Local News Articles

Two Local Tennessee Highway Patrol Troopers Honored

March 17, 2017
Trooper Jeremy D. S. Tramel  (left) has been named Trooper of the Year for the 6th District. THP Sergeant Dewaine Jennings has received a Lifesaver Award

Two local Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers were honored last Thursday evening at the THP Trooper and Dispatcher of the Year Ceremony in Murfreesboro. There, troopers and dispatchers were recognized for their outstanding service to the State of Tennessee.

Trooper Jeremy D. S. Tramel was named Trooper of the Year for the 6th District, citing an incident that occurred last summer.

On June 5, 2016, Trooper Tramel was at the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department when a call was received for a suicidal female. THP assistance was requested due to a firearm being involved.

He arrived at 12:00 midnight to find the front door of the facility open and the lights turned off. Trooper Tramel noticed the door to the female restroom was closed and the light inside on. When he approached the door, and announced himself, the female occupant told him she had a gun up her nose and would pull the trigger if he opened the door.

He began to talk with her in an attempt to gain her trust and keep her calm, while the other officers notified dispatch to send additional resources, including a negotiator. The woman stated she needed mental help and wanted to go to Massachusetts. She also requested a friend to come to the scene; however, he was in Lawrenceburg and would not arrive for two hours.

Trooper Tramel continued to converse with the woman, who requested a cigarette. He began to slide her cigarettes under the door, trading them one at a time for bullets from her weapon. A negotiator with Putnam County Sheriff's Office arrived and determined that allowing Trooper Tramel to continue negotiations would be best since he had been doing so for nearly one and a half hours.

Three and a half hours after arriving on scene, she had just two bullets remaining, when her friend from Lawrenceburg arrived. She gave up her weapon and remained inside the door. Trooper Tramel finally got her safely out of the room, gently placed her in handcuffs, and then accompanied her to the hospital for evaluation, riding with her in the back of a DeKalb County Sheriff's Office patrol car.

THP Sergeant Dewaine Jennings was also recognized at the ceremony with a Lifesaver Award for a call he responded to last Spring.

On May, 30, 2016, at around 1:40 AM, Sergeant Jennings arrived on the scene of a boy standing on a billboard, threatening suicide. When he arrived, there were two other officers present, but none were attempting to make contact with the youth. He felt he needed to get to the teen and attempt to evaluate him and see what his needs were.

With the assistance of Trooper Al Seitner, Sgt. Jennings was eventually able to be lifted high enough to grasp a ladder on the billboard, and climb up to where the boy was located. He made contact with the teen and began conversing with him.

The boy stated that he was fed up and did not want to go on with life. Sgt. Jennings noticed blood all over the boy's arm from self-inflicted wounds. He learned that boy was 16 years old, and began to talk with him about his hobbies and school.

Sgt. Jennings conversed with the teen for approximately one hour and ultimately convinced him to go to the hospital for evaluation. The Cookeville City Fire Department responded with a ladder truck to help them get off the billboard safely. Sgt. Jennings secured the boy with a safety belt, and moved him to the platform of the ladder truck, before securing his own safety.

At the request of the boy's mother, Sgt. Jennings transported him to the hospital, in lieu of EMS, because he had developed a rapport with him, and exhibited great concern for his safety.

“Kick Butts Day” Unites Students for Anti-tobacco Campaign

March 16, 2017
“Kick Butts Day” Unites Students for Anti-tobacco Campaign
Students recognized the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids-Kick Butts Day on March 15

Thousands of youth nationwide participated in a campaign to curb tobacco use, many events took place across the state on March 15. Students at DeKalb County High, DeKalb Middle, and DeKalb West schools recognized the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids-Kick Butts Day on March 15, 2017. The event was sponsored by DeKalb Prevention Coalition, DeKalb County Health Department, Coordinated School Health, and St. Thomas Hospital.

The schools had informational booths pertaining to the consequences of tobacco, a tobacco free pledge, and games. There were many items for giveaways, including t-shirts donated by St. Thomas hospital and water bottles, frisbees, bracelets, etc., donated by The Health Department. Participants included the DeKalb County High Wellness classes, the DeKalb Middle School SADD (Students against Destructive Decisions) club, and DeKalb West Beta club. Student participation reached almost 1500 students.

Jasmine Parker of DCHS is "Classroom Champion" of the Week

March 16, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jasmine Parker of DCHS is "Classroom Champion" of the Week
Attorney Jim Judkins, DCHS Principal Kathy Bryant, Jasmine Parker, John Parker (father), Dwayne Page of WJLE

This week’s “Classroom Champion” award goes to DCHS student Jasmine Parker.

The award was presented by Smithville Attorney Jim Judkins and WJLE .

Jasmine is 16 years old and a Junior.

