Local News Articles

Smithville Parade Kicks off Holiday Season

December 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Hundreds lined the downtown streets on a pleasant Saturday afternoon for the annual Smithville Christmas Parade.

As always, the parade featured floats, vintage automobiles, motorcycles, local kings and queens, scouts, horseback riders, the DeKalb County High School Fighting Tiger Band, among many other entries. Of course, the highlight of the parade was the appearance of Santa Claus who rode into town on a fire engine tossing candy left and right to everyone along the parade route.

The Grand Marshal of the Smithville parade was Meteorologist Kelly Cox of NewsChannel 5.

The Cooper's Chapel Baptist Church won first place in the float competition.

DeKalb Community Bank took second place for their float and Walmart received third place and also won the Spirit Award.

The Smithville Parade is sponsored each year by the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department.

Look for more pictures of the Smithville Christmas Parade on this web site

Gordon Encourages Attendance at DeKalb Meeting on Center Hill Repairs

December 1, 2007

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled a public meeting in DeKalb County regarding repairs at Center Hill Dam, and U.S. Representative Bart Gordon is encouraging residents to attend.

"It's important for residents to know how repairs at Center Hill Dam will affect them," said Gordon. "I hope people will go to these meetings and get answers to their questions about the work."

On December 3rd, the Corps will hold a public meeting at the Temperance Hall Community Center at 2760 Temperance Hall Road. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Flood inundation maps will be available at 4:00 p.m. The maps show an estimate of what area would flood based on various failure scenarios at Center Hill Dam.

Construction on Center Hill Dam was completed in 1951. Over time, limestone and sinkholes have taken a toll on the dam and caused seepage.

The rehabilitation plan recommends installing permanent cutoff walls and supplemental grouting into the main embankment and saddle dam foundations to stop the seepage. The plan also recommends replacing the powerhouse station service generator to enhance flow for water quality downstream of the dam.

In August, Gordon went to the dam to meet with representatives from the Corps and local officials about the possible impacts on nearby communities.

"The Corps tells me the dam is in no immediate danger of failure, but these repairs are necessary to ensure the continued safety of residents, " said Gordon.

Gordon Encourages Attendance at DeKalb Meeting on Center Hill Repairs

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has scheduled a public meeting in DeKalb County regarding repairs at Center Hill Dam, and U.S. Representative Bart Gordon is encouraging residents to attend.

"It's important for residents to know how repairs at Center Hill Dam will affect them", said Gordon. "I hope people will go to these meetings and get answers to their questions about the work."

On December 3rd, the Corps will hold a punlic meeting at the Temperance Hall Community Center at 2760 Temperance Hall Road. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Firefighters Respond to Wednesday Blaze at Griffith Home

December 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

County volunteer firefighters were called to the residence of Leann Griffith on Highway 70 near Liberty Wednesday afternoon.

Chief Donny Green says a passerby reported the fire after seeing smoke coming from the eaves of the house, which is located just past the intersection of Highway 70 and 96. No one was home at the time of the fire

County firefighters quickly responded and were able to confine the fire damage to the back bedroom, however the home received a lot of smoke and heat damage throughout the structure.

Engines from the Liberty and Main Station responded along with the department's tanker truck.

Chief Green says the cause of the fire is under investigation.

No one was injured.

Patterson Named Tiger Football MVP- Gibbs Gets Most Valuable Football Cheerleader Award

November 29, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Collin Patterson was named Most Valuable Player of the 2007 DeKalb County High School Football Team during the annual Awards Banquet held Thursday night at the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church.

The award was presented to Patterson by Coach Steve Trapp, who spoke with WJLE after the program. " Collin did a lot of good things for us. He played a pivotal role in our offense. He was kind of Poteete's outlet. Poteete kept a lot of plays going in scrambling around. He could always find #7 out there and a lot of things he (Patterson) did for us he adlibed, breaking off his routes, coming back and finding a hole. He's just got a high football IQ on both sides of the football. He just had a great senior year for us. Patterson had 43 receptions, which was number one in our region. He had 563 yards. He had close to 80 tackles on defense, two picks, a couple of tackles for losses. He was up there in the top of a lot of our statistics. He wasn't designated as one of our four team captains but he was definitely a leader for this football team."

