Local News Articles

Change of Plea Hearing Scheduled in Federal Case Against Larry Webb

August 4, 2015
Larry Webb

Larry Webb, the former deputy director of the Upper Cumberland Development District, is expected to be in U.S. District Court this month for a change of plea hearing.

According to an order entered on Wednesday, July 29, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger has set this change of plea hearing for Monday, August 17 at 3:00 p.m.

The Herald-Citizen reports that Webb, along with former UCDD director Wendy Askins, pled not guilty in September 2014 to a variety of federal charges, including conspiring to commit various federal offenses, as well as six counts of theft and conversion of government property in excess of $1,000; four counts of bank fraud; three counts of money laundering; and a single count of concealing a material fact within the jurisdiction of the United States.

The indictment alleges that Askins, who was the executive director of the UCDD, and Webb, who was the deputy director of UCDD, perpetrated a scheme from February 2010 through February 2012 to convert over $670,000 of government funds intended for UCDD and its related agencies to the use of the “Living the Dream” property, which was owned by Askins and Webb.

Askins and Webb allegedly incorporated Living the Dream in their own names and caused money to be transferred from UCDD to Living the Dream without seeking the approval of the UCDD board of directors.

Askins and Webb also allegedly obtained bank loans and lines of credit in excess of $1,000,000 to renovate the Living the Dream property by using UCDD bank accounts and property as collateral for the loans, according to the indictment.

In order to cover up the illegal activity, Askins and Webb allegedly directed other individuals to alter the official minutes of the UCDD board meeting that occurred on Feb. 16, 2010, and to delete audio recordings of all UCDD meetings, according to the indictment.

If convicted on those federal charges, Askins faces up to 225 years in prison and a $6,750,000 fine as well as forfeiture of property derived from or used in the bank fraud and money laundering offenses charged. Webb faces up to 220 years in prison and a $6,500,000 fine, as well as forfeiture of property derived from or used in the bank fraud and money laundering offenses charged.

The case is set to go to jury trial Sept. 22 in Nashville.

Student Enrollment Down Slightly from Last Year

August 4, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Joey Reeder

Enrollment in the DeKalb County School System is down slightly from last year at this time.

According to Attendance Supervisor Joey Reeder, a total of 2,909 students were enrolled as of Monday, August 3.

"These (numbers) are pretty fluid and will be until Labor Day. We'll have people coming in and moving out but as of this morning (Tuesday, August 4) we're at 2,909 which is a few down from where we were last year. As of Monday, August 3 we had 849 students at the high school; 521 at DeKalb Middle School; 647 at Northside Elementary; 533 at Smithville Elementary; and 356 at DeKalb West School for a total of 2,909. I think we'll be somewhere close to where we were last year by the time it is all said and done," said Reeder.

Attendance is important and Reeder encourages students to be in school on time every day when classes are in session. "According to Tennessee state law, once you miss five unexcused days in a school year you are considered truant. Juvenile Court Judge Bratten Cook, II has been a big friend to education. He realizes the importance of education and he wants all our students in school. He has been a big help. Court is often a last resort. We try to intervene using various other tactics before we take them to court. First, we'd like our teachers to be in contact with parents and let them know if a child is not attending school or as much as they should. The law says it's the parent's responsibility to see that the child is in school. Once you (students) reach that threshold of five unexcused days, you are considered truant. Of course you will not be in court for five unexcused absences but we will be in contact with you. It's very important that your child is in school as many days as they possibly can be," said Reeder.

"We have a real large problem with tardies in our school system and it's probably a bigger issue at the lower grades than the upper grades. Certainly, if you have a child in the first or second grade and they are late to school, it is not the student's fault because it's the parent who brings them to school. Remember if you bring your child to school it's important that you have them there at 7:45 a.m. and don't drag in at eight o'clock because that causes more work for everyone and they (students) miss a little bit of instruction. If you can't get up and get your kids to school on time, put them on the school bus. The bus will get them there on time. Very seldom do we have buses late for school unless there are mechanical difficulties. It would be a big help if more people used our bus system. We have a tremendous amount of kids that are brought to school by the parents which is fine but just try to get them there on time," said Reeder.

