Local News Articles

Sheriff's Department Makes Arrests for DUI and Aggravated Assault

March 31, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Stephen Hunter Pugh
Dustin Matthew Perry
Jerry Lynn Merryman
Cecil McKinley Ketchum

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has made arrests recently for three separate offenses of DUI and one case of aggravated assault.

28 year old Stephen Hunter Pugh of Woodbury Highway Liberty is charged with a second offense of driving under the influence. He was further issued a citation for driving on a revoked license, failure to maintain his lane of travel, and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond is $3,000 and he will be in court April 10.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Tuesday, March 18 while driving east on Highway 70 near Snow Hill, a deputy spotted Pugh in physical control of a motor vehicle. According to the officer, Pugh left his lane of travel several times and at one point nearly crashed into a DeKalb County School Bus heading west on Highway 70. The bus was able to swerve out of the way to prevent a collision.

Pugh turned onto New Home Road and stopped at a business. The deputy made contact with him there. According to the officer, Pugh had slurred speech. He was unsteady on his feet and he submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. He also consented to a blood test. Pugh admitted to taking several drugs the night prior. He also admitted to driving the vehicle, saying he was going to the scrap yard to get money for his grandparents.

After conducting field sobriety tasks and speaking with the complainants who all witnessed the event, the officer determined that Pugh was in physical control of the vehicle while being under the influence of alcohol and or drugs. A computer check revealed his driver's license were revoked. Drug paraphernalia was also found on his person.

28 year old Dustin Matthew Perry of Hickman is charged with driving under the influence and driving on a suspended license. His bond is $3,000 and he will be in court on April 17. Sheriff Ray said that on Saturday, March 22 a deputy was dispatched to Dale Ridge Road at 1:23 a.m. in response to an automobile accident. Upon arrival, the officer made contact with Perry who was unsteady on his feet. Perry's speech was slurred and he had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person. According to the deputy, Perry admitted to drinking three to four beers earlier in the night. Perry submitted to but performed poorly on field sobriety tasks. Perry also told the officer that he did not have a valid driver's license. A computer check confirmed that Perry's license were suspended for failure to satisfy citations in Smith County. He was arrested and brought to the jail for booking.

46 year old Jerry Lynn Merryman of Keltonburg Road is charged with driving under the influence. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court April 24. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, March 28, a drug detective was dispatched in response to a vehicle that was reported to be driving recklessly on Highway 70 west in Liberty. The detective spotted a Dodge flatbed truck that was all over the roadway on Highway 70 west in Liberty near College Street. The officer activated his emergency equipment but the truck kept going until it got to the intersection of Highway 70 and Dry Creek Road in Dowelltown. After pulling over the truck, the detective made contact with Merryman, the driver. When Merryman exited the vehicle, the detective noticed Merryman's pants were wet. Merryman said that he had urinated on himself. Merryman was also unsteady on his feet. He had a strong odor of alcohol on his person and his speech was slurred. The detective asked Merryman to perform a standard field sobriety task. After performing poorly on the task, Merryman refused to do any more but he did submit to a blood test. Merryman was placed under arrest.

39 year old Cecil McKinley Ketchum of Dedmon Hollow Road, Liberty is charged with aggravated assault. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court April 14. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, March 28 a deputy responded to a domestic violence call at Ketchum's home. Upon arrival, the officer observed a vehicle there with broken windows and three flat tires. Ketchum and a woman were both inside the home engaged in a verbal argument. Ketchum told the officer that he disabled the vehicle with a knife and axe to keep the woman from leaving. The woman also suffered an injury when Ketchum shut a door to the vehicle on the woman's hand. Ketchum was determined to be the primary aggressor and he was taken into custody.

Sparta Man Killed in Three Car Crash

March 29, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Jeremy Vick's 1997 Honda Civic
Beth Holeton's 2004 Mitsubishi
Joshua Smith's 2005 Ford Mustang

A Sparta man lost his life in a three vehicle crash Friday night on Highway 70 near the Midnight Express/Gentleman's Club.

