Local News Articles

Judge Ups Bond for Murder Defendent to One Million Dollars

February 12, 2015
Dwayne Page
 Anthony (Tony) Crews
Ashley Bain

One week after being charged with second degree murder in the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, 42 year old Anthony (Tony) Tyrone Crews made his first court appearance this morning (Thursday) under tight security at the DeKalb County Courthouse.

Crews stands accused of killing 28 year old Ashley Bain, whose body was found lying on the floor of a bedroom at the home she and Crews shared at 3870 Cookeville Highway, Smithville last Thursday afternoon, February 5.

During the brief hearing in General Sessions Court today, Judge Bratten Cook, II increased Crews' bond from $250,000 to one million dollars and set his next court date for March 5th. Judge Cook also appointed the District Public Defender's Office to represent Crews. WJLE was the only media in the courtroom covering the hearing.

Before increasing the bond amount, Judge Cook questioned Crews about his background. Crews said he was from New York and had relocated to McMinnville three years ago. He is married and had once served in the military. At the time of his arrest last Thursday, Crews was enrolled as a student at MTSU and had worked at Shiroki in Smithville. He admitted to having a misdemeanor criminal past for simple assault in New York but claimed the charges against him there were dismissed. Crews said he is not currently on parole or probation for any other offense.

After being appointed to represent Crews, Assistant District Public Defender Allison Rasbury West asked that his bond be kept at $250,000 saying that amount was sufficient. However Judge Cook raised it to one million dollars. Upon hearing the judge's decision, Bain's father, who was in the courtroom along with other family members, called out "Thank you Judge".

Crews was then escorted out of the courtroom by sheriff's deputies and transported back to a facility in another county.

Members of the family and all others in the courtroom were asked to remain seated until Crews had departed the building.

Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE last Thursday that Bain had been stabbed numerous times about the upper body. It's not known exactly how long Bain had been dead by the time authorities were notified but Sheriff Ray said she had been seen alive earlier in the day on Thursday. A knife, believed to have been the murder weapon, was found in the home.

According to Sheriff Ray, Crews called 911 at 2:33 p.m. to report that he had discovered Bain's body when he entered the residence. Sheriff Ray and members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department were alerted and quickly arrived on the scene. The TBI and District Attorney General's Office also joined the investigation. Sheriff Ray said authorities determined that Crews had committed the crime and made up the story about finding the body. Although officials believe they know the motive for the stabbing, Sheriff Ray said they are not releasing it at this time.

The warrant against Crews alleges that "on February 5th, 2015, at 3870 Cookeville Highway, Anthony Tyrone Crews did intentionally and knowingly kill Ashley Bain by stabbing her numerous times about the upper body".

New DCHS Baseball Indoor Training Facility Almost Complete

February 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
New DCHS Baseball Indoor Training Facility Almost Complete
Hitting and Pitching Lanes
Dressing Room and Lockers with Coaches Office, Bathroom, and Storage Room at the far end
Another View of Indoor Pitching/Hitting Cage

Play ball!

Although some finishing touches are needed before it's completed, the new indoor training facility for the DCHS baseball program is now open and being used by the players just in time for the upcoming season.

"It's being used now. This is the second week they (players) have been in it," said Jeff McMillen, President of the DCHS Tiger Baseball Booster Club.

The boosters spearheaded the fund raising drive for construction of the 40 x 81 foot metal building, which consists of two hitting and two pitching lanes on artificial turf, dressing room with lockers, coaches office, restroom facility with shower, and a storage room.

"We started talking about this a couple of years ago. Coach (Tracy) Slone believed in it and he got us believing in it and we got busy. We've been able to raise the money and do the things we needed to do for the program to take it to the next level. We're very proud of what we have and the community has been wonderful to help us," McMillen told WJLE.

