The death of a 23 month old child at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend in May; the fatal stabbing of a woman in February; and the process of selecting a new Director of Schools and Smithville Police Chief were among the top local news stories of the year 2015 in DeKalb County.
The year also saw the opening of the new Sligo bridge and the demolition of the old bridge; ground breaking for the new DeKalb Utility District water treatment plant, the indictment of a Liberty woman for fetal assault, one of the first in Tennessee under a new state law; the defeat of a union vote at Star Manufacturing; five traffic fatalities, three drownings in Center Hill Lake; a county property tax increase; the opening of two liquor stores in Smithville, the issuance of a marriage license to a same sex couple; another state tournament appearance for the DCHS Tigerette Softball team; another state play-off game for the DCHS football program ; a ruling from a judge that Cookeville Boat Dock must pay most of their back taxes, and an investigation into the death of a man found in the backseat of a car parked at the hospital.
*A Smithville mother and her boyfriend were named in sealed indictments returned by the DeKalb County Grand Jury in May in the death of the woman’s 23-month-old son, Colten Alexander May.
23-year-old Cody Key was charged in the indictment with felony murder and aggravated child abuse while the child’s mother 19-year-old Jessica May was indicted on a charge of aggravated child neglect. Bond for Key is set at one million dollars. May’s bond is $300,000. “The child suffered great injuries and as a result the child died,” said District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway in an interview with WJLE. According to D.A. Dunaway, the child was brought to the hospital by the couple Sunday morning, May 17 but he was already deceased. The youngster was found to have internal and other physical injuries to his body. Key was alleged to have inflicted the injuries while the mother was accused of having known the abuse had been taking place.
The case remains pending in court.
Just four days shy of what would have been his second birthday, caring members of the community joined friends and family of Colten May in a remembrance program Saturday evening, June 6. The observance, held downtown at Evins Park, featured prayers, words of encouragement from Chris Moore of the Smithville Church of God, and LIVE music, along with a candlelight vigil and a balloon release in remembrance of Colten and to promote child abuse awareness.
*28 year old Ashley Bain was found stabbed to death in her home on Cookeville Highway Thursday afternoon, February 5 and her boyfriend, 42 year old Anthony (Tony) Tyrone Crews was charged with killing her. He was originally charged with second degree murder but was indicted by the grand jury in July for first degree murder.
Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE that Bain’s body was found lying on the floor of a bedroom at the home she and Crews shared at 3870 Cookeville Highway north of Smithville. She had been stabbed numerous times about the upper body. It’s not known exactly how long Bain had been dead by the time authorities were notified but Sheriff Ray said she had been seen alive earlier in the day on Thursday, February 5. A knife, believed to have been the murder weapon, was found in the home. According to Sheriff Ray, Crews called 911 at 2:33 p.m. to report that he had discovered Bain’s body when he entered the residence. Sheriff Ray and members of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department were alerted and quickly arrived on the scene. The TBI and District Attorney General’s Office also joined the investigation. Sheriff Ray said authorities determined that Crews had committed the crime and made up the story about finding the body. One week later, Crews made his first court appearance in DeKalb County General Sessions Court and Judge Bratten Cook, II increased bond for Crews from $250,000 to one million dollars.
Two days after the fatal stabbing, members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were summoned to the residence of Bain and Crews where a Chevy Tahoe caught fire and burned Saturday morning, February 7. Central dispatch received the fire call at 8:59 a.m. The Tahoe belonged to Crews. Upon arrival, county firefighters found the Tahoe ablaze. It was setting in the driveway near the home, parked beside a Mazda Millenia, which belonged to Bain. Firefighters extinguished the blaze but the Tahoe was destroyed. Heat from the fire also caused some damage to the driver’s side of the Millenia. The cause of the fire was undetermined.
An outburst in General Sessions Court Thursday, March 26 landed Bain’s brother in trouble with the law. 23 year old Clay Andrew Bain of Lakeview Drive, Smithville was charged with disrupting a meeting or procession and two counts of assault. Bain was indicted by the grand jury in July. The incident occurred at the end of a preliminary hearing in the murder case against Crews. After Judge Bratten Cook, II ordered the case bound to the grand jury, Bain stood up and walked toward the door as if to exit the courtroom. When Judge Cook asked him to return to his seat, Bain walked past where Crews was seated and took a swing at him with his fist, hitting Crews in the head. A deputy standing beside Crews, Sergeant Brian Williams, suffered an injury to his left hand as Bain was trying to get to Crews. After being hit, Crews, who was handcuffed, stood up and turned toward Bain but he was quickly grabbed by officers and taken out of the courtroom. Bain was also escorted out. During the outburst, others in the courtroom, believed to be members of the Bain family began shouting and yelling obscenities at Crews. Following the hearing, Judge Cook increased Crew’s bond to $2 million dollars.
*Former DCHS Principal Patrick Cripps became Director of Schools in July succeeding Mark Willoughby who left the position in April
Although he still had more than two years left in his contract with the Board of Education, Director Willoughby decided to retire. He had wanted to step down effective June 30 but under a negotiated settlement with the board of education, Willoughby left the position on Thursday, April 16.
Under the agreement, Willoughby was paid his salary and he received all insurance benefits through June 30th. Funds were already in the school system’s budget to pay Willoughby. He had served as Director of Schools since July 1, 2006. His contract, approved last year, was supposed to run through June 30, 2017.
After the departure of Willoughby, Dr. Danielle Judkins Collins was selected by the Board of Education to become the interim Director of Schools. She served in the position until Cripps was named Director.
Cripps accepted the board’s offer of a two year employment contract at a base salary of $85,000 per year and he signed the final contract Monday, August 17.
*After serving five years as Smithville Police Chief, Randy Caplinger was ousted in March and replaced in November by Mark Collins, former Chief of Police in Alexandria.
Saying he felt the department needed new leadership, Mayor Jimmy Poss placed Chief Caplinger on suspension pending termination during a meeting with him on Friday morning, March 13 at city hall. According to city officials, Chief Caplinger was given the opportunity to voluntarily resign or retire from the department. When Chief Caplinger did neither, Mayor Poss fired him on March 19 and cited eight reasons for the termination.
After a seven hour due process hearing Friday, May 8 the Smithville Aldermen voted 3-2 to uphold Mayor Jimmy Poss’ termination of Caplinger. Aldermen Gayla Hendrix, Danny Washer, and Jason Murphy voted in favor of the mayor’s action. Aldermen Shawn Jacobs and Josh Miller voted against it.
