Local News Articles

Four Charged in Check Theft & Forgery Investigation

July 20, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has charged four women in the investigation of a stolen check and driver's license, which they allegedly used to obtain cash from the victim's bank account.

25 year old Elizabeth "Beth" Chalfant of Hurricane Ridge Road is charged with theft of property under $500 and theft of property over $1,000; 23 year old Ashley Owen of Twilla Lane, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $1,000; 43 year old Denise Jauregui of Bell Street, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $1,000, criminal impersonation, and forgery; and 25 year old Sabina Solano of Bell Street, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $1,000.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Chalfant allegedly took a check and driver's license from a relative, then all four women went to a local bank, in the same vehicle, where they presented the drivers license and forged check in the amount of $1,900.

According to Sheriff Ray, Owen pulled up to the drive-through window at the bank and presented the stolen check and drivers license, but since the check was not endorsed, the cashier did not accept it and asked the women if the check belonged to one of them.

Sheriff Ray says Jauregui raised her hand, indicated that the check belonged to her, and endorsed it. The cashier then cashed the check and gave the money to the women, who then divided the cash among themselves

Bond for each is as follows, $6,000 for Chalfant, $3,500 for Owen, $9,500 for Jauregui, and $3,500 for Solano.

All four women will appear in General Sessions Court on August 9th.

Mayor Casts Veto Making Stufano Police Chief Again

July 20, 2007
Dwayne Page

Tom Stufano is the Smithville Police Chief again.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson has vetoed the city council's 3 to 1 vote Monday night to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending an investigation of allegations of wrong doing in a pending lawsuit, filed by an attorney for Roy Ray.

In a letter to City Attorney John Pryor dated Wednesday, July 18th , Mayor Hendrixson wrote " I believe the action taken by this Board could be potential exposure to future litigation and I think any action of administrative leave for Chief Stufano is premature."

"I hereby veto the action by the Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen made on July 16th placing Chief Thomas J. Stufano on administrative leave."

"Therefore, Chief Stufano is still Chief of the Smithville Police Department until such time as my veto is overridden by a two thirds majority vote of the entire Board, at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen."

Smithville Alderman Tonya Sullivan, in a prepared response to the mayor's veto, wrote " I received a notification of a veto from Mayor Taft Hendrixson on Friday regarding Chief Stufano's administrative leave. I felt that it was necessary for Chief Stufano to be on paid administrative leave in order to protect him and clear his name and to be fair to Mr. Roy Ray. The allegations were taken serious Monday at the council meeting and so was protecting our city employee. A TBI investigation I felt was the quickest way to get this matter resolved."

Sullivan further stated "The veto by the Mayor doesn't suggest that this was not an appropriate way to handle this. The Mayor's reasons for the veto were 'out of fear of future litigation'. I respect the Mayor's position and I know that myself as well as the other aldermen are willing to work together to resolve tough isses as they happen. I want what is in the best interest of our city employees and the citizens of Smithville."

In order to override a mayoral veto, at least four members of the five member board would have to vote for the override, otherwise, the mayor's veto is sustained.

Mayor Hendrixson met with members of the local media Friday afternoon in his office to publicly announce his decision.

Hendrixson, when asked if he has received any public response from Monday night's vote by the council, stated that he has received numerous comments, both in person and on the phone, expressing support for Stufano.

Mayor Hendrixson says he believes Stufano has done a good job as Police Chief and that he and the department have been active in making drug arrests and addressing other crime concerns.

Alderman Jerry Hutchins' Sr. made the motion Monday night to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of an independent investigation, based on complaints made by Roy Ray filed in a federal court lawsuit against Chief Stufano, the Smithville Police Department, and the City of Smithville.

Ray claims he suffered injuries and that his civil and constitutional rights were violated during a misdemeanor traffic stop in February.

Ray's attorney in the lawsuit, Adam Wilding Parrish of Lebanon, came before the Mayor and Aldermen Monday night requesting the investigation of Stufano.

Aldermen Willie Thomas and Tonya Sullivan joined Hutchins in voting for the suspension, however Alderman Steve White voted against it, until City Attorney John Pryor had more time to research the city's options in dealing with the issue. Alderman Cecil Burger was out of town and could not attend the meeting.

The senior ranking officer, Richard Jennings, became acting chief, until the mayor's veto.