She is also a student at Motlow State Community College through dual enrollment while serving as a member in several organizations in high school including the Senior BETA, HOSA, Student Council, and FBLA clubs. Jasmine has been a member of the Student Council and FBLA for three years and is the FBLA concessions manager for the second consecutive year.

Math is her favorite subject and she hopes to major in Chemistry in college.

In an effort to recognize achievements of students in the DeKalb County School System, WJLE has partnered with attorney Judkins in featuring a “Classroom Champion” each week for the next several months.

The name of the student selected each week will be announced on WJLE and will be featured on the WJLE website. Each student winning will receive a plaque and a gift certificate.

“This is our way of recognizing and celebrating the achievements of the future citizens and leaders of the community. It can benefit their learning and overall school atmosphere and climate. The students' selection is based on academic performance, responsibility and work ethic, leadership abilities, and citizenship and character,” said Judkins.

DeKalb Farm Bureau Announces Poster and Essay Winners

March 16, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Farm Bureau  Announces Poster and Essay Winners

DeKalb County Farm Bureau has announced the 2017 Fourth Grade Poster Contest and Seventh Grade Essay Winners.

Pictured from left to right are Cathy Officer, Farm Bureau Women’s Chair, Addison Puckett, 1st place winner of Essay Contest - $50.00, Dare Collins, 2nd place winner of Poster Contest - $25.00, William Cox, 1st place winner of Essay Contest- $50.00, and William Southard-2nd place winner of Essay Contest - $25.00. Also, Mrs. Shelly Jennings was awarded $50.00 for the most entries from her classroom in the Poster Contest and Mrs. Debra Moore was awarded $50.00 for the most entries in the Essay Contest. The posters were based on “Farm to Fork” and the essays were titled “Why is Agriculture Important?”

Congressman Diane Black to Speak at DeKalb GOP Reagan Day Dinner

March 16, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Congressman Diane Black to Speak at DeKalb GOP Reagan Day Dinner

Congressman Diane Black will be the guest speaker at the DeKalb County Republican Party Reagan Day Dinner on Friday, April 7 at the county complex starting at 6:00 p.m.

Black has been the U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 6th congressional district since 2011. In Congress, Black serves as Chairman of the House Budget Committee and on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland to Joseph and Audrey Warren, Black graduated from Andover High School in Linthicum, Maryland, in 1969. She became the first member of her family to earn a college degree after graduating from Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland with an associate's degree in nursing. She received a bachelor's degree in nursing in 1991 from Belmont University.

Black worked as a registered nurse until she ran for the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1998. Later she served as an educator at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin.

Before becoming a state senator in 2004, she had previously served as a state representative for six years. Black was the Assistant Floor Leader of the Senate Republican Caucus, a member of the Senate Government Operations Committee, and the Vice-Chairwoman of the Senate General Welfare, Health and Human Resources Committee. She was elected the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus Chairwoman in 2006.

In December, 2009, she became a candidate for Tennessee's 6th congressional district to succeed Bart Gordon, who did not run for reelection.. On August 5, 2010, Black won the Republican primary with 31% of the vote. In the November election, Black won with 67 percent of the vote. She is now in her fourth term as Congressman.

Tickets to the Reagan Day Dinner are $30 per person or $250 per table (seats 6). To purchase tickets or tables, please contact Mingy Bryant at 615-597-2600 or Jennifer Winfree at 615-477-9762.

DeKalb County Young Democrats Reorganize

March 16, 2017
by: 
Jordan Wilkins
DeKalb County Young Democrats Reorganize

The DeKalb County Young Democrats held a re-organization convention this month at the courthouse to elect leaders for the next two years. The following officers were elected: Katie Parker-President, Caleb Rowland- Vice President, Dustin Drennan- Secretary, Anna Rachel Blair-Treasurer.

Members of the organization are as follows: Baylee Phillips, Dulce Maciel, Braya Murphy, Malone Fletcher, Calon Arnold, Will Judkins, Haden Cripps, Ashley Phillips, Dailen Brown, Eleonore Atnip, Sabrina Cripps, Robin Pafford, Karleigh Atnip, Delaney Johnson, and Julia Little.

The DeKalb County Democratic Party Chair, Jordan Wilkins, released the following statement. “The Executive Committee and I are thrilled to have so many young people eager to be involved with the Democratic Party . These are our future leaders so encouraging them, and making sure they get firsthand experience of the political process, will be crucial to our party’s success. I look forward to working with all the Young Democrats and party members to help elect progressive candidates up and down the ballot in the future

Smithville First Assembly of God participates in the Tennessee Fine Arts Festival

March 16, 2017
by: 
Josh Issac
Smithville First Assembly of God participated in the 2017 Tennessee Fine Arts Festival

The Smithville First Assembly of God participated in the 2017 Tennessee Fine Arts Festival on March 10-11th at Trevecca University in Nashville.

