2017 was a year of triumph in DeKalb County.
Two former DeKalb County High School baseball standouts were drafted and signed by major league baseball teams. The DeKalb Utility District launched its new water treatment plant while commemorating its 50th anniversary. Smithville Electric System opened the new John Robert Nixon substation. Justin Potter Library turned 50. Tennessee Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota paid a visit to DCHS with a gift of $10,000. DeKalb County voters helped elect a new State Senator. The new DeKalb Animal Shelter opened for business under management of the DeKalb Animal Coalition. And hundreds of skygazers from across the country, including NASA researchers and astronomers came to DeKalb County to get a good view of the total solar eclipse.
Sadly, 2017 was also a year of tragedy as five people lost their lives on Center Hill Lake, five others died in DeKalb County traffic accidents, one man perished in a logging accident, and another man was killed in a lawn mowing mishap. In crime, a man was charged with trying to kill his wife after she was found abandoned by the side of the road with stab wounds. A mother, serving an eight year sentence for aggravated child neglect in the 2015 death of her 23 month old son , was denied parole. A Nashville man was indicted for using a 15 year old Liberty girl for prostitution. And a man indicted for 1st degree murder in the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend in DeKalb County almost three years ago was sentenced to 20 years in the Tennessee Department of Correction after pleading guilty to 2nd degree murder.
Following is a month-by-month recap of the top local news stories of 2017.
*Despite a trend of stagnant revenues, the City of Smithville will dip into its reserve fund to purchase a new fire truck. By a 3-2 vote, the Smithville Board of Aldermen Monday evening, January 23 voted to spend $751,575 over a two-year period to purchase a new Pierce Impel PUC Rescue Pumper, a combination fire engine/rescue vehicle to replace the fire department’s oldest truck, a 1992 model, and a 20-year old rescue and service truck. The new vehicle will also come equipped with five air packs and other tools and equipment. Voting for the new truck were Aldermen Jason Murphy, Gayla Hendrix, and Shawn Jacobs and voting no were Aldermen Josh Miller and Danny Washer. Although not opposed to the fire truck itself, Miller and Washer are concerned about the timing of the purchase given that the city has budgeted a lot of spending projects recently which may negatively impact the city’s surplus reserve fund. While the city has the money to pay for it now from the surplus, the aldermen voted to spread the payments out over two years through a lease purchase financing plan offered by the manufacturer. The first payment is not due for a year and it will be up to a year before the truck is available for the city to take delivery of it. Janice Plemmons-Jackson, the city’s financial advisor reminded the mayor and aldermen that city revenues over the last ten years have been largely stagnant while spending has increased and that large projects can have a negative impact on the city’s surplus reserves.
*The county is turning a portion of the solid waste operation over to a private company. During Monday night’s monthly meeting, January 23 the county commission voted to enter into a three year contract with Southern Central Waste Services, LLC. of McMinnville to operate the new soon to open solid waste transfer station located behind Tenneco Automotive. The SCWS bid proposal, one of two submitted, was recommended to the county commission by the solid waste committee. SCWS will provide operation of the transfer station, hauling, and disposal of DeKalb County’s household garbage at the Rhea County Landfill in Dayton, Tennessee, which is operated by Santec Environmental Inc. “The bid was for SCWS to operate the transfer station; to provide two employees; a scale operator; an equipment operator; to furnish the equipment to load the trucks; to pay all utilities at the transfer station; and to do the transfer station billing. The county will receive all proceeds from tipping fees of other vendors who use the transfer station,” said County Mayor Tim Stribling. The county will pay SCWS based on incoming weights. Original plans were for the county to operate the transfer station itself and to ship the garbage to Smith County for disposal at $29 per ton but County Mayor Stribling said he and others found that it was cheaper to contract the service to a private company.
* Members of the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad and others Tuesday Morning, January 10 recovered the body of 22 year old Vincent McKeever Rossetti from Center Hill Lake at Sligo Marina. Rossetti , a resident of Peachtree City, Georgia had been missing since December 18, 2016. “At 7:30 a.m. today a dock worker for Sligo Marina found a body at the Sligo Marina as he was doing morning maintenance on the dock. The body was found floating by a pier. A call was placed to DeKalb Central Dispatch of the discovery. Members of the DeKalb Sheriff’s Department, Smithville DeKalb Rescue, Corps of Engineers, and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Officers arrived on the scene and recovered the body from the water,” Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE. The body was sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Nashville for positive identification and cause of death. It had been more than three weeks since Rossetti went missing near the lake. Rossetti was last seen alive on Sunday, December 18, 2016 and his car, a Lexus, was found later in the parking lot of Sligo Marina beside Highway 70. The search was concentrated on the lake in the area of Sligo bridge and Marina almost daily from the time he was reported missing. In addition to a visual search, sonar was used to detect any objects in the water or at the bottom of the lake. Wayne Hubbs even flew his gyrocopter early in the search to get an aerial view of the area. Others who assisted included the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and volunteers from Florida and Georgia including the CUE Center for Missing Persons who brought in cadaver dogs.
*Members of the DeKalb County Republican Party met Saturday morning, January 28 at the courthouse to elect officers to serve for the next two years. Local attorney Mingy Bryant was re-elected Chairman of the Party. Other officers are Vice Chairman Clint Hall, Secretary Brandon Cox, Treasurer Tom Chandler, and Assistant Treasurer Dustin Estes. The new officers were nominated as a group and elected by acclamation with no other names placed in nomination.
*The 2016 DeKalb County Volunteer Firefighter of the Year is Jerry Wayne Johnson, Station Commander of the Liberty Station. Johnson received the award Saturday night, January 28 during the Department’s Annual Awards Banquet held at the DeKalb County Complex. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Brian Williams was named the DeKalb County Fire Department’s 2016 Officer of the Year and Steve Repasy, Station Commander of the Johnsons Chapel Station, received the Department’s 2016 “Git R Done” award. The “Rookie” award went to Firefighter Andrew Cox of the Belk Station.
*The Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department paid tribute to a very special 17 year old boy Saturday, January 28 by making him an honorary member and giving him a ride around town in one of the city’s fire engines. Tanner Malone, son of Shannon and Julie Malone of Alexandria, was presented a plaque and tee shirt by Alexandria Fire Chief Brian Partridge. Other members of the department were also on hand for the occasion. Tanner was born with a very rare genetic disorder and has undergone numerous surgeries and treatments for his condition.
