Local News Articles

Mayor and Police Chief Honor Man for Act of Bravery

July 13, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Mayor Taft Hendrixson and Police Chief Tom Stufano honored a man Friday afternoon for his bravery in helping stop a drunk driver from plowing into a crowd during last weekend's Fiddler's Jamboree.

The plaque presented to Chris Walls reads \" Special Thanks to Chris Walls. In appreciation of your bravery and consideration for lives of your fellowman, Chris Walls did risk his own life to stop a drunk driver from plowing into thousands of people at the Smithville Fiddler's Jamboree on July 7th, 2007. Your heroic actions did save the lives of many people. On behalf of the Smithville Police Department and all residents of Smithville, we are grateful for your actions.\"

Chief Stufano also commended Walls for his act of bravery. \"Chris, you were able to prevent something that would have been absolutely catastrophic, not only to the residents of this city, but also to the visitors at the Jamboree. I personally appreciate everything you did out there and the many residents and merchants who were in the direct line of this particular car who came to me shortly thereafter and did identify you as the person who was instrumental in doing this. So again, congratulations and thank you very much.\"

Walls explains how he reacted when he saw the drunk driver heading toward downtown. \"We were just sitting around and enjoying the Jamboree when I heard a lady down the street in a panic, screaming out ‘stop that driver'. Once I saw the driver, I didn't have time to think, I just went over toward him and did what I could. It was only maybe thirty seconds, just an instinct reaction. I jumped in front of the car to try to get him to stop but when I saw that he was not going to respond to that, I went to his driver's side window to try and talk to him, but I didn't have much time because he was closing the distance between himself and the crowd. So I reached in the car and threw it (gear) in park. After that, I just opened the door and kept asking him to get out until help arrived.\"

On Saturday afternoon, July 7th, Chief Stufano says numerous 911 calls were placed simultaneously about a vehicle driving in an erratic manner along Church Street and that this vehicle had hit two other automobiles parked along the roadway.

The vehicle then drove around a barricade and entered a parking lot on Church and 4th Street striking another automobile. The vehicle continued to drive around a second barricade and entered 4th Street heading toward the public square.

Walls saw the vehicle trying to enter the crowded area and he was able to get to the car and pull the keys out of the ignition.

Smithville Police were on the scene immediately and placed into custody 39 year old Robin Howard Russell of 861 Ward Mill Road, Baxter.

Further investigation noted that Russell had been drinking from a gallon bottle of whiskey, which police found opened and in his lap at the time of arrest. A computer check disclosed that Russell had just been released from a neighboring county jail the day before for DUI. Additionally, Russell was driving on a Revoked Driver's License. Charges against him included; DUI (3rd) offense, Reckless Endangerment, Leaving the Scene of an Accident (3 times) and Violation of the Open Container law. Russell could not perform a field sobriety test due to his inebriated state. His bond was set at $49,500.

Three Injured In Separate Wrecks

July 13, 2007
Dwayne Page

Three people were injured in separate traffic accidents Thursday night and Friday morning on DeKalb County roads.

Trooper Dewain Jennings of the Tennessee Highway Patrol says at about 6:05 p.m. 47 year old Kenneth Dale Nunley of McMinnville was operating a 2003 Honda VTX 1800 motorcycle on Turner Road with a group of other motorcycle riders when he wrecked while attempting to negotiate a curve. The motorcycle exited the roadway to the right, entered a ditchline, and crashed. Nunley was thrown from the motorcycle. He was transported by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Meanwhile, 39 year old Lisa Dawn Dube of 437 Carter Street, Smithville was hurt in a one car accident on Highway 146 around 9:55 p.m.

Trooper Jennings says Dube was northbound in a 2001 Pontiac Trans Am when she exited her lane into the oncoming lane and left the roadway to the left. As she overcorrected, the vehicle came back onto the roadway and overturned. The car slid some 200 feet on it's top and came to rest in the middle of the highway.

Dube, who was not wearing a seatbelt, got out of the car and walked several yards down the road to a house, where she was picked up by DeKalb EMS and taken to DeKalb Community Hospital.

Dube was charged with failure to maintain the proper lane of travel and for not wearing her seat belt. Trooper Jennings says alcohol was also involved.

The third accident occurred at 1:35 a.m. Friday morning on Highway 146.

