Local News Articles

Cases against Askins, Webb, and Foster set for Trial

December 12, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Wendy Askins
Larry Webb
Mike Foster

A trial date has been set in the cases against former Upper Cumberland Development District officials Wendy Askins, Larry Webb, and former UCDD board chairman Mike Foster.

An order resetting the trial was filed Tuesday, December 10 in U.S. District Court in Nashville. The order states that "the case is reset for a jury trial on May 20, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. in courtroom 873, United States Courthouse, 801 Broadway, Nashville. As soon as it appears that the case will be tried, the parties shall notify U.S. District Judge Aleta A. Trauger's courtroom deputy of the anticipated number of trial days that will be necessary."

"Any plea agreement shall be consummated by noon on the Thursday before the trial, and the Courtroom Deputy notified thereof. Any proposed plea agreement shall be submitted to the court by noon on the Friday before the trial. No plea agreement will be entertained unless it is in compliance with this order."

"In advance of any plea hearing, the United States Attorney shall submit to chambers a document that lists the elements of each offense to which the defendant is pleading guilty and the statutory penalty for each, including period of incarceration, fine, and period of supervised release applicable."

"If the case is to be tried, the parties shall file the following by the close of business on the Tuesday before the trial:

A. an agreed set of jury instructions

2. Alternative versions of jury instructions on which there is not an agreement, with citations to supporting authorities.

3. an agreed verdict form or alternative versions; and

4. motions in limine

Responses to motions in limine shall be filed by 4:00 p.m. on the Friday before trial. Parties shall deliver to chambers a computer disc containing all proposed instructions and verdict forms that are filed.

The requirements set forth herein shall also apply to any continuances of this trial."

Askins, former UCDD Executive Director and Webb, former Assistant Director are charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy, embezzlement, bank fraud, unlawful monetary transactions and making false statements stemming from the Living the Dream project.

Foster was also indicted along with Askins for making false statements to the agency's board of directors.

Local Democrats Gather for Christmas Celebration

December 11, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jordan Wilkins and State Representative Bo Mitchell
Ana Soto and Jackie Smith

Local Democrats held a Christmas Celebration Monday night at the Courthouse.

State Representative Bo Mitchell of Nashville was the guest speaker.

Prior to the celebration, members of the DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee met and named Jackie Smith and Ana Soto as ex-offio advisors to the local party to help focus on minority outreach.

Local candidates making remarks at the celebration were Michael Agee, candidate for Sheriff; Circuit Court Clerk Katherine Pack, Register of Deeds Jeff McMillen, County Clerk Mike Clayborn, James L. "Jimmy" Poss, candidate for County Clerk; Amos Powers, candidate for Congressman; Will Robertson, candidate for Criminal Court Judge to succeed retiring Judge Leon Burns, Jr.; Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars; and District Attorney General Randy York, who plans to be a candidate for Circuit Court Judge to succeed retiring Judge John Maddux.

General Sessions Judge Bratten Cook, II and Jimmy Sprague, candidate for Road Supervisor were unable to attend but were acknowledged.

Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, Smithville Alderman Danny Washer, County Mayor Mike Foster, County Commissioner David McDowell, and Assessor of Property Scott Cantrell were in attendance but did not make a speech.

DUD Proposes New Water Deal After Rejecting City Offers

December 12, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Dewey Branstetter, Jr

The DeKalb Utility District has rejected the city's latest proposals for a new water purchase agreement but is offering one of its own.

DUD attorney Dewey Branstetter, Jr., in a letter to City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. dated Monday December 9, wrote that "the DeKalb Utility District is willing to enter into a 10 year contract with the City of Smithville, with the rate for the first five years of the contract being $2.67 per thousand gallons, and with the rate for the second five years of the contract being $2.80 per thousand gallons. For reasons that I am sure you understand, DUD is not willing to enter into a contract that requires minimum purchase amounts."

(CLICK PDF LINK BELOW TO VIEW LETTER FROM DEWEY BRANSTETTER TO VESTER PARSLEY)

DUD.pdf (136.62 KB)

The DUD currently pays $2.05 per thousand gallons for water it purchases from the city but the contract is due to expire on December 31.

Facing the deadline with no new agreement, the Mayor and Aldermen are scheduled to convene in special session Thursday, December 12 at 5:00 p.m. at city hall for the purpose of setting a new rate for the DUD.

