Mountain Harbour Property Owners Association Makes Donation to Project D.A.R.E.

The Mountain Harbour Property Owners Association has donated $900 to “Project D.A.R.E.” and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department.
Pete Siggelko and Barbara Ward made the presentation on behalf of the Association to Sheriff Patrick Ray following Monday night’s monthly county commission meeting.
“We’re part of a committee of the Mountain Harbour Property Owners Association Board of Directors and we make an annual donation to various charities. One of the groups we wanted to make a donation to this year is Project D.A.R.E. and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department. We have donated before but Sheriff Ray had a good project this year so instead of making two or three small donations this year we’re making one single donation to benefit Project D.A.R.E,” said Siggelko.
Sheriff Ray said the $900 donation will be used to fund the purchase of a “DAREN The Lion” mascot costume. “We’re going to buy a costume. “DAREN the Lion” is the mascot for D.A.R.E. and we’re going to buy a life size “DAREN the Lion” costume. That will help put a good amount toward the costume. We’re very appreciative of them donating the money and it is going toward a good cause. We’re proud to do it,” he said.
D.A.R.E stands for Drug Abuse Resistance Education and its taught in 5th grade classes at both Northside Elementary School and DeKalb West School by Chief Deputy Don Adamson of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department.

DeKalb County Authorities Searching for Missing Georgia Man

Members of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department and Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad spent the day today (Monday) searching for a 22 year old Georgia man, whose car was found abandoned at the parking area of Sligo Marina.
The man, Vincent McKeever Rossetti of Peach City, Georgia was wearing a maroon button up shirt, blue jeans, black shoes, blueish green jacket when he left Georgia on December 17th. He is 6′ 2 ” tall and weighs 180 pounds. His eyes are blue and he has light blonde hair. He also wears glasses.
In a prepared statement, Sheriff Patrick Ray said that “at 3:05 p.m. on Sunday evening December 18th, the Tennessee Highway Patrol checked on a vehicle that was parked on the side of the roadway in White County close to the DeKalb County/White County line. The driver was found to be Vincent McKeever Rossetti. Rossetti was entered into the Georgia Crime Information Center as a missing person out of Georgia. The Trooper called an ambulance to the scene to check Rossetti out. White County EMS transported Rossetti to Highland Medical Center in Sparta. One of the White County EMS personnel drove Rossetti’s vehicle to the hospital for him. Rossetti was treated and released from the hospital before his family could pick him up. When Rossetti’s family arrived at the hospital, the White County Sheriff’s Department issued a BOLO (Be on the lookout) on Rossetti to all law enforcement agencies,” said Sheriff Ray.
“At around 11:52 p.m. on Sunday night, Troopers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol found the car in the parking lot of Sligo marina. The vehicle was left unattended and Rossetti was nowhere to be found. A ground search was conducted by officers from the Tennessee Highway Patrol and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department. The Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad was summoned to Sligo Marina at 8:00 a.m. Monday morning to perform searches of the bank and water. Officers with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Corps of Engineers from Center Hill Lake also assisted,” Sheriff Ray continued.
“We are actively searching for Mr. Rossetti. We filed a missing person report through the Sheriff’s Office here in DeKalb County because of his vehicle being found in the Sligo Parking lot. We are not sure if Mr. Rossetti is in the water or not. We have entered Rossetti into the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) as missing. Agencies have searched the banks and water by foot, boat, and air with no luck finding him. The weather has been the enemy last night and today. It has been very cold on everyone,” said Sheriff Ray.
“On Sunday December 18th when the Trooper found Rossetti, he was wearing a blueish green jacket and jeans. He also was wearing glasses.
If anyone has seen Mr. Rossetti or knows his whereabouts, please contact DeKalb Central Dispatch at 615-215-3000,” Sheriff Ray concluded.