Caplinger then took his case against the City of Smithville to court. Caplinger’s attorneys Sarah Cripps and Brandon Cox filed a lawsuit in DeKalb County Circuit Court on Thursday, June 4 seeking a declaratory judgment on provisions of the city charter dealing with the proper procedure for firing the police chief. Attorneys for the city said a simple majority vote of the aldermen was sufficient. Attorneys for Caplinger said a super majority vote of the aldermen was necessary. Caplinger’s lawyers sought to have Caplinger restored to his position as chief and asked that he be given all accrued back pay and every other benefit to which he would be entitled.
Circuit Court Judge Amy Hollars ruled in favor of the city and against Caplinger on Thursday, October 29 fifteen days after holding a hearing in the matter. Judge Hollars found that the provision of the charter that requires only a simple majority vote of the aldermen to be the proper procedure in firing the police chief. The Court further held that by voting to terminate Chief Caplinger, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen on May 8 were also voting to approve the Mayor Poss’s suspension of Chief Caplinger on March 13.
Four days after the ruling came down, the Smithville aldermen voted to hire Mark Collins as the new police chief. Collins was one of three persons who applied for the position and all three were interviewed by the mayor and aldermen on Saturday, October 31 at city hall.
*After years of planning and months of legal battles with opponents including the City of Smithville who tried to stop the project, the DeKalb Utility District began construction on its own water treatment plant during the summer. The DUD Board of Commissioners held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday, July 2 at the site of the water plant on Yulanda Hills Road off Holmes Creek Road near Center Hill Lake. “The purpose of this project is to provide a long term solution to providing the DUD customers with a safe, economical source of drinking water. A second purpose is to provide the region with a backup source of drinking water,” said Roger Turney, Chairman of the DUD Board of Commissioners in remarks during the brief groundbreaking ceremony.
*Workers at Star Manufacturing voted against representation by the United Steel Workers Union in July. Sources told WJLE that the effort to form a union was soundly defeated 142-73 by employees voting at both the Smithville and Cookeville locations on Thursday, July 23. The vote was scheduled after issues of working conditions, workplace safety, and unrealistic production expectations were raised by some workers at Star Manufacturing, according to a union organizer. This is not the first time union plans have been upended in Smithville. Efforts for union representation at another local plant failed a few years ago.
*DeKalb County property owners are having to ante up a little more. The county commission Monday night, July 26 by a vote of 9-4, increased the overall property tax rate to $1.78 cents per $100 of assessed value, as recommended by the budget committee. That’s a sixteen cent increase from the former rate of $1.62. The new budget totaling $40,936,094 was also approved. According to Steve Bates, the county’s financial advisor, the primary reason for the tax increase is to keep the county from digging too deeply into fund balances to operate.
*After more than two years since construction began, the new Sligo bridge opened in August. Traffic was shifted from the old bridge to the new one at 12:33 p.m. Saturday, August 8. “We’ve been working on this bridge project since May, 2013 and we’ve finally got the bridge to the condition where it’s completed. We have turned traffic across the new bridge and the new alignment on State Route 26 (Highway 70),” said Larry Langford, Operations Technician for the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Although actual construction of the bridge is finished, Langford said work remains to be done including asphalt grade adjustments on each end. The project is slated for total completion in June 2016, but it is very likely that it will be finished ahead of schedule. Meanwhile two fifths of the Old Sligo Bridge was demolished Tuesday afternoon, September 15 and the remaining spans were taken down Monday, September 28.
THE FOLLOWING ARE THE TOP LOCAL NEWS STORIES MONTH BY MONTH FROM JANUARY THROUGH DECEMBER, 2015 AS REPORTED ON WJLE:
*Lane Ball, a senior, was named Most Valuable Player of the 2014 DeKalb County High School Football Team during the annual Awards Banquet January 10 at the Smithville First Baptist Church Life Enrichment Center building. The awards were sponsored by Liberty State Bank. Ball was named to the 1st Team All-District for the 2014 season and was an All Upper Cumberland Football Honorable Mention on defense for his 120 plus tackles at middle linebacker. The Tigers finished the season in November with an overall record of 5-6 and another appearance in the state play-offs. It was the fourth consecutive year the Tigers earned a berth in the state play-offs and their sixth appearance in the last seven years. The Tigers lost in the first round of the play-offs at Signal Mountain. Meanwhile, Brooke Martin, a senior, was named Most Valuable Cheerleader.
*One hundred thirty five seniors at DCHS signed up for an opportunity to receive two years of tuition-free community or technical college through Tennessee Promise. Patrick Cripps, DCHS Principal reported to the school board that he is proud of the student response to this program. “I am really proud of our seniors. We’ve got 135 kids signed up for (TN Promise) out of 195. Tennessee Promise is both a scholarship and mentoring program that will begin in the fall of 2015. It will provide students a last-dollar scholarship, meaning the scholarship will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship, or TSAA funds. Students may use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program.
*DeKalb County School buses passed state inspection. Bus drivers were also tested and recertified. State Trooper Darryl Winningham of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, inspector for this district, completed his evaluation January 13-16 of all the buses in the fleet including the substitute buses. “We’ve got 37 buses on route and four sub buses and everything has passed inspection with the state that is in service. It’s been a long four days but they inspected all buses from front to rear including every switch, every air line, every fan motor, every light, and I’m proud to say that DeKalb County’s buses are safe. We passed 100%. There were some simple things found that were wrong such as light bulbs and we had one exhaust leak but all of that was fixed on the spot and there were no reinspections. The state passed them. Again, we have 42 buses in the fleet counting our band bus that hauls the band equipment and we have a shuttle bus we use. Thirty seven buses are on route and we have four buses that are used as sub buses, two handicapped buses and two class-D regular route 90 passenger buses that are substitute status,” said School Transportation Supervisor Jimmy Sprague.
*The 2014 DeKalb County Volunteer Firefighter of the Year is Robin Summers, Station Commander of the Short Mountain Highway Station. Summers received the award January 17 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 2014 Officer of the Year and Jeremy Neal, Station Commander of the Blue Springs Station, received the Department’s 2014 “Git R Done” award. The “Rookie” award went to Firefighter Steven Lawrence of the Liberty Station. In addition to these four long standing awards, a new one eas created called the “EMS Star of Life Award” which will be presented annually to a member of the department who goes above and beyond to extend joint cooperation in improving emergency medical training and responses for members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department. This year’s winner was Kristie Johnson, Station Commander of the Main Station and a DeKalb EMS Paramedic.
* U.S. Army Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Bill Hawkins, whose military career has carried him to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, returned home January 17 for a promotion ceremony and reception. Hawkins has been promoted to the rank of Chaplain Colonel. The ceremony was held at the Smithville First Baptist Church, Chaplain Colonel Hawkins’ hometown place of worship. Members of Hawkins’ family, many friends, and veterans were in attendance. Military officials participating in the program were U.S. Army Chaplain Colonel Brent Causey, Retired Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Will Bearden, and Chaplain Captain Robert Sterling. Chaplain Colonel Hawkin’s father, Billy Hawkins, Sr., his wife Trudy, and their daughter and son, Sarah and Ben pinned the Colonel insignias on his service dress coat during the ceremony.