Section 6, paragraph 3 of the City Charter states that "He (Mayor) shall have veto power over any action of the Board, except as hereinafter provided, giving his reasons therefore in writing, with the exception of the hiring policy as set out in SECTION 5, Paragraph 2; but the Board may, by a two thirds vote of the entire membership of said Board, pass the same over his veto; or if he fails to return the same on or before the next meeting of said Board, he shall be deemed to have approved the same and the same shall become a law without such approval; and each and every law, ordinance, resolution or vote, except on the question of adjournment, shall require the approval of the Mayor before it shall become effective, except as herein before provided."

Section 5, Paragraph 2 of the City Charter states that "All employees or appointed officials of the City, including, but not limited to, the Chief of Police, the City Bookkeeper, the City Attorney, the Judicial Commissioner of the City, and the Secretary-Treasurer of the City shall be employed by a majority vote of the Aldermen of said City, and in case of a tie vote of said Aldermen in this and any other question voted on by said Aldermen, the Mayor shall have the power and it is hereby declared to be his duty to cast the deciding vote in such election. It shall also become the duty of said Board to fix by ordinance the salaries of all employees and officials employed by the City. No employees or official can be discharged except for "cause". The Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville, shall enact such ordinance or ordinances as are necessary in order to define "cause", and distribute same to all employees and officials of the City. Said ordinance or ordinances shall comply with the due process requirements of both the federal and state constitutions. All employees and appointed officials of the City shall be rehired and or reappointed each year absent their discharge for "cause" as referred to herein."

Home Health Care Employee Charged With Defrauding Elderly Woman In Her Care

March 19, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 19 year old Home Health Care employee has been charged with fraudulent use of a credit card belonging to an 81 year old woman with whom she was sitting.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Cynthia Kirby of Bell Street Apartments has posted a $1,000 bond and she will be in General Sessions Court on the charge March 29th.

According to Sheriff Ray, the elderly woman gave Kirby her debit card to withdraw some money to buy some supplies. While Kirby was at Region's Bank in Smithville on Thursday, March 8th, she made an unauthorized debit for $200.

Sheriff Ray says Kirby implicated herself in a statement she gave to authorities. In addition to the criminal charge against her, Kirby has been terminated from her employment.

In a separate case, 18 year old Terry Barnes of West Maple Street, Morrison is charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court on the charge March 22nd.

Barnes is accused of being with a 17 year old female who was reported missing by her mother. The girl's mother took out a runaway petition on the juvenile after discovering that her daughter was gone.

Sheriff Ray says officers confronted Barnes about the girl but he denied knowing her whereabouts. She was found with Barnes at the home of Barnes' sister on Corinth Church Road on Friday, March 16th.

In other cases, Sheriff Ray says 24 year old Jamie Reyes of Short Mountain Highway, Smithville was arrested on Saturday, March 17th and charged with a second offense of driving under the influence and violation of probation. His bond is set at $6,000 and he will be in court on the charges March 29th.

Sheriff Ray says an officer, while on patrol, found Reyes sitting in a vehicle on Whorton Springs Road. The car was running but Reyes was passed out. Reyes was awakened and asked to perform a field sobriety task, which he failed. He was then taken into custody.

48 year old Ricky Devault of Talphia Road, Dowelltown was also arrested Saturday and charged with driving on a revoked license. Sheriff Ray says a deputy, while on patrol spotted Devault driving on the Old Snow Hill Road. The officer knew Devault didn't have a driver's license so he pulled him over. DeVault already has two cases of the same offense pending against him in General Sessions Court. He is under a $3,000 bond and he will be in court on this charge April 19th.

On Sunday, March 18th, 35 year old Alfonso Hernandez of Bluff Springs Road, McMinnville, was arrested and charged with a third offense of driving under the influence and driving on a revoked license. A deputy, while on patrol, stopped Hernandez for weaving on Highway 56. He failed a field sobriety task and was charged. He is under a $6,000 bond and will appear in General Sessions Court April 19th.

39 year old Carlos Reyes of Skyline Drive, McMinnville was also arrested for driving under the influence over the weekend after a deputy stopped him for weaving on Highway 56. He failed a field sobriety task and was charged. His bond is $1,000 and his court date is May 10th.

Smithville Police Make More Drug Arrests In Recent Days

March 26, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police are continuing their fight against illegal drug sales in the city with numerous arrests having been made in recent days for Sale and Delivery of Narcotics.

