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Jessica May Sentenced for Attempted Aggravated Child Neglect (View Video Here)

December 7, 2016
Dwayne Page
Deputies escort Jessica May from courthouse after her sentencing hearing today (Wednesday)

Almost one week after Cody Key was handed a 45 year prison term for the beating death of 23 month old Colten Alexander May, the child’s mother appeared for sentencing today (Wednesday) in DeKalb County Criminal Court.

20 year old Jessica May stood before Judge Gary McKenzie and entered a plea to attempted aggravated child neglect, a Class B felony, and received an eight year sentence as a range I mitigated offender to serve at least 20% before parole eligibility. However she may already be near qualifying for early release after having served 568 days since her arrest on May 19, 2015. If she is released early, May would be supervised for the remainder of the eight year term.

During May’s brief court appearance today, District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway presented the case against her to Judge McKenzie. He was joined in the courtroom by Assistant D.A. Greg Strong. May was represented by Daniel Barnes of Sparta, her court appointed attorney. Family members were also present for the hearing.

“That was a negotiated plea we came to in negotiating with her attorney. We feel good about it. I will say that Jessica May was not involved in the killing of her child, Colten May. She was not an actor in that homicide. We did charge her with neglect because of a history of abuse of the child in which she either turned a blind eye to or did nothing about it. The abuser of the child was Cody Key and he was convicted of second degree murder last week. But Jessica May did nothing to prevent the abuse that was inflicted on the child by Cody Key and she turned a blind eye to it over a period of time. In plain language that is the gist of the circumstances as to why she was charged with neglect,” D.A. Dunaway told WJLE after the hearing.

“I will say that she did assist in the prosecution of Cody Key. She accepted responsibility for her actions early and did assist the prosecution in making the case against Cody Key and had we tried Cody Key she was going to be a witness against him in that trial so that is really kind of the nature of why we agreed to a mitigated sentence,” added D.A. Dunaway.

“I hope you burn in hell”, said Jennifer Pitt, Colten’s paternal grandmother, in addressing May during the plea hearing today (Wednesday).

Pitt, who was allowed by the judge to speak after the plea was announced, walked up next to where May was seated in the courthouse. Pitt held a picture of Colten, looked directly at May, and said “I hope you see this when you go to sleep at night and for the rest of your life. You had no right. You could have stopped it but you didn’t. I hope you burn in hell,” said Pitt.

May and her fiancé at the time, 25 year old Cody Key were indicted by the DeKalb County Grand Jury on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 in Colten’s death. Key was charged with first degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse. May was indicted for aggravated child neglect, a Class A felony, and had she been convicted of that offense, May could have served from 15-60 years, which is the range of punishment for that crime.

The couple brought the child to the emergency room of Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital on Sunday morning, May 17, 2015 but he was already dead. It was determined that the child had suffered internal and other physical injuries that resulted in his death. Law enforcement officers concluded that Key had severely beaten the child and that May knew the abuse was taking place.

The indictment against May alleged that "between the 17th day of May, 2014 and the 17th day of May, 2015 in DeKalb County, Jessica May did unlawfully, knowingly, and other than by accidental means, neglect the child so as to adversely affect the health and welfare of the child, thereby committing the offense of aggravated child neglect".

May, who was pregnant again at the time of her arrest, was later transferred to the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction due to her special needs. Since giving birth, she has been incarcerated in the Warren County Jail. Her child was placed in the custody of the Department of Children Services and is reportedly now with May’s family members.

Last Thursday, December 1st, Key entered a plea in Putnam County Criminal Court to second degree murder and received a sentence of 45 years to be served at 100%.He will receive jail credit of 563 days for time served from May 19, 2015 to December 1, 2016.

After the plea today (Wednesday), May was returned to the Warren County Jail.

City Addresses Water Theft in New Ordinance

December 7, 2016
Dwayne Page
Smithville Mayor and Aldermen

Anyone caught stealing water from the City of Smithville is subject to criminal prosecution and civil penalties under a proposed policy ordinance adopted on first reading Monday night by the Smithville Board of Aldermen.

