeinone) and violation of drug free school zone (2 counts)

36 year old Steven R. Keen: violation of drug free school zone (4 counts)

44 year old Chad Everett Knowles: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance

46 year old Bradley Luna: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance

33 year old Terrance L. Martin: violation of drug free school zone (2 counts)

33 year old David Charles Stewart: sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance (Dihydrocodeinone), sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance, sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance

54 year old Sammy Gene Taylor: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (2 counts)

21 year old Bianca Lynn Tollison: sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance (Dihydrocodeinone)

55 year old James Harvey Walters: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (2 counts)

34 year old Mark Young: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (2 counts)

48 year old Lawrence Scott Young: sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (2 counts)

“Even though we do not agree with the outcomes of these cases, it should be noted it is not our goal to fill up the jail. That doesn’t benefit anyone,” Sheriff Ray said. “My department’s focus, when it comes to drug investigations, is to deter the use and sale of illegal narcotics and encourage individuals to choose a more productive way of life. Even though these cases have been dismissed, it is our hope that this experience has done something to help individuals and their families realize the consequences of illegal drug activities.”

The District Attorney General’s office did not comment

Misty Green Named EMT of Year in Upper Cumberland Region

October 13, 2015
Misty Green and Interim DeKalb EMS Director Hoyte Hale

An employee of the DeKalb County Ambulance Service has been named the Upper Cumberland Region's EMT of the Year.

Misty Green received the award during the Upper Cumberland EMS Directors Association's Annual Education Symposium held in Cookeville Thursday and Friday, October 8 & 9.

During this conference, the association awarded EMTs and Paramedics from within the Upper Cumberland Region, who have excelled in their patient care and overall performance in service to the counties in which they serve. The nominations for these awards are carefully reviewed and considered by the members of the Director’s Association.

Misty has dedicated more than 20 years to the citizens of DeKalb County and the progression in EMS in the county. She is married to Donny Green, Chief of the DeKalb County Fire Department and they have two children, Kayley and Luke.

The award was presented by Chip Cook, Regional EMS Consultant, and Hoyte Hale, DeKalb County EMS Interim Director. The employees of DeKalb County EMS take pride in their profession and congratulate Misty in achieving this award.

Atnip Charged with Assaulting his Mother and Girlfriend

October 12, 2015
Dwayne Page
Anthony Doel Atnip
Glenn Paul Bullington

A local man has been charged with domestic assault involving his mother and girlfriend.

35 year old Anthony Doel Atnip of Johnson Chapel Road, Sparta is under a $2,500 bond and he will make a court appearance on October 15.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Thursday, October 8 a deputy was sent to a residence on Johnson Chapel Road on an unwanted guest call. While the officer was enroute, central dispatch informed him that the incident had escalated into a physical domestic. Upon arrival the deputy spoke with Atnip's mother and girlfriend who said that Atnip had assaulted both of them. Atnip's mother said that Anthony had shoved and struck her in the face as he was trying to take the phone away from her. Atnip struck his girfriend in the head as she got in between him and his mother. Atnip had left the residence before the officer arrived but he was found hiding in the area.

43 year old Glenn Paul Bullington of Murfreesboro is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $3,500 and he will be in court October 29.

Sheriff Ray said that on Sunday, October 4 a deputy responded to a 911 call of a possible domestic assault at a residence on Coconut Ridge Road. Upon arrival the officer spoke with Bullington and his wife, who both appeared to be intoxicated. The deputy determined that Bullington was the primary aggressor. The woman had physical signs of an assault including a cut on her nose, redness on her neck, and bruising on her right arm where she claimed her husband had grabbed and pushed her. Bullington was placed under arrest.

DCHS Band Captures Awards

October 12, 2015
DCHS Band Captures Awards (Photo by Jo Ann Hayes)

The DCHS Fighting Tiger Band traveled to the Middle Tennessee Small Band Championship in Chapel Hill Tennessee on the 11th of October.

Despite the poor field conditions the band still had a great performance!

They won the following:
2nd Place Band
1st Place Field Commander
2nd Place Color Guard
3rd Place Percussion
Spirit Award

They will perform Oct. 24th at the Glencliff Colt Classic!

(Photo by Jo Ann Hayes)

McMinnville Man Identified as Victim in Suspicious Death

October 11, 2015
Dwayne Page

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is reporting that foul play is suspected in the death of a McMinnville man, whose body was found in the backseat of a still running car outside Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital Wednesday morning.

The deceased has been identified as 30 year old Jace Brandon Sparkman but the cause of death has not been revealed.

Hospital staff made the discovery and reported it at 2:17 a.m.

