Local News Articles

Smithville Police Continue Crackdown on Drug Trafficking and Traffic Offenses

March 17, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police continued their crackdown on DUI, Drug trafficking and traffic enforcement in the city with numerous investigations and arrests this week.

Chief Thomas Stufano says \"Smithville Police observed a vehicle with an improper tag being driven on Congress Boulevard.. Upon stopping and contacting the driver, Officers found that the driver 28 year old Jamie Carroll of 834 Gentry Avenue was driving on a Suspended License 3rd offense. Carroll was subsequently arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail. He is under a $3,000 bond.\"

Investigators working an undercover narcotics investigation arrested 26 year old Danny Ray Murphy of 335 Shady Drive for Sale and Distribution of a Schedule II Drug and driving a vehicle with no Driver's License. Also arrested was 26 year old Amy Vandercamp of McMinnville. A citizen complaint led police to the Food Lion parking lot where the two were actively engaged in a drug transaction. Upon contact Investigators found Murphy in possession of K-4 Dilaudid and a large amount of cash. Vandercamp was also in possession of K-4 Dilaudid. The pair was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail. Bond was set at $40,000 for them. The vehicles were impounded under the state's Drug Forfeiture Act and the Revenue Department was contacted for tax administrative action.

Smithville Officers arrested 53 year old Steven William Palmer of 224 Garfield Street, McMinnville for Driving under the Influence. Officer's responded to the area of McMinnville Highway in answer to a suspected drunk driving complaint. Upon arrival Smithville Officer's made contact with Palmer who was given standardized field sobriety tests for intoxication. Chief Stufano says \"It was apparent that Palmer was heavily intoxicated as he was unable to perform these tests. He was arrested for DUI and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond. A computer check showed that Palmer also had a current warrant for his arrest for DUI from another county.\"

Officers also responded to a complaint of a reckless driver on East Broad Street where they came in contact with 33 year old Federico Torres of 1383 Blue Springs Road. A concerned citizen who had been following the erratic driver called the Smithville Police to report that the driver had multiple near crashes. Officers who responded stated that Federico was too intoxicated to stand or perform any of the sobriety tests. The investigation also noted open containers of alcohol in the vehicle. He was arrested for DUI 2nd offense and driving on a revoked license. He was transported to the DeKalb County Jail. His bond is $2,000.

Smithville Police Investigators arrested 34 year old Katherine Michelle Carr of 628 Restview in Smithville and 34 year old Sharon Barnwell of Smithville for Sale and Delivery of a Controlled Substance and Possession of Paraphernalia. Chief Stufano says the two were engaged in an illegal drug transaction in the Walmart parking lot as reported by a concerned citizen. Smithville Investigators were able to quickly setup surveillance and arrested the parties as they exited the parking area. Further investigation noted that the drug transaction involved rock cocaine. At the time of the arrest Carr had (5) minor children in her car who were turned over to a family member who was called to the scene. The two adults were arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail and charged. Bond was set at $101,000. Their vehicles were seized under the State's Drug Forfeiture Act and the State Revenue authorities were contacted.

Chief Stufano says \"Smithville Police have been increasing their enforcement efforts in the areas of DUI, Drugs and Speeding within the city limits. Residents are encouraged to report to the Police any suspicious activity in their neighborhoods. Remember to contact 615-215-3000 for normal reporting of events and 911in the event of an emergency.\"

Man In Domestic Dispute With Ex-Girlfriend Seriously Injured After Falling From Moving Vehicle

March 12, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 28 year old man was seriously injured Saturday afternoon and airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga after a domestic dispute with his ex-girlfriend.

Trooper Allen England of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says Amador Zetina Gomez of 1105 Vaughn Lane, an employee of Zelenka Nursery, suffered serious facial injuries and possibly others after he fell from a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee, driven by 40 year old Rhonda Jo Suarez of Banks Pisgah Road.

