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Local News Articles

(UPDATED AGAIN) Early Voting Turnout Remains Heavy

April 22, 2014
Dwayne Page

Voter turnout remains heavy and is on pace to top early voting participation in the May primary four years ago according to the DeKalb County Election Commission.

A total of 881 people have cast ballots during the first eight days of early voting including 828 who have voted in the Democratic Primary and 53 in the Republican Primary. Four years ago, there were a total of 2,907 voters in the primary including 1,149 who voted either early or by absentee and 1,758 who cast ballots on election day.

On Friday, April 25, a total of 103 voters participated including 100 in person and three by absentee ballot.

Early Voting continues through May 1 on the following dates and times on the first floor of the courthouse:

Mondays 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Thursdays 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Saturdays 9 a.m. to Noon

Election day is Tuesday, May 6

Judge Candidates Outspending Other Local Primary Races

April 22, 2014
Dwayne Page

The latest local financial disclosure reports are in, providing a window into how much money candidates have raised and spent on advertising and other campaign materials from January 16 through March 31.

The most money spent in any race during the period was for General Sessions Judge at more than $13,500.

Incumbent Judge Bratten Cook, II showed receipts (contributions to his campaign) of $7,162 with only $800 of that in donations from others. The rest, $6,362 was Cook's own money. During the period, Judge Cook spent $5,780. His Democratic opponent, Margie Rigsby Miller reported
receipts totaling $6,552 of her own money. Disbursements (expenditures) totaled $7,785. The winner of the primary on May 6 will face Republican nominee Mingy Bryant in August.

In the race for Sheriff, Larry Flair reported disbursements of $6,196 and $7,550 in contributions including $3,800 of his own money for the campaign. His opponent in the primary, Michael Agee had $1,057 in total receipts and spent $1,182. The winner of the May 6th primary race will face incumbent Republican Sheriff Patrick Ray in August. Ray reported receipts of $2,000 during the quarter. He spent $1,062.

County Clerk candidate James L. Poss reported contributions of $6,439 which included $2,289 of his own funds. He spent $6,136. Incumbent
County Clerk Mike Clayborn reported disbursements of $1,842.

County Mayor Mike Foster put $2,950 of his own money into the campaign for re-election during the reporting period and spent $1,606. His
Democratic Primary opponent Tim Stribling showed receipts of $2,500, one thousand dollars of which was his own money. Stribling reported
disbursements of $1,867 for the period. The winner of the primary will face Republican nominee Chris Smithson and Independent candidate Chris Bratcher. Neither of them showed receipts or disbursements during the reporting period.

Democratic Road Supervisor candidate Jimmy Sprague reported $409 in contributions and $406 in expenditures. His Republican opponent Butch
Agee showed receipts of $4,800 including $3,700 of his own funds. Agee has spent $3,777.

Democratic Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, who is unopposed, reported $700 in receipts and $280 in disbursements.

Democratic Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen, also unopposed, reported only $45 in receipts and disbursements during the period.

Another uncontested office holder, Republican Trustee Sean Driver showed $555 in expenditures.

The only county commission candidate who filed a campaign financial disclosure report is Jonathon Norris in the fourth district. He showed
receipts of $2,000 of his own money. He spent $1,561.

The two candidates for Smithville Mayor, Incumbent Jimmy W. Poss and challenger Wallace Caldwell, also filed reports. Poss showed
expenditures of $243. Caldwell reported $221 in disbursements.

Election Commission Offers Reminders

April 22, 2014
Dwayne Page

With interest running high in the May 6 primary elections, local voters are reminded of certain deadlines that are fast approaching.

“The last day the election office can receive a request for an absentee ballot is April 29,” said Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections. “Of course the actual ballots can arrive as late as election day, but the request to receive an absentee ballot must be in our office no later than April 29.”

Also, the last day of early voting is May 1. “The turnout for early voting has been high and we hope that trend continues,” Stanley said.

Meanwhile, the election office took occasion to remind candidates about laws and issues relating to campaign signs.

“There is a 100 ft campaign free zone from every entrance to a polling place,” Stanley said. “We have received reports that some political signs may be closer than 100 feet at a couple of the polling places, a direct violation of state law that could result in a Class C misdemeanor charge.”

Also, Stanley said candidates should be mindful of where they are displaying their signs for other reasons, particularly visibility.

