Local News Articles

Sheriff's Department Makes Two Arrests After Friday Pursuit

January 31, 2011
Dwayne Page
James Alan Harden
Dustin Allen Pedigo

Two men were arrested by the Sheriff's Department Friday after a pursuit in the New Home Road/King Ridge Road area.

20 year old James Alan Harden of Old Casey Cove Road, Smithville is charged with reckless endangerment, evading arrest, vandalism over $500, driving under the influence, and resisting arrest. His bond totals $13,000. He was also issued citations for reckless driving and failure to maintain his lane of travel. His court date is February 24th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Friday, January 28th an officer spotted Harden operating a motor vehicle in the New Home Road/ King Ridge Road area. He tried to pull him over for violation of the light law and failure to maintain his lane of travel. However, when the deputy activated his emergency equipment, Harden accelerated, causing the officer to have to initiate a patrol pursuit for about four miles before Harden went off the road, struck a stop sign, three mail boxes, and crashed into a tree. A DTC pole was also damaged. After the wreck, Harden then got out of his vehicle and tried to flee on foot, but he was chased down by the officer, thrown to the ground, and handcuffed. Harden had an odor of an alcoholic beverage on his person and he was unsteady on his feet. Because of his condition, he wasn't subjected to any field sobriety tasks but he did submit to a blood test.

Meanwhile, a passenger with Harden, 21 year old Dustin Allen Pedigo of King Ridge Road, Dowelltown was charged with a second offense of DUI by allowance. His bond is $2,000 and he will be in court on February 24th. According to Sheriff Ray, the automobile Harden was driving belonged to Pedigo's father but (Dustin) Pedigo allowed Harden to drive it, knowing he was intoxicated. Meanwhile, Pedigo submitted to field sobriety tasks and he performed poorly.

26 year old Raymond Austin Simpson of Church Street, Dowelltown is charged with driving on a suspended license. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court on February 2nd. Sheriff Ray said that on Monday, January 24th, Simpson was operating a vehicle on Highway 70 when an officer stopped him, having prior knowledge that he had a suspended license. The same officer had written Simpson a citation for the same offense on January 23rd. A computer check confirmed that his license had been suspended on June 18th, 2010 in DeKalb County.

23 year old Joshua Lynne Batey of East Main Street, Smithville is charged with a first offense of driving on a suspended license. His bond is $1,000 and he will be in court on February 2nd . Batey was also issued a citation for violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance) and failure to stop at a stop sign. Sheriff Ray said that on Wednesday, January 26th, a deputy saw an automobile run a stop sign at Juniper Lane and Highway 70 and at Juniper Lane and Wade Street. The officer stopped the vehicle and asked the driver, Batey, for his license. A computer check revealed that his license were suspended for failure to satisfy three citations. Due to his failure to pay the citations, Batey was placed under arrest. Batey also could not provide proof of insurance.

28 year old Matthew Allen Baker of Pine Orchard Road, Smithville is charged with driving on a revoked license. His bond is $1,500 and he will be in court on March 3rd. Baker was also issued a citation for violation of the vehicle registration law, and violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance). Sheriff Ray said that on Thursday, January 27th Baker was operating a vehicle on Bright Hill Road when he was stopped by a deputy who had prior knowledge that his license were revoked. The vehicle was also unregistered and Baker could not provide proof of insurance. A computer check confirmed that his license were revoked. He had been issued a citation only a few weeks ago for the same offense, driving on a revoked license.

41 year old Victor G. Gingerich of Brook Lane, Smithville was issued citations for driving on a suspended license, violation of the light law, violation of the open container law, possession of drug paraphernalia, and simple possession of a schedule VI controlled substance, marijuana. He will be in court on February 24th. Sheriff Ray said that an officer stopped Gingerich's automobile for a tail light violation. While speaking to the driver, Gingerich, the deputy detected an odor of marijuana. A search revealed an open Bud lite can, two glass pipes, and a small baggie of a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana. A computer check revealed that Gingerich's drivers license were suspended.

