Phones go dead in Putnam, Sparta

Because of a computer glitch, telephones in Putnam County and Sparta went dead for over an hour, leaving customers without a way to call, get called or anything else to do with a telephone.

Citizens Telecom officials said the outage occurred from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. last Wednesday and affected approximately 27,000 customers in Cookeville, Algood, Monterey and Sparta.

Several emergency services immediately called for assistance to get phones up and running. The Cookeville Fire Department was dispatched to a trailer fire during the time of the outage, apparently being notified by radio.

This was a new situation, Sgt. Boyd Fox told the Herald-Citizen in Cookeville. It’s never happened to us before that I know of, and it gave us some tense moments. We brought in our cellular phones, but those were out too.

Construction worker faces charges

A White County construction worker faces murder charges in the death of his son’s girlfriend and sexual battery charges involving two other girls.

Gregory Moore, jailed since October on a drunken driving conviction, was indicted for murder and sexual battery last week by the White County Grand Jury.

Moore, 38, is accused of killing Amanda Jordan, 17. Her body was found Oct. 22 by a fisherman in the Cane Hollow area of northwest White County. She died from blows to the head, police said.

White County Sheriff’s Detective Lt. Don Wilson told the Herald-Citizen that Moore was an early suspect in the case. The sexual battery investigation was under way when Jordan’s body was found.

Wilson would not comment on motive or reveal details about the case, including the murder weapon. An arraignment was set for Feb. 6 in White County Criminal Court.

Sleeping man suffocated in van fire

A 43-year-old man was found dead in his vehicle, apparently suffocated, after Kingston police officers and firefighters received a report of a burning van.

According to the Roane County News, at 7:52 a.m., officials responded to a vehicle fire on Sturgess Street.

Police and firefighters attempted to enter the van, which was parked on the side of the street. The doors were locked, and the firemen had to break the glass out of the van’s windows to extinguish the fire.

During the firefighting, Thomas Wayne Martin was discovered inside the van, Criminal Investigator Pete Stinnett said. He was removed from the burning vehicle.

All attempts to revive the man were futile, and he was pronounced dead at 8:35 a.m. Martin’s family lived at the residence, and the van apparently was a temporary residence for him.

An investigation revealed an electric heater inside the van was the fire’s probable cause.

Engineer meticulously kills wife, self

A senior engineer who worked with the National Security Program in Oak Ridge meticulously planned his estranged wife’s murder and then just as meticulously killed himself, police said. After shooting Jeanette Bieber in the head with a .22-caliber rifle, Charles Bieber made detailed plans for notifying authorities and family members, according to the Clinton Police Department.

He then placed a .30-30 rifle on a small stack of books, taped its lever action in the firing position and placed an anvil on the weapon to steady it, said Police Chief Clifton Melton said. He used a piece of metal to pull the trigger, Melton said.

Bieber was upset that his wife was divorcing him, police said.

The bodies of Mrs. Bieber, 60, a chemist at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, and Bieber, 59, were found early Tuesday morning.

Scattered throughout the house were notes and tape-recorded instructions Bieber had left for authorities, Melton said.

He explained on one tape why he had sawed off the stock to his .22 rifle, Melton said. He said he thought he might have to kill her at her mother’s nearby house, and he might have to conceal the weapon.

Shooter won’t face any charges

A Tennessee State University student who shot and killed a robber who tried to rob him won’t face any charges, police said.

Dwayne Lamont Phillips, 26, fatally shot 17-year-old Antonio Todd of Warrensville, Ohio, Sunday after Todd entered his room at the Raintree Inn wearing a mask and gloves and armed with a gun.

Phillips, a junior business administration major, was playing a video game when Todd came into the room and hit him with his gun, police said. Phillips eventually got the gun and shot Todd after the youth charged him. Todd died at the scene. We consider it to be a justifiable homicide, based on all the statements and all the evidence before us, said police spokesman Don Aaron.

