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Murders, fetal assault, bomb threats, ice storm top stories for first half of 2015


This week we will review the top news stories of the first half of 2015.


Summers named Firefighter of the Year



Robin Summers was presented the 2014 Firefighter of the Year Award at the county fire department’s annual awards banquet on Jan. 17.


Captain Anthony Boyd presented the Firefighter of the Year Award, saying that Summers had more than earned the honor.


"The nomination process for Firefighter of the Year considered fire call responses, training attendance, and community service participation," Boyd said. "The fire calls and training attendance stand for themselves. Robin excelled in both of those areas. He has demonstrated outstanding community service by taking the lead in fire prevention and education activities throughout the year. As station commander, Robin has gone to great lengths to make himself available to train new recruits at his station, while also providing frequent refresher training to his veteran members assigned to the Short Mountain station. The DeKalb County Fire Department attempts to recognize firefighters who reflect a positive image of the department in the community, and there’s absolutely no doubt that Robin has earned the honor of being named DeKalb County Fire Department’s 2014 Firefighter of the Year."


The department’s 2014 Officer of the Year is Lieutenant Brian Williams. Station Commander Jeremy Neal of the Blue Springs station was honored with the department’s 2014 "Git R Done" award. Rookie of the Year honors went to Firefighter Steven Lawrence of the Liberty Station.


A new award titled the "EMS Star of Life Award" was introduced this year to recognize cooperative achievements by members of the department in the area of emergency medical services. The award recognizes 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 fire department.


Kristie Johnson, station commander of the department’s main station as well as a DeKalb EMS paramedic, was awarded the inaugural EMS Star of Life Award for her achievement in coordinating an Emergency Medical Responder course that was hosted in DeKalb County.


Crews arrested for murder



Anthony (Tony) Tyrone Crews, 42, was taken into custody in February and charged with second degree murder in the stabbing death of Ashley Bain, 28


According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Bain was found stabbed to death in her Cookeville Highway home on Feb. 5. The sheriff said that Bain’s body was found lying on a bedroom floor at the home she and Crews shared at 3870 Cookeville Highway. She had been stabbed numerous times about the upper body. A knife believed to have been the murder weapon was found in the residence.


Crews reportedly called 911 at 2:33 p.m. to report that he had entered the residence and discovered Bain’s body. Sheriff’s deputies rushed to the scene, and were soon joined, at the request of District Attorney General Bryant Dunaway, by agents of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. A joint investigative effort by the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, the TBI, and the District Attorney General’s Office determined that Crews had committed the crime and falsified the story about finding the body.


Meanwhile, the suspect’s truck, a Chevrolet Tahoe, was found burning at the scene of the crime two days after the incident.


The DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department was summoned to the home where Bain was killed just before 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The Tahoe, still parked in the driveway of the home, was engulfed in flames, and was essentially destroyed by the fire. A Mazda Millennia, reportedly belonging to the victim, was also damaged by the blaze.


Winter storms damage DeKalb



While the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency activated the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan and declared a State of Emergency in Tennessee in February. Many DeKalb Countians were without power, and several minor accidents occurred on the roadways, no fatalities were reported in the county.


Though freezing rain and sleet in DeKalb County caused power outages, they were quickly corrected by Caney Fork and Smithville Electric. Trees overloaded with ice were downed across the county, many of which fell on utility lines.


The Smithville-DeKalb Rescue Squad, DeKalb County Volunteer Fire Department, EMS, DeKalb County Highway Department, TDOT, the sheriff’s department, city police, and private citizens all joined the effort to correct the problems.


Schools in the county were dismissed for more than a week.


Areas east of DeKalb were hit much harder, and fog on the Cumberland Plateau was an impediment to many response efforts, preventing Civil Air Patrol and Tennessee Highway Patrol reconnaissance flights over the area. The Tennessee National Guard deployed 20 people to the plateau to help clean up debris, and six Humvee teams conducted wellness checks and assist local and state officials in the response in Putnam County.


More than 20 Tennesseans died because of the weather conditions.


City approves package liquor regulations



The Smithville Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance on first reading regulating package liquor sales in the city on a 4-1 vote in February.


Alderman Shawn Jacobs cast the dissenting vote, saying that he felt the document should include language requiring a minimum amount of inventory, and that audit be performed to make sure that stores were maintaining that amount of inventory. Jacobs said he felt that the city should have approval over the auditors used.