According to a prepared statement by Captain Steven Leffew, "On Wednesday, October 7 at approximately 2:17 a.m. the Smithville Police Department was dispatched to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital in regards to a deceased body being found in the backseat of a vehicle in the parking lot. The death was deemed to be of a suspicious nature. District Attorney Bryant Dunaway along with investigators from the District Attorney's Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation responded to the scene.

This case remains under investigation by the TBI and Smithville Police

Saint Thomas DeKalb Hosts Retired Teachers Luncheon

October 11, 2015
Shan Burklow
Saint Thomas DeKalb Hosts Retired Teachers Luncheon
“Pinky Swear Dare”

DeKalb County Retired Teachers Association was honored with a special luncheon provided by Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital recently. The theme of the luncheon celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness Month for October by providing tote bags and pink gift items for those present. The group pledged to spread the word about the importance of mammograms and early detection to at least five of their friends and family. The guest speaker was Shan Burklow, Director of Marketing for Saint Thomas DeKalb and Saint Thomas Stones River Hospitals. Burklow spoke on the importance of community health, emotional well-being, and the exciting opportunities that being a part of the Saint Thomas Health System will bring to our region. The afternoon ended with a delicious meal and desserts provided by the hospital’s dietary department.

“We were so honored to host the retired teachers luncheon this past week,” said Shan Burklow- Marketing Director for Saint Thomas DeKalb and Saint Thomas Stones River Hospital, “This is a wonderful group of people that do so much good on a daily basis for our county. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. Some of our guests actually taught me in school, and for that, I apologize,” Burklow laughed, “and most of them have become my friends and mentors throughout the years. I feel unworthy to speak to such a wise and caring group.”

Those present took the “Pinky Swear Dare” sponsored by the hospital’s social media campaign supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or PINKtober, as the hospital calls it. The ‘Pinky Swear Dare’ asks the public to pledge and spread the word about breast cancer prevention during the month of October to five people. Upon taking the pledge, participants paint their pinky nails pink to share the message that ‘mammograms and early detection saves lives’. Any age can participate in the dare. If someone rejects the dare, they are asked to donate five dollars to the breast cancer charity of their choice.

“It is our hope that this important message will spread across Tennessee and the nation,” said Sue Conley-CEO of Saint Thomas DeKalb and Saint Thomas Stones River Hospitals, “Breast Cancer is such an ugly disease and early detection is key. It is empowering when we come together, unified, in the fight against cancer. Last year, over 178,000 people took the #PinkySwearDare across the nation on social media, and hundreds have already taken the challenge online for 2015, but we don’t plan to stop there. Tell your friends, your neighbors and your family about the importance of self-exams and regular mammograms after the age of forty. It is a simple, yet powerful, message.”

For more information on the ‘Pinky Swear Dare’ for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, join the Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital facebook page. To schedule a mammogram, contact Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital Radiology Department.

Pictured: The Retired Teachers of DeKalb County attended a luncheon hosted by Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital to show their support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month by taking the “Pinky Swear Dare”. The dare challenges participants to tell five friends and family the importance of mammograms and early detection after the age of 40. The group received pink gift items in support of the event. (not pictured: Shan Burklow, Teresa Steele, Cassandra Basham of Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital)

Pictured: The ‘Pinky Swear Dare’ campaign that is aggressively growing across social media.

Mobile Food Pantry Serves 304 Families

October 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
Pick up line for Drive Through Mobile Food Pantry Saturday extended from the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church on College Street to Greenbrook Park
Volunteers place food directly in vehicles in Mobile Food Pantry pickup line

The drive thru mobile food pantry Saturday morning was a huge success.

Food boxes were given to 304 families regardless of their income status. The event, held in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, was sponsored by the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church as part of its community outreach ministry, but other volunteers also participated.

Unlike most food distributions, those served by Saturday's mobile pantry did not have to get out of their automobiles. They simply drove thru in a pickup line as volunteers delivered the food directly to their vehicles, placing the food boxes either in the back seat or trunk.

The church expresses its appreciation to the volunteers for their help Saturday and is hoping to have more mobile food pantries in the future.

Outdoor Burning Permit Season Begins October 15

October 11, 2015

It’s again fire season in Tennessee, and the Division of Forestry is reminding everyone in DeKalb County that if they intend to do any outdoor burning they are required by state law to obtain a burning permit. The free permits are required October 15th through May 15th and can be obtained by telephone or online. A poorly prepared or unattended burning debris pile can, under the conditions common in autumn, escape control and become a destructive wildfire. The Tennessee Division of Forestry asks everyone to be cautious when doing any outdoor burning.
Before doing any outdoor burning:

•First call the Division of Forestry for a burning permit at 615-597-4015 between 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM Monday through Friday (call on Friday for the weekend) or obtain a permit online at www.burnsafetn.org. In Smithville call 615-215-3000. If weather conditions permit you will be issued a burning permit. If the permit is obtained by phone they will also advise you of any weather conditions such as predicted wind, low humidity or other factors which might call for extra precaution.

