COVID-19 Top News Story of 2020 in DeKalb County

December 28, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

A year ago the pandemic we now know as the coronavirus or COVID-19 was foreign to us but today terms like “social distancing” have become part of our vocabulary because of it. When the virus began sweeping the nation manifesting itself in every state, county, and city, it became THE story of the year in the United States and here in DeKalb County. Since March COVID-19 has brought sickness and death to many and forced communities to change the way they live, work, play, learn, and worship.

*COVID-19 Top Story of 2020 in DeKalb County. DeKalb County had its first confirmed case of the coronavirus on Monday, March 23 and its first confirmed COVID related death on July 20. As of Sunday, December 27, DeKalb County has had 30 deaths since March attributed to COVID-19 and 36 hospitalizations. The total number of COVID cases comes to 2,014 for the year and 1,693 have recovered. There are 291 active cases as of Sunday, December 27 including 5 new cases. At one time in December DeKalb County had the #1 COVID-19 infection rate among Tennessee counties per capita and ranked high among counties across the nation.

As the pandemic spread, hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers including nursing homes and assisted living centers made sure they were prepared for the surge and established protocols to protect others including limiting or prohibiting public visits.

DeKalb County schools stopped on campus learning  in March and finished the year giving instruction to students remotely. DTC Communications provided drive up WI-FI Hot spots for use at DeKalb County Schools and later at other community locations to aid in the students’ virtual learning. All spring time school related sports and extracurricular activities were cancelled. High school graduation, always in May, was postponed until June. Schools returned to in-person learning in the fall but were later forced back to the virtual method. School athletics resumed in the fall but attendance was limited due to school and TSSAA protocols. In-person court sessions have been suspended at various times during the year.. County officials often limited in-person visits to their offices for business transactions. Many churches stopped in-person worship services while some used social media, parking lot services, or other means to reach their congregations. The DeKalb County unemployment rate reached 22.4% in April, 8th highest in the state as many factories and industries were forced to shut down or curtail operations to slow the spread of the virus. Many traditional social events were cancelled including Relay for Life, the DeKalb County Fair and the Fiddlers Jamboree and Crafts Festival, although a virtual Jamboree was held for the first time in its place. The DeKalb County Health Department received its first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine this month and began administering it to local first responders and health care providers under the Tennessee Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. Local physicians received their first dose of the vaccine at Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford. When will the crisis subside? No one yet knows. Residents are still implored to social distance, wear face masks, and limit attendance at family and public events to slow the spread.

*McMinnville man shot and killed during armed standoff with law enforcement officers. A McMinnville man, 28 year old Gregorio Cruz Vanloo, lost his life after being shot during an armed standoff with officers of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s and Smithville Police Departments Thursday night, June 11 at a residence on Toad Road. County and city authorities spent the day searching for Vanloo, who was a suspect in a “shots fired” incident at the parking lot of Los Lobos Mexican Restaurant that morning. “After we got a tip that he was at this residence on Toad Road, officers of the Sheriff’s Department and Smithville Police Department got together and went to this home trying to apprehend Vanloo. When we arrived on the scene, Vanloo was on the front porch threatening the officers and then he drew down on them with a handgun. After an exchange of gunfire with officers Vanloo was wounded. He was taken by DeKalb EMS to Ascension Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital where he was pronounced dead,” said Sheriff Patrick Ray. No one else was injured.

*Six people lost their lives in fatal traffic accidents in 2020. On Saturday night February 1 a two vehicle crash on Cookeville Highway near the DeKalb/Putnam County line claimed the life of 20 year old Samuel Dewayne Wright. 32 year old Brandon Hutchings died in a two auto accident Tuesday, July 21 on Highway 70 east. 22 year old Keley Roller of McMinnville passed away in a three vehicle crash Friday afternoon, July 31 on Highway 70 at Liberty. 50 year old Mark Anthony Graham lost his life in a motorcycle accident Monday night , September 7 on Jefferson Road. 53 year old Mickey James of Baxter died in a two vehicle crash Monday afternoon, September 28 on Highway 56 (Cookeville Highway) north of Hurricane Bridge near the scenic overlook. 41 year old Bryan E. Clark passed away in a two car wreck Thursday morning, October 29 on Dale Ridge Road (Highway 96). Meanwhile 42 year old Tori Ann Haywood, 42 of Smithville was one of two people killed in a multi-vehicle accident that left five others injured including four of Haywood’s children on Thursday evening, July 2 at Palmdale, California.