Aldermen Josh Miller, and Jason Murphy agreed that minimum inventory guidelines be added, while Gayla Hendrix questioned whether such micromanagement of a business in the city limits was necessary. Hendrix moved to establish $150,000 as the minimum inventory requirement in making the motion to adopt the ordinance, however.


At the May meeting of the board, the aldermen approved the ordinance on second and final reading.


With Shawn Jacobs and Josh Miller not in attendance, the remainder of the city board voted to approve the measure as presented the previous month. The ordinance as approved establishes regulations for parties submitting applications for a certificate of compliance from the city. Applications are to be placed in the hands of the police chief and the city attorney for background checks, then will be submitted to the Mayor and Aldermen within 30 days. After an applicant receives a clean certificate of compliance from the city, it must be sent to the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC).


Local writer tops Amazon



A physician, speaker, and former chemist, Barbara Ebel's book, the third novel about fictional Tennessee neurosurgeon Dr. Danny Tilson "Collateral Circulation: a Medical Mystery" was one of the top-selling books on in February.


The series takes place in Tennessee. She has also written and illustrated a children’s book series about her therapy dog titled Chester the Chesapeake, another novel – Outcome, a Novel – and a health book, Younger Next Decade. "Doctor Barbara" lives in eastern DeKalb County, along with her husband and four pets.


Collateral Circulation reached as high as number seven on the Amazon charts, and can be found as an eBook on, Barnes & Noble Nook, KOBO, and most online retailers. It is also a paperback on Visit her at her website:, or her dog and children's book website at:


Little named DCHS Valedictorian



The names of the top students of the DeKalb County High School Class of 2015 was revealed in February.


Julia Little, the daughter of Dr. Scott Little and Kristin Raymond, was the 2015 Valedictorian. Makalee Ruch, the daughter of Melissa and Joe Ruch was the Salutatorian.


According to DCHS Guidance Counselor Lori Myrick, a total of 40 DCHS students met the qualifications to be considered Top Rank. To achieve Top Rank, students must take at least 10 honors, dual enrollment, and AP courses, and must have a 21 or higher ACT composite score.


Director of schools


calls it quits



In a meeting with his central office staff, department heads in March, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby announced that he would retire from the position effective June 30.


Willoughby apparently called a meeting to inform his staff of the decision, then sent an email to school board members. The email, obtained by the Review from other sources, read simply: "Please let this serve as notice of my retirement as of June 30, 2015. Thank you Mark Willoughby."


While the director had two years remaining on his contract, he cited friction between himself and new school board members as a reason for leaving early.


Willoughby, who had been director of schools since 2006, was approved by the board of education for a new three-year contract a little over a year ago. Board of Education Members John David Foutch, Charles Robinson, Kenny Rhody, and Chairman Johnny Lattimore voted in favor of the measure. Billy Miller, Doug Stephens, and W.J. (Dub) Evins, III voted against it, saying that they felt that a one-year contract was in the system’s best interest.


In an unusual sweep of the board by voters, four new members, Danny Parkerson, Jerry Wayne Johnson, Jim Beshearse, and Shaun Tubbs, were elected in August, replacing Foutch, Robinson, Rhody, and Lattimore.


The new board scored Willoughby at 2.92 of a possible six in his annual performance evaluation in January, and was asked, according to his remarks at the meeting, to renegotiate his contract.


Then, in a special-called meeting to discuss provisions in the director’s contract concerning separation notice on March 23, some board members expressed the desire to send the director home before the June 30 date that he announced would be his retirement day.


Upon the recommendation of Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III, the board voted to defer action until a legal opinion could be acquired on the section of the director’s contract that reads: "The director may terminate this contract at any time, at his sole discretion, by giving the BOARD 30 days written notice of his resignation. In the event of such termination, the DIRECTOR shall have no right or entitlement to any severance pay and shall be entitled to the salary and benefits unpaid through the effective date of resignation or retirement." another special-called meeting was set for April 6 at 7 p.m. to give the chairman time to consult counsel on the matter.


All members except Jerry Wayne Johnson and Jim Beshearse, who passed, voted to defer action until April 6.


Board members passed a motion 6-1 at that meeting to buy out Willoughby’s remaining contract, paying the director’s salary for May and June, as well as his insurance cost.


Willoughby signed an agreement a few days later, and his term as director came to an end on April 16.


