Local News Articles

October is Fire Prevention Month

October 9, 2007

What should you do if there's a fire in your home? Get Out!

The State Fire Marshal's Office reminds Tennesseans that preparing for a home fire in advance greatly increases a family's chance of survival. That means having an escape plan and practicing it.

Fire death is a serious problem in Tennessee and the State continually ranks among the five worst in fire death rate nationwide. Governor Bredesen has officially proclaimed October as Fire Prevention and Safety Month.

Here are some helpful tips to prepare for a home fire:

· Develop a plan. Draw a floor plan of all levels of the house; find the two best escape routes from each room; make sure each route is unobstructed and if it involves climbing through windows, make sure they are operable; review the plan with your spouse and children.

· Know how to escape. First, feel the door with the back of your hand. A hot door means a fire is on the other side and you should choose an alternate escape route. If the route is smoky, stay low and crawl along the floor where the air is safer to breathe.

· Choose a safe meeting place. Pick a tree or other landmark that is a safe distance from the house. All members of the family should come to this place once they get out.

· Call 911 from a neighbor's house. Never call from inside a burning house. Your chances of escaping decrease every second you remain inside.

· Never go back inside a burning house. Toys and valuables are replaceable. people aren't.

· Practice the escape plan twice a year. If a fire occurs, confusion will set in if the plan has not been rehearsed. There is no time to waste. Practicing will make the response to a fire become second nature.

"There are many things a person can do to reduce fire risks before a fire starts, but one of the most important things is being familiar with an escape route. Many fire deaths and injuries can be prevented simply by getting out of the house," said Tennessee State Fire Marshal Leslie A. Newman. "We urge all Tennesseans to start preparing and continue fire prevention tactics all year long."

For more information on home fire safety, visit http://www.state.tn.us/commerce/sfm. You may also visit www.dekalbfire.com or www.smithvillefire.com.

Man Arrested for Aggravated Burglary and Evading Arrest by Smithville Police

October 8, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 24 year old man was arrested by Smithville Police Saturday, charged with aggravated burglary, public intoxication, and evading arrest.

Chief Richard Jennings says Gabino Garcia Rosa of 530 Miller Road allegedly broke into the apartment residence of Bridget Annette Brock at 211 West Main Street and then fled in an attempt to escape.

The case was investigated by Officers Joey Jones and Matt Holmes.

According to the Affidavit of Complaint, Smithville Police Officers were at the Brock residence at 211 West Main Street on a burglary call and obtained a description of the suspect. The man was later seen on Market Street and when an officer yelled at him, he ran, but was later found at 303 South College Street, where he was arrested.

Rosa is accused of entering the Brock residence by unlocking the door through a broken window without the owner's consent with intent to commit a felony.

Rosa will be in General Sessions Court on the charges October 18th.

In the arrest report, Officer Jones writes that "At approximately 10:28 p.m., I arrived at 211 West Main Street where I made contact with Brittany Ann Brock, who advised that a Hispanic male, whom she knew, had broken into the apartment where she and her mother (Bridget) were sleeping. This man reached through a window, opened the door, and walked in. Brittany stated that she told him to get out but he would not leave. She then stated that he tried to get her to take something he had in his hand which was in a plastic bag, but she told him again to get out. Again, he would not leave. She then called 911. When the officers arrived, Brock stated that the man darted out of the house and went around back. After a brief search of the area, a neighbor stated that she saw a man running across the road, behind the apartment complex , and up the road."

Officers later found the man under some trees and brush in the back yard at 303 South College Street. He was taken back to the scene of the burglary and Brock positively identified him as the man who broke into her home.

Rosa allegedly told police after his arrest that he had earlier drunk several beers and smoked some marijuana. Police say he could not stand up straight without help and he had a strong odor of beer on his person and breath.

Three Arrested by Smithville Police Department in Theft Scheme

October 8, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Police Department has broken up a theft scheme with the arrest of three people.

19 year old Samantha Rene Devault of Highland Drive was arrested for forgery. Smithville K-9 Officer Craig Capps says Devault allegedly stole checks from a family member and went to Wal Mart in Smithville, forged the checks, and obtained merchandise, an infant car seat valued at $153.57. After DeVaullt obtained the merchandise, 31 year old Tyrone DeWayne Owens and 26 year old Michael Chad Owens of Shady Drive Smithville allegedly returned the item to Wal Mart and received cash back in the amount of $153.57, knowing the item was purchased with a forged check.

DeVault is charged with forgery and her bond is $25,000. Tyrone Owens is charged with facilitation of a felony (theft) and his bond is $25,000. Michael Chad Owens is charged with facilitation of a felony (theft).