*One drowning on Center Hill Lake in 2020. The body of 36 year old Quinn Hogan of Putnam County was recovered from Center Hill Lake Wednesday afternoon, April 29. The search for Hogan began after TWRA officers responded to a call of a missing angler on Center Hill Lake, just after 11 a.m. that day. Hogan was reported missing by a friend. He had reportedly gone fishing on the lake the previous afternoon (Tuesday) and friends looking for Hogan, found his truck at Cookeville boat dock Wednesday. Three TWRA and two Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad boats searched and found Hogan’s bass fishing boat around 12:30 p.m. The boat was adrift in a cove near Cookeville Boat Dock. TWRA officers used GPS forensic tracking to determine the area where the boat went adrift. The TWRA Remote Operated Vehicle was deployed and quickly located Hogan’s body at 4:30 p.m. in eight feet of water, despite heavy rains in the area. Hogan’s body was recovered near the area the boat was found. Hogan was wearing a self-inflating personal floatation device. The device was not inflated. The body was recovered and taken to the Davidson County Medical Examiner’s office.

*Shelbyville man electrocuted. A 55 year old Shelbyville man working in a bucket truck died Monday afternoon, August 24 in Smithville when a conductive rope he was using touched a hot electric line and electrocuted him. Joseph Charles McAdams died at the scene. McAdams was among three linemen reportedly working for a company contracted by Comcast when the incident occurred at a job site at 750 South Congress Boulevard. Smithville Police were summoned to the scene after being notified of an unresponsive man slumped over in a bucket truck. Upon arrival officers were informed by EMS paramedics already on the scene that the man was deceased. The two men who had been working with McAdams told police that they were pulling fiber when McAdams tried to toss them a rope from his bucket truck to their truck. But instead of grabbing a nylon rope normally used by the linemen, McAdams threw over a conductive rope containing copper wire which crossed over and touched a hot wire. The co-workers said McAdams collapsed in the bucket of the truck. EMS was then contacted. Smithville Electric System was also summoned to turn off the power and to remove the rope from the electric wires. After the Medical Examiner was called McAdams’ body was taken to the hospital and his family was notified.

*Site chosen for construction of new Pre-K to 2nd grade school. The Board of Education in May settled on a site for construction of a new Pre-K to 2nd grade elementary school to replace Smithville Elementary. During its regular monthly meeting Thursday night, May 7 by video conference, the board voted to purchase 24.6 acres of property belonging to the owners of the Family Medical Center on North Congress Boulevard (Highway 56) in Smithville. The purchase price is $18,000 per acre for a total cost of about $441,000. The purchase is subject to Tennessee Department of Transportation approval of a traffic study. T-Square Engineering of Franklin has conducted such a study on how best to get traffic entering the schools off of Highway 56 to reduce congestion. At last report the plan was still under review by TDOT. Core drilling results revealed that the site is suitable for a school. The property, adjacent to the Northside Elementary School campus, is owned by Dr’s Cripps, Rhody & Hooper, General Partnership. It was one of two sites considered by the board. In June members of the school board got their first look at a preliminary schematic site plan for the proposed new school. Brian Templeton of Upland Design Group, the Board’s architect, gave a general overview of the project and the issues that must be addressed going forward. In an effort to save money, Templeton said the proposed size of the building has been reduced from an earlier plan but the layout would be similar. “We looked at a quick re-modification of the floor plan that we generated initially. Originally we were looking at a 900 pupil school and the square footage that was around 128,000. For this plan we have reduced the classroom count and brought the square footage down to 118,524. That is classroom space for 800 students,” said Templeton. Funding for construction of a new school will have to be authorized by the county commission.