Local businesses and individuals have supported the effort with cash donations and others have provided volunteer labor to help build the facility. "The only thing we paid anybody to do in here was we had the metal put on the roof. Everything else is volunteer labor from mostly a few parents of the players and we've had some people who stepped up who have construction businesses. We got our permits pulled by a licensed electrician. We did the wiring and he did the inspection and we had to go under state inspection too. But everything is up to codes," said McMillen.

Still, a few other projects remain to make the building complete. "We don't have our water and sewer hooked up yet but they're in the process of finishing up the sewer. We'll put the water in within the next couple of days. We have heat in the building but we need a separate heater for the dressing room. And we're hoping to pour a little concrete around the front of the building to keep the gravel out of the inside. It's just the finish up work you have to do. As money becomes available we'll do all those things. Hopefully, we'll get it all done before the season is over," he said.

McMillen said the new facility has already generated enthusiasm. "I think it will be good for the program and the kids. They have already bought into it. We've worked out here until eight, nine, and ten o'clock at night and just about every night we're out here there are kids out here too staying and hitting as long as we're here," he said.

The DCHS Tiger Pre-Season Schedule is as follows:
Saturday, February 14: Stewarts Creek (AWAY): 11:00 A.M. (PRE-SEASON)
Thursday, February 26: Friendship Christian (HOME): 4:00 p.m. (PRE-SEASON)
Tuesday, March 3: Siegel (AWAY): 5:00 p.m. (PRE-SEASON)
Thursday, March 5: Cookeville(AWAY): 5:00 p.m. (PRE-SEASON)

The season opener will be Monday, March 9 at home against Grundy County at 5:00 p.m.

Monetary Support Needed for the Blue Springs Community Center

February 11, 2015

The Blue Springs Community Center is currently in the process of being updated.

These updates include improved wiring, lighting, plumbing, flooring, painting, blinds, and other cosmetic improvements. Additional updates are also planned, but your monetary support is needed to make them possible.

If you would like to make a monetary donation for improvements to the Blue Springs Community Center, please contact Reed Miller by calling (615) 215-7938 or mail your donation to 414 South College Street, Smithville, TN 37166. Any monetary donation amounts are appreciated and needed in order to continue making improvements to the community center.

Neighorhood Watch Group Partners with Sheriff's Department

February 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
Sheriff Patrick Ray shows where large rocks have been placed to block passageway for vehicles to get underneath bridge on New Bildad Road
Underneath bridge on New Bildad Road where suspected drug activity has been occurring. A vehicle was recently found burning here. Note graffiti on the bridge.
Neighorhood Watch Group Partners with Sheriff's Department

A neighborhood watch group is partnering with the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department to combat crime in the Seven Springs Community.

The group has been reporting suspicious activity in the area including at the bridge on New Bildad Road, where drug paraphernalia has been found, apparently left behind by trespassers who have been using that location to engage in drug activity.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said arrests have already been made in that area and boulders have been placed there to keep others out. "This is at the bridge on New Bildad Road. We've been having a lot of people come and park under the bridge. This past year, we joined forces with the neighborhood watch program at Seven Springs and contacted Road Supervisor Butch Agee who brought a couple loads of big rocks down there and put them in the drive that leads under the bridge to stop people from coming down there. In the past we have found people there with meth labs and drugs. We've also found drug paraphernalia laying on the ground there and old meth labs laid out in the weeds so we joined in a partnership with them. The landowners have posted that property down there where nobody has permission to be down there unless they ask the landowners first and no one is to be there after dark. Anybody we catch down there, we'll cite them for criminal trespassing," said Sheriff Ray.

Cookeville Boat Dock Owes County Almost $200,000 in Back Taxes and Penalties

February 11, 2015
Dwayne Page
Cookeville Boat Dock

The owners of Cookeville Boat Dock haven't paid all their property taxes to DeKalb County for more than a decade and a Judge assigned to hear the case in Chancery Court still has not ruled on it, though a decision could come soon. The total tax bill owed comes to almost $200,000 including interest and penalties.