19 year old Abel C. Valazquez of Bright Hill Road, Smithville was issued citations for driving without a license and violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance). He will be in court on February 9th. Sheriff Ray said that on Friday, January 28th, Valazquez was operating a vehicle on Students Home Road when he went off the road and struck a tree. He did not have a drivers license on him at the time and could not provide proof of insurance. There was no other property damage, other than damage to his own truck.

Meanwhile, In the latest crime report from the Smithville Police Department, 78 year old Will Allen Cantrell of South College Street was charged on Tuesday, January 25th with filing a false report. Cantrell filed a report on January 12th with Corporal Travis Bryant stating that someone had stolen a checkbook from his residence and were passing the checks at local businesses. Upon further investigation by Detective Matt Holmes it was discovered that the checks had not been stolen and Mr. Cantrell was the person who had signed the checks. Officer Matt Farmer made the arrest. Bond for Cantrell is $1,000 and his court date is February 10th.

Officer David Phillips cited Julie Elaine Moore of Cookeville Highway for theft of merchandise on Tuesday, January 25th. According to a store employee Moore was seen putting items in her purse and attempting to leave Dollar General Store without paying for them. Her court date is March 3rd.

Anyone having information on any offenses is asked to please contact the Smithville Police Department at 597-8210 or the Tip Line at 464-6046.

Any information received that will help the Smithville Police solve any criminal offense will be greatly appreciated. All information is confidential.

Theft Charges Against Two Former City Employees to be Dismissed upon Payment of Restitution

January 31, 2011
Dwayne Page
Kenny Waymon Dyal, Sr.
Christopher Derrick Ferrell

Theft of property charges against two former employees of the City of Smithville will be dismissed and their records expunged upon their payment of restitution in a case in which they were accused of taking scrap brass from the water treatment plant and selling it to a recycling center

45 year old Kenny Waymon Dyal, Sr. of Floyd Drive, Smithville and 42 year old Christopher Derrick Ferrell of North Mountain Street, Smithville, each charged with two counts of theft over $500 and one count of theft under $500, appeared in DeKalb County General Sessions Court Friday.

Judge Tiffany Gipson of Jackson County presided. Judge Gipson holds court in DeKalb County once a month to hear cases in which Judge Bratten Cook, II has a conflict.

Assistant district attorney general Greg Strong announced that a settlement had been reached in the case in which Ferrell and Dyal would make restitution in the amount of $1,348 jointly and severally. Once each defendant pays his half of the restitution, $674, the case against him will be dismissed and his record expunged.

Dyal was the supervisor of the Smithville Water Treatment Plant and Ferrell was a city maintenance employee and water meter reader. Neither are now employed by the city.

The warrants against them alleged that on Thursday, October 21st; Wednesday, November 3rd; and Thursday, November 4th Dyal and Ferrell took scrap brass from the city water treatment plant without consent and took it to a recycling place where they sold it for $514.50 on October 21st; $156 on November 3rd, and $677.51 on November 4th.

The brass scrap was part of the materials being removed from the water plant, which is undergoing a renovation.

TN SHIP Offers Free Counseling on Medicare and Related Health Insurance Issues

January 31, 2011
Dwayne Page
Wanda Poss and Meghian Moore

Got Medicare? Got questions? The Tennessee SHIP program can help.

TN SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program), administered locally by the Upper Cumberland Development District, provides free and objective counseling on Medicare and all related health insurance issues such as Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage, Medicare and Prescription drug costs, Medicare Supplement or Medigap Insurance, Medicare with other insurance, Medicare with TennCare/Medicaid; and Long-Term Care Insurance.

Meghian Moore, SHIP manager from the Upper Cumberland Development District in Cookeville, said many people in DeKalb County may qualify for the low income subsidy. "That's a program to help pay for their Part-D premiums, their co-pays, and their deductibles. It gives them extra help to pay for those items. It also eliminates that famous donut hole. Currently there are 273 people in DeKalb County who possibly qualify but they have not yet applied. You may apply locally at the Senior Center. Wanda Poss has been trained to help you fill out the application. If you can't get to the Senior Center, we have a toll-free number that comes directly to the Cookeville Office. That toll free number is 1-877-801-0044.

