Local News Articles

Smithville Work Camp to be held in June

May 8, 2018
Dwayne Page
Smithville Work Camp to be held in June
Members of the Smithville Church of Christ will be rolling up their sleeves and pitching in to help show their Christian love for others during the congregation's fifth annual Work Camp scheduled for June 18-21.

Members of the Smithville Church of Christ will be rolling up their sleeves and pitching in to help show their Christian love for others during the congregation's fifth annual Work Camp scheduled for June 18-21.

The Work Camp is an annual home rehabilitation/beautification project organized by the Smithville Church of Christ. The church began the Work Camp as a means of helping less fortunate residents of the county do some fix up and cleanup projects around their homes. The Smithville Work Camp concentrates its efforts in the Smithville-DeKalb County area.

If you would like to have your house considered for the project contact the church at 615-597-4159 by Friday, June 8 to acquire an application and release form.

Smithville Elementary Names Students of the Month

May 8, 2018
Dwayne Page
Smithville Elementary Names Students of the Month

Smithville Elementary would like to recognize our Students of the Month for May. These students were selected for their outstanding character, academics, and other traits that make them an all-around excellent student. Selected as Students of the Month for May are:

Pre-K: Jayden Stanick

Kindergarten: Aubree Fuson
1st grade: Baylei Benson
2nd grade: Joshua Carillo

Photo shows students of the month with Principal Julie Vincent and Assistant Principal Anita Puckett

DCHS Soccer Tigers Begin Quest for State Title

May 8, 2018
Dwayne Page
(SENIOR NIGHT) Assistant Coach Rhonda Merriman, Daniel Munoz, Carlos Garcia, Dylan Easterwood, Cesar Coronilla, Cristobal Flores, Roberto Sanchez, Pablo Juarez, and Coach K
Dylan Easterwood (right) in game against Macon County May 3. Tigers won 3-2
Cristobal Flores (#1) in game against Livingston Academy May 2. Tigers won 3-0.

The DeKalb County High School Boys Soccer Team will begin their quest for a state title tonight, Tuesday May 8th as the squad starts district tournament play in Smithville ranked the number one program in Tennessee



The Tigers (12-1 overall and 8-0 in district play) will host Cumberland County at 7 p.m. on the high school football field. Everyone is encouraged to fill the stands in a show of support for the Tigers, the most successful boys soccer team in DCHS history.

“I think our success has come down to a lot of hard work by the guys. Putting things together and working well together as a team and the overall camaraderie that has come together with this team,” said Tiger Coach Dylan Kleparek (Coach K), who is in his 16th season.

“From the defense to the offense, we work well with each other. Like a puzzle we fit together and we try our best to score and work as a team rather than just a single player working toward a goal,” said Pablo Juarez, one of the seven seniors on the team.

Coach K is confident that the team’s success of the regular season will carry over to the post season.

“Our motto throughout the season has been relentless. We come into every game with the attitude that we are going to give our best and go full out the whole time from opening whistle to ending whistle. That is still our motto and we’re still going to approach every game with that attitude. All we can do is give our best and we will see what happens from there,” said Coach K.

Assistant Coach Rhonda Merriman, who has worked alongside Coach K for 12 years, will not be returning next season. Coach K said she will be missed. “Words can’t express the amount of gratitude due Ms. Rhonda. She has put a lot into this program. Heart and soul. She has been an excellent assistant coach throughout the years and she will be greatly missed,” he said.

Trial for Alleged Courthouse Arsonist Postponed Again

May 7, 2018
Dwayne Page
Gary Wayne Ponder

The man accused of setting fire to the courthouse almost two years ago was scheduled to stand trial for arson on Wednesday, May 9 but the case against 55 year old Gary Wayne Ponder has been delayed again.

Assistant District Public Defender Scott Grissom, who is representing Ponder, filed a motion on April 25 asking for the continuance (postponement) of the trial in order for Ponder to undergo an evaluation by a clinical and forensic psychologist set for May 15.

The court has granted the motion.

In the pleadings, Grissom states that “as grounds for this motion, the defendant (Ponder) would show that on April 2, 2018, a letter from Sherry Wright, ANP-BC of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, was received and it states that Mr. Ponder suffered from heptic encephalopathy as a result of cirrhosis. Since receiving this letter, the defense has tentatively scheduled an appointment with Dr. Julie A. Gallagher, Psy. D ABPD, a clinical and forensic psychologist for May 15, 2018 for evaluation if the trial date is continued past May 9, 2018. The defense would argue that the evaluation is essential to determine whether the defendant was suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time of the incident that could provide a defense pursuant to (state law)”.

This is the second continuance granted by the court within the last month.