Meanwhile, Reeder said parents and students are urged to take advantage of the "Skyward" student information system. "This is our second year using the program. It was a tremendous asset to us last year and it will be an asset to parents and students if they choose to use it. It's an online tool where you can get registered and check your child's attendance. You can check a child's grade up to date. It's real time information. For example, if you have a child in the third grade and you want to log on and look this afternoon, you can see what their grade is in science. It's a tremendous tool and we've had a lot of people take advantage of it. If you are a parent or guardian of a student in DeKalb County and would like to keep track of important information like attendance, grades, discipline, and many more areas, please contact our student information system manager, April Odom by email. We have found this is the easiest way to activate your parent/guardian account. Please contact her at aodom@k12tn.net. If you will email her and say I'd like some more information on "Skyward" she will get you set up. She has to email you back with a password and log in information. It's a good feature. If I had a child in school I would certainly get signed up where I could keep track of them. This year our high school students were able to log on to "Skyward" a week or ten days before school started and see their class schedule. It allows you to communicate with your teachers via email. It'll enhance your child's education if it's used correctly," said Reeder.

City Seeks Resumes for Police Chief

August 4, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mayor and Aldermen

Although a lawsuit remains pending against the City of Smithville over the termination of former Police Chief Randy Caplinger, a majority of the aldermen voted Monday night to begin the process of finding a new chief.

Upon the recommendation of Mayor Jimmy Poss, the aldermen voted 3-2 to advertise seeking resumes from persons interested in becoming the city's next police chief. Aldermen Danny Washer, Jason Murphy, and Gayla Hendrix voted in favor. Aldermen Josh Miller and Shawn Jacobs voted against, preferring to wait until the outcome of Caplinger's lawsuit.

"I think it's time we start advertising for a police chief. We've been a pretty good while without one. (Captain) Steven (Leffew) is doing a great job. But I think it's time we started thinking about it. We're talking about advertising for resumes. That's just my idea. I want to see what you think about it," said Mayor Poss.

"I think we should have already been advertising for it. Not that Steven has not been doing a good job but I'm not for sure he wants this burden on him forever. I do think we need to go forward with that," said Alderman Hendrix.

Aldermen Murphy and Washer agreed.

But Alderman Miller said anyone selected should serve on an "interim" basis until the Caplinger lawsuit is settled. "I would like to see him be named interim chief until things are smoothed over," he said.

City Attorney Vester Parsley said the city could still accept resumes in the meantime. "We can advertise for resumes and go from there. We're not talking about getting into the pure application process. We're talking about seeing what interest is out there and let them submit resumes to be considered later. There would be more (in the selection process) than just the resume later on. We're not talking about an "interim" at this time. We're just talking about taking some resumes. Depending upon when we get a hearing on the other (Caplinger lawsuit), we're hoping that would be pretty soon but we don't have a date set for that hearing," said Parsley

In the lawsuit, attorneys for Caplinger, Sarah Cripps and Brandon Cox are asking, among other things, that the court "hold and declare that Caplinger's suspension without pay effective March 13, 2015 is invalid, and hence, a nullity" and that Caplinger be allowed to "receive all accrued back pay from March 13, 2015 until the date of the hearing in this cause".

"We are seeking to have Chief Caplinger restored to his rightful position as chief. We are also asserting that he is entitled to receive all accrued back pay and every other benefit to which he would be entitled had this unlawful suspension and termination never occurred," Cripps told WJLE when the lawsuit was filed.

Suspected Drug Dealer and Sex Offender Arrested

August 3, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
 Thomas Braxton Nix

A suspected drug dealer and sex offender was arrested twice last month by the Sheriff's Department.