Trooper Jennings says 28 year old Shawn Bradley Patton of 318 Oak Place Drive, Smithville, the driver of a 2004 Ford Ranger was northbound when he exited the roadway to the left, struck a culvert, and then hit a utility pole, cutting it in half. The truck then rolled over on it's top. Patton was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital where he was treated and released. Patton is charged with driving on a suspended license, failure to maintain the proper lane of travel, and violation of the financial responsibility law (no insurance).

Committee Favors County Getting Back in the Ambulance Service Business

July 14, 2007
Dwayne Page

With less than three months until Sumner Regional Medical Center officially ceases operation of the DeKalb County Ambulance Service, the County's Emergency Services Committee wants to bring the ambulance service back under the county's control.

County Mayor Mike Foster told the county commission last month that Sumner Regional, which has been under contract to operate the local ambulance service for several years, is \"going out of the ambulance business\".

Since then, the county's emergency services committee has been meeting to determine whether or not to contract with another entity to run the local ambulance service.

Foster says the committee met at the courthouse Thursday evening and after reviewing proposals from several companies, including Pro-Med, Pride Care, and Trans-Med among others, decided that the best course would be for the ambulance service to be run by the county. Foster says the most of the companies were primarily interested in only providing convalescent care and one company wanted to take ownership of the ambulances. The current fleet of ambulances is owned by the county. Plus, Foster says the committee felt an urgency to act now with less than 90 days before new management must be in place. \"I had gotten information from about eleven counties on how they were handling their ambulances services. Our options were to contract with one of about six other companies that primarily do convalescent care, or let the county run the ambulance service. I think everybody (committee) is concerned that we maintain the same level of ambulance service that we have and that we take care of the people who work there. We think we have a really good ambulance service and we were well satisfied with the service we were getting. We had some concerns last year about the prices. We talked to them about changing the structure of their prices because we thought they were a little high so they lowered them (prices).\"

\"What the process basically amounts to now is that the county will probably have to subsidize the ambulance service some. We feel like we can have a better service if the county runs it so the committee voted for the county to run it and not contract with some other service at this time. I'm comfortable with their decision. I think the county will do a better job of overseeing it. We already own the ambulances. Basically, what it boils down to is that the ambulance service is not a money making proposition, but we would like for it to break even. We'll try to structure the salaries and fees so that it provides the best service we can to the county while taking care of the people who work for the ambulance service. There are two or three options in the way we will handle billing, either it will be contracted out to a collection agency or it will be handled out of the county mayor's office.\"

Foster says the ambulance service director would be hired by the county and the EMS employees would work under the director. \"The employees will answer to the director and if they have an issue they can't resolve then they would submit their grievance to the county mayor's office. They would not be permitted to submit a complaint to any individual county commissioner or the county mayor. Once a grievance has been filed, the director would be required to respond in writing, then the director and the employee making the grievance would come before the entire ambulance committee. We feel like this is the fairest procedure and will help keep down problems.\"

Foster adds that the county is currently compiling information from the ambulance service and other counties in order to determine what the annual costs will be as well as the local rate structure.\" We've used a lot of numbers from the ambulance service itself, but we're also getting input from White County, Lawrence County, Stewart County, Overton County, and some other counties, to try to average out to about what they're doing. It will also be based on TennCare and Medicare fees. In the past, they have charged twelve or thirteen hundred dollars per trip and Medicare paid maybe five hundred dollars and the rest was written off, which would not serve our purpose. The ambulance service, last year, made over 2600 runs. We feel like we need to charge what is a realistic fee. Of course, we will bill TennCare and Medicare at the rates they will pay. We just don't feel like it's right for an individual to pay considerably more than TennCare or Medicare, especially Medicare. Medicare will probably govern what we do. These rates will apply to everyone equally with no political favoritism. The committee was adamant about that. Everyone will pay the same rates, whether the billing is done in-house or by another billing system. We're guessing that the cost to run the ambulance service will be about $1.1 to $1.2 million dollars a year and the revenues will be around a million dollars right now. These numbers are based on what they did last year.\"

Sumner Regional Medical Center currently operates the ambulance service for $163,000 per year, and the county, which owns the ambulances, buys a new one each year. Sumner Regional rents the ambulance service building on Cookeville Highway for $600 per month.

Foster says a lot of for-profit companies are going out of the ambulance service business because of the ever increasing costs and government regulations. He says many counties in this region are now operating their own ambulance services and most are breaking even.

Whether the county will officially get back in the ambulance service business will probably be put to the county commission for a vote at it's next meeting on Monday, July 23rd at 6:30 p.m.