Trooper England says he was dispatched to 1105 Vaughn Lane Saturday around 3:27 p.m. to investigate a non-injury traffic accident involving a pedestrian. Upon further investigation, it was determined to be a domestic dispute between Gomez and Suarez.

According to Trooper England, Suarez, the driver of the Jeep Cherokee, was sitting in the vehicle talking to Gomez. The conversation erupted into an argument and Gomez reached into the driver's side window and grabbed Suarez by her shirt. She then accelerated the vehicle and traveled across the parking lot with Gomez still holding on to her through the window. Gomez then fell from the window of the vehicle and hit the ground. Suarez made a U-turn, came back, and then stopped beside Gomez to check on him.

Gomez was airlifted from the scene by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Erlanger Hospital.

According to Suarez and other witnesses, Gomez had been drinking but it could not be verified how much or how long he had been drinking leading up to this incident.

Witnesses say both Gomez and Suarez have been involved in domestic disputes with each other before on several occasions.

Suarez is a former employee of Zelenka Nursery and according to Trooper England, company officials have asked her on numerous occasions before not to be on the property.

Suarez was cited for improper vehicle registration and violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance). The case is under review by the District Attorney General's Office to determine if further charges should be filed in the case.

Smithville Police Stay Busy Over Weekend

March 12, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police had a busy weekend making numerous arrests for Aggravated Burglary, Theft, DUI, Drugs Criminal and Public Intoxication.

Chief Thomas J. Stufano says on Friday Smithville Police arrested 47 year old Jarvis Trapp of Bell Street Apartments in Smithville for Public Intoxication. \"Officers were summoned to Duncan Street after a concerned citizen called stating that a white male was stumbling into traffic near the Tannery on Highway 70. Upon arrival officers found Jarvis lying a drainage ditch on Duncan Street. At first Smithville Officer's starting working the find as a potential accident scene as Jarvis was unconscious. Further investigation disclosed that he had passed out due to being highly intoxicated. He was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail with a bond set at $1,500.\"

On Saturday Smithville Officers arrested 36 year old Richard Turner of 637 Restview Avnue for Criminal Trespassing. Chief Stufano says \"Officers were dispatched to 637 Crestlawn Avenue when a resident called to advise that there was an unwanted guest in their house. Upon arrival officers found Turner passed out on the living room sofa. The resident advised that they had told Turner to leave but he ignored their requests and fell asleep on the couch. Officer's escorted Turner from the property with a warning not to return. Approximately two hours later Officers were again summoned back to the residence where they found Turner again sitting on the couch. He was arrested for Criminal Trespass and Public Intoxication. Turner was transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $3,000 bond. Turner had also been arrested for the same offense on March 5th after he violated a restraining order to stay off of Housing Authority property.\"

Also on Saturday, Smithville Police arrested 30 year old Amy Jeanette Lawson of 1243 Haley Road, Smithville for Simple Possession and Drug Paraphernalia. Chief Stufano says \"A concerned citizen called police to report a possible drug sale in progress outside of the City Caf?' located on Highway 70. As officer's arrived they could see parties exchanging something and then quickly dispersing. Two subjects were detained and a third unknown white female walked into the Caf?'. Upon entry into the restaurant, police made contact with the woman as she exited a backroom. The investigation disclosed that Lawson had in her possession K-4 Dilaudid and had just disposed of a syringe, 2 straws and a metal container with an additional 5 pills that she had just hidden in a back room in the restaurant. Lawson was subsequently arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $3,500 bond.\"

On Sunday, Smithville Officers arrested 49 year old Roy D. Mathis and 45 year old Rhonda Cains of 627 Crestlawn Avenue in Smithville for Aggravated Burglary and Theft over $500.00. Chief Stufano says \"Investigators determined that the two had burglarized a garage located at 118 Steeple Chase Drive in Smithville and stole thousands of dollars worth of tools. The victim who saw the pair stealing the items was hurt while trying to stop the theft. The two subjects were eventually arrested. Bond for Mathis is $10,000 and Cains' bond is $3,500.\"