Meanwhile, Jackie Gibbs was named Most Valuable Cheerleader. The presentation was made by Cheer Coach Amanda Fuller. " Our Most Valuable Cheerleader is just awesome. She's everything you would expect a cheerleader to be in a tiny little package. She can stunt. She can tumble. She can dance. She can cheer and she's done it all of her life."

Other individual Football Player Awards are as follows:

Offensive Player- Hunter Poteete
Offensive Lineman- Mykel Cantrell
Offensive Back- Matthew Lawrence
Receiver- Abram Edwards
Defensive Player- Corey Cripps
Defensive Lineman- Dustin Bogle
Linebacker- Brent Collier
Defensive Back- J.J. Herriott
Special Teams Player- Juan Ruiz and Tyler Woods
Most Improved- Steven McCormick
MVP- Collin Patterson
Tiger Pride Award- Adam Emerson

Individual Cheer Awards are as follows:

Best Stunts- Nique Tubbs
Most Spirited- Gerianna Wilson
Best Jumps- Jackie Gibbs
Best Dance- Macy Felts
Most Improved- MaKayla Poss
MVC- Jackie Gibbs
DEAR (Dedication, Enthusiasm, Attitude, and Responsibility)- Avarie Maynard

Although the Tigers finished 2-8 this season Coach Trapp believes the team made significant progress. "As the season progressed, we definitely started clicking and doing some things offensively. Again, it was just things that has hurt us in the past, hurt us this year. A bad thing would happen and we kind of got knocked back by it, but we seemed to rebound more from it this year. We were competitive in every game. Statistically, we were just as good as the team that won our region. The only thing that hurt, we were 2-8. It's just developing a winning attitude, believing that you're going to win when you step out on the field, getting ultimate support from everybody that's around the organization. That's what we need to work on and that's what we're going to continue to work on."

Autopsy Finds Sosa's Baby was Stillborn- Murder Charge Against Her Dropped

November 29, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The baby was stillborn.

The second degree murder charge against 18 year old Lillian Elizebeth Sosa has been dismissed because an autopsy has determined that the baby she gave birth to last month at the El Rancho Restaurant where she worked was never alive.

Assistant District Attorney General Bill Locke made the Thursday in DeKalb County General Sessions Court as Sosa stood before Judge Bratten Cook II.

Locke told Judge Cook that since the state can't prosecute Sosa on the murder charge, the D.A.'s office has now charged her with abuse of a corpse.

An interpreter translated the announcement to Sosa who speaks little or no English.

Locke later talked with members of the local media about the case. "We got the autopsy back from Dr. (Bruce) Levy's Office (State Medical Examiner) concerning this child. It was their opinion and what they would testify is that the child or baby never was alive so therefore the murder case had to be dismissed since the child never was alive. I guess technically you can't kill something that's never been alive so we had to dismiss the murder charge but we have filed charges on the abuse of a corpse today. We felt like the way the facts and circumstances behind how this baby was disposed of was criminal and we're going to prosecute it and go forward with that."

Bond for Sosa on the abuse of a corpse charge is $25,000. and she remains in jail. Locke says the range of punishment for that offense is from one to two years in prison.

When asked if Sosa is here legally, Locke responded, "I think she's illegal. We'll notify Immigration but whether or not they do anything, I don't know, but we can notify them and I think that's in the works."

Sosa was arrested last month after she gave birth to a child and then dumped it in a ladies restroom trash can at the El Rancho Restaurant at 1101 West Broad Street.

According to Smithville Police Chief Richard Jennings, Sosa apparently locked herself in the ladies restroom of the restaurant and gave birth to the child on Friday night, October 26th. She then came out of the restroom, told her boss that she needed to leave because she was sick, and called for someone to give her a ride home. Sosa's aunt reportedly came to the restaurant and picked her up.