Smithville Police Arrest Drunk Driver and Shop Lifter

July 14, 2007
Dwayne Page

Smithville Police responded to an automobile accident on West Broad Street last week and later charged 29 year old Joel Hayes of 136 Bobby Hayes Road, Smithville with DUI.

Chief Tom Stufano says \"Officers conducting the investigation found that Hayes was intoxicated, which resulted in the accident. Hayes was arrested for Driving under the Influence. He was transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond. His court date was set for August 2nd.\"

Police also arrested 26 year old Shelly Faye Beene of 104 Cemetery Street, Smithville for Shop Lifting. Officers responded to the Smithville Food Lion after the manager reported that Beene had entered the store, tried to conceal products in her purse, and then left without paying for them. She was stopped by store employees and the items were recovered. The incident was videotaped by store security. Beene was arrested and charged with Theft under $500 and transported to the DeKalb County Jail under a $1,000 bond.

Sheriff's Department Makes Quick Arrest in Reported Robbery at Nicole's Market

July 15, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department made an arrest Saturday in a reported robbery at Nicole's Market on Short Mountain Highway, only two hours after the incident occurred.

Detectives arrested 27 year old Christopher Mooneyham for Theft of Property.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says Mooneyham walked into the market and asked the clerk two fix him a sandwich. When the clerk walked away from the cash register, Mooneyham opened the register, took approximately $128.00 in cash, and then fled in a vehicle. The clerk, who said she did not know the man, called 911 to report the crime.

Detectives, during their investigation, discovered that a man believed to be Mooneyham was seen driving a car in a reckless manner near the Market.

Detectives later located Mooneyham and he confessed to the crime. Mooneyham's bond was set at $3,500. His court date is July 26th.

Sheriff's Department Finds Non-Operational Meth Lab

July 15, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department found a non-operational meth lab last week at Lake Motel on Highway 70 East on a trailer that was filled with trash.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says items found included components such as iodine crystals, ephedrine, red phosphorus, empty pseudoephedrine blister packs, empty heet bottles, and empty brake cleaner cans.

Officers also found receipts from a local business and electronic returned checks from an individual in another county.

Sheriff Ray says detectives are continuing the investigation hoping to find photos of the person on security cameras at the motel.

Several Arrests Made In Joint Undercover Drug Investigation by Sheriff's Department and Alexandria Police

July 15, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department and Alexandria Police Department, in recent days, have rounded up several people in a joint undercover drug investigation.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says this investigation has been underway for about a month. \"Alexandria Police Chief Mark Collins and I had been talking about doing some work together and he approached me a while back with the idea of using a lady the city was planning to hire as a patrol officer to do some undercover work. We put her in the Alexandria housing project where she worked for a while and then we put her at another place in the county and let her do some undercover work there. She bought dilaudid, hydrocodone, xanax, and prescription drugs from these defendants. This was a cooperative effort between our departments and it's one of many that Chief Collins and I hope to do.\"

Chief Collins says this investigation was very productive. \" As far as I'm concerned, it was a success. I saw the opportunity to use an actual police officer, rather than someone else, as an undercover agent. This officer, Regina Parker, was able to observe and gather intelligence for us on other cases. We went forward with this, made several buys, and have made several arrests. The information that we have gathered will help us make more arrests in the future. Parker has been a law enforcement officer for about eight years. She is highly qualified and has done a lot of undercover work for the Berry Hill and Metro-Nashville Police Departments. She came on board with me in June and we put her right into the housing project. She sacrificed a lot of her personal life. She pretty much had two lives, an undercover life and a home life, but she met this challenge greatly and I commend her. She did a good job making friends and fitting in and was able to buy from some well known drug dealers that we've been trying to get for a long time.\"

Sheriff Ray and Chief Collins say the Alexandria Police Department and the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department, on June 22nd, sent the undercover officer into an Alexandria business located on Highway 70. The officer was offered marijuana from 46 year old John Pitts Jr. of Nashville Highway, Alexandria. Officers were monitoring the undercover officer and stormed the building. After entering the building, officers found a bag of marijuana. Pitts was arrested and his bond was set at $2,500. Pitts has already pled guilty.

