Local News Articles

Alexandria Runaway Child Found Unharmed

February 28, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins

A ten year old child, who went missing from his home in Alexandria Thursday night, was found unharmed some four hours later around midnight.

Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins told WJLE that the boy, who lives with his mother and three siblings on Avant Circle, left home around eight p.m.. He was found by Chief Collins and Alexandria Police Sergeant Chris Russell around 11:57 p.m. hiding behind a central heat and air unit at a building on Edgewood Street about a quarter of a mile from his residence. The boy was wrapped in a comforter that he had brought from home. The child was also wearing a jacket and a back pack.

Because of the extremely cold weather, officials knew it was imperative to locate the boy as soon as possible once he was reported missing by his mother.

A search began involving members of the Alexandria Police and Fire Departments, DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad, DeKalb EMS, and a four member team of the Tennessee Highway Patrol Special Operations who brought in tracking dogs. Officials had also called for a THP helicopter to fly over with its fleer system heat sensing device but the child was found before it arrived.

Although he appeared to be okay, the boy was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital to be checked out.

This is the second time within a week that the boy has run away from home. According to Chief Collins, the child ran away last Saturday night but was found a couple of hours later at an abandoned structure on Industrial Road.

Chief Collins wishes to thank everyone who joined in the effort to find the child Thursday night.

Governor Cites State's Achievements and Goals at Reagan Day Dinner (VIEW VIDEO OF GOVERNOR'S SPEECH HERE)

February 27, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Governor Bill Haslam, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, and Election Commission Chair Walteen Parker
Local GOP Party Chair Jennifer Winfree presents plaque to Barbara Vanatta in memory of her late husband Kennith Vanatta, former party chairman

Vowing to continue working to make Tennessee a better place to live, work and raise a family, Governor Bill Haslam addressed a gathering at the DeKalb County Republican Party's Reagan Day Dinner Thursday evening at the county complex auditorium.

The Governor commended state legislators for joining him in efforts to more wisely manage the taxpayers money, cut taxes, improve education so that high school graduates are more ready for college or a career, and create a business friendly climate in the state to attract more jobs.

"In Tennessee, we have the lowest debt per person of any of the fifty states," said Governor Haslam. When you go to bed at night, you probably should sleep with one eye open worried about how much debt we have out of Washington but at least as a Tennessean you should know that for years we in Tennessee have been responsible about how we manage your money. We have one of the two or three lowest tax systems in the country. We have a state where our savings account, what governments call rainy day funds, has doubled since we've been in office. We've lowered taxes. We've cut the tax on groceries. We eliminated the gift and inheritance tax. And we're cutting the Hall Income Tax for senior citizens. We're cutting taxes. We also owe less money than we did before. Hardly any other government anywhere can say that. I think that's what conservative government looks like. We run our budgets the way that you do and because of that we've been named one of the three best managed states in the country," the Governor continued.

As for education, Governor Haslam said the state has a primary responsibility to see that students in Tennessee are better prepared for the future. "In about three months we will be having high school graduations all across the state. One of our primary responsibilities is to make certain that when those students walk across the stage and shake the principal's hand and get a diploma that they are prepared when they walk off that stage either to go on to school, to college or that they are prepared for a job. In Tennessee we haven't always done a good job on that. About four or five years ago, Tennessee was given an F minus for truth in advertising because we were saying that ninety percent plus of our kids were proficient at their grade level. But seventy percent of those kids needed remedial work when they got to community college. Now we're raising expectations, making certain that student are prepared for the work that is out there. We do that for two reasons. One is so that our kids will have every opportunity in a very competitive world. But the second reason is because businesses want more depth of talent. They have told us we should produce more of those skill sets that are needed so we're working hard to do that, making certain that our students are prepared for this. At the end of the day, those of us in government struggle hard to make critical choices and we don't take it lightly. We know that the things we do really have impact and we want to make certain that we're preparing students and that we're making this a place where businesses want to locate," said Governor Haslam.

"Businesses are deciding where to locate by the kind of government that exists in that place. About three months ago CEO magazine polled 500 CEO's of all sized businesses from all across the country. They ranked all the states one to fifty in order of the state's you'd like to do business in. Tennessee ranked fourth. Of the top twenty states ranked by the CEO's, seventeen of them were led by Republican Governors. Of the top ten, nine were led by Republican Governors and of the top five all of them were. What that says is, we set the climate and people are choosing our states to do business," he said.