Meanwhile, the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department has charged Michael Chad Owens with burglary and theft of property under $500.00. Sheriff Patrick Ray says Owens allegdly broke into a house on Shady Drive Smithville and stole a Play Station II game. Owens bond was set at $61,000.

Officer Matthews Cleared for Light Duty Work, but Remains on Leave

October 8, 2007
Dwayne Page

She has apparently been given a medical clearance to perform light duty work, but Smithville Police Officer Callie Matthews remains on leave.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says there are currently no light duty police officer jobs in the department and he has not yet been instructed by the Board of Aldermen to put her back to work.

And while a reconstruction accident report has been compiled by the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Critical Incident Response Team, the city's liability insurance carrier will likely seek a second opinion with another independent reconstruction of the accident

Matthews was responding to a prowler call on April 23rd at around 11:30 p.m. when her patrol car collided with an oncoming car, driven by Andrew Ferris. The crash killed Ferris and seriously injured Officer Matthews and a passenger of Ferris' car, Brian Webber.

The following is the report by Sergeant Keven Norris, C.I.R.T. member and reconstructionist with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

"The following conclusions were drawn after examination of all known physical evidence and review of witness accounts of the event that occurred on Foster Road in DeKalb County."

"On the above date, (April 23rd, 2007), at approximately 11:30 p.m., Officer Callie Matthews with the Smithville Police Department was responding to a call and traveling north on Foster Road in a 2001 Ford Crown Victoria police unit."

"Andrew Ferris was operating a Kia Rio passenger car southbound on Foster Road with Brian Webber as a front seat passenger."

"The road surface was dry asphalt with no pavement markings"

"Matthews, upon topping a slight hill crest, locked the brakes on the Ford allowing it to veer to the left of center where it collided with the Kia passenger car."

"The approach angle of the pre-impact skid indicated the Kia was approaching from the center of the roadway when the impact occurred. The skid length is approximately 15 feet."

"Skid marks from the Ford Crown Victoria were approximately 91 feet in length leading up to the impact and were at an angle from the north bound side of the roadway to the southbound side."

"A minimum speed was calculated for both vehicles. The Ford Crown Victoria had a minimum speed of 66 miles per hour, while the Kia was at 16 miles per hour."

"The Ford Crown Victoria was a marked patrol unit and was utilizing its blue lights as emergency equipment."

"Blood samples were taken from the deceased and analyzed for drugs and alcohol. Alcohol tested negative and only drugs administered by emergency medical personnel were present."

"Based on what is known, it is my opinion that the Ferris vehicle was in the center of the roadway, and when the Matthews vehicle came into view, this resulted in a reaction by Matthews which caused her to lock the brakes and go into a skid. The Ford vehicle driven by Matthews was not equipped with an anti-lock braking system, therefore the steering ability of the vehicle would have been inhibited. Ferris was traveling at a slower speed and steered back into the southbound lane before being struck. The Matthews vehicle was traveling at a speed greater than the posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour for this particular section of roadway which was also a contributing factor to this crash.'

Sometime before he resigned, former Police Chief Tom Stufano wrote a memorandum to Mayor Hendrixson concerning the accident. In it, Stufano wrote that "The original THP investigation states that Officer Matthews was not using her siren which is mandated by law."

"In review of the preliminary information, although Officer Matthews was acting in good faith during her response, the investigation will show that she has violated both City of Smithville Police Policy and State Law due to her excessive speed and non-compliance and usage of emergency equipment while in emergency response. As a result of her actions, a resident of our city was killed."

"It is my recommendation that upon final conclusion and submittal of the Tennessee Highway Patrol Accident Report, a review board be established so that a review of the totality of the accident can be formulated, and if the findings are conclusive that Officer Matthews did violate emergency response policy, she be discharged from the City of Smithville Police Department."

A Circuit Court lawsuit was filed in June against the City of Smithville, the Police Department, and Police Officer Matthews.

Ferris' mother, Angela Ferris, is suing individually and as next of kin to her son.

Ferris basically claims that the officer was negligent in following city policies and state laws regarding public safety and that the city has failed to properly train and discipline it's officers, including Matthews.

She is seeking a judgment for compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury, as well as attorney fees.

Ms. Ferris claims that Officer Matthews failed to follow established departmental policies regarding the use and operation of that vehicle and it's safety/emergency equipment and that she was traveling at a very high rate of speed.