20 year old Thomas Braxton Nix of Morgan Drive, Smithville is charged with possession of a schedule II drug for resale (methamphetamine), possession of a schedule VI drug for resale (marijuana), possession of a schedule IV drug for resale (alprazolam), and possession of a schedule III drug for resale (hydrocodone). He is also charged with statutory rape of a 14 year old girl in a separate offense. His total bond is $300,000. Nix will make a court appearance on the charges August 27.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Monday, July 20 a sheriff's department detective stopped a red Grand Am on Terrell Road after observing the car weaving on Highway 70 east. As he approached the vehicle, the detective noticed that the driver (Nix) was moving around inside. The officer asked Nix to exit the vehicle. When Nix got out of the driver's seat, the detective spotted a cellophane pack containing four alprazolam pills. After Nix gave consent for a search of his person, the detective spotted a small piece of ICE (meth) on the ground and behind the vehicle was a baggie containing ICE (meth). Inside of Nix's wallet were seventeen- 7.25 milligram Hydrocodone pills. During a search of the vehicle, the detective also found a blue and black bag that held two Mason jars. One of the jars was full of marijuana and the other had two marijuana buds. Two digital scales, several baggies, and a marijuana shredder were also found in the bag. Nix had a total of 23.4 grams of meth, 2.66 ounces of marijuana, four alprazolam pills, and seventeen hydrocodone pills along with $853 cash. Nix admitted selling meth and he was placed under arrest

The next day, Tuesday July 21, Nix was charged with statutory rape. According to Sheriff Ray, Nix was arrested by another detective for sexually penetrating a victim at a residence on County House Road. At the time of the incident, the female victim was 14 years old. Nix is 20 years old.

Audas Gets Probation in Assault Case

August 3, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Joseph Stephen Audas

A Dowelltown man answered to an aggravated assault charge against a woman Monday, July 27 in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

30 year old Joseph Stephen Audas pled guilty to the offense and received a three year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. Audas was granted judicial diversion with his probation to be transferred to Warren County. Audas was given 229 days jail credit.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Thursday, July 10, 2014 Audas allegedly tied the woman's wrist and hands with a belt and held her down at knifepoint while hitting her in the face. During the assault, Audas allegedly struck the woman's left ear and cut her under the chin and throat with the knife.

27 year old Brandon Hutchings pled guilty to aggravated burglary and received a five year sentence to serve. The term is to run consecutive to a violation of probation sentence against him. He was given jail credit of 420 days.

43 year old Glenda Chapman pled guilty to two counts of forgery and received a two year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other. She will be on probation and has made application for judicial diversion. Chapman must make restitution of $3,675 to the victim.

45 year old Billy Dobbs pled guilty to attempted manufacture of marijuana and received a two year sentence on supervised probation. He was fined $2,000 and given jail credit of 64 days.

38 year old Jermaine McCoy pled guilty to possession for resale and sale of a schedule II drug. He received a four year sentence for possession and three years for sale to be served consecutively for a total of seven years but the term has been suspended to community corrections probation. He was fined $2,000.

31 year old Brandon Tallent pled guilty to sale of a schedule III drug and violation of probation. The terms are to run concurrently with each other and concurrently with another VOP against him. He received a two year sentence to serve in the drug case. He must serve the balance of a three year sentence for the VOP with 195 days credit.

39 year old Dennis Jason Reeder pled guilty to driving under the influence. He must serve 45 days. The sentence is to run concurrently with a White County case against him and with his current probation. He was fined $350.

34 year old Cynthia Carter pled guilty to driving on a revoked license and received a six month sentence on probation, supervised by CPS.

Off Duty City Official Charged with DUI

August 3, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Hunter Hendrixson

An off duty City of Smithville employee has been charged with driving under the influence and violation of the implied consent law.

Hunter Hendrixson, who serves as city administrator, is to make an appearance in General Sessions Court on Thursday, August 27.