Jennings says the child was discovered around 9:20 p.m. by a waitress, Karla Leon, who went into the ladies rest room to clean up, as staff were preparing to close the restaurant for the night.
Leon then reported her discovery to the manager and they called 911. Customers had already left the restaurant when she discovered the body.

Agents Billy Miller and Dan Friel of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were notified and joined the Smithville Police Department in the investigation later that night, and after interviewing employees, decided they needed to talk to Sosa.

After discovering where she lives, Sheriff Patrick Ray went to the address on Talley Road and picked her up around 4:00 a.m. Saturday. She was brought to the Smithville Police Department, where she was interviewed by the TBI agents.

During the questioning of Sosa through an interpreter, agents determined she was a likely suspect in the case and took her to DeKalb Community Hospital for an examination. The emergency room doctor found that she had recently given birth and suggested that she undergo emergency surgery, because she had suffered some potentially life threatening complications during the delivery.

Sosa was then transported to the Cookeville Hospital early Saturday morning, October 27th. She came through the surgery fine and was released on Monday, October 29th after which she was taken into custody.

The infant, a male, fully developed child, weighed 5 pounds, 14 ounces, and was 19 inches long. Chief Jennings says it appears the mother carried the child about eight months.

EMS personnel initially thought the baby was alive but Locke says the autopsy concluded that the child was dead at the time of birth. "Initially when the charges were brought, going by what we had to go on that night and of course it was very traumatic for everybody involved to see this situation, I guess indications were that maybe they thought the baby might have breathed or been alive but upon further investigation it seems that the autopsy findings would be correct. We don't have anybody that would say the baby was alive and then with the autopsy findings saying the baby never was alive, there's no way to proceed with that."

County Seeks Alternative to Property Tax Freeze for Senior Citizens

November 28, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission is trying to figure out a way to give property tax relief to eligible senior citizen property owners without having to adopt the property tax freeze which was overwhelmingly approved by voters at the polls last November

Counties and cities in Tennessee can now freeze the property tax rates for eligible homeowners 65 and over. State lawmakers gave local governments the authority to enact the tax freeze during the legislative session

The adoption of a property tax freeze by local governments is the final step in an effort to limit the impact of rising assessments and property taxes on seniors with fixed incomes. The process began with Constitutional Amendment No. 2 which received an 83 percent "yes" vote statewide in the 2006 general election.

In DeKalb County, the vote was 4,125 (83%) to 805(16%) in favor of the Constitutional amendment

County commissions and city councils are now authorized to freeze the property tax rates at their current levels for homeowners with combined incomes at or below $24,000 a year.

The freeze would mean eligible homeowners would not have to pay higher taxes the next time a local government increases property tax rates.

County Mayor Mike Foster raised the issue during Monday night's county commission. Foster and Steve Bates, the county's financial advisor, say only a few counties in the state have adopted the measure, because of the complexities of the program and the cost of administration. "It's a really complicated thing (tax freeze). I think only six other counties have adopted it so far. It basically says that a household can make no more than $24,000 and must meet all the other requirements. It only covers your primary residence and up to five acres of land, so if you own a farm it won't apply to that. It will only apply to five acres. It will mean that the Trustee would probably have to hire two more employees (to administer the program) because every year, every person who wishes to apply for that (tax freeze) has to re-apply. They have to bring in proof, such as their income tax statements, on a yearly basis, and it has to be itemized."

According to Foster, the cost of administering this program would most likely exceed the savings to the taxpayers. "One county was going to return about $30,000 to the people who applied but it was going to cost about $50,000 to do it."

Foster says the county will come up with a plan that mirror's the state property tax relief program, to serve those that the tax freeze Constitutional amendment is intended to help." We already have a property tax relief program in place by the state. Under the program the household cannot make over $24,000 and it sets a value on the house. You cannot exceed that value for that house. We currently have about 306 people that are in that program. What some of the other counties are doing is giving them a (local) tax break tied to this (state program). It takes the burden off the taxpayer of having to bring their records in each year and upgrade it. If we're giving them whatever percentage of money they'll be saving anyway, then they don't have to jump through all these hoops and we don't have to hire two or three people to work in the Trustee's office."

