Sunday, January 21, 2018


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More information on Sequatchie shooting from Monday


Marion County Sheriff Bo Burnett recently released some of the details surrounding the shooting in Sequatchie Monday, January 1.

The victim has been confirmed as Brandon Shrum, 24 years old. Reports indicate that Shrum approached the assailant’s, Johnny Watts, residence on Dancing Fern Road with a shovel in his hand “banging on Mr. Watt’s home yelling threats,” according to Sheriff Burnett. Burnett indicated that Watts fired two warning shots, presumably in the air, in an effort to scare Shrum from the premises. Shrum, apparently, approached Watts with the shovel still in hand. Watts then shot Shrum three times. Shrum was later pronounced dead and his body is being sent for an autopsy.

Burnett confirmed that there were reports filed by Shrum previous to this incident that indicated that Watts and Shrum had already developed a contentious relationship. “Shrum’s girlfriend lived a couple of houses up from Watts and there had been previous reports of Watts following them up to Whitwell and veering towards them on the highway.” Burnett confirmed that no charges have been filed as of Tuesday, January 2. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) had possession of the previous reports involving the two people involved in the shooting.

Though acknowledging the investigation was incomplete, Burnett indicated that it was likely that Watts would face the grand jury in February and “see if they see enough to indict him.”

We’ll be sure and follow this story for more updates.

Whitwell High School Christmas Tournament 2017

Picture royalty and fee free use of one-time use of photo granted for periodicals that do not incl Marion County, TN in their service footprint. Free use contingent on citation "David Riley/Marion County News"

Bredesen enters race for Corker’s U.S. Senate seat


Former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen has added his name to a crowded field of candidates for the U.S. Senate seat that Bob Corker announced he would not seek re-election in 2018. Bredesen  joins fellow Democrat James Mackler to contest for the DNC primary on August 2, 2018. Bredesen retained the honor fo being the last Democrat to win a statewide office in Tennessee.

Rumors indicating Bredesen could enter the race have been heard since the beginning of November. This was in contradiction to an earlier proclamation from Bredesen himself stating that he would not run. In an email to supporters sent out two hours after news of Bredesen’s candidacy, the Mackler campaign requested contributions to a “rapid response fund.” The email touted Mackler’s military as a contrast to Bredesen as “a career politician who only serves special interests.”

Whichever of the Democrats that emerges from the primary will continue to face an uphill battle as they will have to face the Republican primary winner in what has proven to be a red leaning constituency in the last few elections for state and federal seats. None of Bredesen top campaign members have formally been announced, but many prominent democrats have expressed support for his candidacy.

Whitwell receives THRIVE 2055/Lynhurst grant


The city of Whitwell received a grant from the Lynhurst Foundation Tuesday morning at a luncheon in Chattanooga. The award was the result of a meeting city officials had with the foundation just last week.

The city is targeting using the grant as seed money towards hosting an annual coal miners heritage festival. The coal industry was integral to both Whitwell and Marion County’s economic development in the top and middle parts of the 20th century.

Be sure and check out the December 12 Jasper Journal for more details on the grant and the plans the city envisions.

MCHS pulls two wins from CSAS on road trip

Erimayas Bowden challenges for the high percent shot near the goal.
Lia Price puts up her fourth quarter free throw.

The Marion County High School basketball program is celebrating a pair of wins over Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences. The December 4 matchup saw the Lady Warriors of MCHS hand the Lady Patriots a convincing defeat as they would ultimately beat the CSAS team 50-29. The men’s game would be less resolute, but a “W” all the same with a 72-67 victory that would see the score tied with just over two and a half minutes left in the game.

For the women, head coach Randy Ellis continue his fast development of young players as he overcomes significant losses due to graduation and injuries from last years’ team. Senior Ashton McGrew would post seven points in the entire first half. That compared to fellow senior Amy Webb having no points in the first half and the Lady Warriors going into halftime with a 24-11 lead, one would have to surmise the development strategy seems to be working. Savannah Phillips and Savannah Keahey both would get four in the first half while Caroline Rash would land a three pointer and freshman Sara Muir would drop six for

Jace Williamson puts in two of his seven points.

the half.

Coming out of the half, the Lady Patriots staged a defensive gauntlet against the Lady Warriors holding all but one player to zero points in the third quarter. As the player carrying the offensive weight of the team was Webb, she still managed to put in nine points for the Lady Warriors compared to thirteen posted by the Lady Patriots for the quarter. However, the Lady Warriors would regroup and get aggressive under the boards which would help get nine attempts from the foul line in the final quarter. Unfortunately, the Lady Warriors would only go four-for-nine from the charity stripe, however they enjoyed broader offensive contribution as seven players would strike on the scoreboard to complete the win. Coach Ellis would reflect after the game, “CSAS played a little harder than we anticipated and relied on the seniors down the stretch to come through…and they did. Amy Webb and Ashton McGrew really brought us home.” For her part, Amy Webb was a little more pensive about talking the credit. “It took us a minute to get in the swing of things,” Webb continued, “And it’s hard working with this group of girls because we haven’t been on the floor [together]. From last year, we lost a lot, but it’s finally starting to come together. IN the fourth quarter we really pulled it together and we got our younger girls in which is what I like to see.”

Kane Hale takes the ball straight up the middle for two of his twenty four points.

