Local News Articles

School Districts Make Requests for More Pre-K Classrooms

March 11, 2008

Tennessee school districts have requested 306 new state-funded pre-K classes for the 2008-09 school year to serve four-year olds in at-risk and universal classrooms, according to a
survey released today by the Tennessee Department of Education.

School administrators in each of Tennessee’s school systems submitted a request for the number of new pre-K classrooms they would like to open next year. DeKalb County has requested two new classes. These requests would finally bring pre-K to every county in the state of Tennessee.

“This survey demonstrates the demand and desire for more families to have access to high quality pre-K education,” Governor Phil Bredesen said. “Quality pre-K classrooms are one of the best investments we can make in the education of children in Tennessee, and every family
deserves access to educational opportunities like pre-K that prepare their children to succeed in school.”

Both Sumner County and Washington County schools intend to request state pre-K funding for the first time. With these requests, Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K for All program will have classrooms in all but one of Tennessee’s 136 school systems.

School districts further reported 2,093 students still on pre-K waiting lists this year. This is a growth of over 500 students on the waiting list from the same time last year.

“As more families benefit from these excellent programs, we see a growing need in schools across the state to provide this valuable instruction to young children,” said Acting Education Commissioner Tim Webb. “This survey shows that the people of Tennessee support and
believe in the need for pre-K.”

Under Governor Bredesen, the state has created 934 pre-K classrooms serving 17,308 children. Tennessee’s Pre-K for All program is ranked high nationally in quality by the National Institute for Early Education Research and is held as a model state by the national advocacy
organization pre-K Now.

Parents Attend DeKalb West School Fair

March 11, 2008

From churning butter to the different phases of the moon, science took center stage for the second annual DeKalb West School Science Fair March 3-4. Parents packed into the school’s gym Monday night to hear students demonstrate their findings for their special project. Judges from outside the school awarded students based on the quality of their experiments, demonstrations, and research work.

Individual winners from 1st-3rd grades are the following: 3rd grader Bailey Redmon in first place, 2nd grader Brady Driver took second, and 3rd grader Rosa Payne captured third. Caitlyn Tyree, Ethan Martin, and Hannah Evans were given honorable mentions.

Overall individual winners from 4th-5th grade are 5th grader Lydia Trail with a first place finish, 5th grader Dakoda Eaton with a second place showing, and 4th grader William Cain with a third place finish. For their experiments, 4th grader Anna Bess Malone claimed the top spot followed by 5th grader Bailey Hayes with 2nd. Honorable mentions went to 4th grader James Sherwood, 4th grader Sam McMillen, 5th grader CharlieYoung, and 5th grader Mikayla Hendrixson. In the demonstrations category, 5th grader Cason Oakley won the top ribbon followed by 5th grader Cayla Cantrell with second place. 4th grader Damian Payne, 5th grader Payton Graves, and the entire 4th grade class received honorable mentions. For research work, 5th grader Luke Boss won first place and 5th grader Isaiah Sutherland placed second. Given honorable mentions were the following fifth graders: Nikki Hunt, Katy Willoughby & Autumn Taylor, and Jacob Hale.

Overall individual winners from 6th-8th grade are 8th grade Sydney Robinson who won first place, 7th grader Erin Cantrell-Pryor who earned second place, and 8th grader Alex Meadows who took home a third place finish. Placing in the top three for their experiments are 7th grader Matt Boss with a number one finish, 8th grader Luis Richards with a second place ribbon, and 8th grader Quintin Harbaugh won 3rd place. 8th grader Austin Willmore, 6th graders Zachary Bandy and Tiffany Collier, and 8th grader Matthew Cain were given honorable mentions. Students who placed for their demonstrations are 7th grader Shelton Martin with first place, 8th grader Melodie Brown with second place, and 8th grader Corey Merriman placed 3rd. Honorable mentions went to 6th graders Sarah Hunt and Bradley Faulk, 6th grader Alivia Nokes, and 7th grader Jacob Turner. For their research work, 8th grader Hailey Perry placed first followed by 7th grader Kasey Hunt with second place, and 8th grader Katy England won third place. 8th grader Chelsea Crutcher, 7th graders Kristina Tyree and Ashley O’Connor, and 6th graders Morgan Clark and Tori Redmon were selected for honorable mentions.

Three "Teachers of the Year" Selected to Compete for Regional Honors

March 10, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County School System has announced that three educators, Joyce Alexander, Lisa Cripps, and Harriett Cantrell have been selected "Teachers of the Year" locally and will compete for regional honors in the Tennessee Teacher of the Year Program.