The latest to be arrested include 22 year old Nicky Reese of 150 Kings Court Circle, Smithville; 26 year old Wayne Halton Hicks of 920 South Mountain Street, Smithville; 30 year old Robin Lawson and 24 year old Victoria Lawson, both of 284 Braswell Lane, Smithville. Bond for each is set at $40,000 except Hicks. His bond is $20,000.

Meanwhile, Chief Thomas J. Stufano says Smithville Police also responded to an Adams Street address where a concerned citizen called to report that an apparent drug deal had just occurred and remnants of that activity were in a front yard where small children were playing.

Chief Stufano says \"Upon arrival police found a syringe that still had the needle and traces of fresh blood in it lying in the front yard. Also present were neighborhood children curious about the activity. The item was collected and disposed of as bio-hazard material. Biomedical waste can be a health and safety hazard due to the nature of the waste and may contain disease causing germs.\"

According to Chief Stufano, \"Smithville Police are finding these types of hazardous items throughout the city especially in vacant areas that are frequented by smaller children out playing. Parents and children are strongly encouraged not to handle these types of items and report suspicious activity immediately to safety officials. Police, Fire and Health professionals are trained to properly handle and dispose of bio-hazard material so that these items cannot hurt someone. \"

In another case, Chief Stufano says \"On Sunday, March 25th 32 year old David Reyes of 274 Smith Road Smithville was arrested for driving a vehicle with no driver's license resulting in a motor vehicle accident. Reyes was subsequently arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond. Reyes also admitted to being an illegal alien form Mexico.\"

Chief Stufano says \" The Smithville Police Department, in cooperation with its state and local counterparts, are committed to the safety and security of our residents and guests. If you see suspicious activity in your neighborhoods, take a stand and call the police! Remember your call could prevent a crime against your family and neighbors. Dial 215-3000 for police response or 911 only if an emergency. \"

Fire Destroys Home In Temperance Hall Area

March 21, 2007
Dwayne Page

A fire Wednesday morning destroyed the home of Jimmy Sprague at 310 Jackson Hollow Road in the Temperance Hall community.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says a neighbor coming home from work first saw the smoke and then discovered the fire at around 8:20 a.m. He says by that time, the roof had already collapsed.

Members of the Temperance Hall, Liberty, and Short Mountain Highway Stations responded along with a tanker truck but firefighters were unable to save the home and contents.

Sprague, who works for the county road department, was not at home at the time but saw the smoke and returned home. Sprague told firefighters he left home around 6:20 a.m. to take his children to school.

Sprague's 1996 Chevy Tahoe, parked in the driveway only a few feet away from the garage, was damaged but not destroyed. Sprague arrived in time to move the vehicle further away from the fire.

No one was injured.

Firefighters and members of the Tennessee Division of Forestry were later recalled to the scene after the fire rekindled and spread to the woods.

Search Underway On Center Hill Lake For Missing Cookeville Man

March 23, 2007
Dwayne Page

A search effort has been underway since Tuesday on Center Hill Lake for a man believed to have jumped off Hurricane Bridge and drowned.

43 year old Bobby Joe Cosgrove of Cook Street, Cookeville is missing.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Cosgrove's vehicle was found parked by the side of the road at Hurricane Bridge on Highway 56 north early Tuesday morning and the car contained some of his personal belongings. Based on what was found in the car, Sheriff Ray says authorities believe Cosgrove may have jumped off the bridge.

Cosgrove is a white male with brown hair, brown eyes, and a brown beard. He was last seen wearing a jogging outfit. He is six feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds.

Sheriff Ray says members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the TWRA, the DeKalb County Rescue Squad, and the Putnam County K-9 Tracking Unit have all been involved in the search for Cosgrove by land and water, but the depth of the lake as well as the huge rocks, metal, and parts of the old bridge at the bottom of the lake make dragging operations difficult.

He says if Cosgrove isn't found by the weekend, rescue squads from other counties will be called upon to aid in the search, and underwater cameras may be used.

Stranded Motorist Arrested By Sheriff's Department For Possession of Drugs

March 23, 2007
Dwayne Page

A woman who ran out of gas in her vehicle on Ferrell Road Wednesday was arrested by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department after an officer found pills and drug paraphernalia in her vehicle.