From 1998 through the 2012 tax year, owners of Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. have been named as defendants in DeKalb County Chancery Court lawsuits filed against delinquent taxpayers. The amount Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. owes through 2012 in delinquent taxes comes to $183,289.94 (taxes on personal property and leased property including the base tax plus interest and penalty, attorneys fees, and court costs). Further penalties are assessed each month. Additionally for the 2013 tax year, the Trustee's Office reports that Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort Inc. owes a total of $9,307 in delinquent taxes including interest and penalty to date. The marina also owes $8,213 for the 2014 tax year, which comes due February 28, 2015.

In a Chancery Court delinquent tax lawsuit, the marina owners claim that they can't be forced to pay ad valorem (property) taxes on constitutional grounds. But in 2013, Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. (Bob) Cooper, Jr. gave an opinion that the marina's claim is without merit and should be dismissed by the court.

The attorney for Cookeville Boat Dock, Jon E. Jones of Cookeville contends the owners of the marina are being discriminated against in that the county is trying to force them to pay ad valorem taxes on the boat dock facility which is leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (federal government property) while other properties in Tennessee leased from the state or local government entities (under Article II, Section 28 of the Tennessee Constitution) are exempt from payment of ad valorem taxes. This, he claims is a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution making the tax assessment against Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. invalid. In 2013 Jones filed an amended answer to the county's Chancery Court lawsuits against delinquent taxpayers including Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort along with a counter complaint seeking a declaratory judgment for his clients.

Attorney General Cooper, who was made a party to the case to defend the constitutionality of Article II, section 28 of the Tennessee Constitution, asserts in his answer to the marina's counter complaint that the state constitution does not grant a property tax exemption to commercial taxpayers that operate a business on land owned by the state or local government. Cooper further asserts that Cookeville Boat Dock's constitutional challenge is not properly before the court because the marina owners failed to first pursue other statutory remedies available to them.

Cookeville Boat Dock owns and operates a commercial boat dock and concession on land in DeKalb County that is leased from the federal government. The marina has been assessed ad valorem taxes on the boat dock property since 1998; however, it apparently has not paid these taxes and, thus, the boat dock property has been included in the delinquent tax proceedings of DeKalb County covering the tax years from 1998 through 2012. "It is the Attorney General's understanding that Cookeville Boat Dock has not been assessed for the underlying real estate that is owned by the federal government or for any leasehold interest in the real estate. Rather, Cookeville Boat Dock has been assessed only for the buildings and other structures that make up the boat dock property," wrote Attorney General Cooper in his answer.

In their Trial Brief, "Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. is asking the Court to declare that DeKalb County's assessment of ad valorem taxes against boat dock facilities leased by Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc from the United States is a violation of the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution because Tennessee exempts boat dock facilities from taxation when the lessor is an agency of the state."

In his answer, attorney general Cooper wrote that " the Federal Supremacy Clause does not prevent DeKalb County from assessing the property of a taxpayer that operates a commercial boat dock on land leased from the federal government".

Former Chancellor Vernon Neal recused himself from hearing the delinquent tax case against Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. in 2002 citing a personal conflict. Former Circuit Court Judge John Turnbull was designated and appointed to hear the case to its conclusion. After Turnbull retired from the bench, the case was passed on to Judge Amy Hollars but it still has not been settled in court. The case is reportedly under review by Judge Hollars and a decision is expected soon.

State VFW Orders Operations Suspended at Local POST

February 11, 2015
Dwayne Page

Although the local VFW POST 7623 hasn't been active for a long time, it will cease to exist if the state VFW organization acts to revoke the charter.

The operation has been suspended for up to 90 days because of its inactivity but in an effort to try and save the POST, a meeting is set for Saturday, March 14 at 2:00 p.m. in the county complex history room to give members and local veterans of interest an opportunity to express their wishes.

Acting Post Commander Ronald Miller recently received a letter from the State VFW Commander William G. Crawford informing him of the suspension because the local POST has failed to hold meetings and elect officers in violation of the national VFW BY-Laws. An administrative committee will make a recommendation on whether the suspension is to be kept in place, lifted, or if the charter should be revoked.