Four Year Old Child Seriously Injured in Dog Attack

October 7, 2007
Dwayne Page

A four year old child was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga Saturday night after being attacked by a neighbor's dog in Liberty.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says his department received a call around 6:15 p.m. that a child had been mauled by a dog, a blue heeler mix, at a residence on Greenhill Road in Liberty. The four year old boy reportedly suffered serious facial injuries, especially around his left eye.

The child, Joseph (Joey) Hall, is the son of Alan and Teresa Hall of Highway 53 near Liberty.

Mrs. Hall spoke by telephone with WJLE this morning (Sunday) from the hospital. Several stitches were required due to head and facial lacerations but Mrs. Hall says Joey's eye is going to be okay and he is expected to be released from the hospital today (Sunday).

According to Mrs. Hall, her children were with the kids at the next door neighbor's home of Tony and Carol Stevens, when the incident occurred. She says the other children went inside the house to do something, and asked Joey to stay outside for a minute, and when the children came back out moments later, they found him injured and bleeding.

Mrs Hall says according to Joey, as he was waiting for the other children to come back outside, he gave the dog a loving stare, when the animal attacked him. No one else was injured.

She says the dog is a stray animal that the neighbors have kept for about eight months, and Joey had been around him before.

Local authorities and EMS were notified and arrived on the scene. The child was later airlifted on site to Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga.

The dog is now in the custody of the Sheriff's Department, being kept at the local dog pound.

Sheriff Ray says the investigation continues.

Richard Jennings Named Smithville Chief of Police

October 5, 2007
Dwayne Page

Almost four years after a previous city council demoted him from Chief to Lieutenant for the "betterment of the department", Richard Jennings has been returned to the position of Police Chief, a job that six different men have held since 1994, five within the last four years.

The Smithville Board of Mayor and Aldermen met in special session Friday evening and voted to make Jennings the next Police Chief. The vote was 3 to 2.

The position has been vacant since the resignation of former Chief Thomas J. Stufano last month. Sergeant Steven Leffew has been serving as Officer in Charge of the department.

Jennings told WJLE after the meeting that he is honored to once again serve the citizens of Smithville as Police Chief. "It's a humbling experience to be given this opportunity again to serve my community. I want to thank everybody who supported me. I want to thank the people who came to the meetings to support me, who talked to me on the street and supported me, and to those who called me at home, and I had some who wrote me letters. I really appreciate that and I certainly will try to do the best job that I possibly can for this community. I will work closely with the board of mayor and aldermen and together I think we can bring this department up to the level that the citizens deserve and expect."

Jennings took over from Tom Hopkins as Chief in 1994, after Hopkins resigned. Jennings served until November, 2003 when the city council demoted him to the rank of Lieutenant. Jennings was succeeded by Jim Baker as Chief, but Baker was demoted back to the rank of patrolman in July 2004. Sergeant Sam Dunbar followed Baker as Chief, but Dunbar resigned in January 2006 under a cloud of controversy after being accused of falsifying documents. Augustine (Gus) Clemente was hired to replace Dunbar in March, 2006 but he resigned five months later, accusing city officials of interferring in police operations and making racial slurs against him. Stufano was named Chief in November, 2006 and resigned in September, 2007.

Alderman Jerry Hutchins Sr. made the motion Friday evening to hire Jennings as Chief. Alderman Willie Thomas offered the second to the motion. Alderman Tonya Sullivan joined them in voting for Jennings.

Aldermen Cecil Burger and Steve White voted against Jennings.

Burger, who is also a former Mayor, said "I'll agree that he (Richard) is certified. He's capable of doing it but he won't. If he couldn't do it before, how could he do it now? He's spent money and started programs that he never would finish. I don't think he's capable of doing it any more now than he did then. I was here when he came here and we've worked together all these years. I don't have to be told about Richard. We've never had no problems or trouble. His operation just don't fit the project."

Hutchins responded, saying "I think Richard has done a good job with the police department. He's been with them a long time."

White claims that Jennings remains under investigation based on allegations of misconduct made against him several weeks ago (concerning removal of weapons from the police department) and suggested that the case could be presented to the Grand Jury for indictment in December. (Jennings had been terminated by a three man disciplinary hearing board but he appealed the decision to the entire board of aldermen and was re-instated as Lieutenant following a hearing in August). According to White, "The investigation over when we had a hearing here awhile back is still open and on-going with Richard."

In response, Hutchins said " He has not been convicted of anything".

White answered "No, but remember what happened not long ago with another Chief (apparently referring to Tom Stufano concerning allegations made against him in a federal court lawsuit by Roy Ray over a traffic stop). The reason we're in this process to begin with is because allegations was put forth and the chief was voted out.(Stufano was placed on administrative leave with pay pending an independent investigation but he was returned to office on a mayoral veto of the council's decision) According to White, "his (Jennings') case is not over or closed. So remember that and the legality of it."

