Local News Articles

Two Juveniles Charged in Theft Ring Investigation

by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has filed petitions against two juveniles charging them in connection with a recent rash of burglary, theft, and vandalism cases.

Meanwhile a 31 year old woman, Brandy Egerton of Page Drive, Smithville is charged with aggravated statutory rape for allegedly having a sexual relationship with one of the teens. Her bond is $150,000 and she will be in court on the charge March 12th.

Sheriff Ray says the juveniles, ages 16 and 17, both male, are currently in the Cookeville Juvenile Detention Center, pending a March 11th court date.

According to Sheriff Ray, the two boys, during interviews with county detectives, admitted to committing an estimated $20,000 worth of burglaries, vandalisms, and thefts." They admitted to going to a lot on Bright Hill Road, breaking into that lot, and stealing batteries and radios out of some of the cars being stored there."

"They admitted to going around town and busting the front glasses out several businesses using bb guns and other weapons. They are also responsible for shooting out a window at the home of a Smithville police officer on New Home Road and shooting out a window in the back of a vehicle at a residence on Dry Creek Road."

"The boys also admitted to going to the Four Seasons Marina, where they broke into about 15 to 20 boats by cutting the tarps or covers to the boats. While inside some of the boats, they took amplifiers and radios."

"One of the boys, the 16 year old, went to Zelenka Nursery, where he got into one of the nursery's mini-trucks used to haul plants around the nursery. He hot wired the truck and drove it down one of the lanes before crashing it into a semi-trailer causing damage to it."

Two people, Troy Lee Cunningham, and Amanda Brooke England were arrested last week on theft charges as a result of this on-going investigation. Sheriff Ray says these and other burglary, vandalism, and theft cases will be presented against these two people and possibly others during the April term of the Grand Jury." We believe they (along with the juveniles) are responsible for a lot of the thefts and vandalism in the county. There's so many of them (thefts and vandalisms) we haven't yet finished working on them."

Meanwhile in other cases, 29 year old Matthew Justin Daniel of Hurricane Ridge Road, Smithville was arrested last Tuesday, March 3rd on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court March 12th

Sheriff Ray says Daniel was stopped for a traffic offense on Evins Mill Road. Daniel gave officers consent to search and they found two hypodermic needles containing residue and a straw in a back pack on the floor board of the vehicle. Sheriff Ray says Daniel admitted that the needles and the straw belonged to him.

40 year old Tony L. Edge of Puckett Road, McMinnville and 24 year old Sara Nicole South of Short Mountain Street, Smithville were arrested last Wednesday, March 4th .

According to Sheriff Ray, deputies stopped a vehicle on Highway 146 for weaving. Officers learned that Edge's driver's license was revoked and that this was his third offense of driving on a revoked offense. Deputies obtained consent to search and found two needles. One of the needles was in the floor board of the vehicle and the other needle was on Edge's person. Also in the vehicle was a gallon jug, about a quarter full, of a clear liquid believed to be moonshine.

Edge was charged with possession of untaxed liquor, a third offense of driving on a revoked license, and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is $5,000.

Meanwhile, South, a passenger of Edge's vehicle, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond is $1,000 and her court date is March 19th. Sheriff Ray says South handed the officers four needles after they asked her if she had anything illegal on her.

35 year old Hollie Dawn Nash of Sparta Highway, Smithville was charged with driving on a revoked license last Wednesday, March 4th.

Sheriff Ray says deputies worked an accident on Highway 70 and discovered that Nash was driving on a revoked license. Her license had been revoked for a DUI on January 18th, 2008 in White County. Her bond on that charge was $2,000.

On the night that she bailed out of jail, Nash got into trouble with the law again. According to Sheriff Ray, deputies were called to a residence on Sparta Highway to answer a domestic complaint. Upon arrival, they spoke to the complainant, Nash's boyfriend, who alleged that he and Nash got into a verbal confrontation with each other and that she bit him on the arm causing an injury. Nash was charged in that case with domestic assault and her bond is $2,500

She will be in court on both charges March 19th.

Smithville Police Investigate Attempted Robbery at Bumpers Drive-In

March 8, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

Someone tried to steal a money bag from a female car hop at Bumpers Drive-In Friday night.

Smithville Police are investigating and Detective Jerry Hutchins, Jr. says while no arrests have yet been made, there are suspects in the case.