Fine Arts Festival is in association with The Assemblies of God and encourages all churches throughout the world to develop their Teens and College students talents. 30 Middle and High students competed in 10 different categories. Relentless Student Ministries is under the direction of Iain & Kassy Swisher and Josh Issac. Pastor Donnie and Kathy Kelly have always been very big advocates of Developing and discovering Talents of young people throughout their ministry. These Student from DeKalb, White, Warren, and Hamilton County have been working hard since January to prepare for competition.

"This year these kids have worked harder than ever because of the sickness that hit throughout the state. We had less practices because of having to cancel many rehearsals due of sickness. " said Josh Issac. Relentless not only represented their church but also represented Smithville throughout the competition. They came out as big winners this year".

1st Place - Drama Ensemble Large : Acting OUT

1st Place - Drama Ensemble Small: Bad Girls of the Bible

1st Place - Stand Up Comedy - Elliott Cook

2nd Place- Musical Theater Ensemble : The Leg Breakers

Also qualifying for nationals is:

Human Video Ensemble Large: The Final Fallen

Human Video Ensemble Large: The Judas Effect

Drama Ensemble Small: Bad Boys of the Bible

Vocal Solo Male Sr: Adam Davis

"Competition this year was more elevated than ever and Relentless received scores of 39.65 out of 40 in Drama Ensemble Large and 39.25 out of 40 in Drama Ensemble small. To qualify with invitation you must receive at least a 36 out of 40. We are so proud of all this group has accomplished and many will be traveling in August to Anaheim California for Nationals. In the past Relentless received 3rd out of 97 in Drama Ensemble Large in 2015 and 4th out of 76 in Worship Dance troupe in 2013. They will be working hard all summer fundraising to get them to nationals. Thanks in advance for all who support them in this adventure and honor to represent the state of Tennessee at Nationals. If you are not attending any where else come join us at Smithville First Assembly on Cookeville Hwy Sundays at 10:45 and 6pm, women's Bible Study Tuesday at 6PM a, Wednesdays at 7pm for all ages," said Issac.

Relentless Students:

Allyson Whiteaker, Bella France, Brooklynn Wilson, Dasia Gurley, Gracie Starnes, Haidyn Hale, Jadyn Dawson, Justise Dawson, Kaylee Martin, Kensley Whiteaker, Kenzie France, Paxton Dawson, Hannah Culwell, Joleen Squires, Keri Winchester, Evie Day, Josh moon, Caelin Crips, Desmond Nokes, Elliott Cook, Isaac Robinson, Monte Caldwell, Nick May, Noah Martin, Omar Aldino, Tayvian Nokes, Zach Day, Adam Davis, and Evan Jones.

Sheriff's Department Makes Arrest in Auto Theft and Chop Shop Operation

March 15, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jason Douglas Stembridge

The DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department has busted a major auto theft and chop shop operation with the arrest of 33 year old Jason Douglas Stembridge of Tisdale Drive.

Stembridge is accused of stealing automobiles, skid steers, four wheelers, and gooseneck trailers in DeKalb and Warren County for the intended purpose of either selling them outright or dismantling them to be sold as parts or scrap metal.

Stembridge was arrested Tuesday after sheriff’s department detectives found the stolen vehicles and equipment at his home and other locations in the county.

The total value of the stolen vehicles and equipment comes to $220,000.

Stembridge is charged in DeKalb County with burglary (3 counts), theft of property over $60,000, possession of stolen property over $60,000, and theft of property over $10,000. His bond is $240,000 and his court date is March 30.

“On Monday March 13 an investigation was conducted of Jason Douglas Stembridge at his residence on Tisdale Drive in DeKalb County and it revealed several stolen vehicles, machinery and recreational vehicles that were stolen from DeKalb and Warren Counties. Some of the vehicles were found to be altered, disassembled, and destroyed by unlawful means,” Sheriff Ray told WJLE.

Items stolen in DeKalb County and recovered in the investigation include a 2004 Chevy Silverado flatbed pickup truck; a 2006 Chevy Silverado pickup truck; a 24 foot gooseneck trailer; a 2016 John Deere 323 cab skid steer; and a 1999 Yamaha Banshee 4 wheeler.

Stolen vehicles and equipment from Warren County recovered include a 2017 John Deere cab skid steer; a 1983 Chevrolet Silverado pickup; a 1984 Chevy Camaro; a 1999 Chevy Z71 pickup truck, a 2003 GMC 2500 Duramax diesel flat bed truck, a 2014 Polaris Razor, and a 40 foot gooseneck flat bed trailer.