These teachers were chosen from a group of local educators in three categories (levels of teaching) Pre- Kindergarten to Fourth Grade- Alexander; Fifth to Eighth Grade- Cripps; and Ninth through Twelfth Grade- Cantrell.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year Program is designed to promote recognition, respect and appreciation for teachers; to stimulate interest in teaching as a career; and to encourage public involvement in education.

This program is sponsored annually by the Tennessee Department of Education and the Niswonger Foundation.

The Tennessee Teacher of the Year represents Tennessee at the National Teacher of the Year competition, which is sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Scholastic, Inc.

Teachers of the Year are selected competitively through five cycles: Building, System, Field Service Center Region, Grand Division and State; and from three categories (levels of teaching); Grades Pre K-4, 5-8, 9-12.

Teachers selected at each cycle receive local recognition and awards underwritten by local sources. State recognition/awards include a banquet honoring the nine State Teacher of the Year finalists and certificates of appreciation from the Governor. In addition, the State Finalists and the State Teacher of the Year receive cash awards from the Niswonger Foundation.

The initial group of teachers included Janet Woodward, Janet Trapp, Lisa Mabe, and Joyce Alexander in the Pre K to 4th grade category; Susan Robinson, Amanda Griffith, Janet England, and Lisa Cripps in the 5th to 8th grade division; and Mary Anne Carpenter, Charlotte Wruble, and Harriett Cantrell in the 9th-12th grade teaching category.

Two Arrested by Sheriff's Department in Separate Theft Cases

March 10, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has charged two men in separate theft investigations since Friday. Meanwhile, 18 year old Lillian Elezabeth Sosa, an illegal immigrant, has been picked up by the Department of Immigration and may soon be deported to Mexico.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says the detectives charged 29 year old Richard Mooney of Armstrong Road, Watertown on Friday with a theft which occurred at a residence on Poplar Road in DeKalb County on October 4th, 2007.

Mooney is charged with burglary and theft of property over $1,000. Sheriff Ray says Mooney allegedly took a 1965 Dodge 1 ton flatbed truck, and various pieces of metal and tin from the residence. Mooney's bond was set at $30,000 and his court date is March 20th.

Meanwhile on Saturday, DeKalb Sheriff's Department detectives charged 26 year old William Travis Malone of Curtis Avenue, Alexandria with burglary and theft of property over $10,000.

Sheriff Ray says on February 21st, Malone allegedly took 8 rings, 2 watches, and a necklace valued at over $15,000 and $80.00 in change from a vehicle on Curtis Avenue in Alexandria. Detectives were able to recover some of the stolen rings which Malone had sold to a business in Smithville. Malone allegedly admitted to county detectives his involvement in the theft. Malone's bond was set at $75,000 and his court date is March 20th.

Sheriff Ray says Lillian Elezabeth Sosa was picked up by the Department of Immigration at the DeKalb County Jail Monday. The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department was contacted by the Department of Immigration last week in regards to Sosa's deportation. Sosa has been taken to Nashville to the Davidson County Jail and she will be held, pending arrangements to transport her back to Mexico. Sheriff Ray says "We have been informed by the Department of Immigration that every attempt will be made to deport any illegal alien, who has been charged with any felony criminal offense or has any prior record of deportation from the U.S."

Sosa pleaded guilty last week to abuse of a corpse in DeKalb County Criminal Court and received a two year sentence, all suspended to time served. She was given credit for the 130 days she has been in custody from October 26th, 2007 to March 4th, 2008. She was to be released on Department of Corrections probation Monday, March 10th.

DeKalb County Jobless Rate Inches Up to 5.2% In January

March 8, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for January was 5.2%, up from 5% in December and 4.9% in January, 2007.

DeKalb County's Labor Force in January was 10,330. A total of 9,790 were employed and 540 were unemployed.

Meanwhile, Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January 2008 was released last week at 4.9 percent, 0.1 percent lower than the revised December 2007 rate of 5.0 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of January was also 4.9 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for January 2008, show that 89 counties increased. The rate decreased in four counties and remained the same in two counties. County unemployment rates are not be seasonally adjusted and therefore reflect seasonal expansions and layoffs that occur during the year. The state and U.S. unemployment rates are seasonally adjusted to eliminate normal seasonal fluctuations and to indicate a more accurate measurement of actual economic change.