The restaurant manager says on Friday night two men in a pickup truck pulled into one of the stalls and stopped. The driver placed an order for a drink.

As the car hop came out of the restaurant to deliver the order, the driver of the truck backed out and drove to another stall at the rear of the building and motioned for the car hop to follow him. A witness reports that as the truck stopped in the stall, the passenger of the truck got out and hunkered down behind the vehicle as the car hop approached. The man then came up behind the car hop and grabbed the apron she was wearing, which contained a money bag. As she screamed for help, the car hop also turned and struck her assailant with the metal serving tray she was holding. The man, who fled on foot, did not get the money bag, but did apparently drop some cash as he made his getaway.

A male car hop, who heard the screams of his fellow employee, initially chased after the man but gave up the chase, to pick up the bills left on the ground.

Meanwhile, the driver of the truck got out and came to the front door of the restaurant, telling the manager that he had forgotten to give the car hop a tip. And when the manager asked him to stay and give an account of what he had seen to the police upon their arrival, the man got back in his truck and left. Restaurant employees got the tag number of the truck and reported it to police.

Police have not yet said whether the driver of the truck and the man who tried to rob the car hop were actually working together.

Marina Manager Dies in Truck Wreck

March 8, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

The manager of Hidden Harbor Marina died in a pickup truck crash either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning on Hurricane Ridge Road.

Dead is 56 year old Rickie Eugene Latta of Smithville.

Trooper Jimmy Knowles of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Latta was driving a 1999 Dodge Ram pickup truck, heading north toward the marina where he lived, when he lost control of the vehicle on Hurricane Ridge Road near the fire tower location.

According to Trooper Knowles, Latta apparently failed to negotiate a curve and overcorrected. The truck went back across the left side of the road and overturned several times, coming to rest upside down in the edge of the woodline about 170 feet from the roadway. Latta, not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the truck. His body was found in a field about 84 feet from the edge of the road and about 86 feet from the truck.

There were apparently no witnesses to the crash so the exact time of the accident has not been determined. Trooper Knowles says Latta was last seen alive around 11:00 p.m. Saturday night. His body was found around 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning by a resident who lives near the scene of the accident.

In addition to Trooper Knowles, DeKalb EMS, members of the DeKalb County Fire Department, and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department also responded.

IRS Has Nearly $20 Million for Tennesseans Who Have Not Filed a 2005 Tax Return

March 7, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

Unclaimed refunds totaling approximately $19,917,000 are awaiting nearly 22,000 Tennesseans who did not file a federal income tax return for 2005, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. However, to collect the money, a return for 2005 must be filed with the IRS no later than April 15, 2009.

“Tennesseans should check their records, especially if they had taxes withheld from their 2005 paychecks but were not required to file a tax return," said IRS spokesman Dan Boone. "They may be leaving money on the table, including valuable tax credits."

The IRS estimates that half of those Tennesseans who could claim refunds for tax year 2005 would receive more than $586.

Some individuals may not have filed because they had too little income to require filing a tax return even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments. In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.

For 2005 returns, the window closes on April 15, 2009. The law requires that the return be properly addressed, postmarked and mailed by that date. There is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2005 refund that their checks will be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2006 or 2007. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS and may be used to satisfy unpaid child support or past due federal debts such as student loans.

By failing to file a return, individuals stand to lose more than refunds of taxes withheld or paid during 2005. Many low-income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Generally, unmarried individuals qualified for the EITC if in 2005 they earned less than $35,263 and had more than one qualifying child living with them, earned less than $31,030 with one qualifying child, or earned less than $11,750 and had no qualifying child. Limits are slightly higher for married individuals filing jointly.

Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications Web page of IRS.gov or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). Information about the Earned Income Tax Credit and how to claim it is also available on IRS.gov. Taxpayers who need help also can call the toll-free IRS help line at 1-800-829-1040.

Legislative Update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

March 7, 2009
Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver has released her latest report on legislative issues before the Tennessee General Assembly.

House Bill 421 passed on the House floor this week, a move that will aide in expediting the Volkswagen and Hemlock projects in Chattanooga and Clarksville. Last week, Commissioner Matt Kisber from the Department of Economic and Community Development told the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee that the companies and the state had set an ambitious timeline to move things forward, and the passage of bond legislation was paramount.

The bill will bond the projects that will provide infrastructure for the sites, something the state committed to do when luring the companies to Tennessee. Analysts say the revenue stream from Volkswagen alone will cover the annual debt service, and exceed it once Hemlock is up and running. The two companies together are expected to directly provide about 2,500 new jobs in addition to countless others in related sectors from vendors and contracts.