Moore added that "The income guidelines to qualify for the extra help with Part-D for a single person is $1,353 per month or for a couple it's $1,821 per month before deductions. Other resources or assets cannot exceed $12,640 for a single person or $25,260 for a couple."

"My program counsels on all Medicare topics so if you're not specifically interested in the low income subsidy, call the toll free number and we can counsel you on drug plans, supplements, or any questions you may have about Medicare. We also have a program called SMP which empowers seniors to prevent fraud. We help identify fraud and report it if we find it", said Moore.

DeKalb Jobless Rate 9.7% in December, Up from November

January 29, 2011
Dwayne Page

DeKalb County's unemployment rate for December was at 9.7%, up from the November rate of 9.2% but still down from 11% in December, 2009.

The local labor force for December was 9,460. A total of 8,540 were employed and 920 were unemployed.

DeKalb County's jobless rate tied for fifth lowest in the fourteen county Upper Cumberland region.

Here's how those counties rank from highest to lowest:

Pickett County: 15.7%
Clay: 12.2%
White: 11.8%
Fentress: 11.2%
Cumberland: 11%
Warren: 10.9%
Van Buren: 10.9%
Jackson: 10.7%
Macon: 9.7%
DeKalb :9.7%
Overton: 9.6%
Putnam: 8.7%
Smith: 8.3%

Tennessee's unemployment rate for December was 9.4 percent, unchanged from the November rate. The national unemployment rate for December 2010 was 9.4 percent, down four-tenths of a percentage point from the November rate.

County non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for December 2010 show that the rate decreased in 52 counties, increased in 35 counties and remained the same in eight counties.

Lincoln County registered the state's lowest county unemployment rate at 6.2 percent, down from the November rate of 6.3 percent. Scott County had the state's highest unemployment rate at 20.4 percent, up from 19.8 percent in the previous month, followed by Pickett County at 15.7 percent, up from the November rate of 15.4 percent.

Knox County had the state's lowest major metropolitan rate of 6.8 percent, down from 7.1 percent in November. Hamilton County was 7.7 percent, down from 8.1 percent the previous month. Davidson County was 8.3 percent, down from 8.6 percent in November, and Shelby County was 9.4 percent, down four-tenths of a percentage point from November.

County Wide Spelling Bee to Feature 45 Students

January 28, 2011
Dwayne Page
2010 County Spelling Bee Champion Lenzi Dickens

A total of forty five students will be competing during the Eighth Annual DeKalb County Spelling Bee Tuesday night, February 8th at 6:00 p.m. at DeKalb County High School.

WJLE will broadcast it LIVE.

Students from DeKalb Middle School, DeKalb West School, and Northside Elementary School recently competed at the school level to become eligible for the county competition.

Along with students from thirty nine other counties, the first and second place winners in the DeKalb County Spelling Bee will compete in the Tennessean Regional Spelling Bee on March 2nd at Belmont University in Nashville.

The winner of the Regional Spelling Bee will compete in the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.

The purpose of the County Wide Spelling Bee is to help students improve spelling skills, increase vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

Participants in this year's County Wide Spelling Bee are:

Northside Elementary School:

Fourth Grade- Madi Cantrell, Madison Colwell, Madelyn Hale, Molly Hall, Dulce Maciel, Ashley Phillips, and Derek Young

Fifth Grade- Kayla Belk, Madison Cripps, Abbie Fontanaz, Olivia Fuson, Austin Johnson, Hayley Martin, Allison Maynard, and Shauna Pedroza.

DeKalb Middle School:

Sixth Grade-Halle Burton, Madison Dickens, and Alyssa Sewell

Seventh Grade- Chase Bryant

Eighth Grade- Brandon Chapman, Lenzi Dickens, Matthew Foutch, Kelsey Hedge, Justin Johnson, Kara Kanipe, Lauren Kilgore, Ben Mahaffey, Brooke Reffue, Makayla Starnes, and Jacob Washer.