TVA proposes ending U.S. funding

Congress should stop sending millions of dollars every year to the Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA chairman Craven Crowell proposed Tuesday. Crowell outlined the historic suggestion for federal funding of the utility to end by fiscal 1999 in meetings with members of TVA’s congressional caucus in Washington.

We were blindsided, said Dick Kopper, press secretary to Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn. and chairman of the caucus. We had no earthly idea this was even coming. Until now, only TVA’s staunchest congressional critics those who would privatize or sell off the agency have talked about ending its annual appropriations.

Crowell proposes to make some programs funded by Congress self-sufficient, while others might be transferred to state, local or other federal agencies

Construction in Cookeville booming

Construction in Cookeville, led by a hospital expansion, set a record for the second straight year in 1996.

The 1996 total was more than $46.6 million, surpassing the 1995 total of $36.4 million.

In 1996, several records were broken in individual categories, with the $20 million total in the category of churches, schools and public buildings the largest.

Included in that is the $18 million expansion of Cookeville General Hospital the largest construction undertaken in Cookeville since the city began keeping records in 1978.

The value of construction in single-family houses in 1996 was a record $9.7 million, up from $7.7 million a year earlier.

Officials said 1997 is starting off well as Carolina Properties is expected to begin construction of a shopping center near the intersection of South Willow and West Jackson Streets this spring.

An announcement is expected soon about what stores will be included in the shopping center.

Scientists experiment on shuttle

The space shuttle Atlantis will be carrying some research by Tennessee scientists on its latest launch.

It involves protein research by Jeffrey O. Boles, an assistant chemistry professor at Tennessee Tech, and Gerard Bunick of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Structural Biology Division.

The experiment involves crystallizing proteins attached to DNA strands. The process will allow scientists to make a three-dimensional model of the proteins to study for medical research.

Boles and Bunick hope the research may someday aid in better treatments for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

The shuttle was scheduled to be launched Sunday afternoon from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. It is to dock with the Russian space station Mir. The experiment will be retrieved during another shuttle mission in April or May.

Until now, these proteins have resisted the probing eye of science. Crystallizing proteins for research on Earth is hampered by gravity, causing crystals to be hollow or thin.

By performing the experiment on the shuttle, larger protein crystals can be grown and then returned to Earth.

Roane County eyes industrial park

The Roane County Industrial Board moved one step closer to choosing a new industrial park recently, according to the Roane County News.

The Roane County Commission will evaluate a recommendation made by the engineering firm of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon. The firm identified three viable locations for the park, all of which range in cost from $15,500 to $18,500 of public investment per developable acre. The sites vary in size from 466 acres to 655 acres.

Liquor raid nets 65-year-old man

A 65-year-old Bedford County man has been charged with illegally making and selling 26 1/2 gallons of homemade wine and two gallons of what police believe is moonshine.

Police also seized three cars, $4,700 in cash and other items from Bruce Yeargan Thompson Jr. during a raid Saturday.

Bedford County Sheriff Clay Parker said there have been complaints about activities in the Thompson home since last year. And a sheriff’s deputy said she purchased moonshine from Thompson twice in the week before the raid.

Father charged in infant’s death

A 2-month-old baby died Monday from injuries caused when the infant was shaken by her father, police said.

Arissa Jenell Lyles died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center from respiratory failure that stemmed from head injury.

Timothy Andre Lyles, 23, of Columbia, was charged Dec. 7 with aggravated child abuse. Maury County authorities will consider additional charges now that the baby has died, said Detective Mark Shooksbury.

Police and medical personnel went to the Lyles home Dec. 2 after he called an emergency operator and said his baby wasn’t breathing properly. Lyles is free on bond.

Former Steeler QB arrested

(AP) Former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam, who has fought drug problems for years, was arrested over the weekend on a misdemeanor charge of drug possession.