"My pledge to you is to do everything we can to make this the kind of state you're proud of and where you want to raise your family and grow your business," concluded Governor Haslam.

Following the Governor's remarks, Jennifer Winfree, local GOP Party Chair presented a plaque to Barbara Vanatta, whose late husband Kennith Vanatta served as party chairman from 2002 to 2008.

The plaque reads " Presented in memory of Kennith Vanatta, Chairman 2002-2008. For his many years of dedicated and loyal service to the party. It is people like him who have made this party strong. DeKalb County Republican Party"

Barbara Vanatta is a member of the DeKalb County Election Commission.

Governor Greeted with Protests over Education Standards in Tennessee (VIEW VIDEOS HERE)

February 27, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Local Teachers Protest Governor's Stand on Education Standards
Local Educators Suzanne Gash and Suzette Barnes Carry Signs in Protest
Educator January Agee with a message to Governor Bill Haslam
Students Joined in the Protests

A group of local educators, students, and others opposed to Tennessee Common Core standards greeted Governor Bill Haslam with protest signs and chants as he arrived in Smithville Thursday evening to speak at the local Republican Party's Reagan Day Dinner. The event was held at the county complex auditorium.

The Governor did not acknowledge the protestors as he emerged from his automobile and entered the building where friends and supporters were waiting to welcome him.

Many educators say they are fed up with the pressures put upon them in the classroom and they want the Governor, a supporter of Common Core, to hear their voices. "We're sick and tired of being sick and tired with the way teachers and kids are being treated in education," said Bill Conger, President of the DeKalb County Education Association. "We're over testing and putting too much on the kids. The Common Core and the standards they're trying to set for us are too high, too fast and they're putting pressure on teachers making it difficult for them to do their job every day," said Conger.

"It's difficult for the teachers to live up to all the mandates," said Bryan Jones, an eighth grade science teacher. "We just can't teach school because of all the paperwork. We have so many things going on we have to do to comply with the state. It's also very difficult for the kids. Common Core is something we need to reject as a county and state," added Jones.

Lisa Mabe, a third grade teacher at Northside Elementary, said the evaluations and merit pay system are most unfair to teachers. "We teach our hearts out every day. We want our students to do well but we are judged on an evaluation system that isn't fair. We're scored one through five and we're rarely given five's because we're not perfect. Yet we do everything that is expected of us. We love our kids and we want them to learn. We only ask that they treat us fairly. The merit pay isn't fair. They want to give us raises based on our job performance and our test scores but our classes aren't divided equally. If you want us to have merit pay, you've got to base all our classrooms equally and give all teachers a chance to achieve those standards but it's not set up that way. It never has been. I've been teaching for nineteen years and I've had more evaluations this year than I had my first year of teaching. You are welcome in our classroom anytime. I want to be accountable. I am accountable but do it fairly," said Mabe.

The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency to hold March for Meals Campaign

February 27, 2014

The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency’s Nutrition Program announced today that it will be participating in the national 2014 March for Meals campaign. UCHRA’s Nutrition Program Community Champions week is March 17 – 21, 2014.

“In this tough economy, the food and human contact we provide to seniors in this community is needed more than ever,” said Kelly Dishman, Nutrition Director of the Upper Cumberland Nutrition Program “We need the community to come out and support our March for Meals events. Our clients are counting on us. We can’t let them down.”

March for Meals is a national campaign held during the month of March, initiated and sponsored by the Meals On Wheels Association of America to raise awareness of senior hunger and to encourage action on the part of local communities. Hundreds of Senior Nutrition Programs across the United States, like UCHRA’s Nutrition Program, promote March for Meals through public events, partnerships with local businesses, volunteer recruitment and fundraising initiatives.

“Our Meals On Wheels programs are on the front lines every day in the battle against senior hunger,” said Meals On Wheels Association of American President and CEO Ellie Hollander. “March for Meals is a time when communities can come together to stand with their local Meals On Wheels program and support our mission to end senior hunger in America.”