He was pulled over on Vaughn Lane at 2:15 a.m. Friday morning, July 31 by Sergeant Charlie Caplinger of the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

According to the complaint, " I, Sergeant Charlie Caplinger was traveling east on Vaughn Lane. I noticed a gray pickup truck (2002 Dodge Ram 1500) traveling across the center double line several times. I observed this at least four times before a traffic stop was made. Upon approach I found Mr. Hendrixson behind the wheel with a strong smell of an intoxicant about his person. He admitted to drinking prior to driving. I asked him to perform field sobriety tasks in which he could not perform as demonstrated. Each field sobriety task showed clues of impairment. He was placed under arrest and transported to the DeKalb County Jail for warrants. Mr. Hendrixson was charged with a first offense of driving under the influence. I read the Tennessee Implied Consent form and asked him to provide blood for blood alcohol content. Mr. Hendrixson stated that he would not give blood for sample. This is a violation of TCA (Tennessee Code Annotated)".

Hendrixson was off duty at the time and was driving his own personal vehicle.

Vacant Assistant Principal Positions Filled at DCHS and SES

August 3, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Anita Puckett
Jenny Norris

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps has filled two vacant assistant principal positions.

Cripps told WJLE Sunday that Anita Puckett has been named assistant principal at Smithville Elementary School and Jenny Norris is now an assistant principal at DCHS.

Puckett, a longtime DeKalb Middle School teacher, is succeeding Karen Knowles who was recently chosen to be the new principal at Northside Elementary School upon the retirement of Dr. Gayle Redmon.

Norris, a DCHS teacher, is filling the assistant principal post left vacant by Kathy Bryant, who moved up to principal at DCHS when Patrick Cripps became Director of Schools.

The other principal and assistants remain the same

The administration at each school is as follows:

Smithville Elementary:
Principal- Julie Vincent
Assistant-Anita Puckett

Northside Elementary:
Principal-Karen Knowles
Assistant-Beth Pafford

DeKalb West School:
Principal- Sabrina Farler
Assistant-Joey Agee

DeKalb Middle-School:
Principal- Randy Jennings
Assistant- Amanda Dakas

DeKalb County High School:
Principal: Kathy Bryant
Assistant: David Gash
Assistant: Jenny Norris

Community Answers Call to Pray for Our Schools

August 3, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
Community Answers the Call to Pray for Our Schools
Donnie Kelly Moderated the Program
Jordan Atnip, Donald Owens, Graden Kirksey, Don Davidson, Josh Bell, Donnie Kelly, Dr. John Carpenter, Isaac Gray, Dan Gulley, and Bill Robertson

Members of the community answered the call to pray for our schools Sunday afternoon during what has become an annual event at the DeKalb County High School gym.

This year's prayer time called " Back 2 School Call 2 Prayer" featured several local ministers offering prayers for each school as well as the students, teachers, transportation staff, and other employees.

"I had some ladies who came to me who were involved years ago just getting together to pray at the entrances of the schools. They told me that we cannot stop doing this. Since the beginning this has developed into a larger prayer gathering. But it all started with some mothers who went to the different schools having prayer, said Donnie Kelly, minister of the First Assembly of God who moderated the program. He spoke with WJLE after the program.

"As ministers and educators as well as community leaders, we need to join together. Even in our prayer times, some of the ministers today presented how important it is that we pray for each of our teachers, principals, children, the schools, so many things. We need that covenant. We need to join together to do everything we can to help our children to be able to achieve the very best," said Kelly

Local ministers participating were Dan Gulley of the Smithville Church of Christ (who prayed for DeKalb County High School), Don Davidson of the Real Life Community Church (who prayed for DeKalb Middle School), Bill Robertson of the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church (who prayed for Smithville Elementary School), Dr. John Carpenter of the Smithville First United Methodist Church (who prayed for Northside Elementary School), Donald Owens of Dry Creek Baptist Church (who prayed for DeKalb West School), Isaac Gray of the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church (who prayed for School Transportation), Graden Kirksey of the Smithville Church of God (who prayed for Athletics/Band), and Jordan Atnip of the Smithville First Baptist Church (who prayed for the School Resource Officers).