Dead is 25 year old Jeremy Vick.

The accident was reported to central dispatch at 11:25 p.m.

According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Vick died when his 1997 Honda Civic struck the rear of a 2005 Ford Mustang, driven by 23 year old Joshua Smith of Morrison who had slowed to make a turn into a parking lot. The force of the crash caused Vick's car to rotate sideways into the path of an oncoming 2004 Mitsubishi, driven by 22 year old Beth Holeton of Dowelltown.

Vick died at the scene. No one else was injured.

The accident, investigated by Sergeant Eric McCormick and Trooper Johnny Farley of the THP Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) found that Smith, driving eastbound on Highway 70 in a white 2005 Ford Mustang, was slowing to make a left turn into a parking lot. Vick, also traveling eastbound in a silver 1997 Honda Civic and coming up behind the Mustang, was unable to stop or slow down before hitting the Mustang in the left rear. Upon impact, Vick's car rotated sideways into the westbound lane and into the path of Holeton's gray 2004 Mitsubishi. Holeton was unable to stop and collided head-on into the driver's side of Vick's car.

Vick's vehicle came to a final rest in the highway after being knocked backward. Holeton's car rolled to a final rest in the eastbound lane facing west. Smith pulled into a parking lot after the wreck.

20 year old Kara Schneider of Dowelltown was a passenger of the Holeton car. 20 year old James Barrett of Morrison was traveling with Smith.

In addition to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, others on the scene were Sheriff Patrick Ray and officers of the sheriff's department, DeKalb EMS, and members of the Midway station and the Extrication team of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department.

Boy Scout Troop Serves as Honorary Pages in State Senate

March 28, 2014
Cody Robinson, Raiden Martin, Wes Carpenter, Darren Waggoner with Senator Mae Beavers and Lt Governor Rob Ramsey.

Boy Scout Troop 347 served as honorary pages in the State Senate on Monday, March 24, 2014, as guests of Senator Mae Beavers. Jen Sherwood, Asst Scoutmaster, also led a tour of the capitol building as the scouts learned about the workings of our government to earn the Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge. The Boy Scouts of America teach leadership, citizenship, physical fitness and service through outdoor and community involvement. Boys 11-18 years old are encouraged to attend one of our Saturday afternoon troop meetings to learn more. Contact Will & Jen Sherwood at 597-4851 for more information.

Pictured L-R Cody Robinson, Raiden Martin, Wes Carpenter, Darren Waggoner with Senator Mae Beavers and Lt Governor Rob Ramsey.

Concerns Raised About Dead Dog Found at Animal Shelter

March 27, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Dead Dog Found at Animal Shelter
Three of the puppies found inside a trash can at the animal shelter
Emmaly Bennett and Lindsey Maestri with puppy
Puppies found inside turned over trash can outside animal shelter

Although the Smithville animal shelter is supposed to be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., a Smithville woman found it closed when she went there Thursday morning. But what she discovered when she arrived there disturbed her more.

"I pulled up and found a dead dog inside of the fence and then I found ten to eleven (living) puppies were inside of a turned over trash can (outside the fence in front of the building). It was definitely upsetting," said Lindsey Maestri.

It's not known exactly what caused the dog's death but someone had apparently dropped off the puppies in the trash can.

Maestri said the reason for her coming to the animal shelter was because she had lost her cat and was hoping someone had found it and brought it there. After finding the dead dog and the puppies she contacted the Joe Black Effort, a "no kill" animal rescue group.

"I got a call about 10:30 a.m. from Lindsey saying there was a dead dog on the premises and that there were puppies in a trash can," said Emmaly Bennett, Vice President of the Joe Black Effort. I called the mayor and he came over and we rode over here," she said.

"Its alarming, disturbing, disgusting, and shameful to our town. These dogs (at the shelter) are clearly not being taken care of properly. I just got a call one week ago from a man who picked up a stray in the housing projects and he had been trying to contact the animal shelter here since 9:00 a.m. that morning and at about 3:00 p.m. he contacted us (Joe Black Effort) because no one would answer the phone from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Then I called (Mayor) Jimmy Poss and he went and picked up the dog himself and brought it here to the animal shelter," said Bennett.

