Candidates for August School Board, City, and State Races Can Begin Picking up Qualifying Petitions Friday

January 4, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

Petitions for five school board seats and spots in all the county’s four cities will be available beginning Friday, January 5. That’s according to Dennis Stanley, DeKalb County Administrator of Elections.

“The school board and all city office holders run as non-partisan candidates so the qualifying deadline is different than the other county offices,” Stanley said. “Those candidates will not be on the ballot until August and no primary elections are held for those seats.”

Up for election will be school board seats in Districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7. Those positions are currently held by Danny Parkerson in the 1st district, Jerry Wayne Johnson in the 2nd district, Jim Beshearse in the 3rd district, Kate Miller in the 4th district, and Shaun Tubbs in the 7th district.

City seats up for grabs, pending any resignations/vacancies, are: In Smithville the Mayor and two aldermen seats currently held by Mayor Jimmy Poss and Aldermen Jason Murphy and Gayla Hendrix; in Dowelltown three aldermen seats (Brad Driver, Keith Farler, and Ron Griffith were elected to those positions in 2014); in Liberty the Mayor and five aldermen seats currently held by Mayor Dwight Mathis and Aldermen Dwayne Blair, Jason Ray, Howard Reynolds, Jr., J.D. Bratten, and Todd Dodd and in Alexandria the Mayor and three aldermen seats now held by Mayor Bennett Armstrong and Aldermen Matt Boss, Danny Parkerson, and Eddie Blair. Another alderman will be elected to fill a two year unexpired term. Mac Willoughby currently holds that position after the recent resignation of Kelly Pyburn.

Qualifying petitions for these races must be returned by Noon April 5.

In addition, candidates interested in running for the 17th Tennessee Senatorial District and State Houses 40 and 46 have the same qualifying deadline. Those positions are currently held by State Senator Mark Pody and State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver in district 40. The Wilson County Commission will convene January 10 to appoint a successor to Pody as State Representative of district 46 who will serve until the general election in November.

Following is a list of key dates related to the first two elections in 2018:
DeKalb County Democratic Primary, May 1, 2018
Petition date—Available now
Qualifying deadline—Noon February 15
Voter registration deadline—April 2
Early voting period—April 11 through April 26

County General Election, Municipal Elections, and Tennessee Primary August 2, 2018
Petition date—Available January 5
Qualifying deadline—Noon April 5
Voter registration deadline—July 3
Early voting period—July 13 through July 28

No Further Local or State Investigation Expected in Agee Death

January 4, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

Unless new evidence surfaces, apparently no further investigation will be conducted by local or state officials into the death of a woman on Center Hill Lake in July 2015.

After being asked by District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reviewed the file in the death of 21 year old Lauren Agee but has not conducted any further investigation in the case. The DeKalb County Sheriff’s department probe concluded that Agee was the victim of an accidental death.

Agee had reportedly been enjoying an outing with friends known as “Wakefest” at Pates Ford Marina in July 2015 and was camping near the edge of a steep cliff overlooking the lake prior to the tragedy. Investigators believe that Agee fell from the cliff into the water resulting in her death. Several hours later Agee’s body was found in the water by a fisherman near Still Point Boat Ramp across from Pates Ford Marina. A subsequent autopsy determined the death to be accidental.

Agee’s mother, Sherry Smith refused to accept the findings of the investigation telling a Nashville television station that she believed her daughter had been murdered.

In a prepared statement released today (Thursday), Sheriff Patrick Ray said while he favored another review of the case, his department has turned up no new evidence to support any indication of foul play in Agee’s death.

“In the last few months, District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway and I have talked about reopening the Lauren Agee case for review. Neither the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department nor the District Attorney General’s Office has obtained any factual information about the case since the case was closed as an accident”.

“I have not only agreed with reopening the case for review, I have encouraged it. My department has already, and will continue, to give any available resources that my department has to the District Attorney General’s Office, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, or any other Local, State and Federal Departments who want to look into not only this incident, but any other incident my department investigates”.

In a letter to Sheriff Ray received today (January 4), D.A. Dunaway wrote that “As you know, this office previously reviewed your department’s investigative case file regarding the death of Ms. Lauren Agee. As you are aware, I also requested the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to review your department’s file as well requesting that they advise me if they opine that any further investigative efforts would be helpful at this time. After careful consideration, I am requesting the investigation be closed”.

“There appears to be insufficient evidence to charge anyone with criminal responsibility for the death of Ms. Lauren Agee. Of course, if new evidence or information is discovered, the investigation can be reopened,” wrote D.A. Dunaway.

In a statement released in March 2017, Sheriff Ray said that through the investigation, it was found that Agee and her friends had been camping atop a narrow bluff across from Pates Ford Marina, where Lauren and another individual had tied their hammock. The body was found face-down in the water in slough behind the bluff where Agee’s hammock was found”.

“The medical examiners autopsy report concluded Agee’s death was accidental with the cause of death determined as “multiple blunt force injuries”.

The pathologist further informed the investigating detective that Agee’s injuries were consistent with a fall. The autopsy report further showed multiple injuries to the back of her head, spine, and back, and that drowning was a possible contributing factor to her death,” the statement continued.

Another review was later conducted by the family’s independent pathologist which reportedly found that Agee’s larynx was crushed. Smith told a Nashville TV station last year that she believes her daughter had been choked.