*Construction begins on new Smithville Police Department building. Groundbreaking was held Friday afternoon, September 4 for a new police department building located on Don Cantrell Street across from city hall but construction ground to a halt only weeks afterwards when areas of unsuitable soils were discovered on the site. In some places, the ground was too soft to proceed. The question was who should address the soil problem, the city or the contractor? Each side had said it was the other’s responsibility but they kept the lines of communication open hoping to reach an agreement. In November, the contractor Mike Ballard, offered to split the cost with the city. The aldermen voted to accept Ballard’s offer in writing to split the cost up to $50,000 for the city’s part. The actual bid from Boyce Ballard Construction of Murfreesboro to build the police department was $2,395,000 but the city issued up to $2.5 million in bonds which will cover the extra $50,000 costs to the city to fix the soil problem. The new police department will have a total roofed area of 12,800 square feet which includes a 1,400 square foot sally port. It is to encompass a front lobby, records clerk office, hallways, three holding cells, armory, conference and training rooms, offices for the chief, captain, detectives, and other officers, rooms for records, evidence, investigations, filing reports, locker room, electrical room, closets, restrooms, and break room. Construction is projected to be completed by July 2021.

*DCHS Tiger Football Team makes another State Play-Off run. Although it was a much closer game than in 2019, the Nolensville Knights again denied the DeKalb County Tigers from advancing in the TSSAA Class 4A Football Playoffs. The Knights won the second round playoff game on Friday November 13 over the Tigers 24-17 in Smithville. A year ago the Knights beat the Tigers 42-6 in the quarterfinals of the playoffs at Nolensville. The season ended for the Tigers at 7-5 although one of the losses was not on the field but a COVID-19 forfeit to Cumberland County. The 2020 Tigers made history by being the first DCHS football team to win a regular season region championship and the first to host back to back state playoff football games in Smithville. Seventeen DCHS Football players earned 2020 All-Region honors including Tiger Quarterback Axel Aldino who was named Most Valuable Player in Region 3, Class 4A. Aldino was joined by Tiger Wide Receiver Desmond Nokes, the region’s Co-Offensive MVP with Macon County’s Running Back Ethan Jenkins, and Tiger Linebacker Isaiah Harrington, the Defensive MVP. Tiger Coach Steve Trapp was the Region’s Coach of the Year while members of his staff earned the following region honors: Offensive Assistant Coach Michael Shaw, Defensive Assistant Coach Thomas Cagle, and Special Teams Coach Corey Rathbone. Other Tiger players with Region honors are as follows: Most Outstanding Defensive Back: Isaac Knowles; Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Caven Ponder; Most Outstanding Wide Receiver: TJ Alexander; Most Outstanding Kicker: Jasper Kleparek. All Region 1st Team: Evan Jones, Peyton Leaf, Diego Coronado, Bryan Portillo, Ean Jones, and Aiden Curtis. All Region 2nd Team: Colby Barnes, Josh May, Antwon McCoy, and Wil Ferris. Aldino was also a semi-finalist for the 2020 TSSAA Class 4A Tennessee Titans Mr. Football honor.

* Smithville gets first ever electric vehicle charging station. Imagine owning an automobile that you don’t fill up, but charge up. Smithville’s first ever electric vehicle charging station was installed Monday, November 2 located at the city parking lot across from Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Lead project infrastructure partner Seven States Power Corporation managed the installation in cooperation with Smithville Electric System and Tennessee Tech University. Plans are to install a total of nine such electric car stations throughout the Upper Cumberland Region. TTU Mechanical Engineer Assistant Professor Pingen Chen said the project is part of a three-year Tennessee Tech study to research how electric vehicles could be the new future of transportation in rural communities. Brad Rains, Director of DER Deployments with the Chattanooga based Seven States Power Corporation, expects EV drivers to embrace the charging station’s convenience. “Most EV drivers will charge the battery overnight at home,” said Rains. “This station is used for getting a little bit of power over a shorter period. Every hour you charge at the Chargepoint, you’ll add 25 to 30 miles of range to your car. It’s like topping off your tank.” Eight of the charging stations in the Upper Cumberland Region, including the one in Smithville, are Level 2. “This particular charger is a 7 kilowatt charger so that means you get 7 kilowatt hours each hour you use it and how long it takes to recharge depends on the size of the battery in your car and how empty or full that battery is. For example, if you have a 60 kilowatt hour battery and you are half way depleted that means you need 30 kilowatt hours so it will take you a little over 4 hours to put 30 kilowatt hours back into the vehicle,” Rains said. To activate the charge station, Rains said EV owners download the Chargepoint app and set up an account with their credit card on a mobile phone or computer. They scan the app at the station, and once the car is plugged into the machine, the cost is one dollar per hour and that money locally flows back to Smithville Electric System for those charges and revenues. While the vehicle is charging, EV drivers have time to spend downtown shopping or enjoying a meal at a restaurant. Chen said after all stations are installed, three electric vehicles will be given to UCHRA to test transportation practicality: a Nissan Leaf, an EV pickup truck, and a EV shuttle bus.