*The DeKalb County School System announced its “Teachers of the Year” at the building level of the five schools in the county. This year’s honoree are Tanya Howard, a kindergarten teacher at Smithville Elementary School; Jennifer Griffith a third grade math, science, and social studies teacher at Northside Elementary School; Lori Pryor a third grade self-contained teacher at DeKalb West School; Tad Webb a seventh grade math teacher at DeKalb Middle School; and Sonja House a ninth grade English/10th-12th grade Theatre Arts teacher at DeKalb County High School.
*Firefighters battled a blaze Sunday afternoon, January 18 at an Alexandria residence but were unable to save the home. The 201 Church Street home, which belonged to Charles and Cathy Quarles, was being rented. Brenda Acorn and Patsy Keyes lived there and were at home when the fire started but they were unharmed. According to Assistant Chief John Partridge of the Alexandria Volunteer Fire Department, firefighters were on the scene within minutes of the call but the blaze spread quickly and the home was lost along with family belongings. Two dogs also perished. Assistant Chief Partridge told WJLE that the fire is believed to have started from an electric heater in a bedroom, which may have caught some bedding or clothing on fire.
*The School Board began its annual performance evaluation of Director of Schools Mark Willoughby in a workshop Monday night, January 25. Board members used a four page evaluation form to rate Director Willoughby 1-5 in each of 60 areas on his relationship with the Board, the Community, Staff and Personnel, Educational Leadership, Business and Finance, Personal Qualities, Strategic Planning Skills, and Tennessee Specific questions. A rating of “1” means his performance is “Consistently Below Expectations”. A “5” rating signifies that Willoughby “Meets All Expectations”. A rating with an asterisk (*) symbol means he “Exceeds Expectations”. The result of the evaluation showed Willougby was not meeting all the board’s expectations. His overall average score was 2.92 (Rating out of 6). Willoughby’s contract states that the evaluation of the Director shall occur annually and no later than January 31 each calendar year. Willoughby’s current contract with the board is scheduled to expire June 30th, 2017. He has served as Director of Schools since July 1st, 2006.
*Leigh Fuson joined the staff at the DeKalb County Extension Office as a 4-H Extension Agent and is working with Director and County Extension Agent Michael Barry and Dr. April Martin, Extension Family Consumer Science Agent. Fuson, who is originally from White County, married Zach Fuson of Smithville four years ago and the couple resides here. She is a graduate of Tennessee Tech with a degree in agriculture education and comes to this new position after having worked with the 4-H program in Putnam County for three years. According to Fuson, her 4-H assignment allows both Barry and Martin to devote more time to other programs they are already involved in. “I am a 4-H Extension agent. That’s the only thing I’ll be working with. Michael and April will still be doing a little of the 4-H work but this way they can focus on the adult programming with agriculture and the family consumer sciences,” she said. Fuson’s position is primarily being funded through Tennessee State University with a portion being financially supported by the county.
*A Hendersonville woman was injured in a bizarre crash Wednesday morning, January 28 on the Old Casey Cove Road in DeKalb County. 41 year old Krystal McFall was airlifted by a Life Force helicopter ambulance and flown to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. County Fire Chief Donny Green reported that a Ford F-150 pickup truck went off a steep embankment with the front of the truck resting against a lakeside cabin. The driver, McFall was pinned between the truck door frame and a large tree stump. She was quickly freed and turned over to DeKalb County EMS for trauma treatment. McFall’s 5 year old son was a passenger of the truck but he wasn’t hurt. According to witnesses, McFall had attempted to turn around on the narrow road and became stuck when the front end of her truck went slightly over an embankment. As it became apparent she was stuck, McFall got the young boy out of the truck as she attempted to back the truck up. McFall put pieces of wood under the back tires to gain more traction. But, as she was still outside of the truck, the vehicle began sliding or rolling further over the steep embankment. McFall attempted to jump in the truck to apply the brakes to stop it when she became pinned between a large tree stump and the open door frame of the truck. The boy ran approximately ½ mile down the road to get help. DeKalb 911 Central Dispatch was notified of the accident and immediately dispatched appropriate resources.
*Northside Elementary School was recommended for AdvancED reaccreditation by members of an external review team who visited the school Thursday and Friday, January 29-30. “The External Review Team recommends to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission that Northside Elementary School earn the distinction of accreditation by AdvancED for a five year term that expires June 30, 2019,” said Dr. Alice Patterson, AdvancED Lead Evaluator who addressed members of the administration, faculty, and WJLE at Northside Elementary in an exit report meeting Friday afternoon. But while the school drew praise for advancements, the team cited an improvement priority that must be addressed within two years. “You know you need additional resources for your students regarding mental and emotional health needs. You know this is an area in which you are not at a standard you want to be or should be, where students need to be. This will be what has to be reported to AdvancED and you will have two years to rectify this area for improvement,” said Dr. Patterson. The AdvancED Network was created as a result of a merger of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools with the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
*A 28 year old woman was found stabbed to death in her home on Cookeville Highway Thursday afternoon, February 5 and her boyfriend was charged with killing her. 42 year old Anthony (Tony) Tyrone Crews was taken into custody that night and charged with second degree murder in the death of Ashley Bain. Sheriff Patrick Ray told WJLE that Bain’s body was found lying on the floor of a bedroom at the home she and Crews shared at 3870 Cookeville Highway north of Smithville. She had been stabbed numerous times about the upper body. It’s not known exactly how long Bain had been dead by the time authorities were notified but Sheriff Ray said she had been seen alive earlier in the day on Thursday. A knife, believed to have been the murder weapon, was found in the home. According to Sheriff Ray, Crews called 911 at 2:33 p.m. to report that he had discovered Bain’s body when he entered the residence. Sheriff Ray and members of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department were alerted and quickly arrived on the scene. The TBI and District Attorney General’s Office also joined the investigation. Sheriff Ray said authorities determined that Crews had committed the crime and made up the story about finding the body. Although officials believe they know the motive for the stabbing, Sheriff Ray has not released it. One week later, Crews made his first court appearance in DeKalb County General Sessions Court and Judge Bratten Cook, II increased bond for Crews from $250,000 to one million dollars. Crews was indicted for first degree murder by the grand jury in July.