Supporters say the economic impact of the companies will benefit the entire state. However, critics have accused the Administration of using taxpayer dollars to lure large companies to Tennessee, with no parameters in place to ensure that taxpayers are protected.

I expressed my concern over this legislation because it called for the state to go into debt to pay for a $268 million project with taxpayer funds. The bill gives the Governor the go-ahead to bond several projects in Middle and East Tennessee, instead of paying cash that had already been allocated by the legislature last spring. I voted “present not voting,” saying I could not vote in favor of the state going into more debt.

I realize the taxpayers of my district are already suffering, trying to keep their own jobs and small businesses afloat. I believe the state should lower the taxes on small businesses by the same $268 million for a year in order to spur jobs in every small town in the state. It still remains to be seen, if whether or not our district will see any job creation from these projects.

Another concern of mine is the possibility that these companies may eventually close or leave the state, leaving taxpayers to pay off the debt. I feel like we are putting this on a credit card when we have the cash, and I don’t feel like that is responsible. Why take out a car loan if you can pay for it with cash? While I greatly support and applaud economic development, we must be smart about how we pay our bills.

We are receiving up to $4.3 billion through the federal stimulus package—and this is exactly the type of one-time expenditure that the stimulus cash can be used for, we cannot continue to spend beyond our means, and grow government at this accelerated rate.

Gun legislation continues to advance in House committees…

Several bills that members have advocated for several years to expand the rights of gun owners in Tennessee cleared the Judiciary Committee this week. House lawmakers were pleased to see the passage of the legislation, which had been killed in previous years by a House committee. Legislators have argued that the common-sense provisions are needed to expand and protect the Second Amendment rights of Tennessee’s legal gun owners.
House Bill 961 will allow licensed carry permit holders to carry firearms in a refuge, public hunting area, wildlife management area, or forest land. Under current law, it is unlawful for a person to possess a firearm in these areas frequented or inhabited by big game, except during open hunting seasons on these areas. The bill expands that right to allow legal firearms the entire year, without exemption. Having passed Judiciary Committee this week, the bill now moves onto the Budget Subcommittee.

A second bill, House Bill 716, aims to expand the right to carry a legal firearm on the grounds of any public park, playground, civic center or other property owned, used or operated by the municipal or state government. The legislation was another one that cleared the Judiciary Committee hurdle, and will now face Calendar and Rules.

Two of the bills that saw passage in the subcommittee last week were delayed for a vote in the full committee this week. House Bill 959 would seal the records of handgun carry permit holders that are currently public record. The bill stipulates that anyone disclosing information about permit holders would face a $2,500 fine for the violation. Tennesseans became outraged earlier this month when the Commercial Appeal, a Memphis-based newspaper, published the handgun carry permit database in an easily searchable format on their website. Citizens and lawmakers criticized the paper, calling the action ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous.’ Some contended that in addition to printing a list that would make it easier for criminals to steal weapons, non-gun owners were also at risk because it would be easy for criminals to use the database to find homes that likely did not have a firearm.

Another bill, House Bill 962, would allow legal permit holders to take their weapons into restaurants that sell alcoholic beverages, as long as the permit holder does not consume alcohol. Firearms will still be forbidden in these establishments after 11 p.m., and each restaurant may restrict weapons in their establishment if they choose and clearly post the restriction. This legislation was also delayed in the full committee this week but will be before Judiciary Committee on March 11th.
House approves changes to civil service rules…

The legislature considered changes to the state’s civil service rules this week, giving the Administration more flexibility to manage the economic downturn. Originally in opposition the bill, the Tennessee State Employees Association (TSEA) worked with members of the General Assembly to iron out details and amendments that protected current state employees.

After passing the Senate handily, the House immediately took the bill up for consideration, where it overwhelmingly passed with a vote of 96 to 1. The new rule changes will give the Administration the flexibility to adjust the work week by eliminating days if needed, moving qualified employees between departments to open positions, and facilitating furloughs instead of layoffs. The legislation agreed upon stipulates that the new policies will only be in place for one year.

In brief…

The Criminal Practice and Procedure Subcommittee of Judiciary passed a bill this week that aims to strengthen sexual offender laws in Tennessee. House Bill 620 redefines “indecent exposure” to include knowingly engaging in the person’s own residence certain conduct in the presence of a child for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification.