On June 30th, the Sheriff's Department and Alexandria Police Department sent the undercover officer to a room at the Lake Motel on Highway 70 East to purchase Dilaudid. 36 year old Homer Petty of Sparta Highway, Smithville sold a Dilaudid pill to the officer and 44 year old Jimmy Duncan of Sparta Highway assisted in the buy. After Officers conducted a search warrant on Petty's motel room, Petty was charged with Sale and Delivery of a Schedule II drug (Dilaudid) and possession of Drug Paraphernalia (needles). Petty's bond was set at $55,000. Duncan was charged with Criminal Conspiracy to Sell and Deliver a Schedule II Drug (Dilaudid) and his bond was set at $25,000.

Others arrested as a result of this undercover investigation are:

36 year old Teresa Ann Hallback of Sparta Pike, Watertown, charged with two counts of Conspiracy to Sell and Deliver a Schedule III Drug (Hydrocodone). Her bond is set at $80,000 and her court date is August 2nd.

39 year old Lisa Gibbs of North Mill Street, Dowelltown, charged with two counts of Criminal Conspiracy to Sell and Deliver a Schedule III Drug (Hydrocodone). Her bond is set at $80.000 and her court date is August 2nd.

41 year old Sandra Atnip of West Main Street, Smithville, charged with Sale and Delivery of a Schedule III Drug (Hydrocodone). Her bond is set at $80.000 and her court date is August 2nd.

More arrests are expected.

Two Lebanon Men Charged in Alexandria Thefts

July 15, 2007
Dwayne Page

Two Lebanon men have been charged with recent thefts in Alexandria.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 18 year old Stephen Brennan of Highland Court, Lebanon and 20 year old Justin Marek of Trousdale Ferry Pike, Lebanon are each charged with two counts of Theft and one count of Burglary.

Sheriff Ray says the two stole a four wheeler valued at $3,000 from a residence on Lower Helton Road and they also broke into Prichard's Foods on Highway 53 in Alexandria, where entry was made through the ductwork to an air conditioner. After entry into the building, the men stole cigarettes, other tobacco products and money.

Brennan's bond is set at $15,000 and his court date is July 19th. Bond for Marek set at $25,000 and his court date is August 2nd.

Arrests Made by Sheriff's Department in Rash of Forgeries

July 16, 2007
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has solved a rash of forgeries with the arrest of several people.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says 20 year old Brandon Herndon of Forrest Avenue, Smithville; 25 year old Stephanie Fagan of Hickory Street, Smithville; and 25 year old Christopher Gammons of Andrew Street, Smithville were arrested after the Sheriff's Department received a report that someone had been forging and then cashing personal checks belonging to a local woman for large amounts of money.

He says sheriff's department detectives found that the checks were stolen from a residence on Forrest Avenue, belonging to a member of Herndon's family. Herndon allegedly stole numerous checks from the residence.

Detectives learned that Fagan filled out at least one of the checks and Gammons filled out five and cashed them. Gammons also allegedly stole another check from one of his family members and then forged and cashed it.

Herndon was charged with theft under $500.00 (Numerous checks). His bond was set at $5,000 and his court date is August 2nd. Fagan was charged with one count of forgery and her bond was set at $5,000. Her court date is August 2nd. Gammons was charged with six counts of forgery and one count of theft under $500.00 (a check). His bond is $32,500 and his court date is August 2nd.

Meanwhile, 38 year old Kelly Gibbs of Evins Mill Road, Smithville was charged with two counts of theft of property under $500, one count of theft of property over $500 and one count of aggravated Burglary while 32 year old Crystal Turner of A.B. Frazier Road, Smithville was charged with four counts of forgery, two counts of theft of property under $500, one count of theft of property over $500, and one count of aggravated burglary.

Sheriff Ray says Gibbs and Turner went in a residence on A.B. Frazier Road and took numerous checks and jewelry. Gibbs allegedly passed two checks at a business in DeKalb County and Turner allegedly forged and passed checks in three DeKalb County businesses. Bond for Turner was set at $32,000 and her court date is August 2nd. Gibbs is currently incarcerated in the Warren County Jail on other charges. More charges are pending.

23 year old Daniel Evans of Windham Street, Smithville was charged with DUI and two counts of simple possession on July 12th. Evans was southbound on Highway 56 north when a deputy noticed him weaving. Evans was stopped and was found to be intoxicated. Also found were morphine pills and klonopin pills. His bond was set at $6,000 and his court date is August 2nd.