* Two days after a fatal stabbing there, members of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department were summoned to 3870 Cookeville Highway, where a Chevy Tahoe caught fire and burned Saturday morning, February 7. Central dispatch received the fire call at 8:59 a.m. The Tahoe reportedly belongs to 42 year old Anthony (Tony) Crews, the man charged with second degree murder in the stabbing of his girlfriend, 28 year old Ashley Bain. Upon arrival, county firefighters found the Tahoe ablaze. It was setting in the driveway near the home, parked beside a Mazda Millenia, which reportedly belonged to Bain. Firefighters extinguished the blaze but the Tahoe was destroyed. Heat from the fire also caused some damage to the driver’s side of the Millenia. The cause of the fire was undetermined.
*Six basketball legends at DeKalb County High School were honored Thursday night, February 5 between games as the Tigers and Lady Tigers hosted Cannon County. Former Lady Tigers (Tigerette) Betty Carol Fite (DCHS playing career 1961-65), Mary Ann Puckett (1989-93), and Cynthia Woodward (2006-10) were recognized along with former Tigers Danny Foutch (1974-78), Kevin James (1976-80), and longtime Coach Harold Luna. Each honoree stepped to center court during the introductions and stood beside current Tiger and Lady Tiger players who held banners bearing the names and jersey numbers of these former basketball stars as public address announcer Chris Vance cited their high school career accomplishments. Fite was unable to attend Coach Luna’s banner bears his overall 516-179 win loss record. Each standout was greeted by enthusiastic applause from a gym filled with basketball fans. But the greatest fan reception was for Coach Luna. Touched by the rousing applause and standing ovation, the long time coach became emotional during the tribute to his long and successful career. Luna Coached both boys and girls from 1964-69 and then he coached the boys program only through 1984. His total record was 516-179
*Smithville Aldermen Monday night, February 2 took another step toward authorizing liquor sales with the passage of an ordinance on first reading to amend the Municipal Code by establishing regulations for package stores in the city. The vote was 4-1.
* A three judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit on the trial court level against the DeKalb County Election Commission and several others in Tennessee brought in 2009 by former administrators of elections who claim they did not get to keep their jobs for political reasons. Nashville Attorney John Harris, III, who represents the DeKalb County Election Commission in this case, said the opinion from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirms the federal trial court’s initial decision that a Tennessee Administrator of Elections at the county election commission level is a position that can be terminated or even hired based upon political party affiliation. The significance of that is it means that if the plaintiffs in the case were correct in alleging that in 2009 they were terminated or not rehired because of their affiliation with the Democratic party, the 6th Circuit and the federal court hearing the case have now said that’s okay because the positions (administrators of elections) are political enough in nature that it is reasonable for the election commissions to consider party affiliation in making their employment decisions,” he said. According to Harris, the plaintiffs are now basically left with two options should they want to pursue the case. They could ask for a review by the entire body of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals or file an appeal to the U.S Supreme Court seeking to overturn the federal court’s ruling that the position of Administrator of Elections is subject to political patronage.
*Although the local VFW POST 7623 hasn’t been active for a long time, it will cease to exist if the state VFW organization acts to revoke the charter.
The operation has been suspended for up to 90 days because of its inactivity but in an effort to try and save the POST, a meeting was scheduled for Saturday, March 14 to give members and local veterans of interest an opportunity to express their wishes. Acting Post Commander Ronald Miller received a letter from the State VFW Commander William G. Crawford informing him of the suspension because the local POST has failed to hold meetings and elect officers in violation of the national VFW BY-Laws. An administrative committee will make a recommendation on whether the suspension is to be kept in place, lifted, or if the charter should be revoked.
*DeKalb County High School released the names of students in the Class of 2015 Top Rank including the Valedictorian Julia Little and the Salutatorian Makalee Ruch. Little is the daughter of Dr. Scott Little and Kristin Raymond. Ruch’s parents are Melissa and Joe Ruch. To be considered for Top Rank, students must take at least 10 honors, dual enrollment, and AP courses. Students must also have a 21 or higher ACT composite score. Forty DCHS students met this qualification, according to DCHS Guidance Counselor Lori Myrick Students in the Class of 2015 Top Rank (listed in alphabetical order) are as follows: Shara Adcock, Rachel Adcock, Rayanna Baker, Austin Ball, Jonathon Ball, Isaac Beck, Rebecca Benshoof, Kathryn Blair, Leah Burchfield, William Caplinger, Savannah Driver, Dakoda Eaton, Taylor Ellis, Michael Ferguson, Matthew Foutch, Sydnie Garmer, Bailey Hayes, Kelsey Hedge, Rachel Holcomb, Justin Johnson, Brandon Leiser, Julia Little, Ortega Maciel, Micah Merriman, Kenzie Morris, Cason Oakley, Jacquelyn Overbey, Bethany Poss, Makayla Redmon, Brooke Reffue, Zachary Roberts, Makalee Ruch, Harlli Silcox, Emilee Stephens, Austin Tittle, Lydia Trail, Darrian Turner, Jacob Washer, Bruce Wilson, and Charles Young.
*Traveling in DeKalb County and across Tennessee became perilous for several days beginning Monday February 16 as a winter storm swept through producing mostly freezing rain and sleet in this area and causing layers of ice to form on highways, backroads, trees and power lines. Many customers of Caney Fork Electric Cooperative were without power for several hours and some for days due to the winter storm. A combination of ice, freezing rain, snow and wind from the winter storm caused a metal roof over a portion of the dock at Edgar Evins Marina to collapse. Although the roof fell on top of several boats docked there, marina owner Kaye Tuggle said none of them sank.
*A 39 year old McMinnville man indicted on child sex charges was sentenced to fifteen years in prison Friday, February 27 in DeKalb County Criminal Court. Judge David Patterson presided. Jared Norrod entered a no contest (best interest) plea to charges of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, sexual battery by an authority figure, especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, and incest. He received a nine year sentence for especially aggravated sexual exploitation and six years for aggravated sexual exploitation to serve consecutively for a total of fifteen years. Norrod also received a three year sentence for incest and a three year term for sexual battery by an authority figure to run concurrently with each other and concurrently with the other two sentences. Again, Norod’s total sentence is fifteen years. After serving his term, Norrod will be under lifetime supervision. Norrod was charged with having sexual contact with two juveniles between the ages of 13 and 18, one of them being a relative, taking pictures of juveniles engaging in sexual activity, having such photographs in his possession, and uploading them to a computer. Norrod was represented by attorney Brad Hornsby of Murfreesboro.