*A cooking fire forced residents in four units of a quadraplex from their homes Saturday, January 28 at the housing projects on Circle Drive in Dowelltown. All victims of the fire got out unharmed but were left homeless as the blaze quickly spread through the attic of the building. “We were called to 207 Circle Drive in Dowelltown to the housing projects due to a fire. It was a cooking fire. Some grease caught on fire. The occupants were unable to put it out and it spread up the back of the stove area to the attic. There was a common attic between four units and the wind spread the fire across the attic. We were able to contain the fire to the attic but there was damage from the fire to all four residential units beneath the attic due to the fire and water. All four units were pretty much totaled. Everybody from each unit got out okay. No one was hurt. The management of the housing projects helped locate housing for the displaced residents. The American Red Cross also worked to provide shelter for at least one of them and has worked to provide food and clothing for all the victims of the fire,” added Chief Green.
*Smithville Volunteer Firefighter and Deputy Chief Hoyte Hale received the “Highest Attendance Award” Friday night, January 27 during an appreciation dinner for city firefighters at the Smithville First United Methodist Christian Fellowship Center. The award was presented to Hale by Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker. This is the third straight year Hale has earned this award. Hale, a 32 year veteran of the department, attended 148 out of 175 calls during the year 2016. This includes calls, trainings, and workings. Meanwhile two first year firefighters, Seth Wright and Garrett Johnson tied for most documented training hours among non-officer firefighters during the year at 125.5 hours each. Wright and Johnson were also sworn in during the dinner. The swearing in for first year firefighters has never been done before at an awards dinner but Chief Parker said it will now become a tradition each year.
*The Smithville-DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce was awarded a $100,000 Community Development Grant (CDBG) for downtown Smithville. The CDBG funding will be used for commercial façade improvements for downtown Smithville including new awnings and signs, painting, windows and doors, brick repair and other upgrades. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd recently approved nearly $750,000 in Commercial Façade Improvement Grants to assist Tennessee communities with downtown improvements. Commercial Façade Improvement Grants are derived from Tennessee’s federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and are used to improve commercial buildings in downtown districts that have active revitalization programs in place through the Tennessee Main Street and Tennessee Downtowns programs.
*Talented DCHS Quarterback Steven Jennings, a senior, was named Most Valuable Player of the 2016 Tiger Football Team during the annual Awards Banquet held Saturday night, January 14 at the Smithville First Baptist Church Life Enrichment Center building. The MVP trophy was presented to Jennings by Coach Steve Trapp. Jennings, whose high school career ended midway through the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the game at Smith County, earned the MVP award for his entire body of work at DCHS according to Tiger Coach Steve Trapp. In his 38 game high school career as quarterback, Jennings completed 472 of 912 passes for 7,104 yards and 59 touchdowns with 27 interceptions. Jennings also had 2,483 yards rushing as quarterback in 455 carries and 27 touchdowns. The Tiger football team finished the season in November, 2016 with an overall record of 7-4 and another appearance in the state play-offs. It was the sixth consecutive year the Tigers earned a berth in the state play-offs and their eighth appearance in the last nine years. The Tigers lost in the first round of the TSSAA Class 3A Football Play-Offs in Smithville to East Ridge on November 4. The final score was 23-18. Meanwhile, Rachel Fuson, a senior, was named Most Valuable Cheerleader at the football banquet Saturday night. The presentation was made by Cheer Coaches Amanda Fuller and Sonya House.
*The Smithville Police and Fire Departments paid tribute Monday night, January 9 to a man who risked his own life to save a 23 month old child during a mobile home fire in December, 2016 at 1276 South Mountain Street. Jerry Estes was presented a plaque for his act of bravery during the monthly meeting of the Smithville Mayor and Board of Aldermen. Smithville Police Chief Mark Collins and Fire Chief Charlie Parker made the presentation. “Mr. Estes on behalf of the Smithville Police and Smithville Fire Departments we want to present you this plaque. Bravery is the quality of spirit that enables one to face danger or pain without showing fear. The Smithville Police and Fire Departments wish to acknowledge Mr. Jerry Estes for his selfless act of bravery on December 4, 2016,” said Chief Collins in presenting Estes the plaque. The fire on Sunday, December 4 claimed the lives of 27 year old Jeremy Shelton, 36 year old Crystal Fults, and 4 year old Caylix Johnson. Two others, 26 year old Heather Standridge and 23 month old Brantley Johnson were injured. Estes, a passerby, spotted the fire and saw Standridge standing outside the trailer yelling that her children, the Johnson siblings, were still inside. 911 was alerted at 12:12 p.m. and members of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department and Police Department were summoned along with backup from the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department. According to Chief Collins, Estes climbed through a window, grabbed the 23 month old child, and pulled him to safety. After firefighters arrived, Lieutenant John Poss of the Smithville Volunteer Fire Department rescued the 4 year old child. Shelton and Fults perished in the fire.
*Edgar Evins State Park welcomed another native son of the area as the new park manager in January. Kenneth Gragg assumed his new duties at Edgar Evins on January 19th after nine years as a ranger at Tims Ford State Park, Winchester. The last four years of that time he served as the park manager. Kenny, as he prefers to be called, grew up in Cookeville, the son of Regina and Ken Gragg. He graduated from public schools there and from Tennessee Tech in 2006 with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. Earlier this year he graduated from the National Association of State Park Directors State Park Leadership School. Gragg is the second “new” park manager at Edgar Evins since the retirement of Carl Halfacre in the fall of 2014. Carl was followed by Jacob Young, a native of Liberty who was transferred to Fall Creek Falls State Park, Spencer, in October, 2016.
Two football standouts at DCHS have signed to play college football.
* Two football standouts at DCHS in February signed to play college football. Seniors Eli Cross and Tayvian Nokes put pen to paper Wednesday, February 1 making a commitment to Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky. The home of the Blue Raiders. DCHS football coach Steve Trapp, fellow teammates, and members of their families joined them for the signing. LWC is a private four-year college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Lindsey Wilson is a member of the Mid-South Conference of the NAIA.
*DCHS Softball Pitching sensation Kayley Caplinger, a senior, signed Tuesday, February 7 with Cumberland University of Lebanon to play softball after she graduates here. Cumberland is a member of the Mid-South Conference affiliated with the NAIA. Caplinger’s family, coaches, and fellow players were also there for the happy occasion. Tigerette Coach Danny Fish said Kayley will be remembered as one of the best DCHS softball players ever. “She has a chance to go down in the record book as maybe the greatest of all time. That’s just due to her character and the work she has put in. We are very happy for Kayley. We have sent a lot of players to Cumberland and they have been successful. We’re glad she is going there. I’m sure Kayley is going to do a great job at Cumberland,” he said.
*Fred’s Pharmacy of Smithville closed February 21. In a recent letter to Fred’s customers, Walmart actually announced the Fred’s closing and said that records would be available at the Walmart Pharmacy at 515 West Broad Street in Smithville. It was also stated in the letter that Walmart is committed to making a smooth transition for the former Fred’s customers.