Nashville policeman Mike Urquhart reported that he found Gilliam, 46, on Sunday holding a pipe with a rock of crack cocaine in it. Gilliam admitted he had smoked from the pipe, Urquhart said.

Gilliam also was charged with driving without a license and two misdemeanor counts of possession of drug paraphernalia. Gilliam was in jail Monday in lieu of $4,000 bond. A hearing was set for Thursday in General Sessions Court.

Gilliam starred at Tennessee State University in Nashville. He was a quarterback with the Steelers during the early and mid 70s.

He won two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers, which he later pawned to get drug money. The rings were recovered. He was an unpaid quarterbacks coach last year for Tennessee State.

TBI probe looking into death

(AP) The death of a man experiencing a seizure while police struggled with his brothers has prompted a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe, a police spokesman said.

Two Murfreesboro police officers responded to an emergency call Sunday and found Dave Talley bleeding and combative. Talley, 32, apparently had cut and injured himself by falling in broken glass, police said. Officers Chris Ashley and James Boske said they were trying to help Talley and prevent him from injuring others when Talley’s brothers came to his defense.

The policemen used pepper spray to subdue Russell Talley, 29, and Therion Talley, 35, who were arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

After arresting his brothers, police returned to Talley who was unconscious and had stopped breathing, public relations officer Lt. Clyde Adkison said. Paramedics arrived but were unable to resuscitate the man. Ashley and Boske were placed on administrative leave with pay.

Police investigate Cookeville murder

Investigators are seeking clues in the shooting death of a carpenter whose body was found on the kitchen floor of his home. Danny Johnson, 33, was found dead by his girlfriend Wednesday after partying at local bars New Year’s Eve, police said. Investigators said they believe Johnson knew his killer and probably let that person into the house not long after taking a cab home.

Coroner Randy Porter said Johnson had been shot four times. He was not robbed. There was no sign of a struggle, officers said.

Ray won’t give deathbed confession

An attorney for James Earl Ray says his client will not make a deathbed confession to killing Martin Luther King Jr. Some civil rights activists asked for Ray to make a confession when he appeared near death last month.

Ray is serving a 99-year prison sentence for killing King in Memphis in 1968. Attorney Andrew Hall of Wartburg says Ray said all he intends to about King’s slaying in a book several years ago.

Ray initially confessed to killing King, but later recanted. He has since maintained his innocence.

Murder witness must pay bond

Officials from the state fire marshal’s office are investigating what they call a suspicious fire that heavily damaged a funeral home.

No one was hurt in the fire at the Roundtree, Napier and Ogilvie’s Funeral Home around midnight Wednesday.

When we got there, the fire was burning in the back of the building, Mount Pleasant Fire Chief Cotton Massey said. The fire then spread through the chapel of the building before we got it under control.

Prison escapee nabbed in Florida

Florida authorities captured a Tennessee inmate Saturday who had escaped from the Morgan County Regional Correctional Center in September. Christopher A. Wells, 28, was taken into custody early Saturday morning after Florida police spotted him driving a stolen vehicle with North Carolina license plates. Wells, of Knoxville, walked away from his work site at the Morgan County Recycling Center on Sept. 9, 1996. Authorities said Wells stole a car that had a shotgun inside.

Currently jailed in Florida, Wells will be returned to Tennessee. Wells was serving a 12-year sentence for burglary and grand larceny.

Man kills wife, then takes own life

A man killed himself after shooting his wife three times during an early-morning argument, police said.

Hollis Belcher, 52, was pronounced dead at Vanderbilt University Medical Center Thursday of a gunshot wound to the head. He held off police and his two sons for about an hour before shooting himself, authorities said.

Belcher and his wife Cary, 44, were arguing about 6:30 a.m., when he shot her once inside their home and dragged her outside to their driveway and shot her again with a .38-caliber pistol.

Police said she escaped into the house and called 911. He followed and was held off by one son who let him go when Belcher said he only wanted to help his wife. Belcher then found his wife in the yard and shot her a third time.

Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe said Belcher told police he did not want to spend the rest of his life in prison. The reason for them fighting probably died with both of them, Ashe said.

Bus driver resigns after charges

A woman charged with drunken driving after her empty school bus wrecked has resigned.

Earline Leach, 32, did not give personnel officials a reason for her resignation Thursday, which came two days after she appeared before General Sessions Judge Al Nations.

Ms. Leach, who remained free on bond, is charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and failure to report an accident. Her preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 22.

Police reports said her bus left the road and hit mailboxes and a utility pole on Dec. 19. But police said she left the scene of that accident before her bus again left the road and struck some trees.

She was alone at the time after picking up the bus at Williamson County’s central garage, said Norm Coffman, supervisor of transportation for Williamson County Schools.

Ms. Leach said she took cough medicine and a sleeping aid that day, Coffman said. But state Trooper Fidencio Medina reported that he smelled alcohol on her breath.

I just want people to know that Leach was an excellent driver up until this incident, Coffman said Thursday.

She had nothing on her driving record or on her personnel record.

Woman kidnaps child from sitter

A 46-year-old Brainerd woman was arrested and charged with kidnapping a 3-year-old girl by telling the child’s babysitter that she was the toddler’s grandmother.

Janette Bowman was being held Thursday at the Silverdale Workhouse under a $50,000 bond. According to police, Angela Thomas said she left her child at a babysitter’s home Tuesday night. But when Ms. Thomas returned Wednesday morning, she was told that a female had come to the house posing as the grandmother.

The babysitter told officers she let the woman take the child because the tot seemed to recognize the woman and acted as if she was someone she trusted. Bowman was arrested following a tip that she had been seen near the babysitter’s apartment.

The woman and 3-year-old had apparently been walking around the area since early in the morning.

Police said the child was scared but unharmed as a result of the 12-hour abduction.

Traffic deaths may have dropped

Traffic deaths may have declined in Tennessee in 1996 for the first time in four years. Preliminary figures also show a possible dip in alcohol-related traffic accidents in the state. Unofficial figures show 1,210 people died in state wrecks in 1996, down from 1,259 for the previous year.

The annual death toll has gone up every year since 1992 when there were 1,158. There were 1,177 in 1993, 1,214 in 1994 and 1,259 in 1995. Anthony Kimbrough, spokesman for the state Department of Safety, cautioned that the figures are not final.

The number looks good, but we still think we’ll be close to the 1995 figure, he said Thursday. It will probably be spring before we’d be confident about the totals.

It’s too early to say one way or another, but it does not look like a significant increase over 95. The 1,259 traffic deaths in 1995 were the most since 1,266 in 1988. The most ever in one year was 1,444 in 1973.

Since official records began in 1972, the state has never had fewer than 1,000 traffic deaths in one year.

The state low was 1,037 in 1983.

Christmas kidnapping just a hoax

A Carthage woman who told authorities that she had been kidnapped on Christmas Eve later admitted she made up the whole story, police said.

Sandra E. Chandler, 36, had told police a man abducted her from a local Wal-Mart store Tuesday morning and forced her to ride with him through the Middle Tennessee towns of Lebanon, Red Boiling Springs, Westmoreland, Portland and Gallatin before she jumped out of his car on Highway 109.

She called Gallatin police and told them the man said he’d kill her for her knowledge of the murder of Gilbert R. (Cotton) Graves of Westmoreland, who died this past June.

But Carthage Police Chief Scotty Lewis said Chandler told him Thursday night that she had lied about the whole incident.

Lewis said parts of her story weren’t meshing like they should.

Chandler hasn’t been charged with any crime, Lewis said.

Hydroelectric plans scaled back

DUNLAP, Tenn. (AP)
Plans to build two pumped storage hydroelectric plants in the Sequatchie Valley have been scaled back.