*A former DeKalb County resident returned home to become the new manager of Edgar Evins State Park. Jacob Young, who had been a Park Ranger for ten years at Roan Mountain State Park, began his new duties on March 1. “I grew up in Liberty. My mom is Sherry Williams and my grandparents were the late Georgia and Morris Young. I attended DeKalb West School and DeKalb County High School,” Young told WJLE. ” I got my degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from Tennessee Tech in Cookeville. When I graduated college I went to work at Edgar Evins State Park as a seasonal interpretive ranger working under Mr. Carl Halfacre. I quickly fell in love with Tennessee State Parks that summer and shortly after that I was hired as a fulltime park ranger at Roan Mountain State Park in Carter County, Tennessee. I have been at Roan Mountain for 10 years. I worked there 8 years as a ranger and the last 2 years as the park manager,” said Young. “I have been married to Crystal Young for 11 years and we have three children, 8 year old Madyson, 5 year old Kylie, and 1 year old Hunter. We are currently in the process of adopting Kylie and Hunter,” he said. Young succeeded Carl Halfacre, the former Park Manager who retired last fall.
*A late night fire Tuesday, February 24 destroyed the two story residence of Doyle Hendrix at 1492 Sparta Highway. 911 received the call at 11:25 p.m. County Fire Chief Donny Green told WJLE that the fire was well underway by the time it was reported and the home could not be saved. A pickup truck near the residence was also destroyed in the blaze. The cause of the fire is undetermined. Members of the Midway, Short Mountain Highway, Cookeville Highway, and Main Stations of the DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the tanker truck and manpower from other county fire stations. The fire rekindled at 4:36 a.m. the following morning and the Midway station returned to the scene. No one was at home at the time of the fire and no one was injured.
*The Lady Cats Junior Level 2 All-Star Competitive Cheer Team from Power Athletics in Cookeville brought home the gold and winners’ jackets from the 2015 Cheersport National Cheer and Dance Championship in Atlanta, Georgia in February in Junior Small Gym 2 Division II. This is one of the largest cheer and dance competitions in the United States with over 1,300 teams and 50,000 cheerleaders in attendance. Competing on the Lady Cats team from Smithville are Hayley Martin, Carlee West, and Katherine Clendenon. There were 16 teams in The Lady Cats’ division, which also included one team from England. Not only did they win their division, but they also had the highest raw score out all 45 teams in the Junior Small Gym 2 category with a score of 96.31, and they had zero deductions from their routine on both days of competition. This is the second National Championship that this team has won this season after winning the Athletics Platinum Championship in Chattanooga in January. The Lady Cats are coached by Ashley Farris and Jordan Todd.
*A 32 year old man who stood trial last summer and was convicted of raping an eight year old boy was denied a motion for a new trial in DeKalb County Criminal Court Friday, February 27. Jose Reyes is serving a 32 year prison term. He was accused of raping the boy between November 2012 and March 2013. The trial was held on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 in DeKalb County Criminal Court and it took the jury of six men and six women only half an hour to find Reyes guilty of the crime. According to prosecutors in the case, Reyes was a trusted friend of the boy and his family prior to this incident and he had been renting a room in the home of the child’s aunt. That is where the crime is alleged to have occurred.
*A two year old child, Kayden Ray Fults, died Sunday March 1 after suffering an injury in a fall from a bunk bed at his Smithville home. The child was taken to DeKalb Community Hospital where he passed away. Fults is the son of Mark Johnson, a DeKalb County Firefighter from the Short Mountain Station, and Kaycie Lynn Fults.
*Senior Justin Bone was named the DCHS Tiger basketball Most Valuable Player Tuesday night, March 10 at the annual team banquet, while Junior Ashli Chew received the Lady Tiger MVP honor. Senior Kara Kanipe is the Most Valuable Cheerleader. The awards were sponsored by Love-Cantrell Funeral Home and presented by Chad Kirby. The MVP and MVC awards are named in memory of Kirby’s grandfather Allen D. Hooper. Bone, a member of the 1,000 point club at DCHS was also named to the All-District second team and received the team’s Best Rebounder and Best Free Throw Shooter Awards. Along with the MVP award, Chew was honored for being the team’s free throw leader and having the most steals. She was named to the All-District third team. The season for the DeKalb County Tigers ended with a loss to Macon County in the District Tournament at Cookeville in February. The Tigers finished the season at 19-15 overall and 3-12 in district play. The DeKalb County Lady Tigers wrapped up their season losing to Upperman in the District Tournament. They closed out the season with an overall record of 21-13 and 4-11 in the district.
*DeKalb West School was recommended for AdvancED reaccreditation by members of an external review team who visited the school in March.
“The External Review Team recommends to the AdvancED Accreditation Commission that DeKalb West School earn the distinction of accreditation by AdvancED for a five year term that expires June 30, 2019,” said Dr. Alice Patterson, AdvancED Lead Evaluator who addressed members of the administration, faculty, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, School Board member Jerry Wayne Johnson, and WJLE at DeKalb West School in an exit report meeting Wednesday afternoon, March 11. “DeKalb West School is doing a magnanimous job. You come to school every day doing what you need to do to educate the children in your community,” said Dr. Patterson. But along with the recommendation for reaccreditation, the team cited an improvement priority that must be addressed with a plan of action within two years. “Every school must have one (improvement priority). That’s an AdvancED mandate,” said Dr. Patterson. The improvement priority for DeKalb West is to “plan, develop, and implement explicit, differentiated instruction to engage students in rigorous learning opportunities and authentic assessments to meet the individualized needs of all learners”.
*An Alexandria man charged with aggravated arson for allegedly setting fire to the residence where he lived on Lower Helton Road last summer was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Wednesday, March 11. 24 year old Shawn Patrick Byrd entered a plea to the charge of arson under a negotiated settlement and received an eight year sentence, all suspended to supervised probation. He will be under Tennessee Department of Correction Supervision by Community Corrections. Byrd will also undergo mental health counseling as part of the plea agreement. He was given jail credit from June 19, 2014 to August 22, 2014
*Five year old Jaxsen Theryn Speaks is the 2015 Little Mister. Speaks, the son of Justin and Donna Speaks of Smithville, succeeded last year’s Little Mister, Skyler Chase Sullivan, the seven year old son of Charity Sullivan of Smithville and the late Jamie Sullivan. The contest, featuring three boys, was held Saturday, March 14 at DCHS sponsored by the Smithville Women’s Club. In addition to being named Little Mister, Speaks also received the Mister Photogenic honor.
* The winner of the Little Miss Pageant Saturday, March 14 was Ella Grace Kirksey, the four year old daughter of Graden and Sabrina Kirksey of Smithville. Kirksey, who also won the title of Little Miss Photogenic, succeeded the retiring Little Miss, Averie Nicole McMinn, the seven year old daughter of Nathan and Amanda McMinn of Dowelltown. Fourteen girls, ages four to six, were in the pageant held at DCHS sponsored by the Smithville Women’s Club.
*Tyra Grace Graham is the first ever Miss Spring Blossom. Graham, the 16 year old daughter of Kyle and Doris Graham of Smithville, won the inaugural pageant held Saturday, March 14 at DCHS sponsored by the Smithville Women’s Club. She was also named Miss Photogenic.