DeKalb West School:

Fifth Grade- Ethan Martin and Stacy Taitum

Sixth Grade- Kaylie Braswell, Maegan Harris, Bailey Redmon, Hunter Robinson, and Paige Snyder

Seventh Grade- Mary Belle Mofield, Kirkland Smallwood, Morgan Vickers, and Matthew Winsett

Eighth Grade- Leah Burchfield, Justin Cummings, Brandon Elandt, and Nikki Hunt

DeKalb School System Offers "Choice Option" for Northside & SES Students

January 28, 2011
Dwayne Page

With the latest report card on DeKalb County Schools showing that Northside Elementary and it's feeder school Smithville Elementary did not meet the established benchmark in the Hispanic subgroup for Reading/Language Arts according to the No Child Left Behind mandate, letters have been sent home to parents of these students giving them an option to transfer their children to DeKalb West School, which did meet the benchmark, or the students may participate in after school tutoring.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, children in schools in need of improvement must be given the opportunity to transfer to other public schools in their district, and under the law, school districts are required to tell parents about this option, as well as pay for transportation to the other schools.

Along with the letters, parents of Northside and Smithville Elementary School students have also received a form to fill out and return by February 4th if they want to take advantage of the "Public School Choice" option which would allow them to transfer their child or children to DeKalb West School.

Last year, Northside and it's feeder school, Smithville Elementary, were identified by the Tennessee Department of Education as "Target schools" in DeKalb County because a sub-group of students with disabilities failed to meet the adequate yearly progress (AYP) benchmark in the Reading and Language Arts category.

Northside and Smithville Elementary are now identified as schools in "School Improvement 1", which means that students did not meet state and federal goals within the Hispanic subgroup in Reading/Language Arts.

Dr. Danielle Collins, Federal Programs Supervisor for the School System, explained that parents of students at Northside or Smithville Elementary are not required to transfer their child or children to DeKalb West School. It is only an option available to them. "Every spring, students in grades 3 though 8 take the TCAP tests. We get these results in various sub-groups, such as all students, white, Hispanic, students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged, and limited English Proficient students. We get scores back in many categories, however we did not meet the benchmark in the Hispanic subgroup according to the No Child Left Behind mandate. All other subgroups met or exceeded these benchmarks. Because of not meeting in this one specific subgroup, we are required by law to send out the letters offering public school choice. This is an option that they may wish to choose, however it is not a requirement. If you choose not to transfer your child, you may be interested in the after school tutoring program. Both options are on the application. If you would like to take advantage of either, please complete the form and return it to the DeKalb County Board of Education. We want you to understand that Northside and Smithville Elementary are both great schools with great teachers."

Michelle Burklow, Supervisor of Instruction for Pre-K to 6th grade, said that while letters were sent to all parents of children attending Smithville Elementary and Northside Elementary concerning a transfer to Choice School (DeKalb West), if the numbers of students planning to make the move should exceed the west school's capacity, priority for first choice will be given to the lowest-achieving students from low-income families. "Because of the limited capacity that we have at DeKalb West School, we've set guidelines on students being able to transfer. There's certain guidelines that we have to follow to transfer students."

Since Northside and Smithville Elementary must meet achievement goals for two straight years before no longer being identified as "high priority schools", Burklow said students planning to transfer to DeKalb West this year will be given the same opportunity next year. "It's for the remainder of this school year, however when a school does move into school improvement, it is a two year cycle so when we meet those benchmark goals for next year, those children will still have an option of transferring to DeKalb West School, just simply because of the two year cycle that we will be locked into."

Burklow added that parents planning to take advantage of this may provide transportation of their children to DeKalb West or the school system will provide it.

So far, Burklow said most parents who have responded have indicated a desire for the after school tutoring program, rather than transferring their children to DeKalb West.