*After serving the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree and Crafts Festival as its President and Coordinator of nearly 9 years, Jack Barton resigned his position of leadership in January. Citing increased personal and professional commitments, Mr. Barton will now serve as a board member instead of a position of leadership. Barton, who is also a 3rd District County Commissioner, started volunteering with the Jamboree in 2004 and became the President and Coordinator in 2008.
*“A Living Treasure” That’s how Alexandria Mayor Bennett Armstrong describes Carrie Smith. At 102 years young, Ms Carrie is believed to be Alexandria’s oldest resident and she was recognized as part of February’s Black History Month observance. Ms Carrie is a resident of 112 Shady Lane. She was also the Grand Marshal of the Alexandria Christmas Parade in December, 2017.
*The county’s solid waste transfer station became operational in February. Southern Central Waste Services, LLC of McMinnville began operating the new transfer station Wednesday, February 15. Although the county’s landfill remains open it is close to capacity and except for commercial solid waste all other county garbage is now coming to the transfer station. The facility is currently accepting waste from the county’s convenience sites, schools, and City of Smithville, etc and will begin taking waste in March from commercial services like Waste Management which picks up garbage from local businesses and factories and pays tipping fees to the county. The county wanted to give prior notice to those services because there will be a change in the rates they pay for dumping garbage at the transfer station versus the landfill.
*Three female prisoners were sent to the hospital Friday night, February 17 and two of them were admitted after swallowing drugs that had been smuggled into the jail. One of the two inmates hospitalized had to be airlifted. All were later returned to jail. The women, who had apparently hidden the narcotics in their body cavities, consumed the drugs fearing they would be caught with them. As a result of the investigation, a total of four prisoners were charged with possession of contraband in a penal institution including 25 year old Trinity Kystrina Wildbur of Vine Street, Chattanooga; 39 year old Amy Jeannette Lawson of Haley Road, Smithville; 24 year old Natalie Gail Barrett of Miller Road, Smithville; and 20 year old Olivia Hope Barber of Forrest Avenue, Smithville.
*The Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree has a new President and Coordinator. Gainesboro native Sam Stout was elected to the position at a meeting of Jamboree board on Thursday night, February 9. Stout succeeds Jack Barton, who resigned as Jamboree President and Coordinator on February 2, after a nine-year tenure. Born to James and the late Birdie Stout, Sam Stout grew up in a musical family that included two older brothers. At the age of 9, Stout began playing guitar and soon picked up the mandolin, as well. After high school, Stout started playing in country bands, and soon began pursuing music as a full-time career. Stout was elected to the Jamboree board on February 2, and expressed an interest in the position of President and Coordinator with the Jamboree upon Barton’s resignation. In addition to his passion for music, Stout – now a resident of Cookeville – also works in real estate.
*The Liberty Senior Citizens Center is closed. The last day of operation was Friday, March 31, almost 30 years after it was chartered in 1987. The Liberty Board of Mayor and Aldermen took action to close the center due to concerns of its continued viability. “The center was closed as a result of low attendance of participants who live in the Town of Liberty along with the expense of operation to the Town of Liberty, Patty Ray, Director of the Upper Cumberland Area Agency on Aging and Disability told WJLE. According to a spokesperson in Liberty, the number of participants at the Liberty Center had fallen off over the past year which had an impact on available funding for the center. The numbers didn’t add up to get enough funding to keep the center viable.
*Sophomore Tanner Poss was named the DCHS Tiger basketball Most Valuable Player Friday night, March 10 at the annual team banquet, while Senior Hannah Panter received the Lady Tiger MVP honor. Senior Captain Allison Rogers is the Most Valuable Cheerleader. The awards were sponsored by Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. The MVP and MVC awards are named in memory of Allen D. Hooper. In addition to being named MVP, Poss received the team’s Best Offensive Player award. He was also named to District 8AA 2nd team All-District. Panter was named Best Offensive Player for the Lady Tigers and made the District 8AA 2nd team All-District in addition to the Team MVP honor. The season for the DeKalb County Tigers ended with a loss to Smith County last month in the District Tournament at Cookeville. The Tigers finished with an overall record of 7-20. The DeKalb County Lady Tigers wrapped up their season losing to York Institute in the District Tournament. They closed out the campaign with a record of 11-16.
*Multi-GRAMMY® nominees and three-time International Bluegrass Music Association Entertainers of the Year Dailey & Vincent were formally inducted into the Grand Ole Opry Saturday night. March 10 by Opry members Old Crow Medicine Show and Jeannie Seely. The duo had been invited to join the Opry by Marty Stuart during their 100th Opry appearance in December. Seely, who will celebrate 50 years of Opry membership later this year, presented an Opry Member Award to Jamie Dailey, while Old Crow lead singer Ketch Secor did the same for Darrin Vincent. “We love the Grand Ole Opry. It’s in our DNA,” Dailey said as he and Vincent recognized family, friends, their band, and members of their organization who’d helped make the night possible. The duo closed their Opry segment with “I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You,” a hit by one of their musical heroes, The Statler Brothers. Darrin Vincent and his family make their home in DeKalb County.
*After more than sixteen months since the Holmes Creek Road bridge was ordered closed by the state due to deficiencies, frustrated residents and motorists longing for the re-opening of the road over Fall Creek got their wish in March after the new bridge was completed. The bridge, at the bottom of town hill behind Love-Cantrell Funeral Home, had been closed since October 30, 2015. The state forced the City of Smithville to close the bridge due to a Tennessee Department of Transportation Evaluation Report which detailed various bridge deficiencies making it potentially unsafe. The contractor was Twin K. Construction of Helenwood, Tennessee. The project was funded under the state’s Bridge Grant Program. The total cost was $778,655 with matching expense to the city of $196,625.
*Smithville Police investigated an aggravated armed robbery at the El Rancho Restaurant on West Broad Street near the high school on Wednesday, March 8. Chief Mark Collins said two masked men entered through a back door after the restaurant had closed and held the owner and an employee at gunpoint as they were cleaning up. The intruders demanded cash and stole $3,340 before making their getaway. No one was hurt.
*Jordan Wilkins was re-elected to a new term as Chairman of the DeKalb County Democratic Party Saturday, March 25 during the Biennial Reorganization Convention held at the courthouse. The other incumbent party officers were also elected including Vice Chairman Harry Lasser, Secretary Joyce Hendrixson, and Treasurer Myra Miller. All were unopposed. The terms are for two years.
*After hearing from local democrats and public officials during a biennial reorganization meeting Saturday morning, March 25 at the courthouse, leaders of the DeKalb County Democratic Party voted to withdraw a proposed amendment to the bylaws which if approved would have given them the authority to conduct party conventions instead of primaries to choose nominees for county offices in general elections. Proponents of the change said the convention process would ensure only bona fide democrats become nominees and, unlike a primary, would keep republican voters from influencing the outcome. Democratic candidates would also be able to put all their financial resources toward the general election rather than having to spend some of their money trying to win a primary. And by not having a primary, the county would save approximately $20,000 which is what it usually costs to hold an election. Through the convention process, democratic leaders would seek a commitment from potential candidates to ensure they would work hard to win election if nominated and to help other democrats up and down the ballot get elected as well. Many democrats in attendance at Saturday’s meeting voiced their opposition to doing away with primaries with most taking the view that the nomination process should be decided by the voters and not 20 members of the Democratic Executive Committee, as the proposed bylaws amendment would have provided. Most, if not all, local democratic public officials also objected to the move.