Maestri said today (Thursday) wasn't the first time she has come the shelter and found it closed. "I have been by once already this week about 9:30 a.m. or 10:00 a.m. and the animal shelter wasn't open. I had to come back around noon and somebody pulled up right when I got here," she said.

Mayor Poss said sickness prevented animal shelter employees from being there Thursday. When they are on duty, Mayor Poss said the employees, David and Monica Summers sometimes have to be away from the shelter when they are answering a call regarding an animal. In some cases, they are also called out after hours. "They got called out last night because a dog had bitten a boy," he said.

As for animals who are brought to the shelter, Mayor Poss said they are fed and watered daily and he denies assertions by the Joe Black Effort that the city is not trying to care for them. "It's not what Joe Black is saying. People drop dogs over here. Sometimes the dogs are sick. Some have Parvo. We can't help it. They (people) don't want them. Just like these eleven puppies brought here today. I can't stop people from doing that. We do have an issue but anybody who wants these dogs, we'll give the dogs to them. That's our policy," said Mayor Poss.

"Basically now we will try to find foster homes for all the puppies and try to get these other dogs out of here," said Bennett. "You can call us at 615-464-5683 or 615-215-7289. If you can foster a dog, we can provide food and crates for them to sleep in," she said.

Habitat Seeks Donations for Construction of New Home

March 27, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Habitat Board members and partner family pictured from left to right: Mary Nell Summers, Tia Adcock family members and Larry Green.
1st Habitat Partner Family Home on Adams Street
2nd Habitat Partner Family Home on Adams Street
3rd Habitat Partner Family Home located on Hayes Street
4th Habitat Partner Family Home located on Hayes Street

With preparations underway to begin construction soon on its fifth partner family home, Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County is seeking financial support to complete the dwelling on Hayes Street.

"We have selected our fifth partners, the Tia Adcock family, and are now ready to begin construction on it but we're in need of raising about another $20,000. We do have enough money to start the house. We just don't have enough money to complete it," said spokesman Larry Green.

Two major fundraisers are held each year for Habitat and another one may be scheduled this spring but the amount of money generated from those events isn't enough to completely build a home."We are in the process of looking at another fundraiser for the spring. We currently have two fundraisers each year. We do the Fiddler 5K in the summer and the Chili Cook-Off in the fall but that does not bring in quite enough money so we're asking people to partner with us and give donations to Habitat for Humanity. We appreciate anything anyone would like to give to us," said Green.

As more houses are built, Green said funding for future projects should not be a great concern. "The more houses we build, the less money we have to raise. Once we get up to fifteen or twenty houses, then we will be self sufficient. The people who pay the mortgages then will actually be paying for the next house to be built. It will give us the funds for that," he said.

Many people may have the notion that Habitat builds these homes at no cost to the partner family, but that is not the case, according to Green. " One of our qualifications is that they have to be in substandard housing and they have to be able to make the payments . A lot of people think that Habitat builds these houses and gives them to (partner families) for free but that is not true. We actually sell them the houses at cost. We build the houses with a lot of volunteer labor and at reduced costs. The people (partners) actually pay us back in the form of mortgage payments like any other house but in this case it is at no interest," Green continued.

If you would like to support this ministry, you may send your donation to Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County, PO Box 750, Smithville TN 37166. "We are asking people to partner with us. If you would like to give a donation to Habitat we would certainly appreciate it. This is really a worthwhile ministry for people. It really helps people out," said Green.

Groundbreaking for the new home will be coming soon. "We would like to break ground on this house just as soon as the weather breaks. We're almost to the point where we can do that," he concluded.

Meanwhile, Habitat is currently accepting applications for a sixth partner family in 2015. An information meeting, including assistance with the application, will be held Thursday, April 3 at 6 p.m. at the Smithville First United Methodist Church Christian Fellowship Center next to Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend.