Also on Sunday afternoon Smithville Officers arrested 49 year old Ricky Devault of 330 Talphia Road in Dowelltown for DUI and Driving on a Suspended License. According to Chief Stufano, officers responded to a 2 car motor vehicle accident in the Hardees parking lot and found that Devault had run into the rear of another vehicle. He was suspected of DUI and the standard field sobriety tests confirmed his intoxication. A computer check also noted that his license was suspended (2nd offense). He was arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail with a $1,500 bond.\"

On Monday, Smithville Officers responded to a county mutual aid request. It was reported that an unknown Latin male was walking along Highway 70 and appeared to be intoxicated. Upon arrival Smithville Officers found 30 year old Gilberto Godinez of 6416 Short Mountain Road in Smithville banging on neighborhood doors wanting to use their phone. It was apparent that Godinez was intoxicated and did have cuts and scrapes about his face from falling into ditches as he walked. He was eventually arrested and transported to the DeKalb County Jail for Public Intoxication. Bond was set at $1,000. Godinez advised that he is an illegal alien from Mexico.\"

Also on Monday morning Smithville Police responded to 428 Morgan Avenue on a reported vandalism call. Chief Stufano says \" Further investigation showed that vandals had spray painted suspected \"gang signs\" on the street. 26 year old Ricky Murphy of 7301 McMinnville Highway, Smithville was arrested for vandalism. He was brought to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond.\"

Chief Stufano says \"Local law enforcement has started to notice an increase in gang graffiti throughout the region. The recent rash of signage displayed locally is known as \"BK\" or Blood Killer's\" which originates back to west coast gang organizations. Law enforcement has been actively gauging the gang concept in the area with intelligence sharing meetings among the agencies. Also noted is the influx of Latin gangs which are moving operations from the mid-west. Smithville Police has assigned an officer to stay current with gang activity in our area.\"

Again, Chief Stufano says the Smithville Police Department would like to thank our citizens for staying vigilant to their surroundings and calling to report suspicious activity in your neighborhood. \"Crime Watch is effective and does work! The Smithville Police ask for our residents to just make a phone call to the Police and not try to stop the illegal activity themselves. \"

Four Arrested By Sheriff's Department In Undercover Drug Investigation

March 12, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

An undercover drug investigation by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department resulted in the arrest of four people on Midway Road Friday night.

30 year old Ronald Jacobsen, his wife 30 year old Tammy Jacobsen, and Kristopher Davis all of 2259 Midway Road, and 25 year old Christina Johnson of Old Stone Court, Lavergne were arrested at the Jacobsen and Davis residence.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says a search warrant was executed and served at the residence on Friday night, about 72 hours after an undercover drug buy was made there.

Jacobsen is charged with sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance (Dilaudid), sale and delivery of a schedule III controlled substance (Hydrocodone), simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance (Marijuana), and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia including scales, pipes, hemostats, straws, bongs, pill crushers, marijuana grinders, and rolling papers. Bond for Jacobsen is set at $43,000 and he will appear in General Sessions Court March 29th.

Mrs. Jacobsen is charged with criminal conspiracy to sell and deliver a schedule II controlled substance (Dilaudid), simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance (Marijuana), and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. Her bond is set at $23,000 and she will be in court on the charges March 29th. Sheriff Ray says the conspiracy charge against Mrs. Jacobsen is because she witnessed the dilaudid drug transaction between her husband and the undercover agent.

Johnson is charged with unlawful possession of a schedule III controlled substance (Loratab). Her bond is $3,500 and she will be in court March 29th. Sheriff Ray says Johnson had pills on her person believed to have been Loratab.

Davis was cited for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. Sheriff Ray says Davis had paraphernalia on him including pipes and a marijuana grinder.