*A prisoner at the DeKalb County Jail escaped Tuesday afternoon, March 28 but was captured minutes later at the parking lot of Hardees Restaurant. 47 year old Randall Joe Swindle of Mount Tabor Road, Murfreesboro was charged with escape. Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE that Swindle was with other inmates in the exercise yard during their recreation time when he quickly stripped down to his shorts and tee shirt and slithered through a very small opening between the bottom of the security fence and the fence framework. As he ran off correctional officers gave chase on foot while deputies followed in their patrol cars. Swindle was observed standing in the highway trying to get a ride but ran toward Hardees when he saw the officers approaching. A Warren County constable and a private citizen, who were in the Hardees parking lot and saw what was happening, called for the man (Swindle) to stop and he was subsequently taken into custody by the deputies and correctional officers.
*Two local Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers were honored on March 9 at the THP Trooper and Dispatcher of the Year Ceremony in Murfreesboro. There, troopers and dispatchers were recognized for their outstanding service to the State of Tennessee. Trooper Jeremy D. S. Tramel was named Trooper of the Year for the 6th District and THP Sergeant Dewaine Jennings was recognized at the ceremony with a Lifesaver Award. Both were honored for their heroic efforts in successfully working with persons threatening suicide.
*A Cookeville man, Christopher Todd Montgomery, who failed to stop at a THP checkpoint in DeKalb County and then led State Troopers on a pursuit before crashing at Baxter in March. was found with drugs, paraphernalia, and handguns. According to THP Sergeant Greg Tramel, State Troopers were conducting a seatbelt checkpoint on State Highway 56 in DeKalb County at the Putnam County line Friday, March 10 when a vehicle traveling north failed to stop for the checkpoint. At that time, the driver threw what appeared to be drugs out of the window and continued driving north on State Highway 56 into Putnam County. Troopers Brandon Jackson and Chris Delong pursued the vehicle on Old Baxter Road until it crashed east of the Boma Community Center in Baxter. No one was injured during the crash. The driver, Montgomery, was arrested. Contraband seized during this incident included seven bags of a clear rock like substance believed to be methamphetamine totaling 4.93 ounces, one bag, 6.6 grams, of marijuana, seven Xanax pills, three other pills listed as controlled substances, one .380 caliber handgun, one .22 caliber handgun, and various drug paraphernalia.
*Retired Chancery Court Chancellor Vernon Neal of Cookeville, who served this area as a state legislator and then as a judge in the 13th Judicial District (which includes DeKalb County) for many years, died Friday, March 3 at the age of 85. Neal suffered a stroke on February 23 just as he finished his daily three-mile walk in his neighborhood. He was taken to Cookeville Regional Hospital, where he died eight days later surrounded by his family. Neal, a native of Pickett County, was a graduate of Tennessee Tech and of the University of Tennessee College of Law. He was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1962 and then to the Tennessee Senate in 1966 and served there until 1978. In his legislative career, he was known for his vigorous support of public education, state parks and natural resources, and public health services, among many other efforts and accomplishments. His work in the House of Representatives and later in the Senate included bills that allowed for the election, rather than appointment, of county school board members and county road supervisors, bills providing training for the mentally and physically disabled and for the funding of Plateau Mental Health Institute, funding for a public educational television station for this area, and funding for establishing Edgar Evins State Park and Burgess Falls State Park. In 1980, he began a second career upon being elected chancellor in the Chancery Court for this judicial district. He retired from the bench in 2006.
*A 35 year old Nashville woman lost her life on Center Hill Lake in April. The body of Aimee McCray was recovered in about 65 feet of water Sunday afternoon, April 9 at Hurricane Marina. According to authorities, McCray was with some friends on a houseboat moored at the marina when she was last seen around 11:30 p.m. Saturday night, April 8. Authorities suspect McCray may have accidentally fallen off the boat and drowned but an autopsy was to have been conducted to determine the cause of death. After discovering her missing Sunday morning, McCray’s friends called 911. Central dispatch received the call at 9:20 a.m. of a missing person on the lake. Members of the TWRA, Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, and DeKalb EMS responded. An underwater camera was used to locate the body in about 65 feet of water at the dock right under the boat slip.
*A one vehicle crash claimed the life of a McMinnville man and seriously injured another from Hendersonville Saturday, April 29 on Highway 70 east near the former VFW Club. Dead is 45 year old Larry Jones of McMinnville. 33 year old Brandon Temple of Hendersonville was airlifted by Life Flight to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. Trooper Bobby Johnson of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Jones was driving east on Highway 70 in a 2001 Chevy Blazer when he failed to negotiate a curve and went off the right side of the road. The Blazer struck a wooden post and old VFW sign and then ran off a steep bluff into the hollow below. The vehicle overturned and came to rest on its top. Jones died at the scene.
Members of the DeKalb EMS, DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad, and DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department responded. Because of the steep hillside, EMS and rescue volunteers used ropes to access the crash scene. The victims were removed from the passenger side of the vehicle, placed in stokes baskets, and brought back up to the top of the hill. The Life Flight helicopter ambulance landed in the parking lot of the old VFW Club and airlifted Temple to Vanderbilt Hospital. Jones’ body was taken by DeKalb EMS to Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital.
*A first grade teacher at Smithville Elementary School was named ” DeKalb County Teacher of the Year” and received the “John Isabell Memorial Award” Tuesday night, April 11 during the tenth annual Teacher of the Year banquet at the Elizabeth Chapel Baptist Church. The award and a check for $150 was presented to Whitney Brelje by Roy Nelson Pugh of Liberty State Bank, a sponsor of the banquet, along with Director of Schools Patrick Cripps and Lori Isabell, whose husband John for whom the award is named, passed away in 2014. John Isabell was a long time educator and former President of the DeKalb County Education Association Brelje, who is in her fourth year as a teacher, 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 Jessica Hale at Northside Elementary School; Jeanna Caplinger at DeKalb West School; Jenny Elrod at DeKalb Middle School; and Todd Cantrell at DeKalb County High School. Caplinger was unable to attend.
*Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital completed its renovation of the hospital’s Emergency Department in April. The construction, which began in early March 2017, is now in full operation. The Emergency Department area is completely rebuilt, including a waiting room, the reception area, each individual treatment room and the nurses’ stations, including new flooring, new counters and painting.