*Twelve year old Alexis Grace Atnip won Junior Miss of the Spring Blossom Pageant Saturday, March 14 at DCHS. She is the 12 year old daughter of Veronica Atnip of Smithville. Four girls were in the contest sponsored by the Smithville Women’s Club.
*Fourteen year old Sarah Anne Colwell is the new Teen Miss of the Spring Blossom Pageant. She won the crown Saturday, March 14 at DCHS. Colwell, daughter of Trent and Christie Colwell of Smithville, succeeds the retiring queen Morgan Faith Green, the fifteen year old daughter of Suzanne and Jon Harrison of Smithville. Five girls were in the contest.
*The 2015 Young Miss of the Smithville Women’s Club’s Spring Blossom Pageant is seven year old Isabella Faith Rackley. Daughter of Gordon and Jessica Rackley of Smithville, Isabella beat out nine other girls ages seven to nine for the crown. She succeeded last year’s Young Miss Carlee Elizabeth West, the nine t year old daughter of D.J. and Megan Stewart of Smithville. The pageant was held Saturday, March 14 at DCHS
*Members of the DeKalb County Republican Party met Saturday morning, March 14 at the courthouse to elect officers to serve for the next two years.Local attorney Mingy Colwell Bryant was elected Chairman of the Party. Other officers are Vice Chairman Clint Hall, Secretary Sharon Rhoten, Treasurer Tom Chandler, and Assistant Treasurer Dustin Estes.
*The VFW POST 7623 is apparently gone for good. Because of inactivity in recent years, the local VFW charter has been revoked by the State Commander, pending final approval by the national VFW organization. A meeting was held Saturday, March 14 at the county complex to give VFW members a chance to show their concern for saving the POST but only one active member showed up. “We revoked the charter as of today (Saturday). It now goes on to our national organization with our explanation,” said State VFW Commander William (Bill) G. Crawford who was in Smithville for the meeting Saturday.
*Although he still had more than two years left in his contract with the Board of Education, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby decided to retire, effective June 30, 2015. Willoughby called a meeting with his central office staff and department heads Monday morning, March 16 at the Board of Education building to make the announcement. Willoughby then sent an electronic notice to members of the Board of Education. “My notice to the school board is Please let this serve as notice of my retirement as of June 30, 2015. Thank you Mark Willoughby”. ” I think it is in the best interest of the children,” said Willoughby to the staff.
*Property owners in Liberty will see an increase in their annual tax bills this fall. In order to bring in more revenue to a general fund budget which has been showing a shortfall, the Liberty Aldermen Monday night, March 16 voted 4-1 to double the city property tax rate from .0915 to .1830 per $100 of assessed value for the 2015-16 budget year. Aldermen Jason Ray, Todd Dodd, Joe D. Bratten, and Howard Reynolds, Jr. all voted for the increase. Alderman Paul Neal cast a vote against it. If approved by the aldermen on second reading in April, taxpayers would see their bills double in October.
*Almost five years after being named to lead the department, Randy Caplinger’s days as Smithville Police Chief are over. Saying he felt the department needed new leadership, Mayor Jimmy Poss placed Chief Caplinger on suspension pending termination during a meeting Friday morning, March 13 at city hall. “I told Randy I didn’t believe the police department was headed in the right direction, that the morale was low among the officers, and that we needed to make a change and that change was to remove him,” Mayor Poss told WJLE. According to city officials, Chief Caplinger was being given the opportunity to voluntarily resign or retire from the department and a meeting of the mayor and board of aldermen was held on Tuesday, March 17 to discuss whether to offer Caplinger a severance package if he should choose to step aside without a challenge. During the March 17 meeting, Caplinger appeared with his attorneys, Sarah Cripps and Brandon Cox seeking due process. Speaking on his behalf, Cripps said that Caplinger, a veteran law enforcement officer, has done nothing wrong and will not resign. A contingent of Caplinger supporters filled the meeting room to back the embattled Police Chief.
*Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss fired in March Police Chief Randy Caplinger and cited eight reasons for the termination. In a letter to Caplinger dated March 19, Mayor Poss wrote that “Your actions and performance has had a negative impact on the Smithville Police Department since I was first elected Mayor in 2012 and can no longer be tolerated. I have lost confidence in your ability to lead the Smithville Police Department in a positive direction. As a result, your employment as Smithville Police Chief is being terminated immediately”. Caplinger’s attorney Sarah Cripps has answered the Mayor’s letter with one of her own requesting a hearing. “Chief Caplinger categorically denies all allegations contained in your March 19 correspondence and respectfully requests that he be afforded a full and fair due process hearing before the three-person board or commission and, in the event of an adverse ruling against him, before a plenary session of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen.”
*Smithville Volunteer firefighter Hoyte Hale received the “Highest Attendance Award” Friday night, March 20 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. Hale, currently deputy chief and a 30 year veteran of the department, attended the most incidents, training, and activities during 2014. ” Out of the 220 incidents we had, Hoyte made 172 of them so that shows the dedication he had to the department,” said Chief Parker. Two firefighters, Cody Fults and Dalton Roberts, were recognized as “Rookies of the Year”.
*The DeKalb County Democratic Party has a new chairman. Jordan Wilkins, who has been serving as one of the Vice Chairmen, was elected as the new party leader during a Biennial Reorganization Convention held Saturday, March 21 at the courthouse. Jim Judkins, the retiring chairman who held the post for five years, did not seek another term. James Hale is the new Vice Chairman. Joyce Hendrixson was re-elected Secretary and Myra Miller remains Treasurer. Members of the new DeKalb County Democratic Executive Committee were also selected during the convention, each to serve two years.
*A Liberty mother is the first person to be charged in DeKalb County under a new state law, which took effect last summer that allows the state to seek criminal charges against a woman who uses illegal drugs while pregnant. 27 year old Lindsey Paulette Davenport of Woodbury Highway, Liberty is charged with the misdemeanor offense of assaulting a viable fetus as the victim. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on January 21, Davenport gave birth to a baby boy whose urine tested positive for opiates. Blood drawn from the umbilical cord tested positive for Suboxone, Methodone, and Morphine.
*A DeKalb Middle School educator is one of four teachers from across the United States who was selected to visit Russia this summer to teach American folklore to students there. Her presentations will be about the Smithville Fiddlers Jamboree and Crafts Festival. Anita Puckett will be making the trip as part of the Russian/American Educators Exchange Program. American Friends of Russian Folklore invited middle and high school teachers to apply for the program in which participants travel to rural Russia to collect Russian folklore by filming holiday celebrations, recording local singers, interviewing villagers about traditional lore, and photographing local handicrafts. During her stay, Puckett will experience Russian village life first hand, living in a village house and eating the local food. She will also visit Russian rural schools, where she will make five- 45 minute presentations through translators on American folklore and meet with Russian teachers to discuss matters of mutual professional interest. After she returns, Puckett will share with others curriculum materials from her trip, incorporating some elements of the Russian folklore she collects.