Horse Owner Cited into City Court

November 26, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Municipal Judge Hilton Conger may decide soon whether horses, being kept on a small lot between Luttrell and Anthony Avenue must be removed, based on alleged violations of city property maintenance regulations.

The owner of the horses, Seth Billingsley has been cited into city court by the police department. Chief Richard Jennings says he surveyed the property last Friday, November 23rd and found probable cause to issue the citation.

Seth and his wife Janohn Billingsley reside at 857 Anthony Avenue.

The citation alleges that Seth Billingsley is in violation of a city ordinance in regard to:

"Health and Sanitation nuisances."

The ordinance states that "It shall be unlawful for any person to permit any premises owned, occupied, or controlled by him to become or remain in a filthy condition, or permit the use or occupation of same in such a manner as to create noxious or offensive smells and odors in connection therewith, or to allow the accumulation or creation of unwholesome and offensive matter or the breeding of flies, rodents, or other vermin on the premises to the menace of the public health or the annoyance of people residing within the vicinity.'

The ordinance also states that "No animal or fowl shall be kept in such a place or condition as to become a nuisance either because of noise, odor, contagious disease, or other reason."

Billingsley is to appear in city court on the citation Tuesday, December 4th at 9:00 a.m. Billingsley, who plans to contest the citation, has hired attorney Sarah Cripps to represent him. Cripps says she plans to ask for a one month delay to give her more time to prepare for the case.

On September 17th concerned citizen Walter Foster, a resident of Miller Road, came before the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen complaining about two to four horses being kept on a small lot near his home on Luttrell Avenue. Foster said the animals were drawing flies to the area, causing a public nuisance. The lot is also located across the street from the home of Alderman Willie Thomas, and he too is opposed to the horses being there.

A petition was presented to the board bearing signatures of 68 people.

At that meeting, the city board voted to have Special Health Officer Designee Eugene O'Neil make a personal contact with the owners and follow up with a letter, giving them notice to remove the horses.

O'Neil, in his letter to Seth Billingsley dated September 19th, stated that " You are advised, due to many complaints received by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to remove the horses creating unwholesome matter (manure) causing the breeding of flies and offensive smells and odors on the premises. Removal of the horses is to be accomplished within 30 days of receipt of this notice."

On September 26th, the Billingsley's responded with a letter to Mayor Taft Hendrixson stating that they were contesting the order to remove the horses by October 19th and requesting that the order be rescinded for the following reasons:

"Although Animal Control was called, they admitted to us via a phone conversation that the letter giving us 10 days to correct alleged violations was not initiated after any type of inspection/report, either before or after the ten days. Moreover it was said that it was done as a courtesy to the neighbor inciting the conflict who is an alderman."

"The DeKalb County Humane Society inspected our property and found absolutely no violations of any type. Further, the premises were found to be in exceptional condition."

"The building inspector, Mr. O'Neil, voiced his opinion when coming out to inspect the property stating that he found no violations. He also stated he came out as a courtesy to the alderman who is inciting the problem. (Note that the building permit was granted for a horse barn, over a year ago)."

"We respectfully contest Mr. O'Neil's credentials as a "Special Health officer Designee"

"The pastor of the Temple Baptist Church on Miller Road has written saying that he and the congregation have no objections to the horses being there. Furthermore, a large number of neighbors have said that they see nor smell a problem with the horses and would be willing to file their own petition."

"We also contest the petition signed at the city board meeting as it lacks validity as it: (a) had no heading to indicate to signers exactly what they were signing and (b) was signed by minors, residents outside the city limits, and residents not living within a relevant distance."

"Our property has never been in a filthy condition as outlined in the law, nor has it ever been allowed to accumulate manure or any other offensive material. As there is no evidence to show any violations of the city laws, the prejudiced complaints from neighbors cannot be construed as sufficient to effect punitive action on the part of the city. Complaints of this nature are for municipal court."