Five children were also in the home from toddler age to pre-teens. Sheriff Ray says because children were present where illegal activity was taking place, the Department of Children's Services was notified.

Sheriff Ray adds that the Jacobsen's are already convicted felons and are not supposed to possess any firearms, but officers found a loaded handgun and two shotguns in the house. He says the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms will be contacted and possible federal charges could be placed against the Jacobsen's for illegal possession of guns.

Several Goats Perish In Saturday Morning Barn Fire

January 20, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Several goats perished in an early morning barn fire Saturday on Dobbs Cemetery Road in the Austin Bottom community of DeKalb County.

Captain Jeff Williams of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department says the fire was reported around 3:30 a.m. Saturday and members of the Johnson's Chapel Station responded.

Williams says the fire was well underway by the time it was discovered and reported and firefighters could not save the barn nor the goats. Some equipment, tools, and a four wheeler were also destroyed in the blaze.

The 50 x 50 foot two story barn belonged to Keith Thorpe. The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Meanwhile Assistant Fire Chief Roy Merriman says firefighters responded Thursday night to the residence of Jack Sharp at 688 Saw Mill Road in the Temperance Hall community. The home was a rental belonging to Tammy Robinson.

The fire was reported at 6:11 p.m. and members of the Temperance Hall, Liberty, and Short Mountain Highway Stations responded.

Firefighters were unable to save the home. No one was injured.

The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Dowelltown Woman Accused Of Buying Merchandise And Obtaining Cash With Stolen Credit Card

January 22, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

A 30 year old Dowelltown woman has been arrested by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, charged with fraudulent use of a credit card belonging to a member of her family.

Carla Denise Chapman of Snow Hill Road is charged with four counts of fraudulent use of a credit card. She is under a $4,000 bond and will be in General Sessions Court on the charges February 1st.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Chapman stole a credit card from a family member and went to the Region's Bank location on the public square downtown Smithville on January 11th and 12th where she used the card to make withdrawals from an ATM machine in the amount of $1,710.

Sheriff Ray says Chapman also used the credit card to purchase gasoline from DeKalb Market on January 15th, $826.00 worth of jewelry from Houston's Jewelry on January 15th, and $383 worth of merchandise from Pamida on January 16th.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Ray is asking for the public's help in solving recent thefts of copper and other metals which wind up being sold as scrap metal.

Sheriff Ray says \" We have had a lot of thefts of copper wire, copper pipes, air conditioner units, and some farm equipment including a heavy disk, tobacco setter, and seed spreader.\"

He says the Sheriff's Department is asking the operators of area scrap yards to obtain copies of photo ID's on people coming to their businesses to sell scrap metal.

If you have information that may help solve the crimes contact the Sheriff's Department at 597-4935.

DeKalb EMS To Get A New Home

January 22, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night voted to exercise an option to purchase the old Fina Market building at the corner of South Mountain Street and Meadowbrook Drive as the future home of the DeKalb County Ambulance Service.

County Mayor Mike Foster says the purchase price of the building is $125,000.

The ambulance service, for the last several years, has been located on Highway 56 north in Smithville but Foster says the building is too small for today's needs and is in need of repair. \" We looked at 27 pieces of property, trying to find a suitable place to relocate the ambulance service. The building we're using now is very small and in need of repair, the septic system is causing problems, and the building is only big enough to shelter two units (ambulances) and they need a place to shelter five units.

Sumner Regional Medical Center is under contract with the county to operate the ambulance service for $163,000 per year, and the county, which owns the ambulances, buys a new one each year. This year's budget includes $80,000 for the purchase of a new ambulance.

Foster says Sumner Regional has agreed to buy an ambulance this year and let the county use the $80,000 budgeted for a new unit to go toward the purchase of the building. Foster says the existing ambulance service building on the Cookeville highway could be sold at auction and the money from the sale used to help fund the purchase of the new location. The remaining money needed for repairs and updates could be borrowed if it is not available in the budget. Sumner Regional has also agreed to pay the county monthly rent on the building in the amount of $1,500.