DeKalb Recovery Court Staff Attend TADCP Training

DeKalb County Recovery Court staff of both the adult and juvenile programs attended the Tennessee Association of Drug Court Professionals (TADCP) annual statewide training in Chattanooga, TN December 7-9, 2016. Program Coordinator Norene Puckett was on this year’s conference committee.
The conference hosted a Recovery Art Exhibit in which artwork was solicited from Recovery (Drug) Court participants across the state with the prompt “what does recovery mean to me?” DeKalb County Recovery Court had 5 pieces submitted.
During the opening ceremony, DeKalb Recovery Court participant Michael Blanchfield shared his story of addiction and his journey through recovery while crafting a coat rack that is typical of his work in his business Rustic Recovery. Michael said during his presentation, “at one time this coat rack was put together, just as my life once was. Now it is in pieces, which is what my life had become due to drug addiction. Through the recovery court program, my sponsors and mentors, I have been able to put my life back together, just as I have this coat rack.” The finished product was given away as a door prize at the conference.
Following Michael’s speech was the key note address from TN Supreme Court Justice Cornelia Clark. Justice Clark congratulated Michael on his story and success. She also noted many highlights in the last four years of the programs throughout the state, including the name change from drug court to recovery courts to be more inclusive of all the types of treatment courts throughout the state (i.e. veterans court, drug court, DUI court, juvenile drug court, etc.) and to show the positive aspects of the programs. She closed her talk by thanking all of the professionals who work with offenders with addiction and/or mental health issues to once again become, “the best persons they can be, so that they will be productive citizens in our communities.”
While at the conference, Norene Puckett was elected on the Board of Directors for TADCP as the Middle TN representative and Case Manager Rhonda Harpole was selected to be on next year’s conference committee. TADCP is a statewide 501-(c)-3 not-for-profit organization with an office located in Nashville, Tennessee. TADCP supports recovery courts by providing training, technical assistance, education, legislative advocacy, resource sharing and networking opportunities for recovery courts and their partners. TADCP is committed to reducing substance abuse, crime, and recidivism in Tennessee by promoting, advocating, and supporting recovery courts and individual TADCP members in their efforts to provide a quality therapeutic community that promotes positive change in criminal and addictive behavior for the purpose of transforming offenders into positive, contributing members of our communities.
In other news, DeKalb County Recovery Court hosted its 7th annual Children’s Christmas party at New Life Connection Center on December 13, 2016. Each year the program gathers donations to provide presents for the children of the adult participants. The program staff, participants, and their families enjoyed a meal together and a special visit from Santa Claus! That night, three program participants were presented with framed certificates and recognized for having one year sobriety. The program would like to give a special thanks to Smithville Church of Christ, New Life Pentecostal Church, Haven of Hope Counseling, The Purple Porch, Todd Hasty of Premier Realty, DeKalb Community Advisory Board, and the private citizens of DeKalb County for their contributions to this year’s party!
Pictured at conference with Christmas Tree:
Kay Quintero, John Quintero-Haven of Hope Counseling, Tom Vickers- Sober Living Services, Rhonda Harpole-Case Manager, Molly Webb-Endeavor Program Juvenile Case Manager, Norene Puckett-Coordinator, Holly Baugh-Probation Officer, Tish Mccloud-DCS Probation Officer, Sara Hoenstine-DCS Probation Officer, Allison West-Asst. Public Defender, Richard Williams-Youth Services Officer, & Kristy Longmire-Case Manager.
Participants with Certificates with Judge Bratten Cook II:
Jeremy Woodard, Nelda Bandy (in black), Christy Berry (in pink)
Michael Blanchfield holding the finished coat rack

Smithville Police Treat Head Start Children to Gifts for Christmas (VIEW VIDEOS HERE)

Children at the Smithville Head Start Center were treated to bags of gifts today (Friday) thanks to the Smithville Police Department’s “Cops4Kids” program.
Police Chief Mark Collins, Mayor Jimmy Poss, and other members of the police department presented the children with the gifts. Other guests were on hand for songs and special treats.
Members of the Police Department participated in “No Shave November to help raise money to purchase gifts and Woodmen Life Lodge 1077 recently donated a check for $250 in support of “Cops4Kids”.
“Each year the Smithville Police Department tries to do something around this special holiday. This year we again chose the Head Start. What we do is we collect donations and presents and we give them to the kids. They get to interact with us. Its really enjoyable for all of us to interact with the kids. This is a good event for us. Its a way we can give back to the community and these kids really appreciate it and seem to enjoy it,” said Police Chief Mark Collins.


Nurses celebrate 15 Years with NHC

NHC Smithville recently honored two local nurses for 15 years of service to NHC Smithville. Sabra Murphy and Monica Baker are both Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and serve as Unit Managers at NHC Smithville. They received their 15 year service pin, along with other special gifts during the monthly partner (employee) meeting on December 13, 2016.