Sullivan says Jennings had the most experience of any of the applicants for the job and she has been assured by the proper authorities that Jennings will not be charged with a crime. "I made some phone calls and I took a look at his files and contacted the proper authorities to ask if there was going to be any charges against Mr. Jennings. I was told there would be no charges."

Sullivan then asked White, "Do you have different information that says that he will be charged versus the information that I have received directly?"

White replied, "I don't know where you got your information, but it's supposed to come up in December(Grand Jury), the last that I heard."

Sullivan asked, ‘What are the charges"?

White answered, "I'm not really for sure, all of it is in the D.A.'s hands but the prosecutor has not been notified that anything has changed and that he was still going to be subpoenaed to go in December"

Sullivan replied, "I was told by those authorities that there would be no charges".

Sullivan then added, "After interviewing, I didn't see anyone in the interviews that was more qualified than Mr. Jennings, or had more years of service."

Prior to the vote on Jennings, White made a motion to hire Kenneth D. Smith of Watertown as Police Chief. Smith, one of the seven applicants for police chief, is currently employed with the Mount Juliet Police Department. He worked for the Lebanon Police Department from 1986 to 2006. Burger seconded the motion, but the vote to hire Smith failed on a 3 to 2 vote. Aldermen Hutchins, Thomas, and Sullivan voted against Smith.

Jennings began his law enforcement career with the City of Smithville in 1976. He joined the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department in 1977 working for then Sheriff Dwight Mathis until he left office in 1986. Jennings rejoined the Smithville Police Department in 1986 and was appointed Police Chief in 1994, a position he held for nine years before being re-assigned by the city council in November, 2003.

Meanwhile, Hunter Hendrixson has been hired as Secretary/Treasurer and Financial Officer for the city while Kevin Robinson is the new Public Works Director. The aldermen voted unanimously, 5 to 0, to hire them.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson says Hunter Hendrixson will be paid $37,500 per year until he becomes certified as the state requires. He must complete certification in a timely manner. Once he becomes certified, Hendrixson will be paid $42,500 per year.

As Public Works Director, Kevin Robinson will be paid at $15.38 cents per hour or $32,000 per year. Mayor Hendrixson says this job will require some mandatory overtime because Robinson will be called out on holidays, weekends, and nights due to water or sewer line breaks, etc.

Hendrixson and Robinson will replace Burnace Vandergiff, who was paid $52,000 per year.

Man Threatening Officers with a Meat Cleaver Arrested for Aggravated Assault

October 3, 2007
Dwayne Page

A 37 year old man, allegedly causing a disturbance, was arrested Tuesday afternoon by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department.

Richard Scott Adams of Redman Road, Smithville is charged with three counts of aggravated assault, public intoxication, resisting arrest, and evading arrest. His bond is set at $96,000 and his court date is October 18th.

Sheriff Patrick Ray says the Sheriff's Department received a call from someone, where Adams resides, reporting that the man was creating a disturbance, tearing up things in the home, and making threats.

Upon arrival, the officers confronted the man on the front porch of the home. According to Sheriff Ray, the man was swinging a meat cleaver at the officers in a threatening manner.

After Sheriff Ray arrived on the scene, Adams surrendered the meat cleaver, but ran back inside the house when told he was under arrest. Deputies followed Adams into the house and he grabbed a gallon bottle of vodka and began swinging it in a threatening manner toward the officers.

He was eventually brought under control and placed under arrest.

Trustee Announces Changes in Property Tax Relief Program

October 3, 2007
Dwayne Page

As the tax season rolls around, DeKalb County Trustee Sean Driver reminds you of changes in the property tax relief program.

Tennessee's tax relief program is a state-funded program that provides a rebate of credit for all or a portion of the property taxes on residential property owned and occupied by low-income elderly, low-income disabled, and disabled veteran homeowners and their surviving spouses.

Eligibility requirements for Elderly Homeowners are as follows:

Must be 65 or older on or before December 31st, 2007
Must provide evidence of age (i.e. birth certificate, marriage license)
Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence
Qualified applicants will receive property tax relief on the first $25,000 of their property's market value.
According to the deed of the property, Must have records of the combined 2006 income of all owners of the property not exceeding $24,000. Income (i.e. social security, SSI pension, etc)

Eligibility requirements for Disabled Homeowners are as follows:

Must have been totally and permanently disabled as rated by the Social Security Administration or any other qualified agency on or before December 31st, 2007
Must provide evidence of age (i.e. birth certificate, marriage license)
Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence
Must have records of the combined 2006 income of all owners of the property not exceeding $24,000

Eligibility requirements for Disabled Veteran Homeowners and/or widow or widower:

Must own and use the property on which you are applying as your primary residence.
Your disability must meet one of the following categories:
A service-connected disability that resulted in (1) Paraplegia, (2) Permanent paralysis of both legs and lower part of the body resulting from traumatic injury or disease to the spinal cord or brain, (3) Loss or loss of use of, two or more limbs, and (4) Legal blindness.