Roxanne Hendrixson of McMinnville Highway is charged with possession of a schedule II controlled substance (methodone) for sale and delivery and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says a concerned citizen called the department on Wednesday stating that a vehicle was parked on Ferrell Road. After the officer arrived at the scene to check on the vehicle, he noticed that Hendrixson had a white powdery substance on her nose. He requested and received consent to search the vehicle and found a bottle containing 77 methodone pills. Sheriff Ray says the label on the prescription bottle was partially torn off so the officer couldn't determine to whom the pills were prescribed, but the remaining portion of the label on the bottle revealed that the prescription was filled Tuesday for 160 pills. In addition to the pills, the officer found a pill crusher and a straw containing a white powdery residue .

Hendrixson will be in General Sessions Court on the charges March 29th.

Hughes Named Junior Miss

April 1, 2007
Dwayne Page

13 year old Heather Marie Hughes was chosen from a group of twenty eight girls as the 2007 Junior Miss DeKalb County at Saturday night's Spring Blossom Pageant, sponsored by the Smithville Women's Club.

Hughes is the daughter of Shawnn Meadows and Mike Hughes of Smithville.

She succeeds the retiring Junior Miss, Kristen LaCole Smartt, the 13 year old daughter of Paula and Aaron Taylor and Leslie and Diedre Smartt.

Meanwhile, 14 year old Chris Byrd, son of Rhonda Perez and Lee Byrd, was selected from a field of eight boys as the Junior Mister DeKalb County.

Byrd succeeds the retiring Junior Mister, 13 year old Jake Odom, son of Lisa Barnes and Shayne Odom.

First runner-up in the Junior Miss pageant was 14 year old Felicia Marie Ingram, daughter of Mary and Virgilo Verhelio. Second runner-up was 12 year old Victoria Dawn Tatrow, daughter of the late Shanna Tatrow and James and Vicky Funk. Third runner-up was 14 year old Camry Lou Colvert White, daughter of Steve and Lou Ann White. Fourth runner-up was 13 year old Ashlee Michelle Whitehead, daughter of Kenneth and Tina Whitehead. Fifth runner-up was 12 year old Sydney Jay-Ann Robinson, daughter of Charles and Rita Robinson.

14 year old Martha Allen Webb was chosen Miss Congeniality. She is the daughter of Alan and Lora Webb.

First runner-up in the Junior Mister pageant was 13 year old Daniel Young, son of Chris and Ami Fults and Brian and Mary Young.

Justin Allen France was selected as Mister Congeniality. He is the 14 year old son of Danny and Debbie France.

Woman Posing as Cookie Salesperson For High School Fund Raiser Charged with Theft

March 27, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 32 year old woman posing as a cookie sales person for the DCHS Cheerleader program has been charged with theft under $500 and driving on a revoked license.

Mary Jo Stanley of Old Blue Springs Road, Smithville may also face a fraud charge for using her food stamp card to buy the cookies from a local grocery store in order to resell them.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says his department received a call Wednesday night from a resident on King Ridge Road, complaining that a woman had come to her house trying to sell cookies as a fundraiser for the DCHS Cheerleader Program to buy uniforms. The resident says she agreed to buy some cookies and got some money from her billfold to pay for them. While the visitor (Stanley) was still in the house, the resident says she received a phone call and turned her back on the woman. After taking the call she turned back around to find that the woman (Stanley) had left the home. When the resident later discovered that some money was missing from her billfold, she called the sheriff's department with a description of the woman and her vehicle.

A county deputy later pulled over Stanley's vehicle on the Old Blue Springs Road and subsequently charged her in the case. Some of the victim' stolen money has also been recovered.

Sheriff Ray says Stanley allegedly went to Smithville Food Store and bought the cookies with her food stamp card, before trying to sell him as a fundraiser. According to Sheriff Ray, the DCHS Cheerleaders are not conducting a cookie fundraiser.

Bond for Stanley is set at $6,000 and she will be in General Sessions Court on the charges March 29th.

Special Election on Sales Tax Referendum set for May 17th

March 24, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Legislative Body has called a special election to let the voters decide whether to increase the local option sales tax rate in DeKalb County from 1.5% to 2.75%

The DeKalb County Election Commission has set the date of the election for Thursday, May 17th.

This will be a county wide election. Early voting will begin Friday, April 27th and end Saturday, May 12th.

On election day, May 17th, the polling places will open at 8 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

The DeKalb County Commission will have a public hearing on the proposed sales tax refendum Monday, March 26th at 5:00 p.m. in the basement courtroom of the courthouse. Everyone is invited to attend to ask questions or make comments. The public hearing will be followed by the regular monthly meeting of the county commission at 6:30 p.m.

The wording on the ballot will read:



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