Director Fails to Meet School Board Expectations

February 10, 2015
Dwayne Page
Director Mark Willoughby
Evaluation Results

The DeKalb County Board of Education's annual performance evaluation of Director of Schools Mark Willoughby has been completed and the result shows he is not meeting all the board’s expectations.

Willoughby's overall average score is 2.92 (Rating out of 6).

In accordance with state law, the school board is required to develop and implement an evaluation plan to be used annually for the director of schools. This year, board members used a four page evaluation form to rate Director Willoughby (1-5) in each of 60 areas from eight categories including on his relationship with the Board, the Community, Staff and Personnel, Educational Leadership, Business and Finance, Personal Qualities, Strategic Planning Skills, and Tennessee Specific questions.

A rating of "1" meant his performance was "Consistently Below Expectations". A "5" rating signified that Willoughby "Met All Expectations". A rating with an asterisk (*) symbol meant he "Exceeded Expectations" (and a score of 6 was used on the overall report).

Other ratings were:
"2"-Meets Few Expectations
"3"-Meets Some Expectations
"4"-Meets Most Expectations

Each board member scored Willoughby in all areas from the categories on the form. The scores were then averaged to arrive at the grand total score.
Six of the seven school board members held one-on-one evaluation meetings with Willoughby. Only Fourth district member Kate Miller did not participate because she was out of town during the evaluation period.

Following the meetings, each board member scored Willoughby using the evaluation form. The forms were then sent to officials of the Tennessee School Boards Association where the scores were tabulated and averaged. "The Evaluations were sent to TSBA to be tabulated and confirmed to have a 3rd party provide the final tabulation," said Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III in an interview with WJLE.

Willoughby’s scores ran the full scale, with highs and lows depending on category and board member.

The Director’s strengths, based on the overall report, were his personal qualities and his educational leadership. Weaknesses were in strategic planning, business and finance and community relationship.

A breakdown of the scores in the eight areas of evaluation were:

Performance Goal Average

Board Relationship

Community Relationships

Staff and Personnel Relationships

Educational Leadership

Business and Finance

Personal Qualities

Strategic Planning Skills

Tennessee Specific Questions

Grand Total

The following is a further breakdown of the average score in each area of the evaluation:

Keeps all board members informed on issues needs, and operation of the school system. 2.75
Supports board policy and actions to the public and staff. 3.00
Has a harmonious relationship with the board. 2.25
Upon request, provides clear explanations of alternatives for recommendations. 3.17
Works toward creating and maintaining a high degree of understanding and respect between staff and the board. 2.83
Advises the board on need for new or revised policies. 2.80
Refrains from criticism of individual or group members of the board.3.33
Exercises good judgment and objectivity in making recommendations to the board. 3.00
Offers professional advice to the board on items requiring board action, with appropriate recommendations based on thorough study and analysis. 2.83
Understands and executes the intent of board policy. 2.67
Seeks and accepts constructive criticism of his work. 2.92
Keeps board informed in employment, promotion, and dismissal of personnel. 2.83
Average 2.87

Is an effective spokesman for the school system. 2.80
Is respected and supported by the community in conducting the operation of the schools. 2.50
Builds public support for the school district. 2.67
Solicits and involves the community in planning and problem solving for the schools. 2.25
Develops cooperative relationships with news media. 3.17
Participates actively in community life and affairs. 3.00
Achieves status as a community leader in public education. 3.00
Works effectively with public and private agencies. 3.20
Works effectively to serve the needs of diverse constituencies. 3.00
Average 2.84

Develops a good staff morale and loyalty to the organization. 2.67
Treats all personnel fairly, without favoritism or discrimination, while insisting on performance of duties. 2.50
Delegates authority to staff members appropriate to the position each holds. 3.00
Recruits and assigns the best available personnel in terms of their competencies. 3.00
Ensures that salary schedules for all personnel are competitive and within budgetary limitations of the district. 3.17
Represents the best interests of the board in working with teachers and their organizations. 2.83
Solicits input from staff in planning activities. 3.00
Maintains up-to-date job descriptions for all personnel. 2.50
Ensures that adequate planning and evaluation of curriculum and instruction occurs. 3.17
Develops and empowers staff, resulting in an effective educational team. 3.17
Average 2.90