School Board Takes Next Step Toward Land Purchase

January 27, 2011
Dwayne Page
School Board Looking to Purchase 57 Acres for New School

The DeKalb County Board of Education, during a special meeting Thursday night, voted unanimously to enter into a contract to buy land on Allen's Ferry Road for the future site of a new DCHS complex, subject to approval by the county commission and a favorable site assessment study by the engineers who will do the core drilling, etc. on the property.

The fifty seven acre site, which is located near the existing DCHS/DeKalb Middle School campuses, belongs to Mark and Karen Adams, Melvin and LeeAnn Crips, and Billy Crips. The purchase price is $374,000.

Under terms of the contract, the school system has a 90 day "due diligence" period to have an engineering firm conduct core drilling, inspections of the title to the property, the environment condition of the land, and other site assessments to determine whether the property is satisfactory for it's intended purposes.

If within the 90 day period, the property is found to be unsuitable, the school system may notify the sellers, who would then be required to return the $10,000 earnest money put down by the school system. The only costs the school system would be out, according to Director Mark Willoughby, would be the expense of having the core drilling, surveys, and site inspections done, which should be no more than $10,000.

The contract states "The purchase of the property by the purchaser shall be conditioned upon approval of property in its sole discretion as suitable for the intended purpose by purchaser's architect and construction manager. Suitability, includes but is not limited to projected cost for site preparation and safe access."

The school system already has the money to purchase the property from it's allocation of state Basic Education Program (BEP) cash reserves, but the county commission has to give it's blessing, in the form of a budget amendment, to allow the school system to spend this money to make the purchase. If the county commission does not approve the expenditure then the deal will not go through. Since no local property tax money would be needed to buy this property, no property tax increase would be required.

During the last meeting on January 13th, David Brown of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones, and Morris, who authored a 2007 facility study for the school system, said the site is plenty large enough to support a new school. "We don't have a concern on our end whether you would be able to fit as much as you wanted to on the property you've got available. Now that whole fifty seven acres is not usable, but what is usable (about 45 acres) is plenty big for what we would propose or what you would want to build out there."

During Thursday night's special meeting, fourth district member Billy Miller expressed concerns about the costs of getting this site prepared for a new school, such as installing a pumping station for sewer and other add-on or recurring expenses, which he said could drive up the school system's costs considerably, perhaps as much as several hundred thousand dollars. Miller said he would like to know if it is ‘cost effective to build it there versus somewhere else".

Seventh district member Johnny Lattimore, in response, said that's part of what the site study (during the 90 day due diligence period) will address.

Third district member Kenny Rhody added that the location also makes this property attractive because it's centrally located in the county. "If you draw an "x" on DeKalb County, that area is dead center of the county. You're not too far from one end (of the county) to the other. It's close to everything that we've got, school bus garage, highways, and it's not as congested."

Even if the school board and county commission agree to make this purchase, no school would be built there for several years, according to fifth district member W.J. (Dub) Evins, III. "We started looking at this (location to purchase land) a few years ago. I think this is a good piece of property but I want to make it clear that we're looking at developing a five year plan. I want to make sure that everyone understands that we're not going to be breaking ground on a piece of property within the next couple of years. We're going through a long, tedious process to make sure we do things properly so no one gets concerned about their property taxes going up. We're looking at a long range plan, a five year plan. Something may happen earlier, later, or it may not happen."

Evins added "I have had people express concerns about building a high school versus an elementary school. We are in need of an elementary school, but we are in worse need of a high school. If that high school is built within five years or ten years and other classes are moved upward, in other words the middle school moved up to the (existing) high school facility, then Smithville Elementary (students) could ultimately be moved over to Northside, so the old (existing) Smithville Elementary School would be no more. That's the rationale behind all this, if that's what the (school) board decides to do at that point."

