Local News Articles

Alleged Big Time Marijuana Dealers Convicted In Federal Court

February 8, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Two men, described by Sheriff Patrick Ray as major marijuana dealers in this area for several years, may be going to prison after being convicted by a federal jury in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga Wednesday.

Sheriff Ray says 48 year old Jeffory Carl Young of Short Mountain Road, Woodbury and 53 year old Morris Edward Roller of Lance Road, McMinnville were found guilty on all charges in a 20 count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in May, 2006.

U.S. District Judge R. Alan Edgar will sentence the two men at a hearing on May 7th. Roller is facing a prison term of from five years to forty years and Young's sentence could be from ten years to life in prison. The two men have been incarcerated since their arrests and will remain in custody until the sentencing hearing.

The trial began on Monday, January 29th and continued on Tuesday, January 30th, Wednesday, January 31st, and resumed Tuesday and Wednesday, February 6th and 7th.

Another hearing was held Thursday morning in Chattanooga where a forfeiture agreement was reached between the prosecutors and the defendants and approved by the Judge.

Sheriff Ray says the defendants agreed to forfeit 1,000 acres of property they own jointly in DeKalb and Cannon County, with an estimated value of $1.7 million dollars. The property will be sold at auction by the U.S. Marshal's Service at a later date.

Both men were found guilty on a charge that \"they did conspire to manufacture 100 to 1,000 marijuana plants, a controlled substance, from at least 1992 until May, 2006\".

Roller was convicted on nine counts of marijuana distribution on the following dates: January 19th, January 30th, February 18th, July 21st, September 15th, and November 17th in the year 2004, on March 2nd and December 29th in the year 2005, and on May 24th, 2006.

Roller was also found guilty of using a communication facility (telephone) to facilitate the distribution of marijuana on the following dates: September 29th, October 4th, October 5th, and December 21st, 2005.

The jury found Young guilty of aiding and abetting another person in the possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute on August 27th, 2004 and January 31st, 2006

Young was also convicted on charges that he used a telephone to facilitate the distribution of marijuana on December 21st, 2005, January 26th and January 31st, 2006 and twice on December 12th, 2005.

The men, business partners, operated farmland on the Warren-Cannon County line.

The case stems from an undercover investigation by the Warren County Sheriff's Department, the Southeastern Drug Enforcement Agency, the Middle Tennessee Drug Enforcement Agency, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Agency, and the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

Officers say they made many undercover buys leading up to the raids in May.

Sheriff Ray, who worked for the Warren County Sheriff's Department at the time and was involved in the investigation, says these two men were first charged with manufacturing marijuana eight years ago in DeKalb County during Sheriff Kenneth Pack's administration but the trial ended in a mistrial with a hung jury. The men claimed they were cultivating a wildlife food plot and not marijuana, even though pictures had been taken of the men in the marijuana patch, and were entered as evidence during the trial. Sheriff Ray says some jurors later said they could not convict the men because they were fearful of them. \"During 1999, we had a case here in DeKalb County where these two individuals, Morris Roller and Jeff Young were caught in a marijuana patch. We had pictures of them. That jury was a hung jury. After talking with some of the jurors, they advised that they were scared of these two individuals because they were big time drug dealers.\"

Sheriff Ray says the investigation into the Warren County case began five years ago. \"In 2002 while I was an investigator with the Warren County Sheriff's Department, we had an informant go in and buy compressed marijuana from Morris Roller. We were paying anywhere from $1,050 and up for it. We were actually able to make several buys from him for almost four years from 2002 to May, 2006. We were also able to get another informant to go in and buy from Jeff Young. We actually bought up to nine pounds there at one time. After we had purchased some of the marijuana, we went to Chattanooga and contacted the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and they set up what they call a \"pin link\" on their (defendant's) cell phones, in which we could tell who they were making calls to and who was calling them. That evolved into where we could actually listen to the phone calls. We would listen to the calls and if there was any drug transaction we would evaluate what was going on and who was going there to do business with them. They had a connection out of Mexico. It was Mexican marijuana, which was the compressed marijuana. They were also raising homegrown marijuana. There was testimony during the trial that some of the buds of the homegrown marijuana was at least an inch and a half to two inches thick and about a foot long.\"

During the arrest in May, authorities seized 31 parcels of land, equaling 1900 acres with a tax appraisal of $2.5 million; more than $10,000 in cash; and over ten pounds of marijuana.