* 33 year old Michael Zennie Dial II from Clarksville lost his life during an officer involved shooting in White County after leading law enforcement on a pursuit from Smithville to Sparta Thursday, April 13. All three White County officers injured during the pursuit were later released from the hospital. The incident began at around 4:30 p.m. with an attempted traffic stop in the City of Smithville. Smithville Police Officers tried to pull over a pickup truck hauling a trailer. The driver of the vehicle refused to stop, and the chase by Smithville Police at speeds up to 75 miles per hour continued from the city to about one mile into White County where the pursuit was terminated. Four city patrol units reportedly gave chase. A DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy, who was following Smithville Police in support, ended his involvement in the pursuit at the county line. White County authorities later picked up the pursuit from Highway 70 to north on Highway 111 in Sparta, following the vehicle. The driver of the truck crashed into several of the law enforcement vehicles, hitting them on the side, and from behind. At some point, the tires of the trailer appeared to have flattened, dumping some of the items from the trailer into the median. As the driver continued down the road, two officers, one with the White County Sheriff’s Office , and one with the Sparta Police Department, fired shots toward the truck. The truck, still hauling the trailer, veered off the highway, went down an embankment, and lodged in the tree line. The driver of the vehicle died. Three officers, one from Sparta Police Department two from the White County Sheriff’s Office, sustained injuries consistent with being in a vehicle crash and were transported to the hospital.
*DCHS Tigerettes Lexie Bates and Myranda Bailiff signed in April to play their college softball for the Lady Bulldogs of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee next season. The two senior standouts put pen to paper Thursday afternoon, April 20 at the DCHS Library. Bates and Bailiff were joined by members of their families and coaches for the occasion. “Lexie and Myranda have been very good players over the past four years,” Tigerette Coach Danny Fish told WJLE. “ As freshmen they came in as role players and started as sophomores. They have really matured over the past three years and have been a part of three consecutive state tournament runs. Lexie is our second baseman. She is a slapper and speed player. Myranda is one of our power players. She plays first base and has been a very good defensive first baseman over the last couple of years. She usually comes up with some big hits. They are playing very well for us and Union has picked up two good players. I am very happy for them. They will do well,” he said.
*A decision by the DeKalb Utility District to not add fluoride to its consumer water supply when the new plant opens caused concern among some. During the regular monthly meeting on Thursday, April 6 Beth Pafford, assistant principal at Northside Elementary School, Dr. Mitch Tatum, a local dentist, and Dr. Steven Cooper addressed the DUD Board of Commissioners asking them to reconsider their decision in the interest of the public’s dental health. The board took no action to reverse its decision.
*A DeKalb County man was charged in April with trying to kill his wife after she was found by the side of the road in the Ragland Bottom area cut and bleeding from a stabbing. 29 year old Andrew Lafate Billings of Antioch Road,Smithville was arrested for the attempted first degree murder of his wife 19 year old Adriana Billings. Adriana was taken to an undisclosed hospital where she was treated for stab wounds. Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE that the victim was found Tuesday morning, April 4 on Allen Ferry Road off Backbone Ridge Road in DeKalb County. “At 9:06 a.m. a call came in to dispatch from someone who found a woman on the side of the road bleeding from the throat and said she appeared to have been stabbed. “Officers arrived ten minutes later and found the woman lying in a ditch with knife wounds to the neck, face, and hands. The victim was seen by EMS and then airlifted by helicopter. She suffered life threatening injuries. A search warrant was later obtained and executed on the vehicle Billings was driving and officers found blood and a bloody knife with hair on it inside the automobile. Billings was found to have cuts to his hands,” Sheriff Ray said. Billings was indicted for the crime in November.
*Congressman Diane Black was in DeKalb County Friday night, April 7 for the annual Reagan Day Dinner sponsored by the DeKalb County Republican Party. Black said she supported President Donald Trump’s decision to take military action in response to the deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria on Tuesday, April 4/. She told WJLE that the U.S. missile strikes Thursday night, April 6 on a Syrian airbase should send a clear message to the Bashar al-Assad regime. Meanwhile, Congressman Black said she is pleased the U.S. Senate confirmed President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court that week.
*A new member was named to the DeKalb County Election Commission in April by the Tennessee Election Commission. Lisa Peterson, a resident of Smithville and former DeKalb County Administrator of Elections, replaced Hearon Puckett as one of the two democratic members of the local commission. The other Democrat on the DeKalb County Election Commission is Jackie Smith who was appointed in October, 2015 to fill a vacancy. Smith was re-appointed in April by the State Election Commission for her first full term. The Republican members of the local election commission, reappointed by the Tennessee Election Commission, are Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean. Vanatta and Dean began their fifth terms. Parker has served since 1992.
*The DeKalb County High School Winterguard Traveled to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky on April 1 and was named Tennessee State Grand Champions and awarded the Bronze Medal in their class.
*A logging accident claimed the life of a local man Monday afternoon, April 10. Dead is Norman Ferrell. Ferrell died after a tree he was cutting fell on him. The accident occurred on a hillside in the Clear Fork area of Liberty at the end of Pistole Hollow Road. Ferrell’s body was brought out in a four wheel drive vehicle, taken to an awaiting ambulance at the road, and then transported to the hospital.
*Bailey Redmon, a senior at DeKalb County High School, didn’t have her high school diploma yet, but she had already become a college graduate having earned an Associate degree in History from Motlow State Community College in May. Through Motlow College’s dual enrollment program , high school students like Redmon can earn college credits while still enrolled in high school. Students can take classes on a Motlow College campus, online, or even at a partner high school. Students who have completed their sophomore year and have met all requirements for taking the desired college courses may apply. Public, private and home-schooled students are all welcome to apply. The program gives students the chance to seamlessly transition from high school to college. The core curriculum credits transfer easily to Tennessee’s public colleges and universities while allowing students who are working on a four-year degree to save money on tuition. Redmon graduated from DCHS in late May.
*Another athlete from the DCHS Class of 2017 signed a letter of intent to play college sports in May. Devin Bain signed his name on the dotted line Friday, May 19 to play football at Cumberland University, in Lebanon. Bain, who played primarily as a defensive lineman for the DCHS Tigers, said he is excited about going to school at Cumberland and becoming a member of the Cumberland University Phoenix.
*DeKalb County High School basketball MVP Hanah Panter is trading one Lady Tiger team for another. Panter, a senior, will continue her basketball career at Chattanooga State Community College, having signed with the Lady Tigers on Friday, May 12 at the DCHS library. Members of her family, teammates, and coaches joined her for the signing. Panter was named Most Valuable Player and Best Offensive Player for the DCHS Lady Tigers at the team banquet in March and she made the District 8AA 2nd team All-District.