Williamson County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 3.5 percent, the same as the December 2007 rate. Pickett County had the state's highest at 10.7 percent, up from 9.5 in December, followed by Perry County at 10.2 percent, up from 9.0 in December.
Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate at 3.8 percent, up from 3.7 in December. Davidson County was 4.2 percent, up from 4.1 in December. Hamilton County was at 4.6 percent, up from 4.3 in December, and Shelby County was 5.6 percent, up from the December rate of 5.4.

Andrew Cooper Wins Tennessean Regional Spelling Bee

March 7, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Andrew Chaffin Cooper, a fourth grader at Northside Elementary School, won the Tennessean Regional Spelling Bee Friday at the Massey Performing Arts Center at Belmont University in Nashville.

Cooper correctly spelled the word "kielbasa" to claim the championship.

He is the son of Dr. Steven and Martha Cooper of Smithville.

Both Cooper and Ashli Chew represented DeKalb County in the Regional Spelling Bee. Students from thirty nine other counties also participated.

Chew, another fourth grader at Northside Elementary, was winner of the 5th Annual DeKalb County Spelling Bee held last month at the high school. Cooper was the runner-up.

Chew is the daughter of Lori and Kelvin Page of Smithville and George and Janna Chew of Murfreesboro.

As the winner of the Regional Spelling Bee, Cooper received a one hundred dollar savings bond, a Webster's Third New International Dictionary, and a first place trophy. Andrew will compete in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. May 25th through May 31st with all expenses paid by the Tennessean Newspaper.

State Takes Action Against Man and Related Businesses Who Provided Unlicensed Legal Services to Hispanic Immigrants Here

March 7, 2008

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper, acting on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs, has filed a civil law enforcement action against Elmer Virula for allegedly providing legal services without a license to members of the Hispanic immigrant community in Smithville and Davidson County.

The Attorney General has filed suit against Elmer Virula, TPS Tax Professional Services, Inc., and Office Professional Services, Inc. in Davidson County Circuit Court. The defendants are charged with the unauthorized practice of law for allegedly providing services from their
offices located on South Mountain Street in Smithville, Billingsgate Road in Antioch, and Nolensville Pike and Thompson Lane in Nashville. The State's lawsuit alleges the defendants falsely told consumers that Elmer Virula is an attorney and certified public accountant in the State of Tennessee.

The complaint also alleges the defendants misled consumers, claiming they could provide legal services such as immigration document preparation, marriage licenses and other government certificates, which were falsified.

State officials said if you paid Elmer Virula, TPS Tax Professional Services, Inc., or Office Professional Services, Inc. for services, please contact the Tennessee Attorney General's Office at (615) 741-1671 or toll free within Tennessee at 1-877-275-7396. The State is still trying to
determine how many consumers may have paid Virula and the related businesses
for services he allegedly did not provide.

Senate Judiciary Approves Sen. Beavers’ Bill to Automatically Revoke Driving Privileges of Drunk Drivers

March 7, 2008

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved legislation, sponsored by Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) that would allow law enforcement officers to immediately confiscate the licenses of drunk drivers upon arrest. Called Automatic License Revocation, or ALR, this program would be the administrative process by which the Department of Safety suspends the driver licenses of individuals who are arrested for the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“The number of victims at the hands of drunk drivers in Tennessee is unacceptable,” said Beavers. “One problem is that about one-third of all drivers arrested for DUI each year are repeat DUI offenders. The National Transportation Safety Board research shows ALR is a major factor proven to reduce DUI offenses among convicted drunk drivers, therefore reducing recidivism and many unnecessary alcohol-related car crashes. This bill will go a long way to help reduce the number of drunk drivers on our roads.”

Specifically, an individual could be suspended under the bill for a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) greater than allowed by law, which is .08 for drivers 21 years of age or older; .02 percent for those under the age of 21; and .04 percent for a person operating a commercial vehicle. The bill would also apply to those who refuse to take the BAC test. In addition, the legislation would allow for an issuance of an interim permit, valid for up to 90 days after the date of issuance or until the Department or Safety revokes a driver’s driving privileges, whichever comes first.

“A state that does not have a law that requires on-the-spot license suspension of a drunk driver’s license is simply not doing all that it can to combat the tragedies drunk driving," Beavers added. “It deters drunk driving by addressing dangerous behavior outside trial delays and plea bargains that can often plague criminal DUI prosecutions."

In 2006, there were 1,287 fatalities on Tennessee roads with 509 due to alcohol-related crashes. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among persons between the ages of 3 and 33, with 50 percent of those being alcohol-related.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 9-0 vote. The bill must be heard and passed by the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee before heading to the Senate Floor for a vote.