During a brief hearing Wednesday morning, April 4 in DeKalb County Criminal Court, Judge Gary McKenzie granted a defense motion for a delay of the trial after learning that Ponder’s medical condition could be affecting his mental state. On that day, the judge reset the trial date for May 9 and ordered that Ponder undergo another evaluation in the meantime to determine if he is competent to stand trial. He was deemed to be competent after his first evaluation several weeks after the fire.

As grounds for seeking the continuance last month, Assistant Public Defender Grissom included with his motion a letter from Sherry Wright, a nurse practitioner at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who saw Ponder on March 21 and found him to be confused. According to Wright, Ponder is being treated for cirrhosis of the liver and that complications from this condition causes confusion.

In her letter to whom it may concern, Wright wrote on April 2 that “ I am caring for Mr. Gary Ponder who has a diagnosis of cirrhosis. One of the complications with cirrhosis is hepatic encephalopathy. This condition causes confusion because ammonia builds up in the brain when it does not metabolize in the liver due to cirrhosis (scarring in the liver). When I saw him (Ponder) in the office on March 21 he was confused. I have started a medication called Lactulose that helps to remove the ammonia from his brain to help with his condition”.

In granting the motion for a delay, Judge McKenzie said this is a serious case and he wanted to ensure that a just and fair trial be held and to lessen the risk of the case being sent back on appeal for another trial.

Assistant District Attorney General Stephanie Johnson said at the April 4 hearing while the state looks forward to trying this case, she understands the reasons for the judge’s decision in light of the new information provided to the court.

While Ponder remains on bond pending the trial, Judge McKenzie instructed him on April 4 to follow through on reporting for his scheduled evaluation. If he doesn’t, Judge McKenzie warned Ponder that he would be ordered into custody for the evaluation.

Smithville Police charged Ponder on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 after he was observed on the courthouse surveillance video system intentionally lighting fire in a newspaper recycling bin on the first floor vestibule. The video showed that on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 Ponder grabbed newspapers from the recycling bin and started the fire by lighting them with a cigarette lighter. The fire damaged the wall behind the recycling bin and cracked a window in the vestibule near the first floor entrance of the courthouse.

Local attorney Jim Judkins was the first to spot the blaze. He tried to activate the fire alarm and accessed a fire extinguisher which he used to try to put out the blaze.

"I was going into the basement of the courthouse to file a notice with the court and noticed there was a fire about waist level in the recycling bins located in the front of the basement area. I tried to find if there was a fire extinguisher or a fire alarm. An individual had already pulled a fire alarm and it wasn’t working. I then went over to the election commission office and told them to call the fire department. I was looking for anything to put it out. I grabbed a coffee pot and some drinks off their desks (election commission office) and threw that on it (fire). That put it down a little. I then tried to activate another fire alarm but it too did not go off. Someone then brought me a fire extinguisher and I got it put out. It had burned part of the wall (behind the bin) and there was a ton of smoke to the point that I had to get down on my knees to finish putting the fire out," said Judkins.

Members of the Smithville Fire Department were notified and quickly responded.

Judkins later discovered that he had not completely extinguished the fire himself. " I talked with Smithville Fire Chief Charlie (Parker). I thought I had the fire put out but when they (city firefighters) took over he (Chief Parker) said it was smoldering and they had to empty another extinguisher," said Judkins.

County Mayor Tim Stribling said the total damages to the courthouse caused by the fire came to $120,706.52, which was the amount of the claim paid by the county’s insurance provider.

After the fire smoke had to be cleared from the courthouse, new ceiling tiles and dry wall work were required and a broken glass in the vestibule doorway had to be replaced.

The county also installed a new fire alarm system in the courthouse provided by FireTeam of Tracy City at a cost of $35,363.81. The system meets the latest International Fire Codes.

NHC Recognizes National Nurses Week

May 7, 2018

NHC Smithville is excited about honoring National Nurses Week, which is celebrated annually from May 6th, also known as National Nurses Day, through May 12th, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

NHC Smithville would like to recognize and thank our highly skilled, dedicated nurses that exemplify the best in their profession. The Director of Nursing at NHC Smithville is Paulette Nichols and the Assistant Director of Nursing is Molly Merriman.

Registered Nurses (RN):
Jessica Acuna, Kaylyn Baker, Courtney Craven, Brian Cripps, April Dearmon, Alisha Hale, Martha Hooper, Caprice Morgan, Cheryl Myers, Jacqueline Taylor, Amy Wheeler, and Cindy Wolter

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN):
Monica Baker, Nicole Cool, Amanda Carter, Nanci Drennan, Shalyn Eaton, Nioakah Hickman, Jessica Holland, Rebekah Johannsen, Amber Judkins, Thomas Mahler, Arianna Matthews, Cindy Milford, Evan Moran, Kalee Mullican, Sabra Murphy, Abby Onkst, Amanda Savage, Justine Sisk, Julie Vincent, Angie Walker, Christy Ward, Margaret Watkins, Lindsy Winfree, Sharon Yocum, and Vicki Yost

DCHS Student Gets Associate Degree Before Graduating High School

May 6, 2018
Dwayne Page
DCHS Student Mackenzie Elizabeth Partridge Earns Degree from Motlow
Mackenzie Elizabeth Partridge

Mackenzie Elizabeth Partridge, a senior at DeKalb County High School, doesn’t yet have her high school diploma, but she is already a college graduate having earned an Associate degree in Science from Motlow State Community College.