*The season for the DCHS Tigerettes came to a close Friday night, May 19 in Smithville as they lost to Sweetwater 3 to 1 in the Class AA Sectional or Sub State. DeKalb County finished the season at 29-6. They claimed the regular season and district tournament championship as well as the region tournament crown again this season. A win for the Tigerettes would have sent them to the state tournament for the fourth consecutive year and for the ninth time in program history.
*First year DCHS Tigerette Softball Coach Danny Fish was named the Coach of the Year in District 8AA in May. Coach Fish, who succeeded longtime coach Danny Bond, guided the Tigerettes to a record of 27-5 and 13-1 in the district this season. Tigerette pitching sensation Kayley Caplinger was named the District’s Most Valuable Player, District Tournament MVP, and Pitcher of the Year. Regular season District awards: All District: Lexie Bates, Myranda Bailiff, Kenzie France, Emme Colwell, Allison Maynard. All Freshman team: Megan Walker. All District Tournament Awards: Joni Robinson and Allison Maynard.
*The DeKalb County Ambulance Service along with hospital and emergency room staff at St. Thomas DeKalb Hospital were awarded the “Pediatric Call of the Year” award for their efforts in trying to save the lives of victims in a mobile home fire in December, 2016. That fire claimed the lives of three people including a four year old child. The 2017 Erlanger Life Force awards were presented Tuesday, May 23 to Greta Stone, EMT-PCC/IC and Jamie Parsley, AEMT, members of the DeKalb EMS crew who were on duty and responded to the call on Sunday, December 4, 2016 at 1276 South Mountain Street in Smithville. The EMS awards ceremony was held in Chattanooga.
*21 year old Jessica Ashley May will have to serve at least two more years behind bars before her next parole hearing. She is serving an eight year sentence for attempted aggravated child neglect stemming from the 2015 death of her 23 month old son. Colten Alexander May. Three members of the Tennessee Board of Parole voted and concurred that May should be declined parole due to the seriousness of the offense. Her case will be reviewed again in two years. A parole hearing was held for May Tuesday, May 23 at the Carroll County Jail where she is incarcerated as a state prisoner. The parole hearings officer who heard the case made a non-binding recommendation to the Tennessee Board of Parole that Ms. May be declined parole due to the seriousness of the offense, and that her case be reviewed again in two years. May stood before Judge Gary McKenzie in DeKalb County Criminal Court on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 and entered a plea to attempted aggravated child neglect, a Class B felony, and received an eight year sentence as a range I mitigated offender to serve at least 20% before parole eligibility. At the time May had already served 568 days since her arrest on May 19, 2015. Less than a week before May’s plea, her fiance at the time, 25 year old Cody Key was handed a 45 year prison term for the beating death of May’s child after entering a plea in Putnam County Criminal Court to second degree murder. Key is to serve 100% of the sentence but he was given jail credit of 563 days for time served from May 19, 2015 to December 1, 2016. Key is incarcerated at the South Central Correctional Center in Wayne County, a Tennessee Department of Correction facility.
*Steven Jennings and Eli Cross were the top scholarship award winners during the Class of 2017 Awards Night program Monday, May 22 at DCHS.
Jennings received the largest single award of $132,000 in a baseball scholarship from Ole Miss along with another $1,000 scholarship. Cross took home more than $124,000 in scholarships including a total of $114,000 from Lindsey Wilson College to further his education and football career. Representatives of colleges, universities, branches of the armed services, businesses, civic groups, and other organizations made the presentations. A perfect attendance award was presented to Clayton Hoyle who has never missed a day of school, left early, or been tardy during his entire four years of high school.
*Graduating seniors said their farewells to DCHS as students during the commencement on Friday, May 26. Three of the most outstanding members of the class were singled out for special recognition. This year’s White Rose Awards went to Eli Cross and Kayley Caplinger while the Citizenship Award was presented to Luke Green. The White Rose is presented to a boy and girl from the class for strong academic performance and exemplary moral character. The award winners are determined by the faculty. The Citizenship Award, chosen by the faculty, is presented to a student who exemplifies strong academic performance and contribution to DCHS and the community. The 177 graduates received their diplomas during the commencement, each one shaking hands and posing for pictures with Director of Schools Patrick Cripps and DCHS Principal Dr. Kathy Bryant as their names were called by Assistant Principal Jenny Norris. There was also an air of sadness due to the absence of a classmate Jacob Davis Billings, marked by balloons tied to a chair along with a framed photo of him and a cap and gown where he would have sat among the graduates. Billings died tragically in a bicycle collision with two motor vehicles four years ago. Billings was 14 years old when he died and would have been a senior this year.
*Strong storms downed trees and utility lines across DeKalb County Saturday night, May 27 causing power outages and some property damage. Members of the DeKalb County Highway Department, Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad, TDOT and city public works department employees, emergency management, and other volunteers sprung into action with chainsaws and other cutting tools and equipment to remove the debris blocking county roads and state highways. The work continued through the night and part of early Sunday morning, May 28. In Alexandria, at least one home was damaged when a tree fell on it. No injuries were reported. The Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad was called out again on Sunday. They responded to the Riverwatch community where trees had blown across roads in the development. Chain saws were used to cut the trees and Joe Johnson, a Rescue Squad member, brought in his personal track hoe to help remove the debris from the roadways. Some of the hardest hit roads and communities were Riverwatch, Four Seasons, Temperance Hall, Dale Ridge, Hurricane Ridge, Pine Orchard Road, Alexandria, Big Hurricane Road, Holmes Creek, Bright Hill Road, Back Bone Ridge, Love Colony, Jefferson, Midway, Pates Ford, Smith Fork, among others.
*A former DCHS Tiger baseball standout got some playing time in the National Christian College Athletic Association World Series held in Mason, Ohio during May. Sam McMillen is a pitcher for the Hiwassee, College Tigers. The Southwestern Christian University Eagles opened pool play of the World Series with a 10-0 victory over Hiwassee. Down 6 to 0 after four innings, McMillen was called to the mound for Hiwassee and pitched five innings. He gave up four runs, two earned, on six hits. He struck out one and walked two. That was McMillen’s only appearance in the World Series.
*The DeKalb County Grand Jury met in special session Tuesday, May 27 and returned more than 40 sealed indictments mostly against drug offenders. Sheriff Patrick Ray said officers of his department appeared before the Grand Jury and presented cases against each offender as the result of an undercover investigation. “A variety of drugs were bought during this operation including Xanax, Hydrocodone, Marijuana, Methamphetamine, Subutex, and others,” he said. “We tried to focus this operation on methamphetamine. We had received information that methamphetamine has been coming up here from Georgia and not only into our county but also other places in the state,” Sheriff Ray continued.
“Some of the indictments were for sale and delivery in a drug free zone which is an area 1,000 feet of a school, park, library, and daycare,” he added.