Norrod convicted of incest



Judge David Patterson sentenced a McMinnville man to fifteen years in prison on child sex charges in March.


Jared Norrod, 39, entered a no contest (best interest) plea to aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, sexual battery by an authority figure, especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, and incest. He was given a nine-year sentence for especially the aggravated sexual exploitation charge and six year term for the aggravated sexual exploitation charge. The sentences are to be served consecutively. Norrod was given a three-year sentence for incest and three years for sexual battery by an authority figure as well, to run concurrently with each other and the other two sentences, totaling a 15-year term. He will be under lifetime supervision after serving his time.


The DeKalb County Grand Jury charged him with two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, two counts of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, four counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, and incest in an April 2014 sealed indictment. He was accused of having sexual contact with two juveniles between the ages of 13 and 18, one a relative, taking photographs of juveniles engaging in sexual activity, having the photographs in his possession, and uploading them to a computer.


Boy loses life in fall



Kayden Ray Fults, two, passed away at the emergency room of DeKalb Community Hospital after apparently falling from a bunk bed at his Smithville home in March.


According to Lieutenant Matt Holmes of the Smithville Police Department, "Officers contacted me and told me that they had been called to the emergency room because a two-year-old child had passed away. The doctors had been working to save him for about an hour and a half. We were told he had fallen off a bunk bed, and that the family had transported him to the hospital. The Vanderbilt Lifeforce helicopter had already landed, but the child passed away at the emergency room."


While Holmes did not say that foul play was suspected, he said the matter was under investigation. "He was sent for an autopsy, and the matter is still under investigation by the Smithville Police Department, the district attorney’s office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation," the lieutenant said. "DCS is involved as well. I don’t want to allude that there is any wrongdoing, but any time there is a death of this sort it’s appropriate to conduct a full investigation."


Fults was the son of Kaycie Lynn Fults and Mark Johnson of Smithville. Johnson is a volunteer fireman at the Short Mountain Station, and the county fire department.


Caplinger asked to resign as chief



After almost five years on the job as Smithville Police Chief, Randy Caplinger was asked to step down in March. Caplinger, a retired Lieutenant Colonel/Major of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, was named police chief in May 2010.


"I think the department needs to go in a new direction," Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss told the Review. "I just think some changes need to be made." Poss placed Caplinger on suspension pending termination at a Friday morning meeting at city hall at city hall attended by Poss, Caplinger, Police Commissioner Jason Murphy, and City Attorney Vester Parsley.


The mayor said Caplinger was asked to resign or retire from the department. The board of aldermen were called to meet on March 17 to discuss whether to offer him a severance package if he resigned voluntarily.


Caplinger’s attorneys made it clear at the special meeting that the suspended chief would not go down without a fight.


Speaking on behalf of her client, Attorney Sarah Cripps, accompanied by her partner Brandon Cox, said they would be seeking due process after the chief was recently being placed on suspension pending termination by Mayor Jimmy Poss.


Cripps, in front of an upstairs meeting room at city hall filled with Caplinger’s supporters, said that he would not tender his resignation, and had done nothing wrong as police chief. She stressed that Caplinger had not resigned as chief, and had not been given any reason for his suspension. "Chief Caplinger spent 30 years in public service with the Tennessee Highway Patrol and then came to this job in May 2010 desiring to continue to serve the public. As I address you tonight, Chief Caplinger and his counsel still have not been apprised of the reason or reasons behind his sudden suspension without pay that occurred on March 13. Chief Caplinger comes here tonight asking very little of you. He will not resign under a cloud, and he will not go quietly into that dark night. Chief Caplinger wishes to make it clear to everyone who is here that he categorically denies wrongdoing in any shape, form, or fashion. Moreover, he stands before you tonight ready, willing, and eager to defend himself in a public forum with zeal and energy and to allow the chips to fall where they may and upon whomsoever they will," Cripps said.


No action was taken by the board at that time, since the sole reason for calling the meeting was to discuss a severance package. Captain Steven Leffew was named Officer in Charge of the police department in the interim.


Then, an all-day due process hearing on the termination of the former chief on May 8 resulted in a 3-2 vote to uphold Poss' decision to fire Caplinger.