•Establish wide control lines down to bare mineral soil around brush piles or other piled debris to be burned. The larger the debris pile, the wider the control line needs to be to ensure that burning materials won’t be blown or roll off the pile into vegetation outside the line.

•Keep water, tools, and plenty of help ready in case your fire should attempt to spread.

•Stay with all outdoor fires until they are completely out.

•Be aware of where your smoke is going. Avoid burning when your smoke will be bothersome to neighbors or when near sensitive locations such as highways.

Remember, you as a homeowner have control over the most basic things that will make your house safer from wildfires and allow the local Fire Dept. and the Division of Forestry to protect your home. This includes:

•Clear away flammable brush and other materials at least 30 feet from your house.

•Don’t pile firewood or other flammable materials near your house or on your porch or deck.

•Keep your yard, roof, and gutters free of leaves, pine needles and other debris.

•Keep leaves, pine needles and other debris off of or away from decks.

Materials for which a permit can be issued include: plant materials that were grown on the property (such as brush, leaves, and grass), and untreated and unpainted lumber. Anything else (such as automobile tires, roofing shingles, household garbage, feed sacks, old house trailers, buildings or anything not grown on the property) cannot be legally burned. Failure to obtain a permit or the burning of illegal materials could result in a citation to court and a fine. For more information on this or any other forestry related matter, call the Division of Forestry at the above phone number or visit the Division of Forestry’s wildfire safety web-site at www.burnsafetn.org. And remember, ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT WILDFIRES!!

Turbine lifted to rehabilitate hydropower unit at Center Hill Dam (VIEW VIDEO HERE)

October 9, 2015
By Lee Roberts, Nashville District Public Affairs
Turbine lifted. Photo by Lee Roberts

Work crews lifted a turbine out of hydropower unit two at Center Hill Dam today, one of the final pieces of the disassembly process. It is the first time the 82-ton steel wheel has seen the light of day since its installation in 1950, a rare sight that makes it possible to inspect, rebuild embedded parts, and then reassemble the unit with new components.

Jeff Linkinhoker, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, said the exciters and 248-ton rotor were removed about two weeks ago, followed by the generator shaft, wicket gates, basically everything from top to bottom, culminating with the turbine runner.

“It’s exciting when you get to this point. Disassembly of these major components shows real progress,” Linkinhoker said.

He noted that a tremendous amount of work over the past several years led to the milestone of removing the turbine, which included design work and the preparation of the project’s plans and specifications, getting all of the funding in place, contracting work, and a lot of coordination with the contractor.

“A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes. It is how we got to the point where we are now,” Linkinhoker said.

The Center Hill units have a type of reaction turbine runner known as a “Francis” wheel where water is introduced causing it to spin.

Jeff Flowers, power project manager for the Nashville District Mid Cumberland Area, said the turbine runner is one of the last major components of the unit to be removed. The last major component to be removed is the generator stator.

The turbine is a critical component that actually transfers water energy to mechanical energy, and then to electrical energy, Flowers explained shortly before crews lifted it out of the hydropower unit.

“When that turbine turns it turns a shaft that turns a magnetic field that produces the 13,800 volts that the generator produces,” Flowers said. “This is the first time a turbine has been removed in the Nashville District.”

Each hydropower unit at Center Hill Dam supplies enough electricity to power 150 homes, which reduces the cost of electricity during peak periods of the daytime. The three hydropower units at the dam can supply the needs of an average city of 125,000 people. Electricity is marketed by the Southeastern Power Administration and then sold to the Tennessee Valley Authority and other preference customers in the region.

The Nashville District awarded a $47.25 million contract to Voith Hydro in June 2014 to rehabilitate three Center Hill Dam hydropower units. The contractor mobilized to the dam in July 2015 and the rehabilitation of unit two is scheduled for completion in the August-September timeframe of 2016. Unit one will then be rehabilitated followed by unit three. It will take three years to complete the project.

Martin Parker, site manager for Voith Hydro, said when the disassembly is completed his team can focus on the next step.

“We’ll start on the rehabilitation of the unit, which is blasting and painting, machining embedded parts, and then rebuilding the generator, which will take a few months, and then we’ll get into the reassembly,” Parker said.