“The City of Smithville has received a few complaints about signs causing a visibility problem for motorists, especially around the courthouse,”
Stanley said. “Candidates need to be mindful of the motorist visibility.”

Drunk Driver Found with Handguns and a Small Child

April 22, 2014
Dwayne Page
Jeremy Aaron Bilbrey
Harold Gene Blackwell
Rikke Patterson
Michael Anthony Leichtfuss
James Clayton Henley, Jr.

A Smithville man was arrested last week after he was found driving drunk with a small child and two handguns in the vehicle with him at the time.

39 year old Jeremy Aaron Bilbrey of Village Place, Smithville is charged with driving under the influence and possession of a handgun while under the influence. He was also cited for violation of the implied consent law and for Roadway Laned for Travel. His bond is $3,000 and he will be in court on May 15.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Friday, April 18 a deputy was dispatched to McMinnville Highway in response to a complaint of a blue Cadillac driving recklessly. The officer spotted the vehicle, which crossed over the center line several times into the turning lane. The driver, Bilbrey was stopped and found to have glassy eyes and his speech was slurred and mumbled. He was asked to step out of the car and perform standard field sobriety tasks. He performed poorly on the tasks. Bilbrey admitted to taking his pain medication earlier in the day. A two year old child was in the vehicle with Bilbrey and two handguns, a SIG Sauer P223 and a Glock 19, were on the front passenger side. He was arrested for DUI and taken to the jail for booking. He refused to submit to a blood test.

64 year old Harold Gene Blackwell of Sparta is charged with evading arrest. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court May 15. Blackwell was also issued citations for Reckless Driving and Driving on a Roadway Laned for Traffic.

Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, April 16 the sheriff's department received a radio call from an officer in another county that a blue Toyota Tacoma had almost hit his patrol car head-on and was coming toward Smithville on Sparta Highway. A local deputy met the vehicle near the four lane of Highway 70 just east of Evins Mill Road. When the officer turned around to make a traffic stop, the vehicle turned onto Evins Mill Road and fled at a high rate of speed. The deputy turned onto Evins Mill Road and activated his emergency lights and siren but the fleeing vehicle continued to evade until it reached the entrance of Evins Mill where it came to a stop. Blackwell, the driver, was placed under arrest.

40 year old Rikke Patterson of Big Hickory Court Smithville is charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest. Patterson is under a $3,500 bond and she will be in court April 24. She was arrested on Friday, April 18. Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, April 1, a deputy responded to Highway 56 north (North Congress Boulevard) in response to a suspicious person inside a business, who was upset and asking for money, telling an employee there that she needed cash for her dog, her family, and to pay bills. The deputy spoke with the woman, Patterson, who appeared to be under the influence of alcohol and or drugs. She had slurred speech and was unsteady on her feet. She also had a bluish white powdery substance in the corners of her mouth. Outside the business, Patterson told the officer that she needed money because someone had tied up her husband and that her children may also be in danger. During the conversation, the officer noticed that Patterson became more upset and she began moving toward the driver's side door of her vehicle. The deputy grabbed her arm to prevent her from getting in the automobile, fearing she might try to leave. Patterson pulled away and swung her arms at the deputy. He grabbed and tried to cuff her but she again pulled away. The officer then took her to the ground and cuffed her by force. Patterson was taken to the hospital and later charged with Public Intoxication due to her being a danger to herself and to the public. Officers of the Sheriff's Department conducted a welfare check on Patterson's husband and children and they were found to be well and in good health.

22 year old Michael Anthony Leichtfuss of Old Eagle Creek Road, Smithville is charged with introduction of contraband or drugs into a penal institution. His bond is $5,000. Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, April 14 Leichtfuss was observed on video surveillance at the jail performing a suspicious act. When correctional officers investigated, Leichtfuss rose to his feet and a pill believed to be xanax, a Schedule IV drug, fell from his person onto the floor near his bunk. Leichtfuss admitted that the pill belonged to him. Leichtfuss has been serving weekends in jail for another offense.