Smithville Police Chief Stufano Placed on Administrative Leave Over Allegations of Misconduct by Roy Ray

July 16, 2007
Dwayne Page

By a vote of 3 to 1, the Smithville Aldermen Monday night voted to place Police Chief Tom Stufano on administrative leave with pay, pending the outcome of an independent investigation into allegations of misconduct lodged against him by Roy Ray of the Belk Community. In the meantime, the department's most senior ranking officer, Richard Jennings, will apparently be the acting Chief.

Ray has filed a lawsuit in Federal Court against Chief Stufano, the Smithville Police Department, and the City of Smithville claiming he suffered injuries and that his civil and constitutional rights were violated during a misdemeanor traffic stop in February.

Ray's attorney in the lawsuit, Adam Wilding Parrish of Lebanon, came before the Mayor and Aldermen Monday night requesting the investigation of Stufano.

Alderman Jerry Hutchins' Sr. made a motion to place Chief Stufano on administrative leave with pay until the outcome of an independent investigation of the allegations against him. Aldermen Hutchins, Tonya Sullivan and Willie Thomas all voted in favor of the motion, but Aldermen Steve White voted against it, saying he thought it premature to be voting on the suspension until city attorney John Pryor had an opportunity to research what the city's legal options are in dealing with Stufano, whether the mayor or council has the authority to place an employee on administrative leave, and whether a third party, such as the TBI, should conduct an investigation with a pending lawsuit against the city. White asked why the rush? He moved that Hutchins' motion be tabled until the August 6th meeting, but White's motion to table died for the lack of a second. Alderman Cecil Burger was absent Monday night.

Alderman Sullivan said the city should act to protect it's employees as well as the citizens, but expressed concern about the seriousness of Ray's allegations against Stufano.

Some suggest that placing Chief Stufano on leave in this case would be no different than when officer Callie Matthews was placed on administrative leave earlier this year after she was involved in a fatal traffic accident on Foster Road, another case in which the city has been sued. However, it wasn't the council who placed Matthews on leave, it was apparently either Stufano or the city administration.

Ray wants a jury trial and he is seeking compensatory and punitive damages along with his attorney's fees.

The lawsuit alleges that "On or about February 23rd, 2007, Ray was operating his vehicle in Smithville and that Stufano, acting in his official capacity as a law enforcement officer, executed a traffic stop on Ray's vehicle alleging that Ray had violated a misdemeanor traffic offense."

The lawsuit further alleges that "during the course of that stop, Stufano utilized excessive force and assaulted Ray even though Ray posed no threat to the safety of the officer or to himself."

Ray claims he was detained, handcuffed, and transported to the county jail.

After the alleged assault, Ray claims "Stufano threatened to pursue criminal charges against him unless Ray agreed to execute a document releasing Stufano and the City of Smithville for any liability for the injuries sustained."

Ray says he refused to sign any documentation releasing the city from any such liability.

In the lawsuit, Ray alleges that "approximately five months have passed since the date of his injuries and there have been no criminal charges, warrants, or traffic citations issued against him and that as a direct and proximate result of the defendant's acts and omissions, he has suffered serious and painful injuries to his back and shoulder and that these injuries have required medical treatment."

Ray claims that "As a direct and proximate result of the defendant's acts and omissions, he has been caused to suffer great emotional, physical and psychological pain and injury, and has incurred financial liability in the treatment of these injuries."

Ray further contends that the defendant violated his civil and constitutional rights by using excessive force and physically assaulting him while he was in the care and custody of the City of Smithville Police Department.

According to Ray, the police department and the municipal government were negligent in that they owed him a duty to protect him and exercise due diligence in the hiring and disciplining of it's employees and staff; that the defendant breached that duty; that the defendant failed to enforce or initiate policies designed to protect inmates; that the defendant failed to adequately train, discipline, and monitor the training and status of it's employees in the prevention of use of excessive force; and that as a proximate result of this negligence, Ray was physically assaulted and injured."

Ray alleges that "Stufano willfully and knowingly arrested, detained, and incarcerated him for no legitimate or other lawful purpose; that Stufano threatened further criminal prosecution against him unless he released the city from liability; that Stufano knew these allegations to be false and yet proceeded to detain, handcuff, arrest, and briefly incarcerate Ray against his will; that the defendant's actions were out of malice, and or for no legitimate legal purpose; and that the criminal charges, warrants, or traffic citations have never been issued or sworn against Ray."

Ray is represented by Lebanon attorney Adam Wilding Parrish. Named as defendants are Stufano, individually and in his individual and official capacities; John Doe, parties to be determined; the Smithville Police Department; and the Municipal Government of the City of Smithville.


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