Partridge, daughter of Brian and Rebecca Partridge of Alexandria, walked the line at Motlow on Saturday, May 5. She will be walking the high school graduation line on Friday night, May 18.

“She has worked very hard and put in long, stressful hours. We could not be more proud of her dedication and achievements,” said Rebecca Partridge, MacKenzie’s mother.

Through Motlow College's dual enrollment program , high school students like Partridge can earn college credits while still enrolled in high school. Students can take classes on a Motlow College campus, online, or even at a partner high school.

Students who have completed their sophomore year and have met all requirements for taking the desired college courses may apply. Public, private and home-schooled students are all welcome to apply. The program gives students the chance to seamlessly transition from high school to college. The core curriculum credits transfer easily to Tennessee's public colleges and universities while allowing students who are working on a four-year degree to save money on tuition.

Partridge is a member of several clubs at DCHS including Beta, FBLA, Tiger Media, and she participates in FCA. Partridge has already enlisted and will be joining the United States Navy after she graduates from high school.

DCHS Football Athlete Signs with Thomas More College

May 5, 2018
Dwayne Page
DCHS Senior Nick May signed a letter-of-intent Friday to play football at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. May’s mother, Cathy May and brother, Josh May joined him for the signing .
Nick May with several of his DCHS Tiger Football Teammates
Nick May seated with Tiger Coach Steve Trapp. STANDING: Assistant Coaches Justin Burum, Thomas Cagle, and Tommy Hinch

DCHS Senior Nick May signed a letter-of-intent Friday to play football at Thomas More College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky.

May’s mother, Cathy May and brother, Josh May joined him for the signing along with his coaches and several of his Tiger Football teammates.

May was awarded linebacker of the year at the Tiger Football team banquet in January for his performance on the field during the 2017 season. May was also named to the All Region Team and received the Coach Clay Edwards Memorial Tiger Pride Award.

“I chose Thomas More because ever since I first went up there to visit it just felt like home. It has a really homey atmosphere. I got that feeling the first time I stepped on campus. I made a game day visit and I visited in January. It’s a small campus so pretty much everyone knows each other so it feels kind of like home and being in a small town. I will be playing middle linebacker and defensive end. How hard I work this off season will determine if I will be able to play on the field on Saturdays,” said May.

“This is the third guy this year we have moving on to play at the next level. Nick is a very special kid and I am very excited for him and his family to be able to share this day. I look forward to watching him learn and grow as a collegiate football player. The biggest thing about Nick is his willingness to do whatever we needed him to do. Coming into his senior year, he played on the offensive line and defensive line but for the rest of his career he was a linebacker and running back. What he was willing to sacrifice to do what we needed him to do, that is what makes him really special. He is a smart kid and a tremendous worker so I think they are getting a good football player at Thomas More,” said DCHS Tiger Coach Steve Trapp.

In March Bradley Miller signed a letter of intent to also play for Thomas More College while in February, Gage Delape signed to play at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky.

Jenkins Charged with Criminal Impersonation

May 5, 2018
Dwayne Page
Jessica Anne Jenkins
Jeffrey Scott Sharp
Taylor Nicole Hensley
Joseph Harvey Clark
Debra Kelly Wood

A woman faces criminal impersonation and other charges after trying to avoid being arrested.

29 year old Jessica Anne Jenkins of South Bright Hill Street, Smithville is charged with criminal impersonation; criminal trespassing; resisting stop, frisk, halt, arrest, or search; and public intoxication. Her bond is $10,000 and her court date is May 17. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, April 27 a deputy responded to a residence in the area of Tubbs Street in Liberty in reference to a suspicious woman. Upon arrival the officer found the woman trying to hide behind the house without the homeowner’s permission to be on the property. The officer ordered her to come out of hiding but she tried to flee on foot. She was subsequently taken into custody. When the officer requested that she identify herself, the woman said she was Ana Waggoner. A sheriff’s department detective who arrived on the scene recognized the woman and positively identified her as Jenkins. She appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance and was unable to express complete statements. Jenkins was also unsteady on her feet.