The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency’s Nutrition Program served 93,630 Congregate Meals in FY ’13 and 191,349 Home-Delivered Meals. If you are interested in participating in the March for Meal's campaign by helping to prepare and/or deliver meals to our homebound senior clients during our Community Champions Week March 17 – 21, 2014, please contact your local UCHRA office for more details or check out the website at www.uchra.com.

Federal Mogul Copper Thieves Sentenced in Criminal Court

February 26, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Billy Joe Rigsby
Corey Dickens

Two men accused of stealing more than $100,000 worth of copper and brass from Federal Mogul in Smithville last year were sentenced Friday in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Judge David Patterson presided.

56 year old Billy Joe Rigsby pleaded guilty to theft over $60,000 while 29 year old Corey Dickens entered a plea to theft over $10,000. Rigsby received a ten year sentence to serve at least 30% as a range one offender before parole eligibility. He was given jail credit of almost six months from August 13, 2013 to February 21, 2014. Rigsby also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of delivery of a schedule II drug and received a three year sentence in that case to run concurrently with the theft offense. He received a drug fine of $2,000.

Dickens received a five year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He was given jail credit of almost six months from August 1, 2013 to February 21, 2014. Dickens and Rigsby are to make restitution jointly and severally to Federal Mogul in the amount of $109,771.

The case against a third defendant, 46 year old Martin Riley, III is still pending.

According to Smithville Police, the thefts occurred multiple times from December 2012 to August 2013 during the middle of the night after the second shift when no one else was at the plant. The intruders went under and over a fence, entered through an unlocked door at the receiving area behind the building, and loaded carts with 50 pound bags of almost pure grain copper, which is used in the manufacture of brake pads at the facility. In some cases, pieces of EDM brass were also stolen.

According to Lieutenant Matt Holmes, the investigation began after police first received a tip and then a formal complaint by an official of Federal Mogul. "We spoke to a representative of Federal Mogul who advised us that they had been suspecting some copper was being stolen. They placed a hidden camera out there. He (Federal Mogul official) provided us with some video. When we watched the video and through investigation, we were able to identify the two subjects on the video as Martin Riley and Billy Joe Rigsby," he said.

"They way they were doing it was after hours they were entering the building, loading up carts while no one else was there, and wheeling the carts out the back door. They would go during the times they (plant) were closed during the middle of the night and take anywhere from 10 to 25 to 30 bags at a time or however many they could get loaded and feasibly get out of there with. They went under the fence and loaded their truck," said Lieutenant Holmes.

After committing the thefts, the men allegedly sold the copper and brass at the Southern Central business in McMinnville. "He (Federal Mogul official) initially didn't know how much copper had been taken but they were working on doing an inventory so we started calling around, trying to locate the copper. We learned the copper had been sold to Southern Central in McMinnville," he said. "They would take the copper and brass to the scrap yard. In some cases, they transferred the copper from the bags they came in to totes to transport it to the scrap yard," said Lieutenant Holmes.

The investigation revealed that Rigsby and Dickens were allegedly partners in the crimes from December, 2012 to March, 2013, until Dickens was arrested on a separate charge. Rigsby then allegedly continued with the thefts from the plant and was allegedly joined by Riley, on at least one occasion, through August 4, 2013.

The case was investigated by Chief Randy Caplinger and Lieutenant Holmes.

In other cases, 31 year old Joseph Huff Ray pleaded guilty Friday to theft over $1,000. He received a three year sentence to serve at 30% before his release eligibility date. The term is to run concurrently with another sentence against him. He was given jail credit from June 27, 2013 to February 21, 2014. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Thursday, June 27 Ray allegedly took a 1988 Ford Ranger pickup valued at $5,000 from a residence on Game Ridge Road. He allegedly wrote a statement admitting to taking the truck. The case was investigated by a criminal detective of the sheriff's department.

26 year old Molly Lawrence pleaded guilty to two counts of theft over $1,000. She received a four year suspended sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other. She must make restitution of $2,500 to one victim and $2,908 to another. Her payment is $250 per month as a condition of probation.

30 year old Ryan Lee Walden pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated burglary and one count of theft over $1,000. He received a five year sentence for the aggravated burglary, all suspended to supervised probation except for one year to serve. Walden also received a three year sentence in the theft case, all suspended to supervised probation. The two sentences are to run concurrently with each other. Walden must pay restitution of $60 to one victim and $5,649 to the other. He was given jail credit from August 16, 2013 to February 21, 2014. Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, July 31 the victim, who resides on Allen Ferry Road, reported that sets of Bone China plates, cups, and bowls had gone missing from the home. Walden was found to have sold these items to an auction house in DeKalb County. The value of the stolen items was more than $1,000.