Investigators also confiscated two farm tractors, a round hay baler, semi-truck, a ton truck, and a bob cat loader, all believed to have been purchased with proceeds from the sale of drugs.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue also levied a $60,000 tax against the two men

Sheriff Ray says more arrests may be forthcoming as a result of this investigation, including some from DeKalb County.

Sheriff Ray also adds that this is an example of a lesson that adults and young people should learn from, that dealing in drugs is dangerous and costly. \"This is an example of what we should try to teach our kids about using drugs. These two guys here were fairly successful businessmen in the cattle industry. They had nice farms, vehicles, farm equipment, and hundreds of head of cattle, and they lost it all, but more importantly they have lost their freedom. We need to teach our children that this is what can happen to you. If you deal in drugs or use drugs, you can lose everything you have, including your freedom.\"

School Board Considers Light Agenda

February 8, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby presented his monthly written report on personnel to the Board of Education Thursday night.

Those hired for the 2006-2007 school year since last month include Deona Thomas, certified substitute teacher at DCHS; Brandy Roller, certified substitute teacher; Tiffanie L. Harness, certified substitute teacher; Benita Byars, school nurse; and Mattie Ruth Frazier, custodian at DeKalb West School.

Rena Adcock, cafeteria worker was transferred to a full time position at DCHS.

In other business, Terry Ellis from the Energy Division of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development addressed the board concerning no interest loans which are available to retrofit existing local government buildings with new energy efficient lights, insulation and HVAC systems.

Ellis says the school system could apply for a $500,000 loan from the Federal Department of Energy, which if approved, would have to be repaid over seven years. Ellis explained that DeKalb County, as a Three Star community through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, could get the loan, if approved, at 0% interest.

Ellis says energy efficient audits have already been conducted at four of the schools in the county to determine the needs, at no cost to the local government. Findings of those audits reveal that DeKalb Middle School, DCHS, and DeKalb West School need new energy efficient lighting, and that Smithville Elementary School needs the new lighting, in addition to a new energy efficient HVAC system. The total cost to make these retrofits to the schools is projected to be $165,350.

The board took no action on the proposal.

Meanwhile, the board approved a December request made by Jeannie Watson and Shan Burklow authorizing them to produce a school calendar which would include photographs of children and dates of school functions. The calendar would serve as a fundraiser for the non-profit Operation Head To Toe, which provides clothes for needy children in this county. Some ninety children were served this past year.

The board voted to ask the county commission for permission to bid the purchase of three new school buses for delivery in August, to be funded in the 2007-2008 General Purpose School Budget.

In other routine matters, the board approved an overnight trip request for the DCHS Beta Club to attend the State Convention at Opryland in Nashville on April 9-11.

The board also approved an overnight trip request for DCHS football cheerleaders to attend the Contest of Champions National Cheerleading Competition in Orlando, Florida on February 24th.

Permission was granted for an overnight trip for the DCHS basketball cheerleaders to participate in the Smoky Mountain Spring Spectacular on March 10th in Gatlinburg

The board okayed an overnight trip request for the FCCLA to attend the State Leadership Meeting April 10-12 at Opryland Hotel.

Approval was given for board members to attend the ?Day on the Hill\" Legislative Conference on February 27th.

Two Airlifted To Vanderbilt Hospital After Wednesday Night Crash

February 8, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Four people were involved in a two vehicle crash around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday night on Highway 70 east in Smithville.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says 26 year old Luz Elena Romo of 175 Homestead Lane, Smithville and her 7 year old son were in one of the vehicles while 37 year old Mario Perez Matias of 586 Colvert's Lake Road, Smithville and Oliverio Martinez were in the other.

Upon arrival, Smithville Police Officers found a pickup truck that had left the roadway and run through a guardrail. The truck then apparently flipped ending up against a telephone pole.

Romo and her son were found partially ejected from the vehicle.

Chief Stufano says \"It was miraculous but the child did not sustain any injuries and the mother only sustained slight cuts and bruises.\"

According to Chief Stufano, \"While Officers were tending to Romo and her son, they heard a slight rustling in the bushes located approximately 60 feet away down into a drainage culvert. Further inspection disclosed that there was a second vehicle also involved in the accident. Upon reaching the second vehicle they found Matias, the driver, and Martinez. Both had severe injuries. The Smithville Fire Department and DeKalb EMS responded to extricate the two. Due to the severity of their injuries they were airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital. \"

Chief Stufano says \"Tennessee Highway Patrol Trooper Brian Raymond along with members of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department aided Smithville Police in their investigation and containment of the extensive crash scene. Wrecker drivers worked tirelessly for over an hour as they removed the vehicle from the culvert. The investigation at the scene disclosed that Romo had just dropped off her husband at work and was proceeding east on Highway 70 when Matias, driving in the same direction, hit the Romo vehicle from behind. Both vehicles left the roadway. During an inspection of the Matias' vehicle, numerous cans of beer were found littered throughout the car. The investigation continues with charges pending\".