A total and permanent disability rating from a service-connected disability

A 100% total and permanent disability rating from being a prisoner of war.

The Veteran's Administration Office determines eligibility from the applicant's information in the Trustee's Office forwarded to the State of Tennessee.

If you meet these requirements you may apply in the Trustee's Office as soon as you receive your property tax bill. The deadline to apply is 35 days after February 28th, 2008 or April 7th, 2008.

If you have any additional questions concerning the tax relief program, come by the Trustee's office in the courthouse or call 597-5176.

Janney Issues Statement on Disclosure of Jamboree Tax Return Record

October 3, 2007
Dwayne Page

Local C.P.A. Tom Janney has issued a statement explaining his reasons for not revealing the tax return record of the Fiddlers Jamboree Committee to a third party private citizen.

During Monday night's Smithville City Council meeting, Chris Cantrell, in response to Jamboree attorney Frank Buck's assertion that records of the Jamboree are open to the public, stated "That's bantered around a lot Frank, but you know when you call Tom (Janney) as I did today (Monday), he said, I can't give you those records, Neal (Dudney) would get mad at me."

Tuesday, Janney issued the following statement, "In regard to the recent controversy regarding the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree and Crafts Festival, Inc. I would like to note the following:

"The only reason I even acknowledged to an outside party that I prepare the organization's tax return is because as a 501(c)(3) non profit organization, the Jamboree's tax return is readily available from the IRS by filing Form 4506-A. A copy of its tax filings can be obtained within a reasonable time by any member of the general public, and I am listed as the preparer of the tax return."

"It has been stated that I have refused to release the Jamboree records due to unspoken disapproval by the coordinator, Mr. Dudney. However, my "refusal" at that time, simply reflected the plain fact that I cannot release any client's information without their permission. Imagine if your tax preparer started giving out copies of your organization's records without prior approval."

"I think the analogy would be – say for example, I did the City of Smithville's audit (which I don't) – the general public must go to the City to get copies of its records and NOT the accountant's office. I want the public to know that Mr. Dudney understands that the Jamboree Committee has a public obligation, and he takes it seriously. He has asked me to provide a copy of the return to Mr. Frank Buck, attorney, and I have done so."

"However, I would like to ask that any requests for more copies be handled through the Jamboree office in the basement of the courthouse or by calling their number 597-8500. I am not on the Jamboree Committee, and I do not keep the Jamboree's books. I simply fill out the tax return based on the information that is provided to me."

"I hope that as a community we can work together on maintaining the Jamboree's mission over the long haul, and I'll do whatever I can to help."

City Employee Applicants to be Interviewed By Mayor and Aldermen

October 2, 2007
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen will conduct interviews of applicants for the positions of Secretary/Treasurer and Chief of Police tonight (Tuesday) at 6:00 p.m. at city hall.

Applicants for Public Works Director will be interviewed Wednesday night at 6:00 p.m. at City Hall.

Meanwhile, the Mayor and Aldermen will hold a special meeting Friday night, October 5th at 6:00 p.m. to hire persons to fill those positions.

Those who have applied for Police Chief are former Chief and now Lieutenant Richard Jennings, Danny Nelson Holmes of Baxter, Mike Dennis Foster of Winchester, Kenneth D. Smith of Watertown, John C. Lowe of Apple Creek, Ohio, Phillip Bruce Robinette of Rogersville, and Tony Jones of Smithville.

Applicants for Public Works Director are as follows:

Myron Rhody, Phillip Eugene Wilkey, Bobby Wayne Pinegar, Lewis Donald Cantrell, Avent Ray (Buck) Mooneyham, Gary Wayne Prater, Albert Lourn Rice, Clarence Bradley Trapp, Jimmy Randall Taylor, Kenny Waynon Dyal, Wallace Dale Caldwell, and Kevin Erbie Robinson all of Smithville.

Applicants for Secretary/Treasurer are as follows:

William Hunter Hendrixson, Robert Dennis Schafer, and Gary Wayne Prater all of Smithville, Jennifer Michelle Hight of Alexandria, and Lisa Carole McMillin of Watertown.


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