*Gayla Hendrix appointed Smithville Municipal Judge. Gayla Hendrix was appointed by the Smithville Aldermen in September to succeed the retiring 29 year veteran Hilton Conger as Municipal Judge. Hendrix is the first woman to hold that position. The term is for two years. Hendrix, a sitting alderman at the time, resigned that position upon being appointed judge. She abstained from voting on her own appointment. The only other candidate for the city judge position was local attorney Mingy Bryant-Ball. Both Hendrix and Ball had submitted resumes expressing an interest in the judgeship. Beth Chandler was later appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the aldermen to finish out Hendrix’ unexpired term which ends in August 2022.

*THP Lieutenant Charlie Caplinger Honored with First Responder Recognition Award. For his heroic efforts in rescuing a drowning boater on Center Hill Lake earlier this year, Lieutenant Charlie Caplinger of the Tennessee Highway Patrol was honored in September by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. The Three Stars of Tennessee and First Responder Recognition Awards ceremony was held to pay tribute to public servants who have either risked or sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. Lieutenant Caplinger was among 16 recognized with First Responder awards for their heroic actions. Greg Mays, Director of the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security, made the presentation. “Lieutenant Caplinger is being honored for his actions while off duty in a fishing tournament on Center Hill Lake. While fishing he heard another man yelling from a distant boat whose partner had fallen into the lake and could not get back in the boat. Lt Caplinger and a friend immediately responded and due to their efforts they were able to get the victim who was becoming hypothermic out of the water and safely to shore,” said Mays.

*Grand Opening Held for Smithville’s New Dog Park. Pet owners now have a place for their dogs, large and small, to run and play.  Smithville’s first-ever dog park is now open! A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for the Central Bark Dog Park was observed in November. The new dog park, located on Transfer Station Road to the rear of the DeKalb Animal Shelter was made possible through a $25,000 Dog Park Dash Grant awarded to the City of Smithville last year by the Boyd Foundation. Randy Boyd of the Foundation, along with city and community leaders participated in cutting the ribbon for the grand opening. Several dogs and dog owners were also on hand to get the first use of the park which is enclosed by a chain link fence with lots of room for dogs to roam. There are two sections, one for smaller dogs and the other for larger canines, and each has water stations, agility equipment for the animals and park benches for pet owners.

*2020 Elections: Assessor of Property Shannon Cantrell was re-elected in the August DeKalb County General Election. Cantrell, a Republican, defeated Democratic challenger Tom Duggin for a second term. Seven constables and two school board members were also elected. The constables are 1st District: Waylon Kyle ,2nd District: Darrell Johnson, 3rd District: Travis Bryant, 4th District: Paul Cantrell, 5th District: Mark Milam, 6th District: Jason Brown, and 7th District: Johnny King. New School board members Jamie Cripps in the 5th district and Jason Miller in the 6th district. Term for each office is four years. Cripps succeeded W.J. (Dub) Evins, III on the Board of Education. Evins had served for a combined 34 years. Miller took the seat held for 8 years by Doug Stephens. Both Evins and Stephens did not seek re-election to the school board in 2020. In the Smithville Municipal Election, Aldermen Shawn Jacobs and Danny Washer were re-elected and newcomer Jessica Higgins defeated Incumbent Alderman Donnie Crook. Mr. Crook, who had been serving as an appointee filling a vacancy, was seeking his first elected term. In the Dowelltown city election Mayor Pamela Redmon and Aldermen Phillip D. Byford and Chris Walker were elected without opposition and in the Alexandria city election Lynne K. Dickerson ran unopposed for Alderman. Republicans up and down the ballot carried DeKalb County in the November Tennessee and Presidential election. A record number of voters turned out locally totaling 8,542 including 4,606 early voters , 511 absentees and 3,425 on election day. DeKalb County has 12,509 registered voters. In the Presidential race, Donald Trump won all 15 precincts and had a majority of the early votes and absentees to defeat Joe Biden in DeKalb For the United States Senate, Bill Haggerty also carried all 15 precincts and had a majority of the early votes and absentees enroute to a big win over Marquita Bradshaw. 6th District Congressman John Rose carried all 15 precincts and had a majority of the early votes and absentees to defeat Christopher Martin Finley and Christopher B. Monday. 40th District State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver won her race in DeKalb County and district-wide defeating Paddy Sizemore . 46th District State Representative Clark Boyd, who was unopposed.