Haven of Hope offers help for those struggling with holiday depression

Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, but for some people they are anything but.
Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety this time of year may cause even those who are usually content to experience loneliness and a lack of fulfillment. For some, it may even lead to thoughts of suicide.
If you need help there is a “Haven of Hope” of DeKalb County
“We’re hoping everybody has a merry Christmas but we do understand that for some people the holidays bring up some sadness, maybe they’re missing family members or due to some other life changing situation which creates some depression, anxiety and for some, suicidal thoughts,” said Samantha Curtis, one of four counselors at Haven of Hope.
“Haven of Hope is a mental health service provider for the state. We are state licensed and we help people with all kinds of different emotional and mental issues. We help children and adults with depression, anxiety, past trauma, adjustments to life problems/issues and many other areas. All 4 of our Masters level counselors are trained in EMDR & other methods. Our mission is to enhance our client’s lives, their families, and the community by providing professional counseling, support groups, classes and programs to residents of DeKalb County and the surrounding communities,” she said.
In Tennessee, an estimated 950 men, women, and children die by suicide each year. In 2014, the latest year for which county-specific figures are available, DeKalb County’s age-adjusted suicide rate was 15.6 per 100,000 people, translating into three reported suicide deaths. This number of suicides in DeKalb County for 2014 is the same as the previous year but the local rate is higher than the state average of 14.4 per 100,000 population for 2014 as reported by the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network.
“We are offering a free depression screening for anybody who feels like they need that. If you will just come in we will get that done for you and get some help for you if you need it. We accept most kinds of insurance but if your deductible is too high we are willing to work with anybody who is unable to afford it. We can serve you through private counseling in the office and if its a matter that requires a higher level of care we have resources we can refer you to. For example, there is an Adult Crisis Stabilization Unit, a walk in service located in Cookeville. And the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides a service at 1-800-273-TALK or visit That’s a service where you can call in and talk to them about whatever is going on in your life or just to have somebody to talk to sometimes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be related to suicide but they will get you help if needed,” said Curtis.
“We want to get the word out that Haven of Hope of DeKalb County is here and we are local. We are located at 301 West Main Street in the old Magnolia House at the four way stop. You may contact us at 615-597-4673. Our office hours are 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday but we have an emergency phone number there you can call and it will contact one of our counselors. We have four counselors. A couple of us work with children and we have counselors who work with teens and adults”.
“We’ve had people even this holiday season in DeKalb County that have been lost to suicide so if we can prevent even one that would be wonderful,” said Curtis.

Hospital Staffs Donate Christmas Gifts for Needy Babies and Toddlers

Sinda Hull of The Stephen Center (Healthy Beginnings), Shan Burklow and Bob Burritt of Saint Thomas Health, a part of Ascension, hold one of over a hundred gifts donated by the staff at Saint Thomas DeKalb and Saint Thomas Stones River Hospitals to help needy babies and toddlers during the Christmas season.
Individual associates, and entire hospital departments, sponsored 13 children across the region providing warm clothing, coats, shoes, diapers, blankets, and toys for the holidays.
“We are honored to partner with The Stephen Center again for 2016 to help these children from low to zero income families,” said Shan Burklow of Saint Thomas Health. “Our hospital staff are among the most caring and selfless people on earth, making them the perfect fit for this need. We are always looking for ways to give back to the community to better the areas we serve.”
Photo: (from left to right): Sinda Hull, Shan Burklow, and Bob Burritt