The Nashville District operates nine multi-purpose projects in the Cumberland River Basin, which produced 2.7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014. In the same year, sales of this electricity yielded about $57 million dollars in revenue for the U.S. Treasury.

Loren McDonald, project manager and assistant program manager for the Nashville District Section 212 Program, said the hydropower unit at Center Hill Dam is the first of 28 units at nine projects that will be rehabilitated over the next 20 years.

“We’re all very excited to see the first turbine,” McDonald said. “We’re all very happy this will become a common occurrence as we are able to go through the units one by one to rehab the system and increase the reliability.”

The Water Resources Development Act of 2000, Section 212, authorized the Corps to accept and expend funds from power preference customers to perform rehab work on hydropower equipment. Under this provision of the law, funds that would normally be returned to the general fund of the U.S. Treasury are now available to maintain the hydropower generating equipment. Over the life of the program SEPA looks to direct more than $1.2 billion into the Cumberland River System Hydropower Rehabilitation.

Center Hill Dam is located on the Caney Fork River and contributes to the electrical power supply of the area through the generation of clean, safe and efficient hydroelectric power.

(PICTURED ABOVE: Several Corps of Engineers employees watch as work crews lift the turbine runner out of hydropower unit two in the power house at Center Hill Dam Oct. 7, 2015. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District is rehabbing all three units at the dam. (Photo by Lee Roberts)

Eagle Scout Honors Former DWS Principal

October 9, 2015
Dwayne Page
Jen Sherwood and Danny Parkerson

Former DeKalb West School Principal Danny Parkerson is being honored by having the flagpole at the school dedicated to him.

The Board of Education Thursday night granted the request made by Jen Sherwood, on behalf of her son James who has been doing work at the school as part of his Eagle Scout Project.

"On behalf of my son James Sherwood, his Eagle Scout project, which he has been working on at DeKalb West School included planting a tree, donated by Mack Harney of Harney's Nursery, and adding four welcoming benches at the entrance of the new building. He also created a paving walkway from the concrete to the flagpole," said Sherwood.

The tree was planted in memory of three individuals to replace other trees which had been removed with the expansion of the West School building last year. "The tree was set in memory of three individuals who had trees donated and planted in their memory. But those trees had to be removed in order for the building to be placed where it is. The new tree is to continue to recognize those individuals in memory," Sherwood continued.

"What Jim would like to do in addition to that (tree planting) is to dedicate the flagpole in honor of retired principal Danny Parkerson. This is the school where our (Sherwood) boys went to but for years Danny Parkerson has been influential in many children's and families lives in our community. Boy Scouts are to be physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight and Jim could think of no better person to honor that flagpole than Mr. Danny Parkerson," said Sherwood.

The plaque reads "In Honor of Principal Danny Parkerson. "Life is Simple. Do the Right Thing". James Sherwood. Eagle Scout Project 2015. "Many children and staff members heard these words many times (from Mr. Parkerson). "Life is simple. Do the right thing". After every one of his morning announcements, that is what he would say. These are great words to live by and I'm sure that many children and parents will remember that also. Jim remembers that and would like to place this (plaque) by the flagpole with your permission to commemorate that," said Sherwood.

Parkerson, who retired as Principal at DeKalb West School last year and is now a member of the Board of Education, said he is grateful for the honor but gave credit to his teachers and staff.

"To me that's a way teachers get paid that they don't get paid monetarily, when their kids (former students) recognize them for something that they have done. There have been a lot of good principals at the West School. There's a lot of good teachers and staff that made my job and leadership easy. I accept and recognize (this honor) for all of them because they are part of the family at the West School in what we do for kids. I know it's continuing. There are other people just as deserving but I really appreciate it," said Parkerson.

In other business, the Board set the date for the DCHS graduation next year for May 20, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps updated the board on personnel moves since last month.

Elise Driver, Coordinated School Health Coordinator
Kaci Miller, Educational Assistant at Smithville Elementary School

Leave of Absence:
Suzette Barnes, leave as requested

Linda Moser, from substitute to full time cook at DeKalb West School
Nancy Mulloy, from assistant manager to cafeteria manager at DeKalb West School

The board voted in support of a Girl Scout effort to collect pajamas for the Foster Care program. Darrah Ramsey, a member of Girl Scout Troop 750 addressed the board. " Our Girl Scout Troop is working on the Bronze Award in collecting pajamas to give to the Foster Care program. We would like permission from the board to challenge the fifth grade students at Northside Elementary to donate pajamas. The class that donates the most will get a pizza party from the Girl Scout Troop," she said.


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