The letter goes on to state that "Mrs Billingsley is in the last trimester of pregnancy and her health practitioners have repeatedly warned her that the stresses of these allegations are seriously endangering the life of her baby."

Mrs. Billingsley has since given birth to the child. She now claims that the baby was born prematurely and that the infant is experiencing complications.

Dowelltown Woman Charged with Forgery and Theft

November 26, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A Dowelltown woman, charged with forgery and theft, is among those arrested within the past week by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 31 year Carla Denise Chapman of Snow Hill, Dowelltown was charged on Monday, November 19th with twenty counts of forgery and two counts of theft of property under $500. According to Sheriff Ray, On June 12th Chapman allegedly stole blank checks from a residence on Snow Hill Road Dowelltown, forged the victim's checks, and went to various businesses and cashed them. Then on October 31st, Chapman went to a residence on Old Snow Hill Road, Dowelltown and allegedly took various checks out of the victim's truck, forged the victim's checks, and went to various businesses and cashed them. Chapman is under a total bond of $210,000 and her court date is November 29th.

44 year old Raymond Dean Martin of Parsley Road, Smithville was arrested on Monday, November 19th for DUI, simple possession, and resisting arrest. According to Sheriff Ray, Martin was stopped for a traffic violation on Redmon Road, Smithville. After administering field sobriety tasks, deputies found Martin under the influence. Martin also had in his possession a cigarette pack in his back pocket containing marijuana and one Xanax pill. Sheriff Ray says after Martin was placed under arrest, he became uncooperative and refused to have handcuffs placed on him. Martin stated to the deputy "I'm getting back in my truck and going home." Martin was subdued, cuffed, and placed in the back of the patrol car. Total bond for him is $65,500 and his court date is November 29th.

On Tuesday, November 20th, 43 year old Ricky Hendrixson of A.B. Frazier Road Smithville was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Sheriff Ray says deputies responded to a call on Ferrell Road and found Hendrixson passed out in his truck which was parked in a field. After Hendrixson was awakened, he became very violent and uncooperative. Hendrixson was placed under arrest and his court date is set for January 3rd.

36 year old Paul Charles Pearson of South Congress Boulevard, Smithville was charged Wednesday, November 21st with DUI (2nd offense), driving on a revoked license (4th offense), and sale and delivery of a controlled substance (Cycloberzaprine). Sheriff Ray says Pearson was stopped on Highway 70 East for a traffic violation. After administering field sobriety tasks, deputies found Pearson under the influence and also found him to be driving on a revoked driver's license. Deputies found 18 Cycloberzaprine pills in his possession. Total bond was set at $31,000 and his court date is November 29th..

32 year old Ernest Paul Barnwell of J.E. Evins Avenue, Smithville was charged Friday, November 23rd with aggravated burglary and theft of property over $5,000. Sheriff Ray says Barnwell entered a home on November 19th without the owner's consent on Lassiter Road and stole over $5,000 worth of belongings such as jewelry, cameras, DVD players, a purse, and other items. Barnwell's bond was set at $125,000 and his court date is November 29th.

Mobile Home Damaged in Early Morning Blaze

November 26, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The mobile home of Teresa Stanley at 352 Adcock Cemetery Road was damaged in a fire around 3:00 a.m. Monday morning.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says Ms. Stanley told firefighters that she was awake when the fire started. According to Ms. Stanley, she heard a very loud popping sound, looked down the hall and saw fire and smoke coming from an electrical breaker box.

She got out of the trailer safely and went across the street to contact 911. She then stayed with a neighbor while firefighters fought the blaze.

Green says although there was some smoke throughout the structure, the fire was contained to the hallway and a bathroom of the residence. Ms. Stanley's personal belongings were also saved.

Members of the Midway, Cookeville Highway, and Short Mountain Highway stations responded along with a tanker truck. EMS was also on the scene as a precaution, but there were no injuries.

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