*Liberty Mayor Dwight Mathis Resigns. Citing personal reasons including health issues, Liberty Mayor Dwight Mathis tendered his resignation effective immediately in a letter to the Board of Aldermen during their regular meeting in August. Incumbent Liberty Alderman and Vice Mayor Dwayne Blair succeeded Mathis as Mayor and will serve in that role until the next election in August 2022.

*Fatal Shootings. 24 year old Jeffery William Rigsby died in a shooting Thursday afternoon, June 25 at a residence on Carter Drive. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that at 12:28 p.m. Central Dispatch received a call of a shooting on Carter Drive . The caller stated someone had been shot. When units from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and the Smithville Police Department arrived on the scene, they found one man lying on the front porch of a residence that had gunshot wounds. The man was pronounced dead at the scene. The District Attorney’s Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation were notified and arrived on the scene a short time later. Through the investigation, it appeared that during an exchange of gunfire, the homeowner, 34 year old Ronald Joshua Carter shot Rigsby. No arrests were made. Meanwhile in a separate case, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department investigated a fatal shooting early Sunday morning, November 15 at a residence on Lee Braswell Road. Sheriff Ray said that a woman called Central Dispatch at 12:42 a.m. Sunday to report that she had shot her husband. The man was taken by DeKalb EMS to Ascension Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital where he later died. Names of the man and woman were not released.

*Teens in TBI Endangered Child Alert Found in DeKalb County: A Spring Hill teenager, the focus of a TBI Endangered Child Alert, and a 16-year-old Indiana boy were found late Saturday night, June 27 in DeKalb County. The teens, 17 year old Brooke Tabitha Ciolkosz of Spring Hill and 16 year old Dawson Brink of Indiana were taken into custody after authorities tracked them from a cell phone ping. They were asleep in a tent near their white pickup truck which was stuck on an old logging trail off Parsley Road near Center Hill Lake. An AR-15 rifle, fully loaded 30 caliber pistol, and a large amount of ammunition were also found there. When she went missing Saturday morning, Spring Hill police said Ciolkosz was believed to have left with Brink in a white 1996 Dodge Dakota with a possible Indiana license plate. The TBI said Brink took the truck from his home without permission and also left with an AR-15, a handgun, and a large amount of ammunition. Both teens were considered endangered. Prior to their arrests, police said the last known possible location of the two was on Interstate 40 at 9 a.m. Saturday headed east bound approximately 30 miles west of Cookeville.

*Fiddlers Jamboree went Virtual in 2020. The Grand Champion Fiddler of the 2020 Virtual Jamboree was Justin Branum of Murfreesboro. For his performance via social media, Branum won the Berry C. Williams Memorial Grand Champion Fiddler Award, the top prize given each year by the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree & Crafts Festival. Branum was also the Junior Fiddling Champion. Meanwhile a Kentucky boy won the 2020 Virtual Jamboree’s Beginner Fiddling Title. For the honor, Noah Goebel received the James G. “Bobo” Driver National Award for Country Musician Beginners. The traditional LIVE Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival downtown Smithville was canceled this year due to COVID-19.

*DeKalb Tiger 10U Win Championship. The DeKalb Youth Baseball League 10U team won the Tennessee Youth Baseball Association (TYBA) Open championship in July at Barfield Park in Murfreesboro. The Tigers lost to MTA of Murfreesboro 9 to 8 on Friday, July 17 but on Saturday defeated the Bedford County Wolfpack 11 to 1 and the Smyrna Outlaws 13 to 1 to secure the #1 seed in the tournament on Sunday. After beating the Outlaws 12-4 in a rematch Sunday, July 19, the Tigers faced MTA again in the semi-finals and won 14-5 before knocking off the Nashville Storm Chasers 8 to 1 in the Championship game. The DeKalb County 15 year old and younger Tiger team also competed in their division of the tournament. Meanwhile the DTC Blaze completed an undefeated season in the DeKalb County Youth Baseball League with a record of 13-0.