The city's proposals were sent by City Attorney Parsley in a letter to DUD Manager Jon Foutch on November 14. One of them provided for a new 10 year deal with the city to sell water to the DUD at $2.20 per thousand gallons for the first five years and $2.40 for the remaining five years. While these rates are below the city's current cost of producing water, according to a recent study done by Warren and Associates, the city was willing to make this deal provided that the DUD abandon plans to build its own water plant and buy a certain amount of water over the next ten years from the city. In its second proposal, the city sought to negotiate a new rate based on the sale of three DUD metering points to the City of Smithville.

In his letter to Parsley, Branstetter wrote that the DUD Board of Commissioners has determined that it is in the best interest of DUD's customers to build its own water treatment plant, and at this time is unwilling to consider abandoning those plans. But while the city's proposals are unacceptable to the DUD Commissioners, Branstetter said they do want to work with the City of Smithville to reach an agreement. He said the proposed new rates offered by DUD are being extended in good faith and based upon the cost study performed by the engineer hired by the city (Warren and Associates). "Mr. (Jerry) Warren stated in his study that it cost (city) approximately $2.67 per thousand gallons to produce water. In addition, in his sworn testimony at the UMRB hearing (in April), he further stated that because there would be no transportation costs for providing this water, that the rate could be reduced by as much as 42 cents per thousand gallons. The rate we are proposing is actually higher than what the study and testimony revealed would be a reasonable rate to charge a wholesale customer such as the DeKalb Utility District," wrote Branstetter.

Without an agreement by January 1, the city officials have said that the DUD could be charged as much as $7.50 per thousand gallons, the same as other water customers outside of the city. However in his letter to Parsley, Branstetter said such a move would be unrealistic for a wholesale customer such as DUD and suggested that it might be in violation of state law. "To propose to charge DUD $7.50 per thousand gallons is unreasonable, and based upon the information provided by your own consultant and engineers, would be several times what a reasonable rate should be. As I know you are aware, there are several sections in the Tennessee Code that are applicable to municipally owned water systems, and all of those code provisions mandate that a city charge a reasonable rate for its water services. I would specifically direct your attention to Tennessee Code Annotated 7-34-114 (a) and 7-35-414, both of which require that a municipality that operates a water system must charge just and equitable rates," wrote Branstetter.

He added that the DUD Board of Commissioners are hoping to resolve this matter before the current contract expires and would like a response to their offer soon from the city. "In order to help facilitate our discussions, the proposal which I am making in this letter has received the unanimous approval of the Commissioners of the DUD, which occurred at their last regularly scheduled monthly meeting. We would also request that any response have the approval of the Board of Aldermen of the City of Smithville so that the Commissioners will know that the city has approved any response to our proposal," wrote Branstetter.

Woman Airlifted After Car Slams into Tree

December 10, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Car Slams into Tree near Hurricane Bridge
Woman seriously injured in wreck

A Smithville woman was seriously injured Monday night when her car left the road and crashed into a tree on Highway 56 near Hurricane Bridge.

Central dispatch received the call at 7:15 p.m.

Trooper Jeremy Wilhite of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that 59 year old Belinda Rose Williams was driving toward Smithville in a 1998 Oldmobile Intrigue when she failed to negotiate a curve just past Hurricane Bridge. The car went off the left side of the highway and into the wood line where she struck a tree. Though partially ejected, Williams was trapped in the car.

Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Extrication Team were called to the scene. They removed the driver side door and pried the dashboard to help free Williams from the car. She was taken by DeKalb EMS to meet a Life Flight helicopter ambulance which landed near the scene. Williams was then flown to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. She is believed to have suffered broken bones and possibly other injuries.

Members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and Cookeville Highway and Short Mountain Highway Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were also on the scene.

Spencer Succumbs to Wreck Injuries

December 9, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
 Mildred Spencer
Asberry car (Photo by Dwayne Page-WJLE)
Spencer Car (Photo by Dwayne Page-WJLE)

An elderly woman who was seriously injured in a two car crash in Alexandria last Wednesday night has died.

82 year old Mildred Spencer of the Temperance Hall area, who was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga after the accident, passed away on Friday.

The crash occurred at the intersection of Highway 53 and New Hope Road. Central dispatch received the call at 5:42 p.m.

Sergeant Eric McCormick of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Spencer was traveling east from East Main Street crossing Highway 53 toward New Hope Road in a 1999 Chevy Lumina when her car was struck in the passenger side by a 2001 Toyota, driven by 52 year old Phyllis Asberry of Brush Creek who was traveling north on Highway 53.

The Asberry car came to rest off the east side of Highway 53 facing south. The Spencer car went off the east side of Highway 53 and crashed through a rock fence and into a small dry creek bed. Spencer was trapped inside the car.