"Someone has suggested that we build something for K-8, which would actually be pre-K through 8, said Evins. But you're talking about ten class grades there (pre-k through 8). The pupil-teacher ratio at that point is 20 to 25 pupils per teacher, whereas at the high school it's 35 students per teacher. So you're talking about ten grade levels (pre-k through 8) versus four grade levels at the high school. When you factor in the pupil-teacher ratio, the cost of building a new pre-k through 8 school would be exponential in comparison to what a high school would cost. We want a new elementary school, but if we get a new high school, there will be another elementary school", said Evins.

County 4-H Public Speaking Winners Awarded

January 27, 2011
Dwayne Page
4th Grade 4-H Public Speaking Participants
5th grade 4-H Public Speaking Participants
6th-12th grade 4-H Public Speaking Participants

The DeKalb County 4-H public speaking contest was held Tuesday night at Northside Elementary School

Participants in the fourth grade were Tanner Poss and Derek Young who won first place; Sabrina Cripps took second place and Joshua Carlton received third place. Ashley Phillips also participated.

Fifth grade participants were James Barrientos, Ian Vitale, Felicia Ribble, Emily Burklow, and Olivia Fuson who won first place. Abby Evans and Hayley Martin received second place; and Brianna McDonald, Abbie Fontanez, and Eleonore Atnip took third place.

Meanwhile, in the sixth grade to twelfth grade competition Wyatt Martin won first place in 6th grade; Kirkland Smallwood received first place in the 7th grade; Lydia Trail took first place in 8th grade; Katie Haggard received first place in10th grade; Jacqueline Cortes took second place in the 6th grade; William Cain won second place in 7th grade; and Nathaniel Theriaque received third place in 7th grade.

Top Photo: 4th grade county 4-H public speaking participants (left to right): Sabrina Cripps (2nd place), Tanner Poss, Derek Young (1st place),and Joshua Carlton (3rd place). Not pictured was Ashley Phillips

Middle Photo: 5th grade county 4-H public speaking participants (left to right): James Barrientos, Ian Vitale, Felicia Ribble, Emily Burklow, Olivia Fuson (1st place), Brianna McDonald, Abbie Fontanez, and Eleonore Atnip (3rd place). Not pictured were: Abby Evans and Hayley Martin (2nd place).

Bottom Photo: Wyatt Martin (1st place, 6th grade), Lydia Trail (1st place, 8th grade), Katie Haggard (1st place, 10th grade), William Cain (2nd place, 7th grade), Nathaniel Theriaque(3rd place, 7th grade), and Kirkland Smallwood (1st place, 7th grade). Not pictured was Jacqueline Cortes (2nd place, 6th grade)

Vernon Gets Four Year Prison Sentence for Reckless Homicide

January 26, 2011
Dwayne Page
James Vernon (at the time of his arrest)

A Rock Island man, convicted of reckless homicide in the 2009 brutal beating of another man on Center Hill Lake, received a four year prison sentence this morning (Wednesday) in DeKalb County Criminal Court

39 year old James Vernon, under an agreement between his attorney, assistant district public defender Allison Rasbury and assistant district attorney general Greg Strong, accepted the four year sentence rather than go through with a sentencing hearing. The range of punishment for reckless homicide is two to four years.

Vernon, who remained in the DeKalb County Jail from July 9th, 2009 until December 20th, 2010, was given credit for the 529 days he has already served. Vernon has also waived his right to file an appeal or a motion for a new trial. With the jail credit time he has built, Vernon could be released soon, since he is only required to serve 30% of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Vernon has been free on bond since December 20th, pending the sentencing date.

After the court proceedings Wednesday, Vernon was taken into custody. He is currently in the county jail but is expected to eventually be transported to the Tennessee Department of Corrections. Judge Leon Burns, Jr., who sentenced Vernon, told him that the state parole board will determine when he is to be released.

Originally charged with first degree murder in the death of 24 year old David Joseph Clark, Vernon stood trial on Tuesday, November 30th in DeKalb County Criminal Court for second degree murder. Later that evening the jury, made of up six men and six women, returned from it's deliberations with a verdict of reckless homicide.