*DCHS Class of 2020 Graduated in June. After more than three months since they were in school together, members of the Class of 2020 returned to DeKalb County High School Friday night, June 19 for graduation to celebrate their accomplishments and to begin a new journey in life. Although schools were closed after March 16 due to COVID-19, a plan was put in place for students to complete their academic work remotely. This year’s White Rose Awards went to Isaac Cross and Holly Evans and the Citizenship Award was presented to Raiden Martin. A total of 166 graduates walked the line to receive their diplomas during the commencement, each one shaking hands and posing for pictures with Principal Jennings as their names were called. In her remarks, Valedictorian Anna Chew challenged her classmates to “cherish every moment”.

*WJLE hosts record breaking radiothon for DCHS Project Graduation. Students in the DCHS Class of 2020 had reason to celebrate Friday, June 5. During a three hour WJLE radiothon which was also LIVE streamed on the DCHS Tigers facebook page, the community rallied in support of the class with pledges and donations totaling a record breaking $11, 609 for the 2020 Project Graduation event. The support was overwhelming, not only exceeding the $10,000 goal but easily surpassing last year’s radiothon fundraiser of $8,100, which had also set a new record up until that time.

*Courthouse Arsonist Sentenced: More than three years after the offense was committed and over eight months since his trial and conviction, 57 year old Gary Wayne Ponder was sentenced for setting fire in a courthouse vestibule recycling bin causing more than $100,000 in damage to the building. Following a hearing Wednesday, March 3 in DeKalb County Criminal Court, Judge Gary McKenzie sentenced Ponder to serve 23 years in the Tennessee Department of Correction for the crime of aggravated arson. The range of punishment for this Class-A felony offense is from 15-25 years. Although Ponder is to serve 100% of the sentence, he could qualify for a 15% reduction with good time credits over the course of the term.

*Judge reprimanded. Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Young of Putnam County, a Republican who serves DeKalb and six other counties in the 13th Judicial District received a public reprimand from the State Board of Judicial Conduct in October for inappropriate messages he sent to women on various social media platforms from 2015 to 2020. Recipients of the messages included, among other persons, a legal professional employed by a law firm that conducts business in Judge Young’s court and a litigant who formerly had a child custody matter before him. The messages included content ranging from flirtatious to overtly sexual. Most of these communications depicted Young in his judicial robe.

*Jones named Teacher of the Year. The 2020 DeKalb County Teacher of the Year is Teresa Jones, a 7th grade math and science teacher at DeKalb Middle School. Jones received the “John Isabell Memorial Award” Thursday night, March 5 during the 13th Annual Teacher of the Year banquet at the Smithville First Baptist Church Life Enrichment Center. Jones, in her 18th year as a teacher at the time, was among five local educators who were recognized during the banquet for being chosen by peers as “Teacher of the Year” at their schools. The others were second grade teacher Tiffany Cowart at Smithville Elementary School; fourth grade teacher Debra Poteete at Northside Elementary School; Tonya Ellis, a kindergarten teacher at DeKalb West School; and Rebecca Miller, a Family and Consumer Science teacher at DeKalb County High School.

*Parole granted in 2002 DeKalb murder case. 47 year old Christopher Nicholas Orlando received good news from members of the Tennessee Board of Parole in March. Orlando, serving a 35 year prison sentence for facilitation of first degree murder in the death of 20 year old Joshua Murphy in 2002, was granted parole. At the time of the board’s decision, Orlando had served almost 18 years for the crime. Murphy was shot and killed in a secluded area in the Laurel Hill Community at the end of Old Eagle Creek Road on Sunday, September 15, 2002. His body was discovered three days later. Officials said Orlando and a co-defendant, 48 year old Melvin Turnbill suspected Murphy of stealing methamphetamine. Orlando was tried and convicted of the crime by a DeKalb County Criminal Court Jury in April, 2004. Turnbill entered a guilty plea to facilitation to first-degree murder in September, 2003 and was given a 25-year sentence. Turnbill was granted parole in March 2015 after serving more than twelve years but he ran afoul of the law again in Putnam County and was sent back to prison in 2016. Turnbill was again granted parole after a hearing in 2018.