Members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department's Extrication Team were called to the scene and removed the driver's side door of Spencer's car. She was then removed from the vehicle and taken by DeKalb EMS to meet a Life Force helicopter ambulance which landed on Highway 53 near the crash site.

Asberry was not transported by EMS and was not believed to have been seriously hurt.

Others on the scene were members of the Alexandria Police and Fire Departments and the Sheriff's Department.

The funeral service for Spencer will be held at 11:00 AM Wednesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in McMinnville.

Spencer was a resident of Union Dale, Pennsylvania from 1954 before moving to Alexandria in 1987.

On August 21, 1948 she married Lei A. Spencer who died in 2002 after 54 years of marriage.

She is survived by two sons Alburn C. Spencer of Watertown and Mark (Patricia) E. Spencer of San Antonio Texas. Two sisters Charlotte (Price) Halstead and Dorothy (Price) Spencer, and a brother Charles Edward Price.

Heritage Funeral Homes & Cremation Services in Chattanooga is in charge of the arrangements.

Carthage Woman Charged in Alexandria Burglary and Theft

December 9, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
 Demelza Jane Frances Grisham
 Kellyie Dahn Wilkey
Reba Leach
Jessica Renee Bogle
Jeffrey L. White

A Carthage woman has been arrested in an Alexandria burglary investigation.

27 year old Demelza Jane Frances Grisham of Jordan Street, Carthage is charged with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $500. Her bond totals $15,000 and she will be in court December 12. She was arrested on Saturday, December 7.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Monday, November 18 Grisham allegedly made entry into a residence on New Hope Road in Alexandria and stole a Hewett Packard Laptop computer, $300 worth of rolled change, and a book of checks all valued at under $500.

The case was investigated by a criminal detective of the Sheriff's Department.

A Smithville woman has been charged with filing a false report claiming her boyfriend had raped her.

19 year old Kellyie Dahn Wilkey of Poplar Street is under a $2,500 bond and she will be in court on December 19. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, November 16 Wilkey came to the Sheriff's Department to file a report that she had been raped by her boyfriend. A criminal detective investigated the case and after conducting interviews determined that Wilkey had lied about the rape. After returning to the Sheriff's Department for another interview, Wilkey admitted that she made up the rape allegation because she was mad at her boyfriend. She was arrested on Tuesday December 3 for filing a false report.

22 year old Reba Leach of South Mountain Street, Smithville is charged with domestic assault. Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court December 12. Sheriff Ray said that on Tuesday, December 3 a deputy went to Highland Drive on a domestic assault call. Upon arrival, the officer spoke with the victim who said that she and a man were arguing when his girlfriend, Leach came up and pushed her and punched her in the lip. The two ended up fighting on the ground. The victim had a large knot on the back right side of her head and Leach had a small cut under her left eye. Leach admitted to pushing the victim and punching her. Leach was determined to be the primary aggressor. She was arrested for domestic assault and transported to the jail for booking.

28 year old Jessica Renee Bogle of Holmes Creek Road, Smithville is charged with evading arrest and violation of probation. Her bond on the evading arrest charge is $2,500 but she is being held without bond for the violation of probation. She will be in court December 12 for evading arrest and January 22 for the violation of probation. Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, November 25, a deputy went to Bogle's home on Holmes Creek Road to serve the VOP warrant on her. Bogle told the officer she had to put on different clothes before leaving. She went into a bedroom, slammed the door, and then went out another door exiting the home. The officer was unable to locate her. Bogle was picked up on Friday, December 6.

43 year old Jeffrey L. White of Seven Springs Road, Smithville was arrested on Saturday, December 7 for a fifth offense of driving on a revoked license. He was also issued a citation for a light law violation. He will be in court January 16. He was also served with a grand jury sealed indictment returned January 30, 2012 for promotion of methamphetamine. His bond is $20,000 and he will be arraigned January 22

Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, December 7, a deputy observed a white truck traveling on North Congress Boulevard with a headlight out. The officer stopped the truck and spoke with the driver, White. A computer check revealed White's drivers license was revoked for driving under the influence. He has four prior driving on revoked offenses against him. White was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

DeKalb Republicans to Hold Mass Meeting and Convention

December 9, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jennifer Winfree

The DeKalb County Republican Party will hold a Mass Meeting Saturday morning, January 11 at 10:00 a.m. in the first floor courtroom of the Courthouse.