21 year old Terry Jones, III pleaded guilty by information to two counts of burglary. He received a three year sentence in one case and two years in the other. The terms are to run consecutively with each other for a total of five years but concurrently with another case. He was given jail credit from January 25 to February 21, 2014. According to Sheriff Ray, Jones allegedly broke into a residence on Dale Ridge Road on Friday, January 17 and stole several items including a 2003 Red Honda 250 Recon ATV, a Remington Model 870 Shotgun, Insulated Carhartt Jacket, Trail Cameras, a full box of 12 gauge shotgun shells, eight bottles of whiskey, and one Igloo cooler. Six days later, on Thursday January 23, Jones allegedly broke into a garage on Johnson Ridge Road and took a Yamaha Kodiak 400 four wheeler, valued at $4,000. The case was investigated by a deputy of the Sheriff's Department.

31 year old Jonathan McCormick pleaded guilty to burglary and theft over $1,000. He received a three year sentence in each case. The two sentences are to run concurrently with each other but consecutively with a three year sentence he received after pleading guilty to sale of a schedule II controlled substance. His total sentence is six years but it has all been suspended to supervised probation except for 120 days to serve. He was fined $2,000 and given jail credit from January 15 to February 21, 2014. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, June 8 McCormick allegedly entered an outbuilding on Lee Braswell Road and took from the property a John Deere riding mower and an air compressor. The total estimated value is $6,829. The case was investigated by criminal detectives of the sheriff's department. McCormick was also among those named in sealed indictments by the Grand Jury last month after a three month undercover drug investigation by the Sheriff's Department.

25 year old Brandon Wayne Hutchings and 25 year old Jessica Anne Jenkins each pleaded guilty to promotion of meth manufacture and auto burglary. Each received a three year sentence on the meth charge and two years for the auto burglary. The two sentences for Hutchings are to run consecutively with each other for a total of five years. The terms for Jenkins are to run concurrently with each other for total of three years. She has been granted judicial diversion probation. Hutchings was given jail credit from August 7, 2013 to February 21, 2014. Smithville Police Sergeant Bradley Tatrow stopped Jenkins' vehicle on July 21, 2013 for a traffic violation. Sergeant Tatrow noticed that the driver, Hutchings, had slurred speech and he was unsteady on his feet. When Hutchings was asked to empty his pockets, a pill believed to be morphine was discovered. Police asked Jenkins for permission to search her vehicle but she refused. K-9 Officer Cornelius was then called for assistance. Jenkins' vehicle was searched after K-9 LEO was deployed and alerted on the automobile. Several items were found during the search known to be used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine. On the same day, July 21, 2013 Sheriff Ray said that Hutchings and Jenkins were charged with breaking into and taking a purse from a vehicle parked at Sligo bridge. Entry was gained by breaking out a rear window on the passenger side causing $300 in damage. The purse contained a wallet, pants, tank top, and a belt, all valued at less than $500. Hutchings and Jenkins were arrested some two hours later. Found on Hutchings was the victim's identification.

35 year old Jenadiah Barnes pleaded guilty to one count of forgery and received a two year sentence to serve. The term is to run concurrently with another TDOC sentence against him. He must make restitution of $980. Barnes was given jail credit from December 2012 to February 21, 2014. Sheriff Ray said that Barnes allegedly passed six forged checks at Prichard's Foods in Alexandria in the amounts of $135 and $100 on June 22, 2011; $135 and $160 on June 24, 2011; and $225 and $225 on June 29, 2011 The name of the victim was forged on the checks without authorization.

Nashville Chancellor Rules in Favor of DUD

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

A ruling handed down today (Tuesday) by a Davidson County Chancellor may have cleared the way for the DeKalb Utility District to build its own water treatment plant.

Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has dismissed a petition for a judicial review by DUD ratepayers and the City of Smithville who were seeking to overturn a decision by the Utility Management Review Board, who last April ruled against the petitioners in their quest to halt DUD's plans for construction of a water plant. In her ruling Tuesday, Chancellor Lyle affirmed the UMRB decision.