Court of Criminal Appeals Orders Amended Judgment in Carter Case

March 7, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Unless there is a further appeal, it appears a jail sentence imposed against Gary Carter will have to be reduced from 9 months to no more than 7.2 months based on an opinion by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Middle Division.

Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns, Jr., in September 2006, sentenced Carter to two years to be served in split confinement with nine months incarceration followed by four years probation, after Carter entered a guilty plea to one count of statutory rape, involving a female, who was seventeen years old and only a few months shy of turning eighteen when the incident allegedly occurred.

Carter has remained free on bond since filing the appeal over a year ago. His name is also listed on the Tennessee Sexual Offender Registry.

In the appeal, the attorney for Carter, Hilton Conger, asked that Carter be granted probation, and not be made to serve nine months in jail.

In a February decision, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that "the judgement of the trial court is affirmed as to the denial of judicial diversion and full probation." However, the court further ruled that "the trial court erred in the imposition of nine months of incarceration."

According to the court, "The period of time ordered to be served in split confinement cannot exceed the defendant's release eligibility date. The release eligibility date for a Range I standard offender receiving a two year sentence is 7.2 months less certain sentence credits. The record clearly establishes that the defendant was sentenced to nine months, this sentence breached state law and the defendant's liberty would be restrained longer than permitted by law, the issue was not waived, and consideration of the error is necessary to do substantial justice. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment to the extent that the defendant was ordered to serve nine months of incarceration and remand this matter to the trial court to enter an amended judgment setting the defendant's split confinement sentence at 7.2 months. All other portions of the judgment are affirmed."

Conger, in his written argument filed with the higher court, said the trial court erred in denying Carter probation, especially since Carter had no previous criminal record. Conger wrote, " Despite the overwhelming evidence in the record that the appellant (Carter) was a favorable candidate for alternative sentencing, the trial court ambiguously ignored the presumption and failed to articulate in the record its reason or reasons for doing so."

Conger also claimed that the trial court "abused its discretion when it summarily denied the appellant's application for Judicial Diversion without specific consideration, on the record, of the relevant factors required under Tennessee Law. Even if sufficient evidence exists to support the denial of Judicial Diversion, the trial court must state its reasons for its denial of Judicial Diversion. It is clear from the record that the trial court failed to weigh all of the factors necessary prior to making its determination that the appellant's application for Judicial Diversion would be denied."

According to Conger, "requiring the appellant to serve nine months would require a complete disregard for the laws and statutes of the State of Tennessee and would cause the appellant and his family to suffer without his income to support them. The appellant has learned a humiliating, humbling and frightening lesson in life which has taken it's toll on him emotionally and physically. The comments of the Assistant District Attorney and of the trial court, on the record, support the appellant's contention that he will return to the exemplary life that he enjoyed prior to the date in question. The chances that the appellant will engage in future criminal conduct are extremely remote. Additionally, the appellant has expressed sincere remorse for his actions, and has taken full responsibility."

Sosa Pleads Guilty to Abuse of a Corpse

March 4, 2008
by: 
Dwayne Page

Lillian Elezabeth Sosa will be released from jail on Monday.

The 18 year old woman who gave birth to a stillborn child on October 26th at the El Rancho Restaurant on West Broad Street where she worked, pleaded guilty by information to "abuse of a corpse" Tuesday in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

Judge David Patterson sentenced Sosa to two years, all suspended to time served. She was given credit for the 130 days she has been in custody from October 26th, 2007 to March 4th, 2008. She will be released on Department of Corrections probation Monday, March 10th.

Sosa was represented by April Craven, Assistant Public Defender, and Ben Day served as the court interpreter for Sosa, who speaks little or no English.

Sosa was initially charged with second degree murder in the death of her child, but the charge was dropped after an autopsy revealed that the infant was stillborn. Instead, Sosa was charged with abuse of a corpse, which is a class E felony.

According to Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings, Sosa apparently locked herself in the ladies restroom of the restaurant and gave birth to the child on Friday night, October 26th. She then came out of the restroom, told her boss that she needed to leave because she was sick, and called for someone to give her a ride home. Sosa's aunt reportedly came to the restaurant and picked her up.

Jennings says the child was discovered around 9:20 p.m. by a waitress, Karla Leon, who went into the ladies rest room to clean up, as staff were preparing to close the restaurant for the night.
Leon then reported her discovery to the manager and they called 911. Customers had already left the restaurant when she discovered the body.