Voter Registration Deadline Approaching for Primaries

March 26, 2014

Local residents are reminded that April 7 is the last day to register to vote in the upcoming May 6 primary elections.

“We just want to remind local residents that if they wish to vote in the May 6 DeKalb and 13th Judicial Democratic Primary or the May 6 Republican 13th Judicial Primary and have not registered to vote, they need to do so,” said Dennis Stanley, DeKalb Administrator of Elections. “April 7 is the last day to register to vote in person and by postmark with the local election commission office.”

Meanwhile, NOON April 3 is also the qualifying deadline for a variety of races set for the August ballot.

Local school board candidates in Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 must turn in qualifying petitions before Noon April 3, 2014 as well as candidates for the August Smithville and Dowelltown Municipal elections and for the offices of State Representative, State Senator and State party executive committeeman and committeewoman.

Meanwhile, local candidates are reminded of a couple of laws relating to political signs.

“It is unlawful for any person to place or attach any election campaign literature on any kind of poles, towers or fixters of any public utility company, whether privately or publicly owned, unless legally authorized to do so,” Stanley said.

In addition, candidates who are unsuccessful in the May primaries are responsible for removing signs that have been placed on highways, right-of-ways or other publicly owned property.

“The removal of signs should be accomplished within a reasonable time period following the election, not to exceed three weeks,” Stanley said.
“A candidate in a primary who will be a candidate in an upcoming general election, however, is not required to remove campaign signs until after the general election.”

The election commission has issued petitions to the following persons for the school board:

First District: Matthew Boss and Danny Parkerson. Boss and Parkerson have returned their petitions.

Second District: Charles Robinson and Jerry Wayne Johnson. Both Robinson and Johnson have returned their petitions

Third District: Kenny Rhody, Jim Beshearse, and Jonathan Willoughby. Rhody, Beshearse, and Willoughby have returned their petitions.

Fourth District: Billy Miller. He has also returned his petition

Seventh District: Johnny Lattimore, Shaun Tubbs, and Brandon Cox.

A Mayor and two Aldermen will be elected on August 7th in the City of Smithville, each to serve a four year term.

The election commission has issued petitions to the following persons:

Mayor: Wallace Caldwell and Jimmy W. Poss. Caldwell and Poss have returned their petitions.

Alderman: Jason Murphy and Gayla Hendrix. Murphy and Hendrix have returned their petitions.

Three Aldermen will be elected in the Dowelltown Municipal Election on August 7th.

The election commission has issued petitions to the following persons:

Brad Driver, Keith Farler, and Ronald Griffith.

Persons wanting to run in the Republican or Democratic Primaries for state offices on August 7th have until noon April 3 to qualify.
Petitions have been filed with the election commission by the following candidates:

Republican State Executive Committeeman-District 17: Albert McCall of Lebanon and Dwayne Craighead of Celina.

Republican State Executive Committeewoman-District 17:

Jennifer Winfree of DeKalb County and Pat Fields of Wilson County.

State Representative-District 40: Terri Lynn Weaver of Smith County (Republican)

State Representative-District 46: Mark Pody of Wilson County (Republican)

State Senator-District 17: Mae Beavers and Clark Boyd both of Wilson County (Republicans)

State Representative-District 40: Sarah Marie Smith of Smith County (Democrat)

State Representative-District 46: Candace Reed of Wilson County (Democrat)

State Executive Committee Woman-District 17: Rachel Givens of Wilson County (Democrat)

State Executive Committee Man-District 17: Aubrey Givens of Wilson County (Democrat)

State Representative-District 40: Krista Eickmann of DeKalb County (Independent for the November State General Election). Petition issued but not yet filed.

Liquor Referendum May be Back on Ballot in November

March 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Petition drive calling for a public vote on allowing liquor by the drink in restaurants inside the City of Smithville
Petition drive calling for a public vote on allowing Smithville liquor stores

A local businessman is again conducting a petition drive calling for a public vote on allowing liquor stores as well as liquor by the drink in restaurants inside the City of Smithville.