(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO READ CHANCELLOR LYLE'S RULING)

hppscan343.pdf (6.67 MB)

Specifically, the petitioners (DUD ratepayers/City of Smithville) asked the court to review the following issues:

1. "Did the UMRB err by failing to consider, pursuant to state law, the appropriateness of the DUD expanding its "services provided" to include the construction of a separate, duplicative unnecessary water treatment facility and thereby violate a statute and/or follow an unlawful procedure?"

2. "Did the UMRB err because its ruling is not supported by material evidence in the record?"

3. "Did the UMRB follow an unlawful procedure by failing to let the affected ratepayers in attendance at the contested hearing in Smithville be heard in a public hearing?"

"After considering the record, argument of counsel and the law, the court dismisses the Petition for Judicial Review. The Court determines that the UMRB performed its duty correctly and provided the review required by the statute; the UMRB's decision is not unsupported by substantial and material evidence; and the UMRB did not engage in unlawful procedure," wrote Chancellor Lyle.

"Having ruled against the Petitioners on each of the issues presented for judicial review, it is ordered that the Final Order of the Utility Management Review Board is affirmed, and the petition for Judicial Review is dismissed with prejudice with court costs taxed to the petitioners," concluded Chancellor Lyle.

Last April, the Utility Management Review Board held a hearing in Smithville to review the rates to customers charged by the DeKalb Utility District at that time and rates to be charged associated with the construction of a new water treatment plant. Ratepayers and the City of Smithville, referred to as the petitioners, also wanted the UMRB to block the DUD's decision to build a water treatment plant. They contended that the City has plentiful availability of water to supply the DUD's customer base now and into the future. This redundancy, the petitioners asserted, should be halted. DUD officials contend it is in the best interest for DUD to have its own water plant and that the result would be lower rates to DUD customers and millions of dollars in savings to the DUD in the years ahead.

The UMRB, at the April hearing, found DUD's rates at the time to be reasonable and refused to intervene in DUD's business decision to build the water plant. By not reviewing "services provided" as well as "rates charged" as requested, the petitioners contend that the UMRB violated statutory provisions and or followed an illegal procedure in arriving at its decision. Attorneys for the UMRB and DUD said the Utility Management Review Board had no authority to stop the water plant project nor to force the DUD into a contractual relationship with the city to continue purchasing water.

The petitioners later filed an appeal to the Davidson County Chancery Court for a judicial review of the UMRB's decision, hoping to win a reversal. Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle held a hearing last month in Nashville with all the parties involved and said she would issue her decision within thirty days. That ruling came down Tuesday, February 25.

Attorneys for the DUD and the State Attorney General's Office for the UMRB essentially made the same arguments for the UMRB's decision to be upheld.

DUD's attorney Dewey Branstetter, Jr. wrote in his court brief that "The UMRB correctly dismissed the petition created through the efforts of the City of Smithville and filed by the Ratepayers of the DeKalb Utility District. The petitioners have not and cannot meet the burden required for this court to overturn the decision of the UMRB, to remand this case back to the UMRB, or to do anything except affirm the UMRB Order."

"The UMRB correctly decided to limit its review to the rates charged by the DUD and not to examine the business decision of the DUD to construct its own water treatment plant. While there was significant testimony about the water treatment plant, and even though the proof was overwhelming that the decision by the DUD to build its own plant was in the best interest of the customers of the DUD, the UMRB correctly decided that it was not its duty to examine that decision."

The petitioners also contend that the UMRB failed to consider the capital expenditures associated with the new water treatment plant and how that would affect future rates. The UMRB's ruling that DUD rates were reasonable was not supported by the material evidence presented at the hearing, according to the Petitioners.

In his court brief, Branstetter wrote that "the decision of the UMRB was supported by material evidence in the record. The transcript from the hearing and the exhibits introduced at the hearing show that the rates charged by the DUD are reasonable and that the rates proposed to be charged if the water treatment plant is built will also be reasonable. There was no proof introduced by the petitioners that would support a decision that the rates of DUD are not reasonable."