Smithville Police Make Another Round of Drug Arrests

February 9, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department has made another round of drug arrests.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says \"On Thursday, Smithville Police Officers responded to a domestic violence complaint at 705 Snow Street and made contact with 35 year old Chad Canter who was bleeding from a hand wound he had suffered during a confrontation with his live-in girlfriend. During the investigation, officers found numerous narcotics, syringes and assorted paraphernalia lying about the residence with fresh blood on them. Canter was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a bond of $4,000.\"

Canter is officially charged with simple possession, possession of a schedule IV controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. .

Meanwhile, in recent undercover drug operations, Smithville Investigators arrested 46 year old Danny Ponder of 7851 Old Mill Road, 39 year old Sonny Gene Smith of 704 Short Mountain Street and 41 year old Tammy Denise Miller of 8956 Short Mountain Street and an un-named juvenile all of Smithville for Sale and Delivery of Narcotics.

Ponder is officially charged with simple possession; Smith is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and sale of a controlled substance; and Miller is charged with possession of a schedule II controlled substance.

Chief Stufano says Smithville Police Officers had setup a series of undercover drug buys where these individuals delivered and sold K-4 Dilauded pills from 704 Short Mountain Street. A vehicle used to transport the illegal drugs was also seized under the state's Drug Seizure Forfeiture Act. A large cache of drugs and money was also recovered. All of the subjects were arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $45,000 bond each.

Shortly after these series of arrests, Chief Stufano says Smithville Police again were able to successfully stage another undercover operation and arrested 40 year old Debbie Cantrell and Gary Lynn Hale both of 848 Foster Road in Smithville for Sale and Delivery of Narcotics from their residence in Evins Manor Apartments. During this sting, officers were able to recover 25 ? K-4 Dilauded pills that sell for $25.00 each, a number of syringes, cash, and over 115 legend drugs commonly used as a numbing agent. Chief Stufano says officers had received numerous complaints over recent weeks from concerned citizens stating that possible illegal drug activity was going on due to the amount of momentary traffic coming and going from the residence. Surveillance had been setup and the buy process put in place. Hale's bond was set at $25,000 and Cantrell's was set at $15,000.

Cantrell is officially charged with sale of a controlled substance and Hale is charged with possession of a schedule II controlled substance.

Chief Stufano says \"Smithville Police in cooperation with our crime watch partners and business merchants are actively pursuing a zero tolerance stance on illegal drug activity in our community. It is through concerned citizen contacts, vigilant watch of suspicious activity and strong partnerships with our neighboring law enforcement agencies that this goal will be possible. Your continued support in helping beautify our community is greatly appreciated.\"

Hidden Harbor Marina Relocating to Holmes Creek Recreation Area on Center Hill Lake

February 9, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The Nashville District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has approved plans for the relocation of Hidden Harbor Marina from its present location at the head of Holmes Creek to Holmes Creek Recreation Area, which is located approximately one mile downstream of the current marina site.

The marina is relocating primarily due to challenges at their existing site, such as shallow water depths, limited or no vehicular access to the area during periods of high lake levels, and site limitations to modernizing the facilities to accommodate modern recreational vessels and equipment.

Various other options were considered, but they were either cost-prohibitive or not environmentally feasible.

The campground and picnic area at Holmes Creek Recreation Area was closed by the Corps under the Recreation Excellence at Army Lakes (REAL) program in 2003. The intent of the REAL program was to transfer the management of some recreation areas to other agencies or concessionaires, while other areas were closed to prevent valuable resources from being expended at little-used areas. In 2004, the area was made available for lease. However, no viable proposals were received.

This relocation is considered to be in the best interest of the Corps, the marina, and the general public. Although the full relocation process will require approximately one year to complete, the public will soon begin seeing the benefits of this relocation. The marina management plans to reopen about 15 campsites with water and electrical hookups for public use later this spring. They are also planning to have at least one boat launching ramp available to the public for a $5.00 launching fee. Relocation of the floating facilities, including the dock store and the moorage slips, to the new site is not scheduled to take place until after the summer recreation season is over. In future years, the marina may also reopen more campsites and provide cabins or other lodging facilities for public use.