Jennifer Winfree, Party Chairperson, said the purpose of the meeting is to select delegates to the DeKalb County Republican Convention and to give potential candidates an opportunity to formally announce their candidacies. The convention will be at the courthouse at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 18.

Republicans currently hold six local offices in DeKalb County County including Sheriff Patrick Ray, Trustee Sean Driver, Road Supervisor Kenny Edge, First District County Commissioner Mason Carter, Second District County Commissioner Bobby Joines, and Fifth District County Commissioner Jerry Adcock.

Edge does not plan to seek re-election but a Republican is expected to announce for the office.

GOP candidates nominated for county offices at the convention will run against any Democratic and or Independent candidates in the August General Election.

Local Democrats will have a primary to select their nominees on May 6.

Both parties have also called for a primary to select nominees for district judicial offices in the 13th district on May 6.

Winners of those primaries will run against each other and any Independents in the August General Election.

The qualifying deadline for the May 6 primaries is NOON February 20, 2014.

Christmas Spirit Alive in Alexandria (VIEW VIDEO OF ENTIRE PARADE HERE)

December 9, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page

The threat of rain did not dampen the spirits of those who turned out Sunday to enjoy the Alexandria Christmas parade.

M2U01351 from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Showers held off as the parade made its way into town led by Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins followed by Sheriff Patrick Ray and Constable Mark Milam. The parade also featured veteran Jimmy Mullinax, clowns, girl scout troops, queens from local pageants, the DCHS band, local businesses, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, vintage automobiles, four wheelers and motorcycles, Alexandria and DeKalb County Fire trucks, Tennessee Division of Forestry and Smoky the Bear, Smithville- DeKalb Rescue Squad, DeKalb EMS, horseback riders, and Santa Claus.

Drawings were held after the parade for prize giveaways.

Christmas Comes to Smithville (VIEW VIDEO OF ENTIRE PARADE HERE)

December 8, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
First Place Float-Matthews Family

Hundreds of enthusiastic kids and grown ups alike braved the cold weather Saturday for the sights and sounds of the Smithville Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department.

Winning first place among the float entries was the Matthews Family for their theme "The True Meaning of Christmas". Second Place went to Girl Scout Troop #1915 and the Calvary Baptist Church Float received third place for the theme "Go Tell It On The Mountain".

The Spirit Award, presented by the Smithville Business and Professional Women's Club, went to Girl Scout Troop #2020.

This year's parade featured other floats, horseback riders, horse drawn wagons, boy and girl scouts, vintage automobiles, emergency vehicles, local politicians, and of course, Santa Claus. The Grand Marshalls of the parade were Mr. and Mrs. DeKalb County Butch and Cynthia Agee. State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver also rode in the parade.

(PLAY LINK BELOW TO SEE THE ENTIRE SMITHVILLE CHRISTMAS PARADE)

M2U01348 from dwayne page on Vimeo.

Alleged Major Dilaudid Dealer Busted in Thursday night Raid

December 6, 2013
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tommye Lou Bell
Dilaudid Pills and Cash Seized in Drug Raid

Calling her one of the top Dilaudid drug dealers in the county, Sheriff Patrick Ray and members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department arrested 52 year old Tommye Lou Bell at her travel trailer residence at 136 Hawkins Drive Thursday night while executing a search warrant.

During the raid, officers found 135 Dilaudid pills and recovered almost $1,400 in cash, believed to be from drug transactions.

Bell is charged with possession of a schedule II drug (Dilaudid) for sale and delivery. She is under a $20,000 bond and will make a court appearance December 12. She could also lose the travel trailer home where she was living. The Sheriff's Department hopes to have it seized.

Sheriff Ray told WJLE that the Sheriff's Department's drug detectives have had Bell under surveillance for some time and Thursday night officers executed a search warrant at Bell's home. " She is a well known drug dealer. Bell is considered one of the top Dilaudid drug dealers in the county," said Sheriff Ray. "Through our surveillance, we observed well known drug addicts coming and going from her home, staying only a short time. Through our lengthy investigation, we were able to do undercover drug buys at Bell's home," he said.

"While executing the search warrant Thursday night, we found that Bell had a bottle on her person containing 130 Dilaudid pills. We also found a small container in a living room chair that contained five Dilaudid pills. Along with the 135 Dilaudid pills, we were able to seize $1,394 in cash. We are in the process of checking with the state to seize her residence which is a travel trailer," said Sheriff Ray.

According to Sheriff Ray, Dilaudids are $40 to $60 per pill on the street. He said this raid produced between $5,400 and $8,100 worth of pills.

The case was investigated by drug detectives of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

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