According to Foster, the old Fina Market building would meet the county's needs. \"The building is 125 feet long and 40 feet wide and is situated on three lots that are 300 feet along Meadowbrook Drive and 137 to 150 feet wide in depth. The building has a roof on it that is four years old. The two central systems are four years old. It has two bathrooms and a kitchen in it. We'll have to do some modifications on it and submit our plans to the city planning commission for approval. The building is almost perfectly situated and suited for this because it's on a four lane highway and the ambulance service, by agreement, will not run sirens until they get away from the building and into the major intersections to protect the neighborhood.

In other business, the commission voted to purchase emergency license plates for volunteer firefighters and members of the Rescue Squad who meet certain conditions. Foster says this is a small token of appreciation from the county to them. \"To show our appreciation to our volunteers who work for the county, including the volunteer firemen for the City of Smithville, Alexandria, Liberty, Dowelltown, and the volunteer firemen from DeKalb County and the Rescue Squad, we would like for the county to purchase one emergency license plate for each volunteer fireman and rescue squad member who has completed one year of service and training and who meets the requirements of their department chief. A list will be supplied to the county by the department chief each year. They cannot serve for one year and then sit out forever and still get the free license plate.\"

The commission also voted to apply to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for water line extensions by the DeKalb Utility District to serve over 131 people in the Marshall Medlin Road, Pumpkin Hollow, Alexandria to Dismal, and Henley Hollow area and the Dry Creek, Possum Hollow, and Frazier Hollow area. If approved, the grant will be funded at no cost to DeKalb County. The DUD will pay the 10% matching obligation. The project cost will actually exceed the amount of the grant, but the DUD has committed to seek a Rural Development Grant and Loan combination to complete the project.

The commission also adopted a budget amendment in the amount of $306,532 as federal grant pass through funds for a six mile, six inch water line replacement in the Johnson's Chapel community, which will include the addition of nine or ten fire hydrants.

County Officials Consider Another Public Referendum On Local Option Sales Tax Hike

January 22, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The county commission may be interested in taking another shot at increasing the local option sales tax here from 1.50% to the maximum of 2.75%, but in order to do it, the public would have to approve it by a majority vote in a public referendum.

County Mayor Mike Foster addressed the issue with the county commission Monday night but no action was taken to initiate another referendum

The first referendum to adopt the increase failed at the polls last August by 252 votes, losing 1,898 to 1,646.

But County Mayor Mike Foster says some people have since had reservations about voting against it.

Foster says if a referendum is held and passes, the county commission will reduce the property tax rate by some amount. The commission, last September, raised the property tax rate by 39 cents to $1.90 per $100 of assessed value. \"We've had a couple of work sessions to talk about it and I think the consensus of the commission is they would like to pass the sales tax referendum in order to take part of the property tax back off of what was put on (in September). If it is proposed, all of the commission would sign an agreement to do that (vote to reduce the property tax) and publish it in the local newspapers. They want people to know this is not smoke and mirrors.\"

Foster says it's not known yet how much extra revenue would be generated from the additional sales tax, but it should be significant with tourist attractions like Center Hill Lake and the Fiddler's Jamboree and new retail outlets like Wal-Mart. \"It's an unknown as to how much extra revenue the new retail outlets are going to bring in because you don't know how much it's going to impact negatively on something else so the first year will really be just a guess.\"

Foster says if the local option sales tax is increased, the county will realize a greater tax benefit from the tourist dollars that are spent here.\" It only makes sense to pass some of that (increased sales tax) on to the tourists and let them pay their part because we also have to provide to them law enforcement and EMS services and road upkeep while they're here. We get a lot of benefit from tourists and we appreciate that but they should shoulder part of the tax load rather than it being all on property owners.\"

According to Foster, taxes are still lower in DeKalb County than any other county in the state. He says DeKalb and Johnson County have the lowest local option sales taxes, DeKalb County is still among the lowest in property taxes, and there is no wheel tax here.