Center Hill Lake, which is located near Smithville, Tennessee, is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Primarily due to the outstanding environmental quality and aesthetics of Center Hill Lake and the pristine forested shoreline, the lake and the surrounding public property are well known to a diverse group of outdoor recreationists and attract more than three million visitors annually from Tennessee and surrounding states. The 18,220-acre lake and the 415 miles of beautiful forested shoreline adjacent to the approximately 20,000 acres of public lands draw those visitors and prompt them to add more than $94 million to the local economy as they pursue outdoor recreational activities, such as wildlife viewing and photography, boating, fishing, camping, picnicking, swimming, hiking, or just simply sight-seeing. Recreational facilities and opportunities for the recreating public are provided on Center Hill Lake by the Corps, by concessionaires, such as commercial marinas, and by numerous other state and local agencies, such as the Tennessee State Parks and the surrounding county governments.

DeKalb County Education Board wins $10,000 to help low-achieving students

February 11, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County will have access to help at a new after-school academy thanks
to a $10,000 grant from the Vanderbilt Center for Child and Family Policy.

The DeKalb County Board of Education plans to use the funds to improve
after-school academic programs for high school and middle school students
with a focus on improving reading skills. Students will use software that
provides individualized programs for increasing reading ability.
Administrators hope that offering after-school academic programs will
improve their school's graduation rates and test scores.

\"We?re delighted to provide the DeKalb County board with funds to improve
their after-school programs,\" Debbie Miller, director of the Center for
Child and Family Policy, said. \"We believe projects like this can have a
direct impact on the achievement gap.\"

The grant is one of the center's \"mini-grant\" for 2006-2007 and was born
out of Family Re-Union, an annual conference started by former Vice
President Al Gore and Tipper Gore that focuses on bringing together
families, and those who work with them, to discuss and design better ways to
strengthen family life in America. The 2006 event, Family Re-Union 12,
focused on the achievement gap between children of different races,
ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Family Re-Union 12 participants were invited to submit grant proposals
detailing the programs they wanted to start or improve in their community to
close the academic achievement gap. Five recipients were chosen and invited
to a strategic planning session at Vanderbilt to help them plan how to carry
out their grant proposals, collect data and measure success.

Sheriff's Department Makes Two Arrests In Recent Vandalism and Theft Case

February 12, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has arrested two men in connection with a recent vandalism and theft at a home under construction on Aunt Helen Road near Silver Point.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 36 year old David Condon of Bryan, Ohio and 43 year old Walter Condon of Manchester are each charged with theft over $1,000. Bond for Walter Condon is set at $10,000.

David Condon is also charged with vandalism over $10,000. His bond is set at $35,000.

Sheriff Ray says the men are accused of stealing approximately $1,700 worth of tools including ladders, saws, wire, etc.

A total of seventeen windows were broken out, seven doors busted, and several concrete blocks and house support posts were also damaged.

Total damage to the home is estimated at $12,190.

The men will be in General Sessions Court on the charges February 22nd.

Meanwhile, in a separate case, 19 year old Troy Allen Cunningham, Jr. of Keltonburg Road was pulled over by a county deputy during a traffic stop Monday morning.

Sheriff Ray says the deputy conducted a search and found some marijuana in the pocket of Cunningham's jacket. Cunningham was charged with simple possession.. He will be in General Sessions Court on the charge March 1st. His bond is $1,000.

Finally, 21 year old Victor Maguel Godinez of Bank's Pisgah Road, who was involved in a motor vehicle accident Sunday, was charged with driving under the influence and violation of the implied consent law. His bond is set at $1,500 and he will be in court on the charges March 8th.

Suspicious Fire Under Investigation

February 12, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department is investigating a suspicious fire Monday morning at a vacant double wide mobile home at 1558 Banks Pisgah Road.

County Fire Chief Donny Green says Vanderbilt Mortgage Company, the owner, recently repossessed the mobile home. The previous tenants moved out December 15th.

Green says the fire is suspicious because there were no utilities connected to the home.

He says the fire gutted the structure causing significant damage. There were no personal belongings or contents inside the mobile home.

No one was injured.

Members of the Blue Springs, Keltonburg, and Short Mountain Highway stations responded along with a tanker truck.

Former Deputy Gets Six Years Probation For Official Misconduct/Oppression

February 12, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A former deputy for the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, accused of engaging in inappropriate behavior with two different women while he was on duty in 2004 and 2006, received a total of six years probation Monday after pleading guilty in Criminal Court to two counts of official misconduct and one charge of official oppression.