The Local Government Subcommittee stalled legislation that would ban open containers in vehicles this week. Currently, no driver may consume an alcoholic beverage or possess an open container of such while operating a motor vehicle, but passengers may consume alcohol. Had it passed, House Bill 387 would have freed up a portion of federal funds that could be used for roads. The bill died due to a tie vote.

The House honored Ron Campbell on Wednesday, via House Joint Resolution 15. Campbell has served for a number of years as the House Radio Broadcast Specialist, and has also been a leading voice on both country and gospel radio. Campbell is noted for his deep, legendary voice and has been a regular on numerous radio and television shows, as well as the world-famous WSM radio in Nashville, original home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Last year, the Department of Safety (TDOS) sent letters to all firearms instructors requiring them to furnish information such as the firearm owner, name of the student using the firearm, and the make, model, and serial number of the firearms used. TDOS acknowledged shortly after that it was a clerical error that sent the letters out. House Bill 46 seeks to prohibit TDOS from asking firearms instructors for certain information, and was approved by the Criminal Practice and Procedure Subcommittee. The bill will be heard in Judiciary next week.

Smithville Woman Airlifted to Erlanger Hospital after Thursday night Wreck

March 6, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 61 year old Smithville woman was injured in a one car crash around 10:30 p.m. Thursday night on Highway 56 south near the intersection of Keltonburg Road.

Lieutenant Randy Maynard of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Paula Gail Smith was driving north on Highway 56 in a 2000 Ford Contour when the car veered over the center line across the southbound lane and went off the road into a ditch and then struck a culvert. The car overturned and came to rest on it's top at the edge of the highway.

Lieutenant Maynard says Smith was wearing her seatbelt and the car's airbag deployed upon impact. She was removed from the vehicle by DeKalb EMS.

Members of the Keltonburg and Blue Springs stations of the DeKalb County Fire Department were also on the scene.

Smith was airlifted by a helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga where she was still in critical condition at last report.

DeKalb Jobless Rate Soars to 10.8% in January

March 5, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's Unemployment rate for the month of January soared to 10.8%, an increase from the revised rate for December of 9.2%, and up significantly from 5.7% in January, 2008

The DeKalb County Labor Force for January, 2009 was 9,890. A total of 8,820 were employed and 1,070 were unemployed.

Tennessee's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for January 2009 was released last week at 8.6 percent, 1.0 percentage point higher than the December rate of 7.6 percent. The United States unemployment rate for the month of January was 7.6 percent.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for January 2009, released today, show that the rate increased in all 95 counties. All counties also recorded over-the-year unemployment rate increases.

Lincoln County and Knox County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.6 percent. Perry County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 27.3 percent, up from 20.1 in December, followed by Lauderdale County at 18.6 percent, up from 15.7 percent in December.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 6.6 percent, up 0.9 percentage point from the December rate. Davidson County was 7.0 percent, up 1.1 from the previous month. Hamilton County was at 7.4 percent, up 1.0 percentage point from the December rate, and Shelby County was 8.6 percent, up from the December rate of 7.4 percent.

Arrests Made by Smithville Police on Theft and Forgery Charges

March 5, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

Several persons have been arrested recently by the Smithville Police Department on forgery and theft charges.

32 year old Sharon K. Skinner of Dowelltown is charged with four counts of forgery.

Detective Jerry Hutchins, Jr. reports that Skinner allegedly forged checks and passed them at Jewel's Market in Smithville. The total amount of the checks forged was $548.00.

Her bond is $25,000.

Skinner allegedly forged a name on checks on the Wilson Motors account in the amounts of $256 on January 2nd and $175 and $117 on January 5th.

42 year old Eddie LeRoy Taylor is charged with two counts of forgery. He is accused of passing checks in amounts of $175 and $256 at Jewel's Market on the Wilson Motors account in January.

Meanwhile, 23 year old Melinda Beth Murphy of Smithville is charged with one count of forgery.

Her bond is $10,000

Detective Hutchins reports that on January 21st at PSI on Church Street, Murphy presented to her probation officer a forged instrument showing a prescription she had gotten from a local drug store. The owner of the pharmacy stated that he had not prepared the document or signed it.

25 year old Matthew M. Lawson is charged with theft under $500 and 42 year old Fowler Stoney Ramsey of 906 Rolling Acres Road was issued a citation for the same offense in connection with the theft of a purse from a vehicle at Walmart on Saturday, February 21st.