Agents Billy Miller and Dan Friel of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were notified and joined the Smithville Police Department in the investigation later that night, and after interviewing employees, decided they needed to talk to Sosa.

After discovering where she lived, Sheriff Patrick Ray went to the address on Talley Road and picked her up around 4:00 a.m. Saturday. She was brought to the Smithville Police Department, where she was interviewed by the TBI agents.

During the questioning of Sosa through an interpreter, agents determined she was a likely suspect in the case and took her to DeKalb Community Hospital for an examination. The emergency room doctor found that she had recently given birth and suggested that she undergo emergency surgery, because she had suffered some potentially life threatening complications during the delivery.

Sosa was then transported to the Cookeville Hospital early Saturday morning, October 27th. She came through the surgery fine and was released on Monday, October 29th after which she was taken into custody.

The infant, a male, fully developed child, weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces, and was 19 inches long. Chief Jennings says it appears the mother carried the child about eight months.

EMS personnel initially thought the baby was alive but Bill Locke, Assistant District Attorney General, says the autopsy concluded that the child was dead at the time of birth.

Meanwhile, in other cases, 44 year old Denise Juareqi pleaded guilty to criminal impersonation and will be on supervised probation for six months. She must perform 25 hours of community service work. She was given credit for time served since December 28th, 2007.

36 year old Tina Young pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and received a three year sentence, to serve 30 days and then be on Department of Corrections Probation. She must perform 100 hours of community service work.

24 year old Johnny Devault pleaded guilty by information to reckless driving and simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days on the drug charge, suspended to time served and six months probation. He must pay a fine of $250. He was given jail credit from December 12th, 2007 to March 4th, 2008. Devault received a six months suspended sentence on the reckless driving charge.

25 year old Elizabeth Chalfant pleaded guilty to theft and received a two year sentence, all suspended. She must make restitution to the victim in the amount of $1,956 and perform 100 hours of community service work. She was given jail credit from July 19th to August 24th, 2007 and from January 2nd to March 4th, 2008. She also pleaded guilty to sale of a schedule II controlled substance and received a three year sentence, all suspended to six months to serve. She was fined $2,000 and must make restitution of $50 to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department. As part of her sentence, Chalfant will be on probation and or must successfully complete in-house treatment at a facility. Chalfant pleaded guilty to driving on a suspended license and received six months to serve. She also pleaded guilty to casual exchange and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to six months to serve. Chalfant's sentences will run concurrently, except for the theft case, which will run consecutively with the others.

34 year old Larry L. George pleaded guilty to escape, aggravated burglary, theft over $1,000, evading, and driving on a suspended license. All the cases run concurrently except the escape conviction, which runs consecutively with the others. George received a total sentence of six years to serve one year and then be on probation for five years. He will be on supervised probation by the Department of Corrections, must make restitution to the victim, perform 100 hours of community service work, and pay a $50 fine. He was given jail credit of 131 days.

37 year old Amiee D. Jobe pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and received a 30 day suspended sentence and four months of good behavior probation.

41 year old Lisa Kylene Frazier pleaded guilty to forgery and aggravated burglary. She received a two year sentence on the forgery charge and four years on the burglary offense. The cases are to run concurrently with each other and with cases against her in Macon and Sumner Counties. She must make restitution of $550 to the victims here. Frazier was given jail credit of 231 days.

52 year old Larry Lepley pleaded guilty to attempting to violate the sex offender registry. He received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days, all suspended to probation. He must perform 50 hours of community service work which can be waived if he is unable to complete it due to a disability.

35 year old Bill Bailey Swaner III pleaded guilty to theft and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days to serve 30 days. The case is to run consecutive to a Warren County case against him. Swaner must perform 25 hours of community service work on PSI probation. He is also restrained from going into the Walmart store. Swaner was given jail credit for January 20th through March 4th.

21 year old Kara L. Funk, charged with possession of a schedule II, III, and VI controlled substance for sale and possession of drug paraphernalia, was granted judicial diversion for three years. She will be on supervised Department of Corrections Probation and must perform 100 hours of community service work, and undergo an alcohol and drug assessment and follow the prescribed treatments.

33 year old Charlotte Marie Hill pleaded guilty to theft under $500 and received a sentence of 11 months and 29 days. She will be on PSI supervised probation and must perform 25 hours of community service work. She must also stay away from Walmart. Hill was given jail credit of 16 days.

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