David Sharp was indicted by the August term of the Grand Jury on two counts of rape, two counts of official misconduct, one count of sexual battery, and one count of official oppression, but under a negotiated agreement, state prosecutors Monday dropped the sex offenses in exchange for Sharp's guilty plea to the other counts.

Judge David Patterson sentenced Sharp to a total of two years on each of the three charges, but suspended them to probation for a total of six years. The first year, his probation will be supervised by community corrections, and for the remaining five years, Sharp will be on Tennessee Department of Corrections (state) probation.

The TBI began investigating Sharp in June, 2006 after two women came forward complaining that he pulled them over and demanded sexual favors.

The first allegation arose in May, 2006 when a woman claimed that Sharp, while serving a warrant, pressured her into committing a sexual act. Lloyd Emmons, who was Sheriff at the time, terminated Officer Sharp and ordered an internal administrative investigation as the TBI conducted the criminal probe into the matter, including the collection of DNA evidence.

According to Assistant D.A. Bill Locke, Sharp initially denied the woman's allegation, but later claimed that the contact was consensual.

After the first case came to light, the second woman came forward with an allegation against Sharp.

According to state prosecutors, the woman, a dancer at the Midnight Express, was pulled over in April, 2004 by another officer on a charge of driving on a suspended license. Officer Sharp apparently came to the scene to back up the other officer. She was later taken to the jail, where Sharp and other officers allegedly talked to her about obtaining information for them concerning possible illegal activity at the club. As the woman was getting ready to leave the jail, she allegedly told the officers she didn't know the way back to the interstate. Prosecutors say Sharp agreed to show her the way, but then pulled her over before getting to the Interstate.

Sharp, while pleading guilty to one count of misconduct and official oppression by indictment and one count of official misconduct by information, did not admit to the alleged sex offenses. He was represented by attorney Sarah Cripps.

Sharp, who is now in the mowing, landscaping, and woodworking business, is prohibited from ever serving again as a law enforcement officer. As a convicted felon, he cannot vote, and he is under a restraining order to keep away from the alleged victims.

Walk Across Tennessee Contest to Kick-Off March 24

February 20, 2006
by: 
Dwayne Page

Being physically active is one of the best things you can do to improve and maintain your health, yet nearly two-thirds of Americans aren't getting the activity they need. Consider taking up walking with friends or your family by participating in Walk Across Tennessee, which is an eight-week program that will spark some friendly competitions in DeKalb County. Teams of eight will compete to see who can log the most miles walking, jogging or even biking in their community. The miles walked are not literally across the state, but on a map posted at the UT Extension Office and Greenbrook Park. Since everyone participates in a variety of sports, the Walk Across Tennessee program also has an exercise conversion chart so that participants can count aerobics, swimming, weight lifting, etc. For example, 16 minutes of high intensity aerobics would equal one mile.

The Walk Across Tennessee kickoff for DeKalb County is Saturday, March 24 at Greenbrook Park. \"Teams will keep track of their miles, which will be posted in the Extension office and other places around the community. Teams can be composed of coworkers, teachers, students, neighbors, etc. This is an excellent team competition for the workplace and schools\" said April Martin, DeKalb County Extension Agent.

Many people are unaware of the positive benefits of exercise. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 problem in the United States. The risk of heart disease could be significantly reduced by regular exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control, the positive effects of physical activity are not limited to lowering the risk of heart disease. Not only does regular exercise help relieve stress and anxiety,\"physically active people outlive inactive people. Participating in Walk Across Tennessee DeKalb County is not only a great way to get involved with our community, it's a healthy habit,\" Martin stated.

To participate in Walk Across Tennessee, first get a team together. Biking and jogging teams are limited to four people. Choose a team captain and name your team. Team captains need to pick up a captain's packet, available at the DeKalb County Extension Office, 115 West Market St. Smithville, located right beside Fuston's Antiques. Each team member will need to complete a registration form which is included in the team captain's packet or at the Walk Across Tennessee website. Individual as well as team forms should be returned to the Extension office.

Awards and prizes will be given to the individual who walk the most miles as well as the team who walks the most miles.

\"Competition kicks off at 9:30 A.M. at Greenbrook Park under pavilion one,\" Martin said. \"Come out and plan to have lots of fun.\" For more information, call the Extension office at 597-4945 or visit http://eteamz.active.com/WalkAcrossTennesseeDeKalbCounty/

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