While testimony during the seven-hour hearing included accusations of bid rigging, interference in police business and confusion in the department, whether the vote is binding became the final concern. Attorneys from both sides called a plethora of witnesses to testify, and many, including Caplinger himself, opined that the former chief was being singled out for less wrongdoing than many employees at city hall and members of city government, and that there had been an ongoing effort to undermine his authority at the department.


Aldermen Gayla Hendrix, Danny Washer, and Jason Murphy voted to support the termination, while Shawn Jacobs and Josh Miller opposed the move.


Caplinger’s representation, Sarah Cripps and Brandon Cox, along with two aldermen, opined that the city charter requires a two thirds majority, or four out of five votes, to uphold the termination. While the attorneys said their interpretation of the charter required four out of five votes, and aldermen Jacobs and Miller told the assembly that they had consulted legal representatives of the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS), and had also been told that the charter required four votes to settle the matter, city officials disagreed.


City Attorney Vester Parsley pointed out another area (Section 3.08) in which the charter seems to contradict Section 3.01 that calls for a majority of the board to approve the mayor’s dismissal of employees. "My contention is that a simple majority would be enough, the courts may have to decide that issue," Parsley said.


Attorneys for Caplinger filed a lawsuit against the City of Smithville in DeKalb County Circuit Court in June.


Sarah Cripps and Brandon Cox filed the suit on June 4, asking the court to "construe the charter for the City of Smithville and to determine which provision controls and governs the number of votes required by the Board of Aldermen to ratify or confirm the mayor's decision to remove an employee of the city."


The suit claimed that "…the failure of the mayor and board of aldermen to convene a meeting for the purpose of voting upon whether or not to ratify the mayor’s unilateral decision to suspend the plaintiff without pay is in direct violation and contravention of section 3.08 of the charter of the City of Smithville," and asks that the court "hold and declare that Caplinger's suspension without pay effective March 13, 2015 is invalid, and hence, a nullity," and that Caplinger should "receive all accrued back pay from March 13, 2015 until the date of the hearing in this cause."


The suit also questioned the validity of the seven-hour due process hearing held in May, and contended that section 3.08 of the charter was violated when the aldermen were not assembled for a vote to ratify the mayor's unilateral suspension of Caplinger before the hearing on his termination.


Local VFW charter revoked



The charter of local VFW post 7623, established in 1961, was revoked by the state commander because of inactivity in March.


State VFW Commander William G. Crawford told the Review after a March 14 meeting, held to allow local members input on whether the post could be saved, that only one member of the local post attended. "We revoked the charter of VFW post 7623 as of today," he said. "It will now go on to our national organization with our explanation," Crawford shared.


"They were suspended because there was no activity," Crawford added. "There were no meetings and no community and VFW programs. Officers were never elected, so we took a stand two years ago and said we have to get it moving, but it hasn't moved. We had no choice but to revoke the charter."


In a letter to acting Post Commander Ronald Miller dated Jan. 29, VFW State Commander William G. Crawford wrote that he was suspending the local post’s operations for 90 days for failure to hold meetings or to elect new officers. The letter read in part: "In accordance with section 211 of National By-Laws and the Manual of Procedure, the operations of Howard Gill Post 7623 are hereby suspended for a period of up to 90 days due to violations of the laws and usage of the organization, specifically failure to hold post meetings, and failure to submit a post-election report in accordance with by-laws and procedures."


The missive continued to say that an administrative committee has been appointed to supervise post activities and ensure compliance with regulations. The committee will formulate a report, which according to the letter: "…shall contain the committee’s recommendation as to whether the suspension shall be rescinded or continued, or if the post’s charter be revoked."


The commander said that a new post could be organized if 100 members organize and re-apply.


The property on Highway 70 East that post 7623 occupied will be sold, and the funds will be held in a trust for two years. If another charter is secured during that time, the funds may be used by the new post, according to former Post Commander Miller.


Woman charged with fetal assault



In March, a 27-year-old Liberty woman was the first to be charged in DeKalb County under a state law passed last year prohibiting pregnant women from using illegal drugs.


Lindsey Paulette Davenport of Liberty was charged with assaulting a viable fetus as the victim, a misdemeanor offense. According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Davenport gave birth to a baby boy whose urine tested positive for opiates on Jan 21. Blood drawn from the umbilical cord tested positive for Suboxone, Methadone, and Morphine.


The law went into effect July 1, 2014, and allows prosecutors to pursue criminal assault charges against women who give birth to children who are addicted or suffer other injuries because of the mother’s drug use.