State prosecutors said Vernon was responsible for the death of Clark, who was severely beaten during an attack on a houseboat at Center Hill Lake July 7th, 2009. Clark died a week later from his injuries at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga. The fight was apparently over Vernon's missing wallet, which he accused Clark of stealing. The assault occurred in DeKalb County, only a short distance from Horsehoe Bend Marina, which is in White County.

Vernon, who testified during the trial in his own defense, said that he met Clark on the fourth of July, 2009 during an outing on the lake. Two days later, July 6th Vernon said Clark showed up at his boat, just to hang out. Clark invited him inside but a short time later, Vernon said Clark suddenly left, saying he had to go. Vernon looked around and noticed that his wallet, which he kept on the bar near the dining table, was missing. Thinking that Clark took it, Vernon followed after Clark and confronted him about the wallet, which he said contained $50. Clark denied taking the wallet and Vernon apparently never found it.

The next night, July 7th, Vernon said he showed up at a friend's houseboat and that Clark later arrived. Witnesses testified that Clark was already at the boat when Vernon got there. Vernon apparently confronted Clark again about the wallet. While Clark denied taking the wallet, Vernon said Clark admitted to stealing from others in the area and added that they got what they deserved. Vernon said he took the comment personally, became angry and began punching him after Clark tried to grab him. But witnesses testified that Clark did nothing to provoke Vernon and that Vernon began hitting Clark, after the two men had shook hands. According to the witnesses, Vernon inflicted three or four blows to Clark and then continued beating him after he fell to the floor unconscious, even though witnesses tried to restrain Vernon and called for him to stop.

Vernon testified that he deeply regretted what he had done. When asked by District Attorney General Randy York if he had said "I'm sorry' to anyone. Vernon replied, "Yes, the Lord."

York, in his closing remarks to the jury, said Vernon committed second degree murder, acting intentionally and knowing that Clark could die, especially when he continued the beating even after Clark had lost consciousness.

District Public Defender David Brady and assistant Allison Rasbury, in their closing remarks, said that while Vernon was wrong in the attack, he did not commit second degree murder in that he could not have known with reasonable certainty that the injuries from the fight would lead to Clark's death.

TDOT to Award Contract on Sligo Bridge Replacement Later this Year

January 25, 2011
Dwayne Page
November 2009 photo of TDOT Inspecting Sligo Bridge
TDOT inspecting Sligo Bridge in November 2009

The Tennessee Department of Transportation is expected to accept bids and award a contract on the replacement of Sligo bridge sometime this year, possibly this fall.

The Sligo bridge replacement is among the projects to be funded in the 2011-12 state budget under TDOT's Better Bridge bonding program. The estimated cost is $30 million dollars.

The new Sligo bridge is expected to be erected some sixty feet to the north of the existing bridge and plans are for traffic to continue on the old bridge while the new structure is under construction. Right of way acquisition with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and any other adjoining landowners must also be resolved.

TDOT officials have said that Sligo bridge remains safe to travel as long as motorists adhere to the posted weight limits and that the chunks of concrete falling into nets hung underneath the bridge should not be of great concern.

During a November, 2009 public meeting in Smithville, Ed Wasserman, TDOT Director of Structures, addressed the safety issue regarding Sligo bridge. According to Wasserman, there are at least two layers of concrete on the bridge and the layer underneath is breaking up. "Specifically with regard to the Sligo bridge, it is safe as long as you observe the posted loads that are on that bridge. Your concerns about the chunks of concrete coming off ( from under the bridge). That is more of an emotional issue than a structural issue. They way that slab works is that it is the re-enforcing steel in the bottom that carries the load. The concrete on the top carries the compression load, the bottom is the tension steel. That steel is all intact. The primary purpose for the cover on the bottom is to protect the steel. The steel is still in good shape. It would be more desirable if it (concrete) was all there but the point of it is it carries the same load with or without it. The bridge is still safe. We're still monitoring the bridge on a frequency of about every six months. So the bridge is safe as it is. The netting up there (under the bridge) is because we don't want concrete chunks falling on the boaters or whoever else is underneath the bridge."


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