If a second referendum is held this spring, the tax hike could take effect with the 2007-2008 budget year, July 1st.

Two Charged With Attempted Arson

January 23, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, assisted by the Alexandria Police Department, may have thwarted an attempted arson while on a separate investigation late Monday night.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 60 year old Wilburn Estes of Avant Circle, Alexandria and his ex-wife, 56 year old Margaret Lack of Liberty Hill Road, Alexandria are each charged with attempted arson.

They apparently went to a residence on Cemetery Street in Alexandria with the intention of getting revenge on a man who allegedly refused to pay $120 for some tools he bought from their son, 32 year old Hugh Don Estes, who was recently involved in a traffic accident and is now paralyzed.

Sheriff Ray says he, another county deputy, and an Alexandria Police officer went to the Cemetery Street residence around 11:30 p.m. Monday night on another investigation and as the officers pulled up to the home, they saw a man running from behind the house toward a parked car. The man (Estes) jumped in the car, and the vehicle sped away, driven by a woman (Lack).

Sheriff Ray says he pulled the car over about a mile down the road and the other two officers joined him after they finished up at the house talking to the resident on Cemetery Street. After gathering information from Estes and Lack, the officers released them, not yet knowing about the attempted arson.

A few minutes later, the resident on Cemetery Street called for the officers to return to his home, saying there were gas fumes in his house coming from the central heat and air unit. Sheriff Ray says upon further investigation, the officers found at the back of the man's house, a box containing a big pillow and other clothing along with two gallons of gasoline, a rubber glove, and a dust mop.

The officers then went to the residences of both Estes and Lack and picked them up for questioning. Based upon the evidence collected and incriminating statements made by Estes, he and his ex-wife were charged in the case.

New Toll-Free Litter Hotline Now Available

February 1, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

Tennesseans who are tired of trash along state roadways now have a new tool to report litter bugs. The Tennessee Department of Transportation announced today a new toll-free litter hotline, 1-877-8-LITTER (877-854-8837). The litter hotline is part of the new statewide anti-litter campaign, StopLitter?. The hotline provides a way for Tennesseans to report people they witness littering along the state?s roadways, such as a person throwing a paper cup or cigarette butt out of a window, or an item falling from an unsecured load.

?The new toll-free litter hotline gives citizens the ability to Stop It,? said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely. ?Now anyone who witnesses a person littering can report it and trigger action to improve the quality of the environment and the cleanliness of our roadways. Tennessee has some of the best roads in the nation. With everyone?s help, we can have some of the cleanest, too.?

Citizens who witness a litter bug in action can call 1-877-8-LITTER (877-854-8837). Callers will reach a recording that asks them to provide information about the vehicle. The information that will be requested includes:

license plate number (Tennessee plates only)
type and make of the vehicle
day and time the incident occurred
location where the incident occurred
the type of item tossed or blown from the vehicle

TDOT will mail a letter to the registered owner of the vehicle along with a StopLitter? car trash bag or portable ashtray and other anti-litter information. The letter is a gentle reprimand reminding the recipient that littering is against the law and punishable by a fine of up to $1500.

The addition of the statewide hotline signals a new strategy in the effort to stop litter in Tennessee.

?Littering is not only an eyesore, it costs taxpayers money,? said TDOT Chief of Environment and Planning Ed Cole. ?Last year, more than $11 million was spent on litter clean-up and prevention efforts in Tennessee. Thousands of Adopt-A-Highway volunteers also contribute their time and energy picking up litter from the state?s highways each year. The litter hotline allows people to address this problem but still remain anonymous.?

?The answer to the littering problem involves more than just cleaning up trash. Prevention is the key solution,? added Edith Heller, Keep Tennessee Beautiful State Leader. ?We hope everyone will join us in this effort by calling the hotline when they witness someone littering from a vehicle.?

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