Randy Paris is seeking signatures on two separate petitions, to "Authorize consumption of Alcohol on the premises in the City of Smithville" and to "Authorize retail package stores to sell alcoholic beverages in the City of Smithville" during the November State General Election. He has to get ninety valid signatures on each petition to force a public vote.

Paris successfully organized two liquor referendum petition drives two years ago but both were defeated at the polls.

In a previous interview with WJLE, Paris said liquor sales is a way to boost the local economy and bring in more tax revenue. "The decision really shouldn't be about whether you drink or not or whether you approve of it or not. It should be a business decision that will help our city economically. We have a huge tourism trade and this is a way of generating revenue for our city from the amount of tourism we have as well as our local people who are spending money in Putnam County, Rutherford County, Jackson County, and all the surrounding areas. The money would stay in our county and our city to help us," he said.

"I don't think it's necessarily going to bring great revenue into our city. I never have known when liquor has been the answer to the revenue problems of a city, county, state, or anyone. It brings too much bad stuff with it. That's the problem with it," said Don Davidson, minister of the Real Life Community Church in Smithville.

"Anyone who is wanting liquor can get it anywhere they want to. Many people shop all the time out of town and across our county lines to buy this or that and to go out to dinner. They have access to all the liquor they could ever want already. Making it more available in Smithville would be for the convenience of a few rather than the majority," said Davidson

"Liquor by the drink certainly would be devastating because the problem of people who drink and get drunk is they don't know when they are drunk. They can't tell when they have had too much. I think liquor by the drink is going to put more people on the road who will have gotten drunk and that will put more people at risk," he said.

Smithville voters, by a vote of 402 to 333 in June 2012, said "No" to the liquor by the drink referendum, which would have given eligible city restaurants the opportunity to apply for a license from the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission to serve wine and other mixed alcoholic beverages to its patrons.

Five months later in November 2012, Smithville voters rejected liquor in a separate referendum, voting 684 to 558 against a ballot question that sought to allow retail package stores, under certain conditions, to sell alcoholic beverages within the city limits of Smithville.

By law, a full two years has to lapse from the last vote before another liquor referendum can be held, making November 2014 the earliest that a liquor vote could be put before the voters. State law also requires public referendums to be held during elections where there is no primary. The only election this year without a primary is the Tennessee General Election in November.

Cunningham Gets Suspended Sentence for Statutory Rape

March 25, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Bryan Cunningham
Lydia Judkins
Jimmy Corbett Corder
Victor Locklear
Comer Vance
Crystal Fults
Lonnie Wheeler

A 24 year old man, indicted on the charge of statutory rape for allegedly engaging in sexual activity with a fifteen year old girl, pled guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday.

Judge Leon Burns, Jr. gave Bryan Cunningham a two year suspended sentence. Cunningham must also submit to the sex offender registry.

The incident involving Cunningham occurred on Friday, July 5, 2013.

Smithville Police told WJLE that Lieutenant Matt Holmes and Sergeant Brad Tatrow caught Cunningham and a young girl engaging in sexual activity in the woods by the creek on Holmes Creek Road. The officers were patroling the area because it's a known hangout.

27 year old Lydia Judkins pled guilty by information to burglary and theft over $1,000. She received a three year sentence in each case to serve at 30% before her release eligibility date. The terms are to run concurrently with each other and concurrently with a violation of probation against her. She must make restitution to the victim. Judkins was given jail credit from December 16, 2013 to March 24, 2014. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on December 16, Judkins allegedly broke into a building on Blue Springs Road and stole property valued at approximately $5,500, including a 2003 Polaris 4 Wheeler, two chainsaws, and a cordless drill. The case was investigated by a criminal detective of the Sheriff's Department.