28 year old Kendrick Ryan Burton and 27 year old Tera Lashay Burton both of Midway Road are each cited for possession of drug paraphernalia. Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, April 24 a deputy was summoned to the Burton’s residence on Midway Road at the request of a Tennessee Department of Corrections Probation Officer to assist during a home visit. The deputy spoke with the Burton’s and found several hypodermic needles they were using to ingest medication at the home which was in violation of their probation.

40 year old Jeffrey Scott Sharp of High Street, Alexandria is charged with driving under the influence. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is May 10. Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, April 25 a deputy responded to motor vehicle accident on Toad Road and found Sharp to be the driver of the automobile. Sharp had a strong odor of alcohol on his person, his speech was very slurred, and he was unable to stand on his own. Due to his level of intoxication, Sharp was unable to perform field sobriety tasks. Sharp was placed under arrest and taken to the hospital for a blood withdrawal and then to the jail for booking.

23 year old Taylor Nicole Hensley of Floyd Drive, Smithville is charged with being a fugitive from justice. She is under a $75,000 bond and her court date is May 10. Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, April 26 Hensley was found to have an active warrant against her from Texas for a felony violation of community corrections. She was placed under arrest and taken to the jail for booking.

34 year old Joseph Harvey Clark of Emberton Lane, Smithville is charged with failure to appear. His bond is $1,500 and his court date is May 10. Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, April 25 Clark was served a criminal summons issued April 10 for allowing dogs to run at large. Clark had ten days to be booked into the jail but he failed to report for booking within that ten day period and was charged with failure to appear.

60 year old Debra Kelly Wood of Austin Bottom Road, Baxter is charged with driving under the influence. She was also cited for violation of the open container law. Her bond is $1,500 and her court date is May 17. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, April 28 a deputy was dispatched to the area of Austin Bottom Road due to a complaint of a vehicle traveling all over the roadway. The officer spotted a Silver Ford Focus matching the description which was stopped on the roadside of Austin Bottom Road. He stopped to speak with the driver, Wood and saw her place a black plastic bag on the passenger side floorboard containing an open can of Bud Ice. The deputy also detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from the vehicle. Wood initially agreed to submit to field sobriety tasks but later said she couldn’t do so due to health reasons. Her speech was slurred and she was unsteady on her feet.

Sheriff Warns of Paving Scam

May 4, 2018
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray

Sheriff Patrick Ray is warning consumers of driveway paving scam artists who typically emerge during this time of year.

Asphalt scammers travel door-to-door, offering deals on leftover asphalt from nearby projects. However, according to authorities, the quality of work is poor, the final cost is higher than the quoted price and the pavers often leave before finishing the job.

If you should be approached by a so-called contractor to pave or reseal your driveway or to do some painting or other home improvement project, always research and vet businesses thoroughly before investing in their services.

“We’re starting to get some calls here at the Sheriff’s Office where contractors are contacting homeowners seeking to do paving jobs here in the county or resealing driveways. Make sure you know who you are signing a contract with and make sure they are a credible business. You can also go to the Better Business Bureau website to see if any complaints have been filed against your contractor and if he or she has an accredited business,” said Sheriff Ray.

“Most of what we see come through are signed contracts with small print on the bottom of them that excludes some things that the homeowner thinks they are getting. That makes it a civil rather than a criminal action. If you have problems with someone who has done work for you, maybe the work was not satisfactory or they didn’t do what the contract said then you may call me at the Sheriff’s Office at 615-597-4935,” added Sheriff Ray.

The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance has released a list of red flags that may allow consumers to identify asphalt scam artists:
Reputable asphalt contractors don't sell their product door-to-door.

Professional asphalt contractors rarely have leftover material, as they can accurately estimate how much material is needed for a job.

Trustworthy contractors will not push consumers to hire them on the spot. Rather, they will provide a written estimate that details the work to be done and the total price. These written contracts are valid for a specified length of time.

Most reputable contractors accept checks or credit cards and don't only take cash as payment.

If the quoted price is low, the quality of work is likely to be low as well.

Scammers often drive unmarked trucks or have out-of-state license plates. Recently, they have been purchasing local cellphone plans to appear as if they are local businesses. Briefly researching the business is likely to reveal the truth.

DCHS Class of 2018 Senior Awards Night Monday, May 14

May 4, 2018
Dwayne Page
DCHS Class of 2018 Senior Awards Night Monday, May 14

Scholarships and other awards will be presented to members of the Class of 2018 at DeKalb County High School during the annual Senior Awards program Monday night, May 14 at 6:00 p.m. in the DCHS gymnasium.

WJLE will broadcast LIVE on AM 1480, FM 101.7 and LIVE streaming at www.wjle.com

Representatives of colleges, universities, branches of the armed services, businesses, civic groups, and other organizations will make the presentations.

Meanwhile, graduation for the DCHS Class of 2018 will be Friday, May 18 at 7:00 p.m. on the high school football field.


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