*A 74 year old Dowelltown man who obtained a package through the mail at the Liberty Post Office last August containing fourteen pounds of pot appeared in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday, March 23. John Harris of Cathcart Road Dowelltown, charged with possession of a schedule VI drug, received judicial diversion probation for a period of two years and was fined $2,000. His probation will be unsupervised. Judge David Patterson presided. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, the investigation was conducted by Detectives of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and United States Postal Service Inspectors.
*Members of an AdvancED External Review Team visited Smithville Elementary School in March and liked what they saw. During an exit report meeting Tuesday afternoon, March 24 Lead Evaluator Karen Garner announced to the administration and faculty that the school will be recommended for reaccreditation. If the AdvancED Accreditation Commission concurs with the recommendation, Smithville Elementary School will earn the distinction of accreditation by AdvancED for a five year term that expires June 30, 2019. “We will be composing this report over the next couple of weeks and then it goes to Nashville. We hope this report will help guide your future,” said Garner. According to Garner, SES scored higher than the national average in better than 90% of the areas surveyed. But the school needs a computer teacher and more technology, and those areas will be noted as “Improvement Priorities” that must be addressed within the next two years.
*Three members of the Smithville Police Department have been commended for “Outstanding Service” in the line of duty. Officers James Cornelius and Andy Snow along with Sergeant Travis Bryant were recognized by Captain Steven Leffew, Officer in Charge, during a meeting of police department staff Wednesday afternoon, March 25 at city hall. Mayor Jimmy Poss and Alderman and Police Commissioner Jason Murphy were also there for the occasion. Both Officers Cornelius and Snow were commended for their response to a fire at City Walk Apartments on East Bryant Street in January 2012 where they entered the burning building in search of anyone who might need help getting out. Sergeant Bryant’s commendation was for his professionalism as the department’s evidence custodian in keeping files in order and properly secured.
*An outburst in General Sessions Court Thursday, March 26 landed one man in trouble with the law. 23 year old Clay Andrew Bain of Lakeview Drive, Smithville was charged with disrupting a meeting or procession and two counts of assault. Bain was indicted by the grand jury in July. The incident occurred at the end of a preliminary hearing in the second degree murder case against 42 year old Anthony (Tony) Tyrone Crews, who is charged in the February 5th fatal stabbing of 28 year old Ashley Bain. The woman was found dead in the home she and Crews shared at 3870 Cookeville Highway, Smithville. Clay Bain is the victim’s brother. After Judge Bratten Cook, II ordered the case bound to the grand jury, Bain stood up and walked toward the door as if to exit the courtroom. When Judge Cook asked him to return to his seat, Bain walked past where Crews was seated and took a swing at him with his fist, hitting Crews in the head. A deputy standing beside Crews, Sergeant Brian Williams, suffered an injury to his left hand as Bain was trying to get to Crews. After being hit, Crews, who was handcuffed, stood up and turned toward Bain but he was quickly grabbed by officers and taken out of the courtroom. Bain was also escorted out. During the outburst, others in the courtroom, believed to be members of the Bain family began shouting and yelling obscenities at Crews. Following the hearing, Judge Cook increased Crew’s bond to $2 million dollars. At the time of his arrest, Crews’ bond was set at $250,000 but Judge Cook increased it to $1 million during Crews’ first court appearance on February 12.
*The President and Founder of Remote Area Medical arrived in Smithville Saturday morning, March 28 to tour the clinic set up at DeKalb County High School and to speak with the volunteers. Stan Brock established RAM, a non-profit clinic, in 1985 to provide medical care through mobile events in underserved, isolated, or impoverished communities across the United States and throughout the world. Most clinics provide general medical, dental, vision, preventive care, and education. The clinic was held in DeKalb County Saturday and Sunday, March 28 & 29 to treat patients who cannot afford to pay for the services. Brock pioneered television programming focusing on nature and wildlife when he starred on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.
*A man serving a twenty five year prison sentence in a 2002 DeKalb County murder case is now a free man. According to Melissa McDonald, Communications Director for the Tennessee Board of Parole, 43 year old Melvin Eugene Turnbill has met the conditions for parole and was released from prison on Monday, March 9. He was incarcerated at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville. Almost a year ago, members of the Tennessee Board of Parole voted to release Turnbill to parole supervision provided he complete a nine to twelve month substance abuse program called “Therapeutic Community”, and get a release plan approved. The board also voted that Turnbill receive a substance abuse after-care referral upon leaving prison, and that he be assessed for substance abuse treatment once he is under parole supervision. The assessment is to be completed by TDOC staff. In September 2003, Turnbill received a twenty five year sentence after pleading guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court to facilitating the first degree murder of Joshua Murphy, who 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 Turnbill and a co-defendant, Christopher Nicholas Orlando suspected Murphy of stealing methamphetamine. Orlando, the triggerman in the killing, was tried and convicted of the crime by a DeKalb County Criminal Court Jury in April, 2004. Orlando, serving a 45 year prison sentence for facilitation of first degree murder, is incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City, Tennessee. Orlando was denied parole following a hearing in March, 2013. He will be up for parole again in 2016.
*More than $5,000 was raised during a three hour radiothon Friday morning, April 3 on WJLE for the DCHS Class of 2015 Project Graduation. DCHS teacher Chris Vance and David Hedge co-hosted the program and parents of high school seniors who serve on the Project Graduation committee answered phones, taking pledges during the drive. Several members of the DCHS Class of 2015 also participated. Project Graduation is an all night drug-free, alcohol-free graduation party for members of the DCHS Class of 2015 committed to having a safe, wholesome, yet entertaining celebration together for the last time as a class.
*83 year old Robbie D. Taylor of Smithville died in a two vehicle crash Monday afternoon, April 6 at the intersection of Highways 70 and 83 near Kilgore’s Restaurant. Central dispatch was first notified of the crash at 2:36 p.m. Trooper Jimmy Tisdale of the Tennessee Highway Patrol told WJLE that Taylor was driving south on Highway 83 in a 2007 Chevy Impala when she pulled into the path of a 2010 Chevy HHR, driven by 35 year old Jennifer Buck of Dowelltown who was east on Highway 70. According to Trooper Tisdale, Buck saw Taylor’s car coming across the highway in front of her and swerved but was unable to avoid the collision. Buck was taken by DeKalb EMS to DeKalb Community Hospital where she was treated for injuries including a fractured arm according to Trooper Tisdale. Taylor was also taken to the hospital where she was pronounced dead. According to Trooper Tisdale, both Taylor and Buck were wearing their seatbelts.