Has a vision and communicates a mission for the school system. 2.75
Understands and keeps informed regarding all aspects of the instructional program. 3.00
Implements the school system's philosophy of education. 3.17
Participates with staff, board, and community in studying, problem solving, and developing, curriculum and instructional improvements. 3.00
Organizes a planned program of staff evaluation and improvement. 3.17
Models the highest professional standards to staff and community. 3.17
Is an effective advocate of lifelong learning. 3.17
Creates an environment which encourages staff to constantly strive for improvement. 2.83
Incorporates technology as a teaching-learning strategy. 3.33
Encourages staff to be innovative in problem-solving. 3.50
Utilizes a leadership style that is effective and fits the culture of the community. 2.67
Average 3.07

Has an understanding of the needs of the school program, plant, facilities, equipment, supplies, and the budget required. 3.00
Supervises operations, insisting on competent and efficient performance. 2.83
Ensures that funds are spent wisely, and adequate control and accounting are maintained. 2.50
Average 2.78

Defends principle and conviction in the face of pressure and partisan influence. 3.83
Maintains high standards of ethics, honesty, and integrity in all personal and professional matters. 3.00
Earns respect and standing among his professional colleagues. 3.17
Exercises good judgment and objectivity in arriving at decisions. 3.00
Maintains pose and emotional stability in the full range of his professional activities. 3.17
Speaks clearly and concisely with staff members, the board, and the public. 3.17
Writes clearly and concisely. 3.83
Keeps up-to-date with 21st Century Schooling and societal issues. 3.83
Average 3.38

Works effectively with board, staff, and community to develop both long and short range strategic plans. 2.58
Keeps board and community informed on progress towards short and long range plans. 2.42
Develops a Five Year Plan which includes strategies, goals, and projected student outcomes. 2.42
Average 2.47

Keeps board informed about rules and regulations of the Tennessee State Board of Education and all other government/state agencies. 2.92
Provides evidence to the board of effective evaluations of staff members including the Required Principal Performance Contract. 2.92
Incorporates requirements of the Educational Improvement Act (1992) into strategic plans. 3.17
Includes the five (5) components and outcomes of the system's Report Card in long and short range planning. 3.25
Average 3.06


Willoughby's current contract with the board is scheduled to expire June 30th, 2017. He has served as Director of Schools since July 1st, 2006.

School System Needs Bus Drivers

February 10, 2015
Dwayne Page
Jimmy Sprague

The DeKalb County School System is in search of experienced bus drivers.

Persons interested may contact Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague. "We offer competitive pay and retirement. It's perfect for a stay at home mom who wants to be on the same schedule as her kids; for a person with their own business such as someone who mows yards or does landscaping; or someone who does seasonal work. You must have a CDL license, Class A or Class B. You must have a P&S endorsement. I provide training for the P&S endorsements. You have to carry a current medical card. You must have a clean DMV record and you must be able to pass a background check and drug screening. After a bus driver is hired, there are random drug tests at the bus garage for all drivers. If you are interested in driving a school bus call or come see me. You may fill out an application on line or I have hard copies and we can fill them out at the office," said Sprague.

Motorists Advised to Stop for School Buses

February 10, 2015
Dwayne Page
Motorists Advised to Stop for School Buses

The most dangerous part of a school bus ride is getting on and off and if motorists don't stop for buses when they're supposed to the potential for a tragic accident increases.

Jimmy Sprague, Transportation Supervisor for the DeKalb County School System, told WJLE Monday that he is concerned that too many motorists are failing to stop when school bus lights and stop signs are deployed as students get off and on buses in school parking lot loading zones and on roads, including four lane highways. "The amber lights are supposed to come on two hundred feet before the bus stops and the red lights are to come on at the bus stop itself," he said.