Landowners and environmentalists have protested plans for the $4 billion project, which would have been the state’s biggest construction project ever. Now Pennsylvania-based Armstrong Energy Resources Inc. will build one $2 billion plant in Sequatchie County, officials said Friday.

Pumped-storage facilities allow utilities to store energy for later use. Water is pumped up to mountaintop reservoirs at night when power demands are least and then is released for power generation during peak periods of the day.

The scaled-back plan makes better economic and environmental sense, said Libby Wann, Chattanooga communications director for Armstrong. Supporters of the project say it is needed to meet future electricity demands of the area and could provide 1,000 or more construction jobs.

But opponents say the plant will degrade the land and water, violate property rights and interfere with other development. They want the entire project scrapped.

Construction on the project could begin by the year 2000.

Mysterious map leads to body

Authorities from Tennessee and North Carolina are investigating the death of a woman as a homicide due to a letter received by a North Carolina family.

The anonymous letter reportedly stated that the body of a white female, who had been missing in North Carolina since October, had been dumped along U.S. Highway 421.

The letter also included a hand-drawn map showing where the body was left, the Johnson City (Tenn.) Press reported.

We believe the map and other materials were meant for her family to know where to find her, not to taunt them or us, said Sheriff Roger Hutchings of Caldwell County, N.C. The person wanted to let them know where she was at.

North Carolina authorities forwarded the hand-drawn map to Johnson County, Tenn., sheriff’s deputies after the family received it in the mail Friday, Hutchings told The Charlotte Observer.

A search party located the body about halfway down a steep embankment between Midway and Trade less than 10 minutes into the search Monday.

The body, thought to be that of a woman in her late 40s or early 50s, was taken to East Tennessee State University’s James H. Quillen College of Medicine for an autopsy.

The woman’s name has not been released while investigators wait for an autopsy to establish her identity and pinpoint how she died, Hutchings said.

Offender’s sentence gets reduced

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has reduced the sentence of a convicted robber, even though they called him a dangerous offender.

Two of the three judges chose to reduce Willie Lee Ballard’s

16-year sentence to 11 years. Last year Ballard was convicted in the 1994 attempted robbery of two girls in the parking lot of Chattanooga’s Hamilton Place Mall. Ballard admitted to police that he robbed the two for gas money.

Nineteen-year-old Melissa Gray was shot. Gray suffered permanent injuries and has undergone extensive surgery since the incident.

Ballard received an 11-year sentence on one conviction and a 5-year term for the other.

The court ruled that Ballard was a dangerous offender, or someone who has no regard for human life. But Special Judge William M. Dender and Appeals Judge Joseph B. Jones said Ballard’s prior offenses were minor ones committed as a juvenile. That, they said, doesn’t qualify for consecutive sentencing under Tennessee law.

In his dissent, Judge David G. Haynes said Ballard had no hesitation about trading the life of an innocent victim for a tank of gasoline and his actions merited consecutive sentencing.

Crime wave hits capitol building

A state employee is so fed up with thievery around the Capitol that she’s formed a watch group with co-workers.

Sandy Sain of Nashville formed Crime Watch with her fellow employees on the first floor of the War Memorial Building, where state lawmakers have offices across the street from the Capitol.

She was frustrated by the endless cases of theft in a public complex frequented by hundreds of daily visitors.

The day I found the temp (temporary employee) had her money stolen, I had had enough, Sain said. The Nashville Banner reviewed Capitol Hill Police and Tennessee Highway Patrol reports and found that crime has been rampant in and around the Capitol building.

A $200 elk-antler pen was swiped last February from an office next to Gov. Don Sundquist’s in the Capitol. At least eight employee- or state-owned vehicles have been stolen from state parking lots the last 12 months. Someone even lifted six Christmas wreaths off the Capitol Dec. 5.

You know, tis the season, said Roger Huntley, chief of the Capitol Police force, which patrols the Legislative Plaza and Capitol.