Although violators have been criminally prosecuted in the past the city has apparently had no formal policy or ordinance spelling out the terms of civil penalties and the state is recommending that it be done according to City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson

“We have had some issues with theft of water, especially this year. We recently prosecuted a gentleman and he has to make restitution on it. This (theft) does go on. Not a whole lot but it does happen. Anyway the state mandates that we have a policy,” said City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson .

Under the proposed “Water and Sewer Policy and Procedures” ordinance , theft is defined as “tampering with city equipment or stealing service which is grounds for discontinuance of utility service.

If evidence suggests that a theft of services has occurred, a “Notice of Violation” may be mailed or otherwise delivered to the accused at the discretion of the City Administrator or Mayor.

The accused will be subject to a $100 violation payment as well as service call charges and costs of labor and replacement parts as detailed by the city.

If the city determines that theft of services has occurred, it reserves the right to adjust the customer’s current bill and the bills for the past twelve months of usage. If the approximate amount of service that was stolen cannot be reasonably determined, the (accused) customer’s usage will be set at two to four times the minimum bill, as set on a case by case basis by the City Administrator or the Mayor according to the facts of each case.

Service will not be restored until all payments are made including the adjusted payment for water service, violation payment, all service call charges, labor, replacement parts, and reinstatement of service charges.

Service will be reinstated only during regular working hours Monday through Friday except in the case of an emergency.

Discontinuance of service by the city shall not release the customer from liability for payment of services and the city shall not be liable for any loss or damage resulting from the discontinuance of service.

The customer whose name appears on the application for service is the person responsible for payment of all charges.

In the event any customer fails to pay any city fee or charge, the customer shall pay all costs of collection including court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the city in collecting such sums.

The city shall have the right to refuse to render service to an applicant or to any member of an applicant’s household who is living at the same address whenever such person is delinquent on any payment to the utility or had his or her service discontinued because of a violation of the regulations or policies of the city.

Under the proposed ordinance, theft of service shall include but not be limited to the following:

*Opening valves at the curb or meter that have been turned off by city personnel

* Breaking, picking, or damaging cut-off locks

* By-passing meters in any way

* Taking unmetered water from hydrants by anyone other than an authorized official of a recognized fire department, fire insurance company, or utility for any purpose other than firefighting, testing or flushing of hydrants.

*Use of sprinkler system water service for any purpose other than fire protection

*Removing, disabling, or adjusting meter registers

*Connecting to or intentionally damaging water lines, valves, etc for the purpose of stealing or damaging city equipment

*Moving the meter or extending service without permission of the City of Smithville Water and Wastewater Department.

*Any other intentional act of defacement, destruction or vandalism to utility property or act that affects city property.

*Any intentional blockage or obstruction of city equipment.

The aldermen will consider second and final reading of the proposed ordinance next month.

Former County Official Charged with DUI

December 6, 2016
Dwayne Page
Mike Clayborn

A former county official was involved in a traffic accident Tuesday afternoon on West Broad Street and while not injured he has been charged with driving under the influence.

64 year old Willy Mike Clayborn of Blue Springs Road, Smithville is under a $1,500 bond and will make a General Sessions Court appearance on December 22.

According to Smithville Police, Clayborn was driving east on Broad Street in a black truck and was attempting to turn into the entrance of Patty’s Restaurant when he missed the turn and went off an embankment.

The report, filed by Sergeant Travis Bryant, states that “on Tuesday, December 6 at approximately 2:44 p.m. I was dispatched to West Broad Street in the area of 710 West Broad Street in reference to an accident that had occurred. Upon arrival I made contact with a black truck off in a ditch. I made contact with the driver and identified him as Willy M. Clayborn. As he stepped out of the vehicle I noticed he was unsteady on his feet and had slurred speech. As I was talking with him, he stated that he had drank 6-8 beers earlier in the day and then left his residence and was attempting to drive to Patty’s Restaurant when he wrecked. He was arrested and transported to the emergency room where he did submit to a blood test".

Clayborn served as county clerk from 2002 until 2014.