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps also made some remarks at the beginning of the program on plans and projections for the school year.

Back to School Means Student Vaccinations for Some

August 2, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page

Parents working on checklists to get their children ready for the start of school have an important health item to include: required immunizations.

All children enrolling in Tennessee schools for the first time, as well as those going into the seventh grade, must provide an official Tennessee Immunization Certificate before classes start

The certificate must be signed by a qualified healthcare provider or verified by the state’s immunization information system.

All students entering seventh grade are required to have proof they have had two doses of the chickenpox vaccine, or a history of the illness, and a booster shot for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis or whooping cough, commonly known as Tdap, to protect them through their teens. Another required immunization is for measles, mumps and rubella, also known as MMR.

In addition, pediatricians recommend preteens get their first of three doses of a vaccine to help prevent cancers caused by the human papillomavirus, as well as their first dose of meningitis vaccine.

Although HPV and meningitis vaccines are not required for preteens, they are recommended to be given at the same time as the required Tdap booster and any other vaccine a child may need.

Incoming college students in Tennessee public colleges who will reside in campus housing must provide proof of immunization against meningococcal meningitis after age 16.

Medical or religious exemptions may apply for families not wishing to have their children immunized, but proper documentation is required.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, immunizations required for school are available from most healthcare providers across the state, including county health departments. Children younger than 19 may be eligible for free vaccines if they have no insurance, are enrolled in TennCare, have private insurance that does not cover vaccines or are American Indian or Alaska native.

Most insurance plans, including TennCare, fully cover recommended and state-required childhood vaccines, as well as the cost of annual well child examinations through the age of 21. Insured children are encouraged to visit their primary healthcare provider or other provider who can administer vaccines and bill insurance for any services they might need. TDH strongly recommends a visit to the child's primary care provider so the child can have an annual well child physical exam at the same time. Annual wellness visits are important to keep children healthy through all the changes of the pre-teen and teenage years, but many don't get these important preventive health services.

Local health departments have vaccines available for all uninsured children, those whose insurance doesn't cover vaccines, and any child who has difficulty getting in to see a healthcare provider to get a required vaccine. Local health departments can issue immunization certificates and transcribe immunization records for any child if the family isn't able to get a certificate from their healthcare provider for any reason.

The complete list of Tennessee Child Care and School Immunization requirements is available on the TDH website at: http://health.state.tn.us/TWIS/requirements.htm. Questions about school policies on when or how immunization certificates must be provided should be directed to local schools.

First Day of School Education Celebration set for Monday

August 1, 2015
by: 
Dwayne Page
First Day of School Education Celebration set for Monday

The Annual First Day of School Education Celebration for DeKalb County will be held on Monday, August 3 starting at 6:00 p.m. downtown around the courthouse square.

The celebration is held on school registration day.

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-Kindergarten to 6th Grade, said the event is free and all parents and students are urged to attend to help kick off the new school year. "Our goal is to provide an evening of activities, education, and enjoyment for the residents of DeKalb County. We will be having information booths, passing out school supplies, refreshments, and various activities for the students to participate in while promoting education."

"This will also provide a time for our teachers and parents to come together to build a foundation for new and positive relationships, right from day one," said Burklow
"Our First Day of School Celebration is an opportunity for our schools to take a leadership role in re-enforcing and improving relationships among parents, teachers, students, and the community. This is the one day each year when it is both easiest and most important to enlist families as partners in our children's education. This is a great time for us to engage our families and make them feel welcome into our schools."

"So come out and join us. Everything is free that evening. We'll have free school supplies, free food, snacks and lots of community people coming together to make this event possible", said Burklow.

"There are many volunteers, churches, and organizations that come together to make this event possible for our children so they are able to start school with new supplies and a great positive attitude."

If you would like to help with this event please call Michelle Burklow at 615- 597-4084. Volunteers are needed.

This celebration is totally free of charge to those who attend so make plans now to join the fun downtown Smithville on Monday, August 3 from 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

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