“As far as being choked, as a family member has claimed, the photographs taken during this investigation show no marks or bruising around Lauren’s neck, and the medical examiner’s report supports the detective’s findings. The medical examiner’s report stated the larynx was not crushed, but was intact,” said Sheriff Ray in his written statement last March.

Although he has no jurisdiction in DeKalb County, at least one off duty White County officer who apparently worked as private security for the marina that weekend has also questioned the results of the investigation. He raised the issue that an autopsy photo apparently showed an imprint on Agee’s midsection that could be the outline of the bow or stern of a canoe suggesting that Agee’s body may have been placed on a canoe after her death.

Sheriff Ray refuted the allegation stating that the imprint is identical to a TWRA boat storage lid where Agee’s body was placed face down during transport to the boat ramp.

“TWRA officers assisted the sheriff’s department detectives in loading the body onto a TWRA boat to transport the body back to the boat ramp. The body was placed face down on the side of one of the TWRA boats,” stated Sheriff Ray.

“There has been some question concerning a photograph taken by a DeKalb Sheriff’s Department detective, on the TWRA boat, showing a resemblance of a canoe mark on Lauren’s chest. After examining the photographs taken before transporting the body to the boat ramp, our investigation determined this mark is an identical match to the TWRA boat storage locker lid where the body was placed facedown during transport to the boat ramp,” Sheriff Ray stated.

“Lauren’s body was taken directly to the hospital in Smithville where investigators conducted further examination and made additional photographs of the body. The body was examined and photographed again. The photographs taken at the hospital did not show the storage locker lid imprint on Lauren’s chest,” Sheriff Ray continued.

“The body was then taken to Nashville to the state medical examiner’s office. Again, Lauren’s body was photographed and did not show any marks on her chest that resembled the claimed “canoe” mark,” he said.

Smith wants to know why Lauren’s friends at the campsite with her never reported her missing or contacted the family immediately after her disappearance. In 2016 she filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against them which remains pending in court.

Qualifying Deadline Six Weeks Away for Elections to County Offices

January 4, 2018
By: Dwayne Page

The qualifying deadline is six weeks away for candidates planning to run for county wide offices or positions on the county commission in 2018.

The last day candidates may qualify to run is NOON February 15, 2018. That applies to Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

DeKalb County Democrats will be nominating candidates in a primary set for May 1. Republicans will nominate candidates by caucus (date not yet announced). Nominees of both parties and any independents will run in the August General Election. Winners will take office September 1 and serve for four years.

Thursday, February 1 is the deadline for sheriff candidates to file an affidavit of qualification with the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST) and for county road superintendent candidates to file an affidavit of qualification with the Tennessee Highway Officials Certification Board.

The following county offices are up for election in 2018: Road Supervisor, County Mayor, Circuit Court Clerk, Sheriff, Register of Deeds, County Clerk, and Trustee and for the county commission in each of the seven districts (two per district for a total of 14).

Those positions are currently held by the following:
Road Supervisor: Butch Agee- Republican (not seeking re-election)

County Mayor: Tim Stribling-Democrat

Circuit Court Clerk: Katherine Pack- Democrat

Sheriff: Patrick Ray-Republican

Register of Deeds: Jeff McMillen-Democrat

County Clerk: James L. (Jimmy) Poss-Democrat

Trustee: Sean Driver-Republican

Current County Commissioners:
First District:
Mason Carter-Republican
Julie Young-Democrat

Second District:
Jimmy Midgett-Independent
Joe Johnson-Democrat

Third District:
Jack Barton-Democrat
Bradley Hendrix-Democrat

Fourth District:
Wayne Cantrell-Democrat
Jonathan Norris-Democrat

Fifth District:
Anita Puckett-Democrat
Jerry Adcock-Republican

Sixth District:
Jeff Barnes-Democrat
Betty Atnip—Democrat

Seventh District:
Kevin Robinson-Democrat
Larry Summers-Democrat

Those who have obtained petitions to date are as follows:

  • Bobby Johnson-County Commissioner, 3rd District (petition returned and verified)
  • Beth Pafford-County Commissioner, 7th District
  • Wayne Cantrell-County Commissioner, 4th District, Incumbent
  • Joe Johnson-County Commissioner, 2nd District, Incumbent
  • Larry Summers-County Commissioner, 7th District, Incumbent
  • Mike Foster-County Mayor
  • Tim Stribling-County Mayor, Incumbent
  • Bradley Hendrix-County Mayor
  • Kevin Robinson-County Commissioner 7th District, Incumbent
  • Nora Harvey-County Commissioner 2nd District
  • Jack Barton-County Commissioner 3rd District, Incumbent
  • Scott Little-County Commissioner 4th District
  • Jeff Barnes-County Commissioner 6th District, Incumbent
  • Betty Atnip-County Commissioner 6th District, Incumbent (petition returned and verified)
  • James L. (Jimmy) Poss-County Clerk, Incumbent (petition returned and verified)
  • Jimmy Sprague-Road Supervisor (petition returned and verified)
  • Jeff McMillen-Register of Deeds, Incumbent
  • Nicole Wright-Circuit Court Clerk
  • Mark Milam-Circuit Court Clerk (petition returned and verified)
  • Julie Young-County Commissioner 1st District, Incumbent
  • Bobby R. Taylor-County Commissioner 4th District

Republicans who plan to seek their party’s nomination include:

  • Trustee Sean Driver, Incumbent
  • Sheriff Patrick Ray, Incumbent
  • Danny Hale for Road Supervisor
  • Reed Edge for Road Supervisor
  • Susan Martin for Circuit Court Clerk

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