*The current members of the DeKalb County Election Commission were reappointed by the Tennessee Election Commission. The state election commission made these appointments on Monday April 6. The term of each member is for two years. Members of the DeKalb County Election Commission are Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, Jim Dean, Harry Lasser, and Richard Hearon Puckett. Vanatta and Dean are beginning their fourth terms. Parker has served since 1992. All three are Republicans. Lasser, a Democrat, is starting his third term. Puckett, also a Democrat, is beginning his second full term after filling a vacancy.
*A judge ruled Cookeville Boat Dock & Resort, Inc. must pay the ad valorem (property) taxes on the boat dock property that it has refused to pay since 1998. The total tax bill owed comes to more than $200,000 including interest and penalties. Circuit Court Judge Amy V. Hollers found the boat dock’s claims that such a tax was a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and was discriminatory under Tennessee’s Constitution are not valid. In her ruling, Judge Hollars wrote “neither the Supremacy Clause nor any principle of state law prevents DeKalb County from assessing Cookeville Boat Dock for its ownership interest in the boat dock facilities. The court must reject Cookeville Boat Dock’s constitutional challenge to the assessment of ad valorem taxes on its property.” The boat dock had argued such a tax could be characterized as “double taxation” since it pays fees to the United States Army Corps of Engineers which are used, in part, to pay DeKalb County a sum in lieu of taxes. The owners of the dock further argued a section of Tennessee’s Constitution “violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States by discriminating against a lessee of the United States in favor of lessees of the State of Tennessee. The judge said the boat dock’s attempt to “raise a ‘double taxation’ argument fails because the amount received by DeKalb County from the lease payments to the federal government is not a tax by the county.” She went on to rule that “it is well-established that the Supremacy Clause does not prevent a state or local government from imposing a tax on an individual or a corporation ‘using government property in connection with a business conducted for its own private gain.’” In conclusion, Judge Hollars ordered that the boat dock “pay the unpaid ad valorem taxes assessed for all years in question, together with all applicable penalties and interest.”
*The DeKalb County Grand Jury Monday, April 6 returned child rape indictments against a Dowelltown man for allegedly touching his eight year old niece in a sexual manner on two occasions last summer. 20 year old Jonathan Everett Jay of Snow Hill Road, Dowelltown was arraigned on Monday, April 13. Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Thursday, September 11, 2014 a Sheriff’s Department Detective responded to a residence on Snow Hill Road regarding a sexual assault of an eight year old girl. According to the mother, the child said that her uncle (Jay) had touched her inappropriately. The detective and a member of the Department of Children’s Services spoke with the child and she confirmed what her mother had reported. When confronted Jay agreed to speak with the detective at the Sheriff’s Department. After reading Jay his rights, the detective began the interview during which time Jay allegedly admitted to having had sexual contact with the child on two occasions, Wednesday August 27 and Thursday, September 11. Jay is one of 48 people indicted by the grand jury in April. Eleven persons were named in sealed indictments.
* Mark Willoughby’s last day as Director of Schools was Thursday, April 16. Director Willoughby agreed to terms in a negotiated settlement as offered by the Board of Education. The agreement was signed Thursday, April 9 by Director Willoughby and Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, on behalf of the School Board. Under the agreement, Willoughby is to be paid his salary and receive all insurance benefits through June 30th, the day Willoughby had announced last month to be the date of his retirement. Funds are already in the school system’s budget to pay Willoughby. He had served as Director of Schools since July 1, 2006. His current contract, approved last year, was supposed to run through June 30, 2017.
*A 45 year old man, accused in a child sex crime, was sentenced in DeKalb County Criminal Court Wednesday, April 8th after pleading guilty to the charge of sexual battery. Thomas Copenhaver received a six year sentence suspended to supervised probation except for time served. He had been in jail for almost sixteen months from December 10, 2013 to April 8, 2015. His name will be on the state’s sexual offender registry. Copenhaver was indicted by the Grand Jury in April 2014 for aggravated sexual battery in this case. Copenhaver was accused of a child sex crime involving a family member (niece).
*A drive thru mobile food pantry Saturday morning, April 11 was a huge success. Almost three hundred food boxes were given away and everyone in line got at least one box regardless of their income status. The event, held in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank, was sponsored by the Smithville Cumberland Presbyterian Church as part of its community outreach ministry, but other churches and community volunteers also participated. Unlike most food distributions, those served by this mobile pantry did not have to get out of their automobiles. They simply drove thru in a pickup line as volunteers delivered the food directly to their vehicles, placing the food boxes either in the back seat or trunk.
The food boxes contained such items as bread, canned goods, peanut butter, bags of potatoes, fruits, cakes, pies, and more.
*The winners of the annual Leadership DeKalb Alumni awards were honored Tuesday night, April 14 during the Chamber of Commerce Banquet at the DeKalb County Complex. Jeff Cantrell received the Community Leader of the Year Award for this work with the Farmer’s Market and Faye and Jack Underhill were presented the Legacy Leader Award for their work with the DeKalb County Fair. The Community Leader of the Year award goes to someone who most emulates the definition of community trustee and servant-leader in his or her recent service to DeKalb County. Nominees are considered who have made a significant and positive impact on the county, specifically during 2014 and in a capacity beyond their professional commitments. The Legacy Award goes to someone who most emulates the definition of community trustee and servant-leader in his or her continued service to DeKalb County. The recipient has made a significant and positive impact on DeKalb County over a considerable period of time and in multiple or lasting ways
*Dr. Danielle Judkins Collins was selected by the Board of Education to become the interim Director of Schools. During a special called meeting Thursday night, April 16 the Board voted 5-2 naming Dr. Collins to succeed Mark Willoughby until a new director is under contract. Dr. Collins, who has served as Federal Programs Supervisor for the school system since February 2008 will keep that position while also serving as interim director. In addition to her regular pay, Dr. Collins will receive a $2,000 per month supplement for her new assignment. Board members Jerry Wayne Johnson and Danny Parkerson voted against Dr. Collins being named interim director. Both Johnson and Parkerson told WJLE after the meeting that they were not opposed to Dr. Collins personally but felt that no one should be named interim director who might apply when the board conduct’s its search for a new director because it could give that person an unfair advantage over other applicants.
*Local law enforcement agencies were called out twice Thursday, April 16 after Omega Apparel and DeKalb County High School were made the targets of bomb threats. The first call came in just before one p.m. and employees at the local industry were evacuated as a precaution. The threat directed at the high school came later in the day. Law enforcement agents and canines trained in the detection of explosives were brought in from other counties to conduct the searches but nothing was found. No one was injured. The investigation has resulted in a juvenile being taken into custody regarding the incident at DCHS. The y