*Two years after being named Principal at DCHS, Dr. Kathy Bryant transferred to another position in the school system. Director of Schools Patrick Cripps has announced in June that Dr. Bryant would be taking over from Lisa Cripps as Supervisor of Instruction for grades 6-12. She will be working out of the central office. Lisa Cripps recently announced her retirement.
*As DeKalb Utility District approached a golden anniversary, it marked another important milestone with the launch of its new water treatment plant. For the first time in its 50 year history, the DUD is now producing water on its own for the 5,300 customers it serves in either all or portions of DeKalb, Smith, Cannon, and Wilson counties. DUD, which had been buying water from Smithville for many years, officially cut ties with the city in June. The new DUD water plant is located on Yulonda Hills Road off Holmes Creek Road. The 2.0 million gallon per day water treatment plant (all under one roof) is the centerpiece of the project which also includes a new raw water intake structure and pump station on the Holmes Creek Embayment of the lake, an 18-inch diameter raw water transmission line from the pump station to the water plant, an 18-inch diameter finished water transmission line along Holmes Creek Road, Allen’s Ferry Road, and U.S. Highway 70; and new 8-inch diameter water distribution lines along Dry Creek Road, Game Ridge Road, Turner Road, Willis McGinnis Road, and Sparta Highway (Highway to Midway). The project was funded at $16-million dollars. Fund sources for the project included $5 million in loans at 2.75% interest over 38 years and $1.25 million in grants from USDA Rural Development. The utility was also approved for $500,000 in grant funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission; two loans through the State Revolving Fund Loan programs in amounts of $2 million and $7 million at .6% interest over 20 years; and a $500,000 forgiveness (grant) from the State Revolving Fund Program.
*The Smithville Aldermen adopted a new $6.4 million budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year on first reading Monday night, June 5. The proposed budget totals $6-million 411-thousand 679 dollars. Under the new spending plan, the property tax rate will remain the same at 64.9 cents per $100 of assessed value. Water and sewer rates increased effective July 1. City water customers are to pay $7.25 per thousand gallons of usage, up from the current rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons. Rates for customers outside the city limits are to be $10.88 per thousand, an increase from the current rate of $7.50 per thousand gallons. City sewer customers will see an increase from the current rate of $5.00 per thousand gallons plus the flat usage rate of $3.62 to $6.75 per thousand gallons. The rate increase is to help make up the difference in the loss of $775,000 in revenue due to the departure of the DeKalb Utility District as a water customer.
*Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital and the physicians of the Family Medical Center practice joined together in welcoming back five physicians from the Smithville practice to begin providing hospitalist services at the local hospital . The hospitalists, Dr. Kevin Rhody; Dr. Jack Rhody; Dr. Steven Cooper; Dr. Doug Hooper; and Dr. William Sherwood, in addition to making regular rounds to see patients, began providing coverage at Saint Thomas DeKalb 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Prior to this change, out of town medical staff served as hospitalists at Saint Thomas DeKalb Hospital but many in the community didn’t embrace it and the result was declining census numbers and more patient transfers to other facilities creating a concern about the future of the hospital.
*Five convicted felons were arrested Friday, June 9 at 332 New Hope Road, Alexandria after an undercover drug investigation by several local and state law enforcement agencies. Agents seized approximately 5 grams of fentanyl, methodone, morphine, xanax, six weapons (including two assault rifles), a Chevy Silverado, a Dodge Dakota, a BMW car, cell phones, flash drives, home security system, digital scales, computer, ammo, and $973 cash. 36 year old Samer Walid Abdalla, 34 year old Courtney Paris, and 55 year old Ernest Grady Tanner, all of New Hope Road, Alexandria; 38 year old Amy Renee Ford of Chumbley Hollow, Watertown; and 39 year old Jerry Henry Goff of East Main Street, Smithville were taken into custody. The narcotics search warrant was executed and served at the residence by members of the 13th & 15th Judicial District Drug Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Alexandria Police Department, the Tennessee Highway Patrol Criminal Investigation Division, and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department.
*The Pittsburgh Pirates Monday night, June 12 selected former DCHS right handed pitcher Steven Jennings in the Major League Baseball Draft as the 42nd overall pick and sixth into the second round. Jennings was to receive a $1.9 million bonus, which is reportedly $264,500 over the slot value for his pick. “This has been a dream come true. This has been a dream of mine to play professional baseball since I was old enough to know really what baseball was. It is absolutely a dream come true to make that dream a reality. Its awesome. I can’t really describe how I am feeling. I can’t tell you how thankful and grateful I am to be in the position I am in right now,” Jennings told WJLE after his selection was announced. Following his junior season, Jennings offered up a pledge to the Ole Miss Rebels and later signed a letter of intent, but with his selection in the draft he decided to turn pro. Jennings was a two-sport star at DCHS in baseball and football.
*The Oakland Athletics selected LHP Cody Puckett, a former DCHS Tiger, in the 30th round with the 861st pick of the 2017 MLB Draft Wednesday afternoon, June 16. Puckett has spent the last two years as a Middle Tennessee Blue Raider after transferring from Columbia State Community College, making 29 appearances on the mound in a Middle Tennessee uniform. The southpaw had a career 6-6 record, to go along with a 4.57 ERA and 101 strikeouts. The lefty made nine starts this past season and led the team with 71 strikeouts. Puckett also ranked 44th in the country in Strikeouts per Nine Innings with 10.89. He finished the 2017 season with the lowest ERA amongst the starting rotation, compiling a 4.76 ERA.
*DeKalb County High School became under new leadership as of July 1. Randy Jennings, who had been Principal at DeKalb Middle School for 13 years, was named by Director of Schools Patrick Cripps in June to succeed Dr. Kathy Bryant as DCHS Principal. Dr. Bryant transferred to the position of Supervisor of Instruction for grades 6-12.
*A man who was shot after drawing a weapon on two officers of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department over four years ago was sentenced Tuesday, June 20 in DeKalb County Criminal Court. 58 year old Randy Gerald Petty entered a plea to two counts of attempted aggravated assault and is facing a three year sentence in each case to run consecutively for a total of six years. Petty was named in a sealed indictment by the DeKalb County Grand Jury in April, 2014 charging him with the more serious offenses of two counts of attempted first degree murder. He was arrested without incident by agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. On May 23, 2013, Deputies (at the time) Jeremy Taylor and Erik Russell responded to a 911 call of shots being fired at 255 Petty Road in Smithville. There, while standing at the rear of Deputy Taylor’s vehicle, Deputy Russell saw and heard something off to his side. Using his flashlight, Russell spotted Randy Petty pointing a scoped rifle at the two deputies. Both of them drew their weapons and fired, striking Petty several times in his extremities. He later recovered from his wounds.