And the problem is not just on the highways according to Sprague. "This happens also at our schools. Each school has a designated area, car line, or car pickup and drop off line. I still have people (motorists) who want to pull up in the designated bus load and unload zones at the schools to unload their children where the designated line has been set up in a certain area at each school," said Sprague.

Bus drivers are trained to keep a watchful eye out for the children and Sprague says they do a good job. " I train my drivers to watch the danger zones, which are ten feet from the front of the bus, ten feet down each side, ten feet out, and ten feet from the rear. When the bus stops and we're loading or unloading students, the driver is to monitor his mirrors to check these zones. He is also watching the children because we must keep accountability of them before we drive away. We go over this every year at in-service. Our drivers are trained to watch for the children, to give them a hand motion or a nod before they cross the road to go home or before they cross the road to get on the bus. We make sure all traffic is stopped before we allow that student to step out in the roadway or in front of the bus," said Sprague.

Highway 70 in Smithville is of particular concern. "It is a four lane highway with a driveable median but traffic in all four lanes have to stop. When that bus driver deploys his stop sign and red lights, all four lanes of traffic must stop. That's state law," said Sprague.

The penalty for passing a stopped school bus is a class-A misdemeanor and that penalty is actually from $250 up to $1,000. "I have been in contact with our local law enforcement and state law enforcement on these issues and I have been getting assistance from them (on enforcement). Right now the only thing we can do is make a report and send it to the state. The state, in turn, sends a letter to whoever the violator is stating that the stop arm laws have been violated on a certain date, time, and location," Sprague continued.

Unless motorists heed the warning, Sprague is concerned that accidents will occur that could injure or kill someone. "I just want people to stop and think. This could be a child's life that you (motorist) are taking a chance on. Statistics show that 85% of the fatalities on a school bus happen at the bus stop. Not on the bus but at the bus stop. When you're getting ready to go to work, if you know you're going to be behind a bus either leave a little early or change your route. Always think ahead" said Sprague.

Tennessee law requires that:

Vehicles must stop before reaching a bus that has its flashing red warning lights and/or stop signal arm extended (B). Vehicles may not pass until the flashing red lights and signals are turned off.

Vehicles traveling in the same and opposite direction as the bus on an undivided road are always required to stop. (The four lane Highway 70 is an undivided highway and all motorists traveling in both directions must stop when a school bus stops to pick up and drop off children)

Vehicles traveling on a divided, or separated, highway do not have to stop when meeting or passing a bus on the other side of the road.

Drivers never pass on the right side of the bus, where children enter or exit. This is illegal and can have tragic results.

Boy Scout Troop 347 & Pack 347 celebrate Scout Sunday

February 9, 2015
Boy Scout Troop 347 & Pack 347 celebrate Scout Sunday

Smithville-First United Methodist Church and Boy Scout Troop 347 & Pack 347 celebrated Scout Sunday on February 8, 2015. Senior Patrol Leader, Thomas Webb, and Chaplain’s Aide, Jonathan Birmingham, led the congregation and members of the Boy Scouts of America in the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. Dr. Will Sherwood, Scoutmaster, and Jen Sherwood, Pack Committee Chair, thanked the church for its long tradition of participation and support of the local scouting units as the charter organization. The Boy Scouts of America celebrated 105 years. It is a program designed to teach leadership and character through the fundamentals of outdoor skills, citizenship and service. All boys ages 1st grade through 18 years of age are encouraged to participate. For more information, contact Jen & Will Sherwood at 615-597-4851.

Picture: Top Left-Right: David Robinson, Cody Robinson, Jonathan Birmingham, Alan Webb
Middle Left-Right: Will Sherwood, Thomas Webb, Austin Hosse, Darren Waggoner, Jen Sherwood, Erin Turner
Front Left-Right: Mayakle West, Adrian McElroy, Colin Carpenter, Jamison Hooper, Aidan Turner


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