City to Purchase New Automated Side Loader Garbage Truck (View Video Here)

December 6, 2016
Dwayne Page
City to Purchase New Automated Side Loader Garbage Truck  Similar but Smaller to the one shown here

The City of Smithville will soon be getting a new garbage truck for the sanitation department and 2500 curbside trash containers to be distributed to households and businesses throughout the city. Unlike the city's current refuse trucks, this new one will be manned only by the driver and equipped with an automated side loader for picking up curbside residential household garbage.

The new garbage truck will be similar but smaller to the one shown in the video below. The truck shown here was brought to Smithville for a demonstration two years ago.

During the regular monthly meeting Monday night, the aldermen voted to purchase the garbage truck, a 24 cubic yard tandem axle Peterbilt 348, from Municipal Equipment, Inc. of Knoxville. Although the bid was highest of the six submitted at $192,564, City Administrator Hunter Hendrixson suggested it would be the best buy for the city. “Three of the bids are for Freightliners, two International, and one Peterbilt. We have three Freightliners at the moment. I am not a fan of these Freightliners. We have spent no telling how much for repairs and maintenance. We have had a lot of issues with the Freightliners. I am not as familiar with the Internationals. In my opinion Peterbilt is the best truck but its the most expensive truck by about eight thousand dollars. We have budgeted $350,000 for the truck and the containers so we will come in well under budget for this truck and containers. My recommendation is the Peterbilt 348. It is the highest priced truck but it is also top of the line,” said Hendrixson.

The aldermen also voted to purchase 2500 curbside trash containers from Municipal Equipment, Inc. for $120,500 which was the lowest of the five bids submitted.

The total cost to the city for the new garbage truck and the 2500 trash containers is $313,064.

One Injured in Three Vehicle Crash Near Walmart Saturday Night

December 6, 2016
Dwayne Page
2016 Nissan Altima driven by Kendra Guinn
1997 Toyota pickup truck driven by Jarred Dawson struck by 2006 Chrysler driven by David F. Lanier

Four people were involved in a three vehicle crash Saturday night on Broad Street at the traffic light entrance to Walmart.

Smithville Police report that 45 year old Kendra Guinn of Smithville, driving a 2016 Nissan Altima was west on Broad Street but turning left into the Walmart entrance when she allegedly crossed the path of an eastbound 2006 Chrysler driven by 32 year old David F. Lanier of Pea Ridge Road, Liberty. According to witnesses, Lanier tried to avoid a collision but clipped the front of Guinn’s car and then struck a 1997 Toyota pickup truck , driven by 29 year old Jarred C. Dawson of Smithville who was at the Walmart entrance waiting to turn right at the traffic light onto Broad Street. Dawson’s truck was hit on the driver’s side. Dawson was taken by DeKalb EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital where he was treated for non-critical injuries. Neither Guinn nor her passenger, a 10 year old girl were hurt. Lanier was also uninjured.

According to the police report, Guinn said she did not see a vehicle approaching her when she tried to turn left into Walmart and did not see any vehicle until the collision.

Members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department rendered assistance at the scene.

Undercover Drug Probe by Smithville Police Nets Grand Jury Indictments

December 6, 2016
Dwayne Page
Gary Christopher Ponder
Robert Lee Nichols
Donald Gene Rigsby
Aron Dwayne Ponder
Mark Eugene West
Nathan Bradley McMinn.

An undercover drug investigation by the Smithville Police Department has resulted in grand jury sealed indictments against eight persons.


Seagate Crystal Reports - REPOR.pdf (3.07 MB)

Smithville Police Chief Mark Collins told WJLE that six of the defendants have been arrested and will appear for arraignment Monday, December 12 in DeKalb County Criminal Court including 29 year old Gary Christopher Ponder of Old Mill Hill Road, Dowelltown; 37 year old Robert Lee Nichols of Hodges Road, Smithville; 55 year old Donald Gene Rigsby of Bethel Road, Smithville; Aron Dwayne Ponder; Mark Eugene West; and Nathan Bradley McMinn. Two vehicles were also seized by the police department as a result of the investigation.

“On January 14, the Police Department launched an undercover drug investigation based on several complaints of illegal drugs being sold throughout the city. Using a confidential informant we were able to make several buys throughout the city. The cases were presented to the DeKalb County Grand Jury on Monday, November 28 and sealed indictments were returned against these individuals and two others who have not yet been picked up,” Chief Collins told WJLE.