According to Sheriff Ray, Stembridge tried to deface the VIN plates and attempted to disguise some of the stolen vehicles by painting or adding decals and stickers to them.

Detectives also learned that Stembridge had recently broken into East Side Market in Warren County and stolen two cartons of cigarettes. Entry was made by shattering a glass door.

Sheriff Ray explained how the story unfolded. “On Monday we received two reports of stolen property. The first one was at a business on McMinnville Highway where a 2004 Chevy Silverado flatbed pickup truck, a 2006 Chevy Silverado pickup truck, and a 24 foot gooseneck trailer were taken”.

“A short time later we received a report that someone had found the 2004 Chevy Silverado flatbed pickup truck and gooseneck trailer in a field on Pine Creek Falls Road. Then another report came in concerning the theft of a 2016 John Deere 323 cab skid steer off of Jefferson Road,” said Sheriff Ray.

“Detectives began working the case and developed Stembridge as a suspect. On Monday, detectives went to his home and spotted the stolen 2016 John Deere 323 cab skid steer from DeKalb County at his residence. Other vehicles were also there along with a 2017 John Deere cab skid steer. Upon running the VIN plates of those vehicles and the other skid steer we learned that they were stolen out of Warren County including a 1983 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, a 1984 Chevy Camaro, a 1999 Chevy Z71 pickup truck, a 2003 GMC 2500 Duramax diesel flat bed truck, a 2014 Polaris Razor, a 40 foot gooseneck flat bed trailer, along with a 1999 Yamaha Banshee 4 wheeler reported stolen in DeKalb County in 2003.

Detectives later located the 2006 Chevy pickup stolen off McMinnville Highway in the parking lot of Pates Ford Marina,” added Sheriff Ray.

Again the total value of the stolen vehicles and equipment is estimated at $220,000 including $97,000 in DeKalb County and $123,000 in Warren County.

The warrants against Stembridge alleged that on Monday, March 13 entered an enclosed John Deere 323E Cab Skid Steer and stole it from a location on Jefferson Road in DeKalb County. He was also found to be in possession of a stolen 1984 Chevrolet Camaro; a 1983 GMC pickup truck, a 2017 John Deer Skid Steer, a 2014 Polaris Razor, a 1999 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, a 2003 GMC 2500 flatbed pickup, and a 40 foot Hank gooseneck trailer stolen out of Warren County valued at $125,000. The day before, on Sunday March 12, Stembridge allegedly stole a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado, a 2004 Chevy Silverado, and a 24 foot gooseneck trailer, valued at more than $10,000 all taken from a business on McMinnville Highway.

Three Smithville Police Officers Commended for Outstanding Service

March 14, 2017
by: 
Dwayne Page
Police Chief Mark Collins, Lieutenant Detective Matt Holmes, Mayor Jimmy Poss, and Police Commissioner Josh Miller
Police Chief Mark Collins, Detective Brad Tatrow, Mayor Jimmy Poss, and Police Commissioner Josh Miller
Police Chief Mark Collins, Patrolman Will Judkins, Mayor Jimmy Poss, and Police Commissioner Josh Miller

Three members of the Smithville Police Department, Lieutenant Detective Matt Holmes, Detective Brad Tatrow and Patrolman Will Judkins have received commendations for outstanding service in the line of duty.

The commendations were signed and presented by Mayor Jimmy Poss, Police Commissioner Josh Miller, and Chief Mark Collins.

Lieutenant Detective Holmes was recognized for his work in solving a vehicle theft. “Recently you were assigned a vehicle theft that occurred within the jurisdiction of the City of Smithville. Because of your dedication and unique investigative skills, you were able to recover said property and charge persons responsible. The commitment and leadership that you have displayed exemplifies your exceptional work ethics,” the commendation stated.

Detective Tatrow assisted in locating a missing juvenile. “ Recently you assisted the Texas Department of Public Safety in locating a missing juvenile. With combined efforts between both law enforcement agencies the juvenile was located in a quick and safe manner,” stated the commendation.

Patrolman Judkins was honored for his courtesy and professionalism. “ Since your employment, the Smithville Police Department has received numerous compliments by the public who have shown gratitude for your professionalism, manners, and kindness in your capacity as a police officer”.

“Recently you issued a citation to a motorist in which the Chief of Police received a letter of appreciation for your courteous and professionalism while carrying out your duties”.

“These characteristics enable the citizens of Smithville and your fellow co workers to know that the Smithville Police Department is continuously striving for quality service,” the commendation stated.

“You (Lieutenant Detective Holmes, Detective Tatrow, and Patrolman Judkins) have served with distinction and have strived to make a difference. On this day, March 14, 2017 you are hereby formally recognized and commended for outstanding service. Thank you and congratulations for a job well done”, the commendations concluded

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