GOP reorganizes



The DeKalb County Republican Party met to reorganize on March 14.


Local attorney Mingy Colwell Bryant was chosen to be party chairman for a two-year term, along with new Vice Chairman Clint Hall, Secretary Sharon Rhoten, Treasurer Tom Chandler, and Vice-Treasurer Dustin Estes. The party’s new officers were nominated as a group, and members elected them by acclamation with no other names placed in nomination. State Senator Mae Beavers and State Representatives Terri Lynn Weaver and Mark Pody also attended.


Wilkins takes over Democratic chair



Jordan Wilkins was named the new chairman of the DeKalb County Democratic Party at the local Dem’s Biennial Reorganization Convention in March. James Hale was chosen as the new Vice Chairman, and Joyce Hendrixson returns as Secretary and Myra Miller was re-elected Treasurer.


All four party officers were elected by acclamation and faced no opposition. They will serve for two years.


Wilkins, previously a vice chairman, takes the position from Jim Judkins, who retired from the chairmanship after five years. Wilkins graduated from DeKalb County High School in 2014, and has been active in the local Democratic Party for many years, organizing the Young Democrats in DeKalb as a sixth-grader at DeKalb Middle School. He is currently a freshman at Tennessee Tech University.


Bain attacks sister’s accused killer in court



Clay Andrew Bain, 23, was charged with disrupting a meeting or procession and two counts of assault on March 26.


According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, Bain was charged after he made verbal threats and physically assaulted 42-year-old Anthony Tyrone Crews, the man accused of killing Bain’s sister, Ashley Bain, 28, who was found stabbed to death in the Cookeville Highway home she shared with Crews on Feb. 5.


The sheriff said that Bain hit Crews on the head in DeKalb County General Sessions Court. He was charged with an additional count of assault after injuring Sergeant Brian Williams’ left hand while the officer was attempting to prevent Bain from gaining access to Crews.


Witnesses said the alleged assault took place after a preliminary hearing concerning the case, in which Crews is charged with second-degree murder. Bain reportedly stood and walked toward the door of the courtroom, and when Judge Bratten H. Cook II asked him to return to his seat, he instead made his way to the defendant’s seat and struck the handcuffed Crews in the head with his fist. Crews stood up, but was quickly restrained and both he and Bain were removed from the courtroom by officers.


Meanwhile, the hearing resulted in the case being bound over to the grand jury, and the judge raised Crews’ bond, originally set at $250,000, and then increased to one million dollars at a Feb. 12 hearing, to two million dollars.


Turnbill paroled



A local man convicted in the September 2002 shooting of 20-year-old Joshua Murphy was released on parole on March 9.


Melvin Eugene Turnbill was sentenced to 25 years after he pled guilty in DeKalb County Criminal Court in 2003 to facilitating first degree murder. Turnbill and a co-defendant, Christopher Nicholas Orlando, were accused of killing Murphy in a wooded area of the Laurel Hill Community. Turnbill served more than 12 years of his sentence.


Members of the Tennessee Board of Parole voted last year to release Turnbill on supervised parole. He was required to complete a substance abuse program called and a release plan was to be approved. Board members also decided that Turnbill should receive substance abuse after-care after his release, and that he be assessed for substance abuse treatment while on parole.


Prosecutors in the case said that Turnbill and Orlando lured Murphy to his death because they suspected him of stealing methamphetamine. His body was discovered three days later.


Orlando, who was convicted of the actual shooting, was convicted in DeKalb County Criminal Court Jury in April, 2004. He is serving a 45-year sentence for facilitation of first degree murder, and is currently incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex in Mountain City. Orlando’s last parole request was denied in March, 2013. He will be up for parole again in 2016.


Jay indicted for child rape



A Dowelltown man was indicted for child rape by a DeKalb County Grand Jury in April.


A True Bill was returned against 20-year-old Jonathan Everett Jay, accused of touching his eight-year-old niece in a sexual manner on two occasions the previous summer. He was arraigned on April 13.


According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, a sheriff's department detective responded to a residence on Snow Hill Road regarding the sexual assault of an eight-year-old girl on Sept. 11 last year. The child’s mother reportedly told the detective that the child said that her Jay had touched her inappropriately.