The indictment against Nathan Bradley McMinn and a co-defendant states that “On January 29, they did unlawfully and knowingly sell and or deliver a controlled substance, to wit: Hydrocodone, a schedule II controlled substance.

The indictment against Nichols and a co-defendant alleges that on February 22, they did unlawfully and knowingly sell and or deliver a controlled substance, to wit: Methamphetamine, a schedule II controlled substance, in an amount under 0.5 grams.

Aron Dwayne Ponder and Gary Christopher Ponder are co-indicted alleging that on January 29 they did unlawfully and knowingly sell and or deliver a controlled substance, to wit: Morphine, a Schedule II controlled substance

Aron Dwayne Ponder is indicted on a separate count alleging that on January 21 he did unlawfully and knowingly sell and or deliver a controlled substance, to wit: Morphine, a Schedule II controlled substance.

The indictment against Mark Eugene West alleges that on February 1, he did unlawfully and knowingly sell and or deliver a controlled substance, to wit: Buprenorphine, a Schedule III control substance

Donald Gene Rigsby’s indictment alleges that on January 14, he did unlawfully and knowingly sell and or deliver a controlled substance, to wit: Buprenorphine, a Schedule III controlled substance.

DCHS Recognizes Students Excelling in ACT Readiness

December 6, 2016
Jenny Norris
Members of the 21+ Club (WJLE Photo)
Members of the 30+ Club (WJLE Photo)

DeKalb County High School is working to recognize students making strides on the ACT test. As part of the TN Department of Education’s Tennessee Succeeds initiative, the state is working to increase the state average for student ACT scores to 21 by the year 2020. The ACT serves as a gateway to college and career readiness in Tennessee, determining students’ eligibility for the HOPE scholarship, requirements for postsecondary remedial or developmental coursework, and sometimes entry-level salary. At DCHS, a 21+ Club has been created for students that have met the ACT readiness benchmark. This club currently contains 71 students. A 30+ club includes 4 students that have scored a 30 or above on their ACT. "We are very proud of these students and want them to have the recognition for which they have worked," said Jenny Norris, DCHS Assistant Principal.

Members of the 21+ Club are as follows:
Eleanor Atnip, Myranda Bailiff, Alexis Bates, Kayla Belk, Madison Bouldin, Rebekah Brandt, Meghan Brandt, Kaylee Braswell, Alec Bryan, Madison Butler, Kaitlyn Cantrell, Madison Cantrell, Kayley Caplinger, Makayla Cornett-Bain, Katlyn Cox, Tyree Cripps, Callie Cripps, Chloe Cripps, Caelin Crips, Eli Cross, Lance Davis, Miranda Davis, Karlee Dickens, Lynzi Downey, Eli England, Abby Evans, Neely Evans, Malone Fletcher, Peyton Frazier, Rachel Fuson, Breanna Gibson, Brady Gill, Willow Godowns, Griffin Goldstein, Lucas Green, Gentry Harpole, Maegan Harris, Clayton Hoyle, Steven Jennings, Karen Johnson, Sahara Lafever, Caitlyn Lawrence, Allison Maynard, Kelsie Merriman, Bradley Miller, Braya Murphy, Katherine Parsley, Kristen Parsley, Zachary Parsley, Mackenzie Partridge, Ami Patel, Rosa Payne, Seth Pedigo, Jason Perricone, Kallie Petty, Baylee Phillips, Bailey Redmon, Megan Redmon, Julianne Richardson, Hunter Robinson, Allison Rogers, Alexis Roller, Jacob Self, Rebecca Snyder, Taylor Spare, Alex Steel, Jayrah Trapp, Jordan Vallem, Emily Wallace, Michael Warren, Tori Young

30+ Club – Madison Cantrell, Eli Cross, Baylee Phillips, Hunter Robinson

Teen Injured in Saturday Night Wreck

December 6, 2016
Dwayne Page
Teen Injured in Saturday Night Wreck
Pickup Truck Crash on Allen Ferry Road Injures Teen

A teenager was injured in a pickup truck crash Saturday night on Highway 83 (Allen Ferry Road) near the Little League ball park.

Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol said the 17 year old boy was traveling west in a 1995 Chevy S-10 when the truck ran off the right side of the roadway. After the driver overcorrected the truck came back across and went off the left side of the road striking a ditch and culvert. The teen, whose name was not released because he is a juvenile, was taken by DeKalb EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital. He reportedly suffered a laceration to the head.

Trooper Johnson wishes to thank each member of the Smithville Fire Department for offering their assistance until the scene was cleared.

Names of Fire Victims released by Smithville Police

December 5, 2016
Dwayne Page
Crystal Fults and Jeremy Shelton

Smithville Police have now released the names of the victims in Sunday’s mobile home fire on South Mountain Street.

Dead are 27 year old Jeremy Shelton, 36 year old Crystal Fults, and 4 year old Caylix Johnson. Two others, 26 year old Heather Standridge and 23 month old Brantley Johnson were injured.

In a prepared news release, Police Chief Mark Collins reported that “Police responded to 1276 South Mountain Street Sunday, December 4 at 12:16 p.m. for a structure fire with people possibly still in the residence. Five people were inside thehome at the time of the fire including 27 year old Jeremy Shelton, 36 year old Crystal Fults, 26 year old Heather Standridge, and her two children 4 year old Caylix Johnson, and 23 month old Brantley Johnson".

According to Chief Collins, " Jeremy Shelton and Crystal Fults perished in the fire. The children were rescued from the fire by Smithville firefighter, Lt. John Poss and a passerby, Jerry Estes. Estes was passing the residence when he saw the trailer on fire and Heather Standridge standing outside the trailer yelling that her children were still inside. Mr. Estes then climbed through the window where the children were reported to be and rescued 23 month old Brantley Johnson. A short time later, Lt. Poss arrived on scene where he entered the structure and rescued four year old Caylix Johnson who later passed away at the hospital. Heather Standridge and 23 month old Brantley Johnson are currently in ICU at Vanderbilt".

The investigation is still underway by the Smithville Police Department, Smithville Fire Department, and the Tennessee Fire Marshall's Office. Chief Collins said the official cause of fire at this time is still undetermined.

Three dead, Two Seriously Injured in Mobile Home Fire

December 4, 2016
Dwayne Page
Three dead, Two Seriously Injured in Mobile Home Fire

An investigation is underway by the Smithville Police and Fire Departments and State Fire Marshal’s Office to determine the cause of a mobile home fire Sunday which claimed the lives of three people including a man, woman, and child, and seriously injured another woman and child.

Dead are 27 year old Jeremy Shelton, 36 year old Crystal Fults, and 4 year old Caylix Johnson. Two others, 26 year old Heather Standridge and 23 month old Brantley Johnson were injured.

A passerby, Jerry Estes spotted the fire at 1276 South Mountain Street, Smithville. He also saw Standridge standing outside the trailer yelling that her children, the Johnson siblings, were still inside. 911 was alerted at 12:12 p.m. and members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and Police Department were summoned along with backup from the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department.

According to Smithville Police Chief Mark Collins, Estes climbed through a window, grabbed the 23 month old child, and pulled him to safety. After firefighters arrived, Lieutenant John Poss of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department rescued the 4 year old child. Shelton and Fults perished in the fire.

Standridge and the Johnson children were taken by DeKalb EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital. Standridge and the 23 month old, Brantley Johnson were later transported to Vanderbilt Hospital where they remain in the Intensive Care Unit. The 4 year old child, Caylix Johnson died at the hospital in Smithville.

The mobile home was destroyed in the fire. After the blaze was out, the county’s deputy medical examiner Terry Martin was called to the scene along with the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Firefighters and others huddled near the trailer to bow their heads in prayer for the victims. Members of the American Red Cross were also on site ready to offer support to the victims’ families.

The investigation is still underway by the Smithville Police Department, Smithville Fire Department, and the Tennessee Fire Marshall's Office. Chief Collins said the official cause of fire at this time is still undetermined.


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