42 year old James Clayton Henley, Jr. of Poss Road, Smithville is charged with domestic assault. His bond is $2,500 and he will be in court May 1. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, April 19 a deputy responded to Willis McGinnis Road in response to a domestic assault. Upon arrival the officer spoke with Henley and the victim, Henley's brother-in-law. Henley was bleeding from a head injury. He also had slurred speech and was unsteady on his feet. After speaking to all parties, the officer learned that Henley had driven to the residence. He was highly intoxicated and upset about an argument he had with his wife earlier in the day. Henley's brother-in-law said he met Henley in the driveway to see what was wrong and that Henley began yelling and screaming at him. Henley then removed his glasses and swung his fist trying to hit his brother-in-law in the face. The brother-in-law said he blocked the punch and then used force against Henley to defend himself. Due to Henley being intoxicated, the brother-in-law removed the keys from Henley's vehicle to prevent him from driving.

Students to Hear Why Farmers Need Science & Technology to Grow Healthier Food

April 22, 2014

How are farmers using science and technology to grow healthier food? What’s the impact on our food, animal care and the environment? Students at DeKalb County High School will get those questions answered on Wednesday, April 23. Phyllis Ferguson of the Tennessee Pork Producers Association will address culinary and horticulture students starting at 7:45 a.m. and continuing through 2:45 p.m. at the high school located at 1130 Broad Street in Smithville.

Titled “Modern Animal Agriculture & Pork Production” the speech by Ferguson will highlight how ongoing advancements in agricultural science are helping farmers raise better food while using fewer natural resources than ever before. “Farmers who raise pigs have been able to make great progress in animal health, food safety and protecting the environment,” said Ferguson. “And farmers know they must always keep learning and working to get better at what they do.” Farmers now use 41-percent less water and 78-percent less land to raise pigs than they did 50 years ago.

“Modern barns, a focus on nutrition and animal care mean pigs live healthier lives than ever before,” said Ferguson. “And, healthy pigs mean healthy food. For example, pork tenderloin today is as lean as a skinless chicken breast and is certified by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy food. I’d like to thank DeKalb County High School for giving me an opportunity to share with these students what farmers are doing to make sure safe and healthy food gets to the dinner table today and in the future.”

There are 68,000 pork producers in the United States. The industry generates more than a half million jobs and produces more than $21 billion in personal income each year.

Motorcycle Wreck Sparks Brush Fire

April 21, 2014
Dwayne Page
Motorcycle Destroyed by Fire
Smithville Firefighters Called Sunday to Fiddlers Manor Apartments

A 19 year old Smithville man wasn't seriously injured but his motorcycle was destroyed after it crashed and burned Sunday evening on Bethel Road.

Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Zachary Goldstein was west on Bethel Road riding a 1983 Suzuki motorcycle when he failed to negotiate a curve and ran off the right side of the road and overturned. The motorcycle burst into flames and sparked a small brush fire in the area.

Members of the Blue Springs station of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded.

Other than some scratches, Goldstein was not hurt. He was cited for failure to maintain his lane of travel. He claims that some grass on the roadway caused him to lose control.

Meanwhile, members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department were called out Sunday afternoon to Fiddlers Manor Apartments.

Chief Charlie Parker said a tenant in one of the apartments was cooking when a grease fire started in the kitchen. The tenant extinguished it but smoke spread through the apartment and into the hallway. Residents in that portion of the building were evacuated as a precaution as city firefighters cleared the smoke with blowers.

Trial Date for Askins and Webb Delayed Again

April 21, 2014
Dwayne Page
Wendy Askins

The trial date for former UCDD officials Wendy Askins and Larry Webb has been delayed again in U.S. District Court.

The new trial date is July 15.

Attorneys for Askins filed the motion seeking the delay because they are scheduled to be involved in another federal court jury trial on June 3, the date when the trial of Askins and Webb was supposed to begin.

WJLE has obtained a copy of the motion filed by Askins' attorney Peter J. Strianse and the law firm of Tune, Entrekin & White, PLLC which states that "counsel is scheduled to begin the trial of United States of America versus L. Brian Whitfield (The Sommet Group Case) before U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell and a jury on June 3, 2014. Obviously, the setting of the Whitfield case conflicts with the current setting of the Askins case. The Whitfield case was indicted on March 1, 2012, is older than the Askins case, and has a huge volume of discovery. Additionally, counsel has significant jury trials set on March 24 and April 29, 2014 which appear very likely to be tried".

The motion goes on to state that "On March 12, 2014, counsel for co-defendant Larry G. Webb filed a second motion to enlarge time within which to file pretrial motions. In the motion, counsel for Webb represent that they do not object to this continuance request."