*Billings sentenced for knife attack on wife. A man convicted of attempted first degree murder in a 2017 knife attack on his wife was sent to prison. During a hearing Monday, March 30 in DeKalb County Criminal Court, 32 year old Andrew Billings received an 18 year sentence for the attempted murder offense plus a 12 year term after entering a plea to initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine in a separate case. The two sentences are to run consecutively for a total of 30 years. Billings must serve at least 30% of the term before he is eligible for parole and he was given credit for time already served. Billings is also to pay a fine of $52,000 including $50,000 for the attempted first degree murder and $2,000 for the meth offense. Billings stood trial on the attempted first degree murder charge and was found guilty by a jury panel of 7 men and 5 women on August 14, 2019. Along with the guilty verdict, the jury assessed a $50,000 fine.

*Dowelltown Man Arrested in Bedford County Murder Case. 25 year old Colby Ray Watford of Dowelltown was Thursday night, May 28 and charged with first degree murder in the beating death of 33 year-old Artenchis Wainwright of Chestnut Drive, Shelbyville. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that detectives from the Shelbyville Police Department contacted DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department detectives about assisting in the arrest of Watford at his home at 136 South Mill Street in Dowelltown. Later in the evening, detectives with the Shelbyville Police Department along with detectives and patrol deputies from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff Ray went to the residence and took Watford into custody without incident. The crime took place March 18, 2020 at the victim’s home in Shelbyville. Wainwright, died at the scene, according to Shelbyville Police. He had been severely beaten by a masked man at his Chestnut Drive home. Arriving officers found Wainwright bleeding profusely from a head wound.

*Two men wounded in shooting and stabbing: Two men were wounded in an April shooting and stabbing. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray the men, 23 year old Braxton Bennett and 20 year old Christian Owen were airlifted by helicopter ambulance to an undisclosed hospital but later recovered. The shooting and stabbing occurred during an altercation which began at a residence on Adcock Cemetery Road. Bennett suffered stab wounds and Owen was the gunshot victim. “Central dispatch received a call from an individual who said he was taking (driving) a 20 year old man with gunshot wounds to the emergency room of the hospital and that they were being chased by the shooter,” according to a statement released by Sheriff Ray. Upon arrival at the emergency room, city (Smithville Police) and county (DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department) officers learned that the person in the vehicle following the gunshot victim was not the shooter. “More officers went to the address on Adcock Cemetery Road and during an investigation at the scene received information of a possible suspect and the vehicle he was driving. With that information, a “BE ON THE LOOKOUT” (BOLO) was issued to surrounding counties. Officers later spotted and stopped the vehicle on Prater Road in the Four Seasons area. Three persons were in the car but neither of them was the suspected shooter. The vehicle was impounded and towed to the jail for evidence processing. More than two hours after the initial call to central dispatch, the suspected shooter showed up at the hospital.

*March Storm Damage. Many homes were without electricity for several days after a powerful thunderstorm blew across DeKalb County early Sunday morning, March 29 downing trees and utility lines and causing some structure damage. No injuries were reported. Most of the damage occurred over the southern and eastern portions of the county but the City of Smithville was also affected. “We had what appeared to be some strong straight line winds that affected several parts of the county from the Short Mountain Highway area to the Four Seasons community and beyond over to Sligo. There was a lot of trees down across roads and even on at least a couple of houses and an outbuilding. It took a section of the metal roof off of Mystick Market on the McMinnville Highway in the Shiney Rock community and blew it across the road up against a home. In Smithville we had some damage. Trees were down on Town Hill and Smith Road and other places but the city did not have near what occurred in the county,” said Charlie Parker, DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator. Hours before daybreak members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, Sheriff’s Department, Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad, DeKalb County Highway Department, Smithville Public Works Department, Emergency Management, and other volunteers sprung into action, many of them using chainsaws and other cutting tools and equipment to remove the debris blocking county and city roads and state highways. Crews from utilities including Caney Fork Electric Cooperative, Smithville Electric System and DTC Communications worked to restore service.