Lastly, the petitioners argue that the UMRB did not conduct an "Open Hearing" to allow anyone an opportunity to speak and that the case should be remanded to the UMRB to hold another hearing to consider testimony and opinions of the ratepayers that desire to give public comment as part of the proceedings. Although the forum was open for the public to attend, it was conducted like a court hearing, with witnesses called to testify and be cross examined.

Branstetter wrote that this argument by the Petitioners is also without merit. "The UMRB proceeding was a contested case hearing under the Uniform Rules of Procedure for Hearing Contested Cases before State Administrative Agencies. It was not an open hearing under the Rules of the Comptroller of the Treasury for the Utility Management Review Board. As such, the Petitioners cannot legitimately argue that because the UMRB didn't have "open microphone night" that the case should be remanded back to the UMRB for unfettered public comment."

In the brief, Branstetter wrote that the ratepayers and the City of Smithville were represented by counsel. If their counsel had chosen to call any additional ratepayers to testify, they certainly had the right to do so. Any of the ratepayers in attendance who desired to give testimony could have been called by the counsel representing their interest, but the Petitioners failed to even attempt to call any ratepayer witnesses other than the two designate representatives, Randy Rhody and Hunter Hendrixson. The Petitioners should not now be allowed to complain that they were not given an opportunity to have an open forum when their counsel had the full ability to call any witnesses they so desired. If counsel for the Petitioners failed to call any witnesses and now assert that they were somehow prejudiced by not doing so, then it is their own fault for not calling other individuals to testify".

DUD Petition for Temporary Injunction Against City to be Heard Friday

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Chancellor Ronald Thurman

A Chancery Court hearing is scheduled for Friday, February 28 on the DeKalb Utility District's petition for a temporary injunction to keep the City of Smithville from imposing it's higher water rate to the DUD pending a final ruling on the utility's lawsuit against the city.

Chancellor Ronald Thurman will have that hearing Friday, February 28 at 1:00 p.m. in Cookeville. That's where Chancellor Thurman is holding court that day.

Officials of the DeKalb Utility District are turning to the Chancery Court for relief from what they call an unreasonable water rate imposed on the utility by the City of Smithville.

In the lawsuit, the DUD is asking the Chancellor to find that the city's new water rate to the utility of $5.00 per thousand gallons, which went into effect January 1st, is unreasonable; that the rate be set at $2.25 per thousand gallons, which the DUD believes is the actual cost of providing water services; that the city be enjoined (prohibited) from charging any rate to the DUD in excess of $2.67 per thousand while this litigation is pending; and that the city be enjoined (prohibited) from disconnecting the DUD from its water system while this lawsuit is pending. The DUD also wants the court to order a speedy hearing on this action for a declaratory judgment and to advance it on the court's calendar.

In the hearing Friday, the Court is being asked by the DUD to enter a temporary injunction while this litigation is pending. "The rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons charged by the City to the DUD effective January 1, 2014 has caused and will continue to result in immediate and irreparable injury, loss, and damage to the DUD and its customers. The issuance of the temporary injunction will not cause undue inconvenience or loss to the City of Smithville, but will prevent irreparable injury to the DUD," according to the lawsuit.

Arnold Sentenced to Eight Years on Aggravated Kidnapping/Drug Charges

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Savanah Arnold

A 19 year old woman, charged with three others in an aggravated kidnapping last fall, pleaded guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday.

Judge David Patterson presided.

Savanah Arnold received a six year sentence to serve for the aggravated kidnapping plus a two year sentence on a separate charge of delivery of a schedule III drug (Suboxone Strips). The two terms are to run consecutively for a total of eight years to serve at 30% before parole eligibility as a standard range one offender. Other charges against her are to be dismissed but she is to pay a $2,000 drug fine. Arnold was given jail credit of eighty five days.

Arnold and three others were named in Grand Jury sealed indictments in December, 2013 for allegedly kidnapping and raping a woman they thought stole money and Suboxone strips from them in October. The cases against her co-defendants, Abigail Vogel and Johnny Devault are still pending in court. The fourth defendant, another woman, has not been arrested. Last month, Arnold was among sixty four persons named in sealed indictments by the Grand Jury as a result of a three month undercover drug investigation by the Sheriff's Department.