*The DeKalb Middle School Junior Beta Club won 3rd place in the finals competition Wednesday morning, June 28 at the National Convention at Disney World in Orlando, Florida for its anti-bullying drama presentation called “Be the Change” after being named in the top five on Tuesday. The club finished 1st at the Tennessee convention last November, 2016.
*DeKalb West School 8th grade graduate Garrett Hayes won top honors at the National Junior Beta Club Convention in Orlando, Florida in June. Hayes, the son of Alan and Lesa Hayes, finished first in Visual Arts for his color photography entry. Garrett, the President of the DWS Junior Beta Club, is the first student in the school’s history to represent the club at the national convention. He placed in the top three at the Tennessee convention last November, 2016 which qualified him to attend the nationals.
*A former Correctional Officer at the DeKalb County Jail who allegedly received money from inmates for smuggling tobacco and other items to them inside their cells entered a plea to Official Misconduct on Tuesday, June 20 in Criminal Court. 25 year old Francisco Rodriguez, under a plea agreement, is to receive a two year TDOC sentence all suspended to supervised probation. He has applied for judicial diversion. Rodriguez was named in a sealed indictment returned by the DeKalb County Grand Jury on Monday, April 4, 2016. He was charged in the indictment for Official Misconduct and Introduction of Contraband. Rodriguez worked for the Sheriff’s Department as a Correctional Officer for six months before being terminated by Sheriff Patrick Ray after an internal investigation into the allegations.
*Ivy Phillips of Chapmansboro, Tennessee repeated as the Grand Champion Fiddler of the Smithville Fiddler’s Jamboree and Crafts Festival on Saturday, July 1. Phillips, who won the title for the first time last year, took home the Berry C. Williams Memorial Award again this year after the Grand Finale Fiddle-Off between the best Junior and Senior Fiddler. Phillips made it to the fiddle off by winning, for the second year in a row, the Junior Fiddling competition and she won the Grand Championship by beating the winner of the Senior Fiddling contest Tony Haley of Mount Juliet. Phillips also repeated as the winner of the Contest Fiddle competition and the Neil Dudney Award. Meanwhile the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band became the fourth annual recipient of the Fiddlers’ Jamboree’s “Blue Blaze Award” this year and Iris Shepherd of Henry, Tennesseel won the top Jamboree award as the best fiddler in the National Championship for Country Musician Beginners and receivined the James G. “Bobo” Driver Memorial Award. Brayden Chunn of Greenbriar was named “Entertainer of the Year”.
*An Indiana man was the overall winner of the 19th Annual Fiddler 5K and One-Mile Fun Run Saturday, July 1 in Smithville. Sean Edwards of Carmel, Indiana ran the course in 19:27. The 19th Annual Fiddler 5K and One-Mile Fun Run featured 324 participants. Funds raised will support Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County.
*A Smithville man who posted offensive and blasphemous notes on the properties of five local churches was charged in a joint investigation by the Smithville Police and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Departments . 57 year old Laddie Bill Jerrells of Long Street, Smithville was arrested Wednesday, July 5th on twenty four counts including charges of vandalism, disorderly conduct, harassment, and desecration of honored places. The incidents occurred at a time when no church services were being held and no particular denominations were targeted.
*A memorial service was held Sunday, July 9 for a Liberty man who was killed by a CSX train in Murfreesboro on Friday, June 16. 51 year old Richard “Richie” Herman, who was riding his bicycle, was struck by the freight train near Scott and Dashiel Streets, near Medical Center Parkway, according to a report by WGNS in Murfreesboro. The accident occurred around 6 p.m. The report stated that the CSX train was traveling from North Carolina and through Tennessee when it struck Herman. Reports from police indicate the victim’s bike and backpack were found about 20 feet away from his body.
*Amanda Dakas is the new Principal at DeKalb Middle School. Director of Schools Patrick Cripps named Dakas in July to succeed Randy Jennings as DMS Principal. Jennings is the new Principal at DeKalb County High School. Dakas has served as Assistant Principal at DeKalb Middle School since 2012. Meanwhile Tad Webb became the new Assistant Principal at DeKalb Middle School. Webb had been a seventh grade math teacher at the school along with the Saints’ head football coach and the DeKalb West Bulldogs head baseball coach. He gave up those positions upon becoming assistant principal.
*Matthew Sinclair of Carthage won the DeKalb County Fair 5K and Fun Run Saturday, July 15. Sinclair was the overall winner of the race, which was held on West Main Street in Alexandria. He ran the course in 17:34. All proceeds went to the American Legion, a non-profit organization in DeKalb County in support of veterans.
*Pageant winners at the DeKalb County Fair:
Fairest of the Fair: 18 year old Tyra Grace Graham, daughter of Kyle and Doris Graham of Smithville.
Junior Fair Princess: 14 year old Ellisyn Kelsey Cripps, daughter of Troy and Jamie Cripps of Smithville.
Little Mister & Miss Zailan Martinez and Caitlyn Lee Adcock. Martinez is the 5 year old son of Michelle and Michael Martinez of Smithville and Adcock is the 6 year old daughter of Jessie and Tia Adcock of Smithville.
Miss Sweetheart: Kyleigh Breanne Hill of Smithville, the 12 year old daughter of David and Colleen Clary of Smithville and Kyle Hill. She was also awarded Miss Congeniality. The 2017 Miss Princess: Zayleigh Grace Washer, the 9 year old daughter of Larry and Rachel Bain of Smithville.
*The Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Chattanooga District located the alleged driver of a fatal hit-and-run accident it responded to Monday, July 17 on U.S. Highway 41 in Manchester. The driver was identified as Shelton G. Martin II, of Smithville. The hit and run vehicle left behind a mirror at the scene. THP’s Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) identified the mirror belonging to a 1999-2003 Mitsubishi Galant, champagne in color. Martin was taken into custody and transported to the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office.
*An early morning fire destroyed at least two condominiums in the Highland Cove Complex near Center Hill Lake early Monday morning, July 24. The three story, six condo complex is located on Dale Ridge Road (Highway 96) in the area of Cove Hollow. According to DeKalb County Fire Chief Donny Green, the fire started on the top floor of the “H” building and swept through both condos there. The two condos on each of the first and second floors were spared any fire damage because of the concrete floors in between each level of the building but there was some smoke and water damage there. The Fire Department returned to the Condos Wednesday afternoon, July 26 where an open flame from a ruptured natural gas line was discovered between the floors of another building there. The maintenance manager called for the fire department after walking into a room on the third floor of the “G” building and finding it extremely hot in there. The “G” building is some 50 feet from the “H” building where a fire destroyed two condos early Monday morning, July 24. Chief Green said the State Fire Marshal concluded that both buildings were struck by lightning Sunday night, July 23 which triggered the fires.
*The DeKalb County High School Football Program received an extra $10,000 thanks to Tennessee Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota and the NFL. During a visit to DCHS Tuesday morning, July 25 M