*DeKalb and Smithville Firefighter Awards. The 2019 Ascension Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital Volunteer Firefighter of the Year was Steve Repasy, Station Commander of the Midway Station. Repasy, who also claimed the honor in 2018, received the award in January during the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department’s Annual Awards Banquet held at the DeKalb County Complex. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Dusty Johnson repeated as Liberty State Bank Officer of the Year and Bill Brown of the Liberty Station was selected to receive the Allen’s Allstars “Git R Done” Award. The DeKalb Telephone Cooperative (DTC) Rookie of the Year Award went to Tony Moore of the Cookeville Highway Station. The new Four Seasons Fire Station received the department’s first ever First Bank Station of the Year award. Meanwhile Smithville Volunteer Firefighter and Deputy Chief Hoyte Hale received the “Robert Eller Highest Attendance Award” in January during an appreciation dinner for city firefighters at the New Life Connection Center. The award was presented to Hale by Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker. This was the sixth straight year Hale had earned this award named in honor of the late Robert Eller, who served the Smithville Fire Department as a member and assistant chief for 64 years until his death in 2009.

Sports Notes: Isaac Cross, a senior offensive lineman, team captain, and Tennessee Tech signee, was named Most Valuable Player of the 2019 DCHS Tiger Football Team during the annual Awards Banquet held in January at the Smithville First Baptist Church Life Enrichment Center building. Meanwhile Katherine Malone, a senior and cheer captain, received the Most Valuable Football Cheerleader Award. On a separate occasion, Mya Ruch received the Allen D. Hooper Most Valuable Lady Tiger Basketball Player Award presented by Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. She also earned team awards for Best Passer, Best Defender, and Best Ball Handler. Ruch helped lead the Lady Tigers to an 18-15 record and a semi-finals finish in the Region Tournament. Kadee Ferrell earned All-Region 4 AA Basketball Honors in 2020. The outstanding sophomore averaged 16 points and 8 boards per game in the region. Ferrell was also named to the All District 8AA Tournament as well as 1st Team All-District during the regular season. DCHS Lady Tiger basketball player Emme Colwell joined the 1,000 point club in January.  Roy Nelson Pugh of Liberty State Bank presented a plaque to Colwell for having scored over 1,000 points in her high school basketball career. Colwell actually reached the 1,000 point milestone during the Daytona Beach Shootout against Dutchtown High School. The Lady Tigers went on to win the championship of the shootout, also known as the Sunshine Classic in Florida over the holidays last year. The Tigers weren’t left out of basketball season honors as Dallas Cook made the all-defensive team for the district while he joined Dakota White on the boys’ all-district honorable mention team. Elishah Ramos was named freshman of the year for the district. In January, DCHS Tigerette Kenzie France signed with Cumberland to play softball. DCHS soccer player Bill Miller signed with Milligan College in March and in December Tiger football’s Evan Jones signed to play for Tennessee Tech next year. Meanwhile DeKalb Middle School Lady Saints Basketball Coach Josh Agee reached a milestone in November notching his 250th career coaching victory as his team defeated Cannon County in Smithville. Coach Agee, who is in his 18th year as coach, has spent his entire head coaching basketball career as head of the Lady Saints program.

* Lisa Cripps Receives Volunteer Stars Award. Lisa Cripps of DeKalb County was honored in February month during the 12th Annual Governor’s Volunteer Stars Awards ceremony at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs in Franklin. The awards celebrated the efforts of 115 volunteers statewide who have strived to improve their communities through service. Miss Tennessee Volunteer 2019, Kerri Arnold, presented the awards, and NewsChannel5 weekend anchor, Jennifer Kraus, served as emcee for the event. Cripps was awarded for her active role in improving her community and helping others primarily as the coordinator of the DeKalb Prevention Coalition.

Notable deaths in 2020: Former Smithville Mayor Edward Frazier and his brother Edsel, former DeKalb County Clerk John Henry Thweatt, former DCHS basketball star, coach, and educator Helen Lee, former Smithville Alderman Aaron Meeks, former Board of Education member Mike Johnson, Richard Hearon Puckett, former Center Hill Lake Resource Manager, Roy Nelson Pugh, longtime banker and President of the DTC Communication Board of Directors, Pastors Amos Jarman, Cleo Sanders, former long time business owners Billie Robinson, Ronnie Mack Davis, Imogean Cantrell, among many others.