In the aggravated kidnapping case, Smithville Police said the four defendants held the victim against her will at Arnold's home on October 24. Arnold and the other woman then allegedly strip searched the victim, penetrated her body cavity looking for the money or drugs, and stole her clothes. The next day, October 25, Arnold allegedly dressed in the victim's clothes, went to a local industry where the victim was employed and tried unsuccessfully to pick up the victim's paycheck.

The victim came to the police department the day after the assault, October 25 to report the kidnapping, rape, and theft.

Lieutenant Matt Holmes related the story to WJLE on Wednesday, December 18 at the police department. "The victim said that on October 24, she went to Savanah Arnold's house to watch the kids of some friends. While there, Arnold, Vogel, Devault, and the other woman showed up allegedly intoxicated on drugs and accused her of stealing from Arnold $575 and 60 suboxone strips. The victim denied it".

According to Lieutenant Holmes, Arnold and the other woman took the victim to a back room and strip searched her. "One of the suspects placed a trash bag on her hand and penetrated the victim, searching for the money or drugs. She did not find anything. The victim resisted the assault and asked if she could leave. They refused to let her leave and took her cell phone so she couldn't call anyone. Johnny Devault allegedly threatened to assault the victim if she continued to resist. They stole the victim's clothes, placed her in a car half dressed, drove off and then dumped her out on the side of the road," he said.

The next day, October 25 Arnold dressed in the victim's clothes and went to the victim's place of employment. She entered the industry, walked up to the counter wearing the victim's ID and asked for her paycheck, representing herself as the victim. An industry official noticed that Arnold was not the victim and asked why she was there. Arnold then changed her story stating falsely that she was there to pick up the paycheck for the victim who was in a Nashville hospital. When the industry official told her the victim would have to come and get the check herself, Arnold left. The industry later received a call from a female, falsely identifying herself as the victim, saying it was okay for them to give her paycheck to whoever came to pick it up.

Industry officials alerted Smithville Police to a possible identity theft. Lieutenant Holmes and Officer James Cornelius responded to the call. Arnold was taken into custody at the industry and charged with identify theft.

Sex Offender Gets Two Year Sentence for Stalking

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Walter Smouthers

A 52 year old registered sex offender was sentenced on three counts of stalking Friday in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Judge David Patterson presided

Walter Smouthers received a two year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other. He was given jail credit from August 5, 2013 to February 21, 2014

According to Smithville Police, Smouthers used a pre-paid cell phone to make sexually explicit calls from his home in Paris, Tennessee to female store clerks in Smithville.

Chief Randy Caplinger told WJLE that Smouthers, a former resident of Smithville, was arrested last August by Detective Brandon Donnell and Corporal Travis Bryant at Smouthers' home in Paris.

Police believe Smouthers used the cell phone he purchased at a Walmart to make hundreds of sexually explicit calls between July 30, 2012 and August 12, 2013 to female clerks at six Smithville businesses.

According to Detective Donnell, Smouthers was arrested in 2007 for making similar types of phone calls to some of the same victims as in the latest cases. "It started happening again over the past year," said Detective Donnell. "We got enough evidence to obtain a search warrant for the phone number and records and it pinged at an address in Paris, Tennessee. Through an investigation, we found that Smouthers, who lives in Paris Tennessee and is a registered sex offender, made the calls. After an investigation, it was determined a prepaid phone from Wal-mart was used to place the calls," said Detective Donnell.

Smouthers placed his last call only minutes before police arrived to arrest him. "Twenty minutes before he was picked up and arrested, he had placed another call to Smithville," said Detective Donnell.

"We believe this phone was used just for this purpose. He didn't report having the phone and that would be a violation of the sex offender rules he is under in Paris, Tennessee," said Detective Donnell.

Police found Smouthers' cell phone hidden under a dresser in his Paris, Tennessee home.

The case was investigated by Detective Donnell and Corporal Bryant.

State Lawmakers Concerned About Common Core Standards

February 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
State Senator Mae Beavers
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

Controversy over Common Core standards is growing at the state and national level creating an issue for legislators to confront.

Complaints range from data collection, teachers and students being under too much pressure in meeting the standards, to a perception by some of a pro-Muslim, anti-Christian attitude in textbooks, among other issues.

State Senator Mae Beavers, speaking at a town hall meeting Thursday in Smithville, said she would like to see the standards banned, reversing approval granted almost four years ago. "I have filed a bill to do away with it. I'm against the federal government telling us what to do with our educational system in Tennessee," said Senator Beavers.