Bond for Lawson is $1,000 and he will be in court March 12th.

In his report, Officer Travis Bryant states that "On Saturday, February 21st, I responded to Walmart to take a report on a purse, taken from a vehicle in the parking lot. I went into Walmart and reviewed the surveillance tapes and was able to put together a description of both suspects. While I was in the office, an employee of Walmart advised me there were subjects in the parking lot that matched the description of the people (suspects) and he also advised me that the suspects had asked him what the cops were doing. I then went into the parking lot and made contact with the subjects and advised them that I had witnessed them, on camera, steal the purse. I identified the suspects as Matthew Lawson and Fowler Stoney Ramsey. The items taken were reported as a purse containing one ring, one cell phone, one wallet, miscellaneous ID cards, a key, Ipod, camera, and $115 in cash. All items were recovered except for the money."

40 year old Lisa Fay Gibbs of Dowelltown is charged with theft of property under $500 regarding a stolen purse taken from a customer's shopping cart at Walmart on Monday, February 23rd. Another woman, 21 year old Heather Marie Griffith of Dowelltown is also charged with theft for allegedly assisting Gibbs in the crime..

They will be in court April 9th. Their bond is $1,000 each.

In his report, Officer Matt Farmer reports that when the victim turned away from her shopping cart in the store, someone stole her purse from the cart. The suspect could be seen on the surveillance video with two purses, but she had entered the store with only one purse. The woman was later identified as Gibbs. The purse was recovered.

Officer Farmer further reports that Griffith assisted in the theft of the purse by keeping the victim's attention while Gibbs took the purse from the shopping cart.

Change your clock, change your battery for daylight saving time

March 5, 2009

As clocks move ahead this weekend for daylight saving time, Tennessee State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman would like to remind Tennesseans to change their homes’ smoke alarm batteries, as well.

“ ‘Change your clock, change your battery’ is an easy phrase to remember and practice, when you update your clocks this weekend,” says Newman. “Smoke alarms, even those that are hard-wired, should have their batteries replaced regularly and be tested monthly to ensure you have the protection you need,” Newman says. “Use this time to protect your home and family.”

A working smoke alarm will double your survival chances during a home fire by giving you the critical time needed to escape. Most home fires occur at night when people are sleeping. The smoke and toxic gases from a fire can cause you to sleep more deeply, diminishing the chances of survival.

More than 90 percent of all American homes have smoke alarms, but as many as one-third of them don’t work – because of old or missing batteries. It is critical to replace batteries regularly – even if they appear to be working fine. Twice a year is recommended. This helps prevent the warning, low-battery “chirp” emitted by alarms. All too often, alarm batteries are removed but not replaced, putting home occupants at risk. There is no way to predict when a fire will occur, and just one night in a home without a working smoke alarm can prove dangerous. Replacing batteries for daylight saving time is just one fire safety step. Here are a few more:

• Smoke alarms should be put inside and outside every room where residents sleep, and on each home level. All residents should know how the alarm sounds and what it means.
• Smoke alarms need to be cleaned and maintained according to their instructions.
• Have a fire escape plan with two ways out of every room; teach it to everyone in the home, especially children.
• When the smoke alarm sounds, get out of the home immediately and go to a pre-planned meeting place.

Many local fire departments have supplies of donated smoke alarms, and departments will help install them in the homes of the elderly and disabled. Visit www.tn.gov/commerce/sfm/. The Department of Commerce and Insurance works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee.

Three Incumbents, Three Challengers Qualify for Smithville Aldermen Race

March 3, 2009
by: 
Dwayne Page

All three incumbent Smithville Aldermen up for re-election in June are now formally in the race.

Aldermen Jerry Hutchins, Sr., Tonya Sullivan, and Willie Thomas have all qualified to seek re-election along with three challengers, Gary Durham and former Aldermen Aaron Meeks, and W.J. (Dub) White.

Two other persons have also picked up qualifying petitions but have not yet returned them including Shawn Jacobs, who ran for Alderman two years ago, and Danny Washer, who ran for Alderman last year.

Lisa Peterson, Administrator of Elections, says candidates have until NOON on Thursday, March 19th to qualify. The deadline to register to vote in time for the election is May 18th.

The Smithville Municipal Election will be held Tuesday, June 16th. Each term is for two years.

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