Federal Judge Rejects Plea Deal for Larry Webb

Sentencing for Larry Webb, the former deputy director of the Upper Cumberland Development District, has been postponed until next month after a federal judge last week rejected a plea deal.
Webb, who entered a voluntary guilty plea on August 17, 2015 to one count of bank fraud in the “Living the Dream” investigation, was to have been sentenced Thursday, December 8 but that has been postponed until January 9.
Under terms of his plea agreement, Webb was to have avoided paying a fine in the case. However, a court order signed last Friday, December 9 by U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. stated that “the court believes a fine in the $6,000 range may be appropriate, considering Defendant (Webb’s) cooperation with the Government, his offense conduct, and ability to pay”.
Webb was indicted with former UCDD director Wendy Askins in 2013 on various federal bank charges, including conspiracy, theft of government money, bank fraud, money laundering, and making a false statement.
Askins was accused of diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars of agency money into a million-dollar luxury home in rural Putnam County called “Living the Dream”. What was intended to become a home for needy seniors also became Askins’ home.
Although Webb’s attorney Ed Yarbrough said he never profited from the scheme, Webb admitted that he was guilty of Count Eight of the federal indictment, which accused him and Askins of securing a $250,000 loan from the Bank of Putnam County “for their own use and benefit” and “falsely representing” that it was for a project that had been approved by the UCDD board of directors.”
Askins entered a plea on August 31 to two counts of theft from a federally-funded entity stemming from the “Living the Dream investigation and was sentenced on October 28 to 18 months in federal prison. The sentence will run concurrently with a state sentence after her plea in Putnam County Criminal Court on October 31 to forgery over $60,000. After her release, Askins will be on supervised probation for two years. She must also pay restitution of $233,000 to the UCDD.
In recently filed court documents, Webb’s attorney is asking the court to adopt the plea agreement. “This plea was entered pursuant to extensive negotiations between Webb and the Government which resulted in a decision by Webb to offer testimony against his co defendant Askins. Webb submitted to numerous debriefing sessions by the Government and was prepared to testify at trial. However, Askins entered a plea of guilty and has now been sentenced as a result of that plea,” stated Yarbrough.
“Webb would submit to the Court that he has never before been convicted of a criminal offense and, indeed, has never been charged with one. His lack of a previous record and good background result in a guideline offense level of seven (7), which carries a range of punishment of zero to six months. As a result of the plea agreement in this case the Government is recommending that Webb be sentenced to time served and receive three years of supervised release. The Government is further recommending that there be no fine or restitution ordered in this case. The remaining counts of the Indictment should be dismissed at sentencing,” Yarbrough said.
“As noted in the Government’s memorandum, the original presentence report filed in this case recommended a fine in the amount of $2,000. Inasmuch as this would violate the plea agreement in the case and is opposed by the Government, Webb submits that this recommendation should not be followed and that no fine should be imposed in this case”.
“Webb has fully disclosed all of his conduct in this matter and has assisted the Government extensively in their preparation for the trial of Wendy Askins. Webb was fully prepared to testify as a prosecution witness had that case gone to trial.”
“Webb agrees with the analysis contained in the Government’s memorandum that all appropriate sentencing guidelines and policies dictate that the plea agreement should be approved in this case.”
“Therefore, Webb respectfully submits that he should be sentenced to time served in this case and that a three year period of supervised release be imposed according to the agreement previously submitted to the Court,” Yarbrough concluded.
Court documents relating to Webb’s plea agreement state that, “On February 2, 2010, Webb incorporated “Living the Dream/Independent Living for Seniors, Inc.” While “Living the Dream” had the appearance of being a project approved by the Cumberland Regional Development District, of which Webb was a director, it was in fact owned and operated by Webb and Askins. A portion of the property was intended to be used as an independent living facility, while another portion was used as a luxury home for co-defendant Askins.”
“In order to partially fund the purchase of the “Living the Dream facility, Webb and Askins obtained a loan from the Bank of Putnam County. To obtain this loan, Webb made false statements to loan officers relating to the true nature of “Living the Dream”. Specifically, Webb told the loan officers that “Living the Dream” was an approved UCDD/CRDC project. Additionally, Webb presented false documents, including CRDC resolutions dated May 7, 2010 purportedly authorizing a loan application for “Living the Dream” in the amount of $750,000. As Webb very well knew, the CRDC had not approved the “Living the Dream” project, and had not authorized a $750,000 loan application,” the court documents state.
“In reliance upon these false statements and representations, the Bank of Putnam County on May 27, 2010 approved a loan in the amount of $250,000 for “Living the Dream”. Webb and Askins applied the loan proceeds to the purchase of “Living the Dream”. The bank would not have approved the loan or disbursed funds had it known UCDD and/or CRDC did not approve of the project or the loan application”, the court documents continued
“The bank eventually foreclosed on the property and subsequently recovered all of its loan proceeds”.
Askins reportedly will serve her sentence in the Federal Correctional Institution in Aliceville, Alabama, a medium-security United States federal prison for female inmates. She is to report January 9. Askins originally was scheduled to be housed at a federal facility in Alderson, West Virginia.