60 year old Jimmy Corbett Corder pled guilty to aggravated assault and received a three year sentence to be served on probation. Corder is also under a restraining order to keep away from the victim and his property. Corder must also make restitution to the victim in the amount of $576. Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, May 27, 2013 an officer of the sheriff's department responded to an assault call on Howard Redmon Road. Upon arrival, the deputy spoke with a man who had allegedly been assaulted by his neighbor, Corder. The neighbor said he was mowing a strip of grass on the property line and that Corder arrived and boxed in the mower with his vehicle so that he could not leave. He (Corder) allegedly used a hammer to beat the mower causing less than $500 in damage. The victim said Corder also hit him on the arm with the hammer.

50 year old Victor Locklear pled guilty to two counts of delivery of a schedule III drug (Hydrocodone). He received a three year sentence in one case and two years in the other to be served consecutively for a total of five years but he has been given jail credit for the 68 days he has served and will be released to probation. He was fined $2,000. Locklear was among sixty four persons named in sealed indictments by the DeKalb County Grand Jury on Monday, January 13 after a three month undercover drug investigation by the Sheriff's Department. He was arrested on January 15.

43 year old Comer Vance pled guilty to attempted sale of a schedule II drug and received a two year sentence to serve under an agreement that he is to be furloughed to the Warren County Drug Court. He was fined $2,000. The sentence is to run concurrently with a violation of probation against him and concurrently with a Warren County case. Vance was given jail credit from June 22, 2013 to March 24, 2014. Vance was among thirty three persons named in sealed indictments handed down by a special called session of the DeKalb County Grand Jury last summer after a lengthy investigation by the Sheriff's Department into the illegal sale of narcotics and other crimes committed in DeKalb County

34 year old Crystal Fults pled guilty to introduction of contraband into the jail. She received a four year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation.

38 year old Lonnie L. Wheeler, previously convicted on a charge of theft over $1,000 and granted probation, was found to be in violation. His probation was revoked and he must serve the balance of his original four year sentence.

Man Airlifted After Rollover Crash

March 24, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Man Airlifted After Rollover Crash
19 year old David Hacker and pregnant 17 year old female injured in crash

A 19 year old man was airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital Monday after he was ejected from his vehicle in a rollover crash on New Home Road. A pregnant 17 year old girl was also injured in the accident.

Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that David Hacker of Smithville was traveling south on Highway 83 (New Home Road) in a 2000 Chevy Blazer when he failed to negotiate a curve. The SUV ran off the right side of the road, hit a culvert, and overturned. Hacker was ejected. The girl, a passenger with Hacker, said she was wearing her seatbelt. She was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

A helicopter ambulance landed near the scene to fly out Hacker to Vanderbilt Hospital. Hacker was cited for failure to maintain his lane of travel, for not wearing a seatbelt, and for violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance).

Edgar Evins State Park Refurbishing Campsites

March 23, 2014
by: 
Dwayne Page
Carl Halfacre standing by one of Trailer Campsites being Refurbished
Trailer Campsite

Forty trailer campsites at Edgar Evins State Park are being refurbished in preparation for the upcoming tourist season.

These platform-type sites are located around the slopes of the lake in the park. The campsites are built on steel and concrete reinforced platforms with wooden decking. They are designed to hold a camper or a cabin tent up to 33 feet in length.

Carl Halfacre, Park Manager, said the campsites being refurbished are among the most popular and have been in use for forty years. "They were built in 1973 so it was time to start doing something with them. They are taking all the wood decking off and all the wood around the sides. They are sandblasting the metal, painting it, and repairing any rust damage they find. Then they will be coming back with new wood on most of them. We are moving the electrical boxes from the front left corner to the back right corner of each site. We will also be extending three of the campsites to accommodate a 40 foot camper. Practically all of our sites were set up for 28 foot campers. We do have some where you can get a 33 foot camper on there," said Halfacre.

Edgar Evins State Park has a total of 60 regular campsites with water and electrical hookups and nine primitive tent sites. "We have approximately twenty sites on what we call the upper level where we just refurbished the electrical boxes and upgraded them. We hope those (twenty)campsites will also get refurbished in the next few years in addition to the forty sites being upgraded now," said Halfacre.

The target completion date is May 15.

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