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, who also spoke at the meeting, agreed saying she is getting more calls from teachers and parents who are opposed to the new standards. " I do not like the pressure and the accelerating speed that the federal government is pushing this down our throat. I have always said Common Core is to education as Obama Care is to health care. It's too much federal input and too much law, especially when they start picking and choosing what we teach our kids," said Representative Weaver.

" When teachers who thought it was a good thing at first are starting to call us and they are upset about it now, then you know something is truly wrong. They feel the pressure and see the things that are wrong. It's starting to be questioned everywhere," added Senator Beavers.

The State Board of Education adopted the Common Core standards for math and English/language arts in 2010, following up on legislation approved on a bipartisan and almost unanimous basis at the urging of then-Gov. Phil Bredesen. The move was part of an effort to win federal funding under the federal "Race to the Top" law -- an effort that succeeded, earning Tennessee $500 million in federal money for education.

The new learning objectives are meant to better prepare kids for college, and to make sure students here are on the same page as students across the state and across the country. Until now, each state had its own, often very different, set of standards.

Senator Beavers said she is concerned that Common Core is putting too much pressure on teachers and students. "I have a grandson in the city school system in Murfreesboro. They have fully implemented Common Core. He is in Discovery School. They have to test to get in. He was reading fourth grade level in the first grade. He loves learning but he hates school this year because he said all they do is test all day. That's what Common Core is all about. They are constantly testing. The teachers are under a lot of stress right now with Common Core. I hate that for the kids. I have studies that show it damages children in their early years, kindergarten through third grade because of the pressure," said Senator Beavers.

The overall focus of the new standards is to get students to think more critically rather than memorizing facts. Representative Weaver said she believes it goes too far. "When I was in the third grade, we memorized multiplication tables. My grandson is in the third grade and they are not allowed to do that anymore. They have to show the process. I'm all about analytical thinking but some things you've just got to know. You've got to know what's right and wrong but there seems to be a teaching mechanism here to make it be not absolute," she said.

Representative Weaver said the standards are also unfair to special education students and teachers who are held accountable. "They are demanding that special education kids be at a certain level when those children are never going to be at that level. These children are being prepared to fail and that is not fair to the teachers who are evaluated on the progress of these kids. It's failure before you even start and that's frustrating. I believe we should let the good teachers do what they do best. Let them teach. They know the kids and how to work with them," added Representative Weaver.

Senator Beavers said she also supports legislation to restrict the collection and distribution of student data except for the child's parents. "There are bills to stop the data collection. This data keeps everything on your child. If they ever get suspended for even one day, it's on their record for the rest of their lives. Their first employer will get to see that information. That scares me to death that this data could be going to the federal government. Yet, I've had parents tell me they've gone to school to see their child's work and are told, that work belongs to the Commissioner of Education. We can't let you see it. There's something wrong here folks" she said.

The content of some textbooks is also a cause of concern for Senator Beavers. "I went to a forum in Brentwood last year on Common Core. They had a lot of experts testify about things that were left out of the curriculum. Pearson is the book Tennessee contracts with and we require such a high bond on our textbook companies that come into Tennessee that they (Pearson) are the only ones who qualify. They are the ones we heard parents in Williamson County complaining about with the sex in the books and the pretty much pro Muslim, anti Christianity (referring to) Christianity as a cult. I mean we've heard all kinds of stories about the textbooks. I've read some stuff about the sex that is being taught that is alarming," said Senator Beavers.

Another issue is the cost of developing online PARCC testing (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). Not only must schools have up-to-date computers and operating systems, they must have adequate bandwidth to accommodate these computers. Additionally, an iPad or other tablet alone won’t work for PARCC testing. Keyboard usage is mandatory with the PARCC system. The Tennessee Department of Education is aware of these issues and is working to address the problem. Still, it could be cost prohibitive for some counties. "My poorest county is Clay County and they are telling me their school system is almost bankrupt already and then you lay this on them. What are they going to do? We can't afford to keep it (Common Core)," said Senator Beavers.

While the DeKalb County School System received some $260,000 in extra money from the state for infrastructure, the district still needs more than $320,000 to purchase all the computers and accessories that are needed to be ready for the launch of PARCC testing in the 2014-15 school year.

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