Free Classes Available to Those Seeking High School Equivalency Diploma

If you never completed high school and would like to obtain an equivalency diploma you have that opportunity.
Free High School Equivalency (Hi-Set) Classes are held on Monday and Thursday evenings and Friday mornings at the County Complex at 722 South Congress Boulevard. Enter through the UT Extension/Motlow College Doors. Mary Anne Carpenter is the class instructor.. On-line classes are also available.
Prior to April 1, 2016, adult learners in Tennessee had the option to choose between the HiSet test and the GED Testing Service product. However as of April 1, new test takers are no longer able to sign up for the GED test. HiSet is now the sole provider of high school equivalency testing in Tennessee.
Effective July 1, 2016, HiSet became the only test available to students in Tennessee who wish to obtain their high school equivalency diploma.
The change to HiSet testing is meant to ensure the new curriculum is aligned with the test students take to earn the high school equivalency diploma.
The HiSet test provides other benefits to adult learners in Tennessee. The cost of the HiSet test is $75, compared to the $120 fee to take the GED test. HiSet is also more convenient for students, and it offers the option of on-line testing, as well as a standard paper test.
According to Carol Pritchard, Counselor and Recruiter for the Adult Education Program , between 1,700 and 2,000 people in DeKalb County currently lack a high school diploma.
“We offer high school equivalency (Hi-Set) classes free to anybody 18 years of age and older who may lack a high school diploma. In this day and age a high school diploma is needed for anyone to go on to further training, college, university, or any kind of vocational certification. This is a pathway that many can use to finish what they once started. It (diploma) can be used to get promotions or apply for jobs. It opens a lot of doors that have never been an opportunity before for those folks who lack a diploma,” said Pritchard.
“We serve people from 18 to 70 years old. Some people come back just for the fulfillment of it. Something they didn’t have a chance to do before but it’s been a lifelong dream. Some people do it as an example for their kids. They know how important education is. They’ve lived it and they want to make sure their kids know how important it is that they finish. They want a better way to make a living. They want a family sustaining wage. That’s really our goal is to help them to get to that point,” she said.
“Anyone interested is asked to participate in the orientation process which gets them registered. It also gets them a placement test and lets us know how to begin to help them. We want to fill in the gaps so we don’t try to spend a lot of time teaching what people already know. We look for what people need and focus our instruction that way. We monitor their progress and when they are ready, we will get them out as quickly as we can so they can test as soon as possible,” said Pritchard.
“We send them to a testing site once they’re ready and we help them get registered. They take the exam and then the company that makes the exam sends in the results. The state will then issue the high school equivalency diploma,” she said.
“The two closest testing sites are the Tennessee College of Applied Technology in McMinnville and the Applied Technology Center in Crossville but there are locations all across the state. Most of the people from DeKalb County go to McMinnville,” said Pritchard.
“There is a cost to take the test but there is no cost for any of our services or instruction. For the Hi-Set test right now the cost is $75.00 which includes a sitting fee for the testing site. But the state of Tennessee has appropriated money and if you qualify under certain predictor tests criteria then the state will pay for your test at no cost to you,” said Pritchard.
For more information call 1-855-516-0160

Billings’ Returned to DeKalb County to Face Charges

A couple who fled to Michigan with their 8 month old child last month prompting an Endangered Child Alert by the TBI has been returned to DeKalb County.
29 year old Andrew Billings and 19 year old Adriana Billings arrived at the DeKalb County Jail Tuesday morning, December 13 at 6:30 a.m. They were brought by a transport service.
The Billings’ are each charged with aggravated child abuse and initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine. Bond for each is $17,000 and they will appear in DeKalb County General Sessions Court on January 5. Adriana has posted bond and has been released. Andrew remains incarcerated.
An Endangered Child Alert was issued for 8 month old Xavier Billings on Thursday, November 17 after his parents took him and fled the scene of a wreck investigation a week earlier in which a meth lab was found in their vehicle.
“On Thursday November, 10th, the Tennessee Highway Patrol worked a two vehicle accident on Highway 70 east (Sparta Highway). After 3 occupants in one of the vehicles, including the child, had been examined by EMS, the adults fled the scene with the child. During the inventory of the vehicle, the Trooper found what he believed to be a methamphetamine lab. The Trooper took criminal warrants in the case on both of the adults for manufacturing meth and aggravated child abuse,” said Sheriff Patrick Ray.
After the accident, the Trooper obtained information that the child might have had a medical condition and notified the Department of Children Services.
Sheriff Ray said that at 11:19 p.m. Wednesday night, November 16, the Department of Children Services came to his office and filed a missing/endangered child report. The Sheriff said his department immediately entered the child into the National Crime Information System which prompted the TBI Endangered Child Alert System.
The Billings’ were found with the child at a residence in Flint, Michigan on Friday, November 18. They were arrested by the City of Flint Police Department and Xavier was placed in protective custody by the Michigan Department of Children Services.
The warrants against the Billings’ allege that on November 10, Trooper Sean Tramel of the Tennessee Highway Patrol was working an accident on Sparta Highway and found that Andrew and Adriana Billings knowingly initiated the process of manufacturing methamphetamine inside of their white Nissan Sentra which was involved in the accident while their 8 month old son was present in the vehicle.
While doing a post crash inventory of the car, Trooper Tramel discovered a meth lab in a black nylon bag and in a 40 millimeter ammo can in the back seat. Items discovered were a Visine bottle containing muriatic acid, spa test strips, an open container of Drano, four bottles including three with residue and one with sediment, a quart Mason jar with a clear liquid believed to be Coleman fuel and methamphetamine mix which field tested positive for meth.