Ray said the detective and a Department of Children's Services agent spoke with the child, and she confirmed the allegations. Jay reportedly agreed to speak with the detective at the sheriff's department, and during the interview he allegedly admitted to having had sexual contact with the child on Aug. 27 and Sept. 11.


Three bomb threats in two weeks



Two bomb threats in Smithville Thursday on April 16 led to the evacuation of a local factory and a search of DeKalb County High School. Then Smithville Police and Fire Departments were dispatched to Federal Mogul on May 3 just after 3 a.m. to investigate a report of an explosive device at the factory.


Agencies from other counties brought explosive-detecting dogs to search both the school and the factories, but no explosive device was found at either location.


Collins named interim director of schools



The DeKalb County Board of Education chose Dr. Danielle Collins to become the interim director of schools at a special called meeting on April 16.


The Board voted 5-2 to name Collins to the post until a permanent director could be chosen to replace the recently retired Mark Willoughby. Collins, Federal Programs Supervisor for the school system since 2008, served in a dual role, retaining that position while acting as interim director.


Howard wins John Isabell Teacher of the Year Award



Smithville Elementary School kindergarten teacher Tanya Howard received the John Isabell Memorial DeKalb County Teacher of the Year award at the eighth annual Teacher of the Year banquet in April.


The DeKalb County Teacher of the Year Award was recently named for John Isabell, a long-time local educator and former President of the DeKalb County Education Association, who passed away last year after a battle with cancer.


Five local teachers, 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/ and 10th-12th grade Theatre Arts teacher at DeKalb County High School were chosen as Teacher of the Year at their schools.


Dairy Queen Manager arrested for staging robbery



A Dairy Queen Manager and her boyfriend were arrested in May after police claim they stole nearly $7,000 from the restaurant’s safe and then staged a break-in to hide the crime.


Rebecca Duffield, 21, and 20-year-old Anthony Skinner both face charges of theft of property over $1,000 and vandalism. According to Smithville Police, The couple stole more than $6,800 from the safe after closing the business, then ransacked the office.


Before they drove away in a blue Dodge Durango, Skinner was allegedly seen breaking out a glass in the drive through window by a witness, apparently to make it look as if someone had broken into the business. The witness notified police and Officer Joey Myers responded to the scene at around 11:55 p.m.


Captain Steven Leffew said the Durango was found at a Short Mountain Highway residence, and that both Skinner and Duffield were inside the home. Lieutenant Matt Holmes was informed that Duffield had just closed up the Dairy Queen and left moments prior to the incident.


Holmes went to the residence and requested permission to search both the home and the Durango, and over $6,800 was found and returned to the owners of the Dairy Queen.


Two indicted in child beating death



Two people were indicted by a special session of the DeKalb County Grand Jury in connection with the death of a 22-month old child on May 20.


According to Captain Steven Leffew, of the Smithville Police Department, the unfortunate saga began early on the morning of May 15. "Smithville Police Sergeant Travis Bryant and Officer Joey Myers were dispatched to DeKalb hospital emergency room in reference to a possible child abuse resulting in the death of a two-year-old child. Investigating officers deemed the death to be of a suspicious nature. Captain Leffew, Lieutenant Matt Holmes and Detective Brandon Donnell were notified. Additionally District Attorney Bryant Dunaway and investigators from the District Attorney's office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation responded. On Tuesday, a special grand jury was convened, and Cody Key was indicted on first degree murder and Jessica May was indicted on aggravated child neglect," Leffew said.


District Attorney Bryant Dunaway told the Review that the child is believed to have died from blunt force trauma. "The District Attorney’s office, myself and Assistant District Attorney Greg Strong, responded to DeKalb Community Hospital early Sunday morning, along with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Smithville Police Department, to investigate a case of a child who was deceased and had obvious injuries," Dunaway said.


"After an investigation by the TBI and the Smithville Police Department, a grand jury was convened today (Tuesday) at my office’s special request, and the DeKalb County Grand Jury has indicted Cody Key for first-degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse, and Jessica May for aggravated child neglect. After the grand jury issued true bills, we took the two into custody," the D.A. shared. "The victim is a 22-month old male child, who passed away some time Saturday night or early Sunday morning of blunt force trauma, believed to be at the hands of Cody Key. May was indicted based upon a pattern of neglect over the past year leading up to the events of the homicide, but she is not charged with the homicide. She is the mother of the victim, and Cody Key is her boyfriend. They lived together," Dunaway concluded.