"Defendant Askins will supplement this filing with an appropriate, executed Waiver of Speedy Trial," the motion concluded.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger has granted the request for a continuance.

The trial was originally scheduled for May 20 but Judge Trauger ruled on January 22 in favor of a motion filed by Askins for a continuance. Askins sought the first delay because her daughter is getting married in May. Webb joined Askins in making the request, which was reset for June 3, 2014

Two Escape Serious Injury in Bizarre Accident

April 21, 2014
Dwayne Page
Two Escape Serious Injury in Bizarre Accident
Car ran off West Broad Street (Highway 70) and into a creek under a bridge at Anthony Avenue.

Two people from Rutherford County escaped serious injury Sunday when their car ran off West Broad Street (Highway 70) in Smithville and into a creek under a bridge at Anthony Avenue.

44 year old Christal Cantrell of Murfreesboro and 36 year old Matthew Phillips of Smyrna were treated at the scene by DeKalb EMS but refused transport to the hospital.

According to Captain Steven Leffew of the Smithville Police Department, Cantrell was driving east on Broad Street in a 2013 Ford Mustang when she lost control of the car, plunged down an embankment, clipped a guide wire, and then went into the creek and under a bridge on Anthony Avenue.

Cantrell told police that she and Phillips, the passenger of the car had been arguing which may have contributed to the accident. She submitted to and passed field sobriety tasks. Cantrell was cited for violation of the financial responsibility law.

Captain Leffew expressed his appreciation to members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department who came to the scene to render assistance along with the sheriff's department, who answered service calls for the police department during the crash investigation.

Dates Set for Pre-K and Kindergarten Registration

April 20, 2014
Dwayne Page
Michelle Burklow

DeKalb County Schools would like to share two upcoming dates with parents for the 2014-15 school year concerning enrollment in the pre-kindergarten program and the kindergarten classroom.

"Smithville Elementary will have pre-K pre-registration on Friday, May 9 from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. DeKalb West School will be having a registration day at a later time," said Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K through 6th grade.

"Parents interested in applying for the pre-K program should be aware that your child must turn four years old on or before August 15. When you come to register the student for the pre-K program, parents you will need to provide the following information:

*Original certificate of birth. This is the birth certificate with the state seal.

*Paperwork showing an up to date physical examination. You can get this from your doctor or health department. Make sure they are aware that this form will be used for enrollment in school.

*A certification of immunization record or shot record. Again, make the doctor or health department aware that this form will also be used in registering the child for school.

*Proof of income for all household members.

*Proof of residency. An electric bill. Cable bill. Water bill. Any type of documentation that has your name and address on the paperwork.
Parents, you will be notified prior to the start of school if your child qualifies for the pre-K program. Once the committee meets, teachers will be given a list of their classroom names and they will call and let you know if your child has been accepted into the program. Again, this date is only for Smithville Elementary pre-K registration. DeKalb West School will be having a registration day at a later time," said Burklow.

Meanwhile, Smithville Elementary and DeKalb West School will have kindergarten pre-registration on Friday, May 16 from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Children who plan to attend kindergarten must turn five years old on or before August 15, 2014.

Parents, when you come for that registration, you will need to bring with you the following information:

*Original certificate of birth. The birth certificate with the state seal.

*The physical examination record. It must be current and up to date.

*Up to date certification of immunization record (shot record)

*Proof of residency for DeKalb County.

"Parents, please share with your child that he or she will be tested on registration day. This is an opportunity for your child to show the kindergarten teachers what he or she knows," Burklow concluded

Over 300 Vote Early

April 19, 2014
Dwayne Page

A total of 318 persons have cast ballots during the first three days of early voting for the May 6th Primaries. That includes 40 who voted by absentee.

Only twenty four people have voted in the Republican Primary. A total of 294 have voted in the Democratic Primary.

The voting totals each day are as follows:

Wednesday, April 16: 82 in person and four by absentee (36 previously voted by absentee)

Thursday, April 17: 128 in person

No voting on Good Friday, April 18

Saturday, April 19: 68 voted in person

Early Voting continues through May 1 on the following dates and times on the first floor of the courthouse:

Mondays 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Thursdays 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Saturdays 9 a.m. to Noon


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