As for the men, the Warriors ended up trading flurries with the Patriots. The Warriors would come out of the first quarter up by six only to go into halftime tied at thirty-six. The Warriors would eek out a one point advantage in the third quarter. Without great surprise, senior Warrior Kane Hale would have one-third of the team’s total offense. However, a number of contributions give the Warriors reason for optimism. Reece Barton, Ermiyas Bowdin and Jace Williamson would pull, by our count thirteen offensive rebounds and six successful put-backs. The Warriors gave up the opportunity for a more convincing lead as they would go fourteen for twenty five at the foul line through the game. For the Warriors to capitalize on there stable full of guys willing to fight under the goal, they’re going to be needing to shoot in the seventy percent range for free throws versus the current just over fifty percent.

As the fourth quarter dwindled away, the Patriots found themselves needing to foul MCHS to make sure they would have another shot with the ball. Inside of three minutes, the two teams were tied sixty-three a piece. Quite literally, anyone’s game. Hale would come up with a steal from the Patriot side of the court and run the distance to dunk for the lead. This would seem to have as profound an effect on a psychological basis as it did visually. Through the need to foul, the Patriots would watch their chances of getting back into the game die.

The Warriors look to host Bledsoe County on Friday December 8 starting with the Lady Warriors at 6:00 central.

JES students shine…with impeccable hair…in Hairspray Jr.

Raising the bar...from behind bars. Many members of the cast of the JES Hairspray Jr. production "doing time" for doing the right thing.
Aubrey Lynn (left) and Cameron Smallwood (right) complemented each other on stage striking the perfect balance of “friend” and “coconspirator.”

Jasper Elementary School music teacher Wesley Brewer has notoriously exceeded expectations for what a “elementary school” performance should look like. Co-directing with Heather Thompson, Brewer has set the bar once again with the school’s presentation of Hairspray Jr. 

Whereas the audience of these types of programs are primed to exhibit more grace than amazement, the cast really turned them around. Easing into the first piece, one generally expects “the one with the chops” to open and carry the rest of the cast through the different numbers. To take nothing away from Aubrey Lynn, who played the lead character, but one found themselves waiting for the other shoe

Kelsea Holland played antagonist Amber Von Tussel with just an ounce of bile less than leaving the audience disliking her character. Nobody could argue her performance was top tier.

to drop in the talent scale…it never does. Through Brett Webb as the cheesy dance show host and Kelsea Holland as the antagonist to Cameron Smallwood who absolutely nailed her role as the lead’s greatest encourager and comic timing, the audience kept finding another talent of note.

“Blessed are the peacemakers…” Lennon Kilgore (in plaid) takes a relatively minor character and really put him on the map portraying Wilbur Turnblad.



Speaking as one who, frankly, was planning on taking a few perfunctory photographs and quietly make my departure, the performance had me engaged from the beginning to the end. My only regret was watching the the last night and not being able to encourage others to go see it.

Daughter and Mom relationships are always a mixed a bag…unless being played by Aubrey Lynn and Bailey Wilson. Wait, they really do look like sisters.
Londyn Sanders proves big things come from little packages as she knocks the portrayal of Inez Stubbs out of the park. Makes the audience forget they’re sitting in an elementary school program.


Pirates getting fired up for gridiron battle with Tigers

Pirates cheerleaders leading the charge to stoke the flames of fandom.

Captivating the emotion that has swept the city all week, Pirates fans came out to “fire up the base” with a community bonfire in anticipation of South Pittsburg High School’s impending contest with the cross county rival, Whitwell High School Tigers. The battle dictates which team will move forward to the semifinals for Division IA.

The two met in the regular season with a single touchdown dividing the winner from the less fortunate. The Pirates’ defense played a pivotal role in getting them the victory for that matchup. With each roster nursing one injury a piece, this rematch, with the highest of stakes in play, will be a battle for the ages.

The Pirate Nation gather…with the advantage of staying PLENTY warm.
The SPHS band helped stir up the Pirate Pride fervor.
What may have started as a modest flicker….

Warriors continue their state championship quest

Jacob Saylors (#8) gains some of his 200-plus yards against Trousdale.

When the Warriors were sitting on a record of 3-5 after being declared the heir apparent in preseason polls for a shot at the state championship, many had decided it was a lost cause. Thanks to their win in the second round of the state playoffs, the Warriors of Marion County High School now sit at a 7-5 record and a ticket to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.

Sampson bursts through the line.

Warrior running back Jacob Saylors played the game like he had something to prove. He succeeded with the added benefit of carrying the dreams of the Purple Nation fans on his back. With over 230 yards on 22 carries, Saylors took on the vast majority of the ground game for the Warriors. Brett Nelson would post a respectable 80 yards running and Seth McClain and Jax Rollins would also gain positive yardage for the Tribe.

Kane Hale would followup Saylors’ initial score at the 10:03 mark in the first with a reception and an inspired run after. Hale would literally drag the defender into the end zone with him in order to post the score that helped the Warriors take a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Yellow Jackets would come back with a touchdown of their own but failed to execute the point after thanks to an MCHS block, which left the Warrior lead 14-6. Saylors would glide in for another touchdown before the halftime break to go up 20-6.

One constant throughout the game was the Jackets

Seth McClain (#30) earns some hard fought yards up the middle against the Yellow Jackets.

dominated in a statistic you don’t want to lead in: turnovers. With six Jacket turnovers, the Warriors would’ve had to work pretty hard to have lost the game. The Warrior defense had some remarkable plays scattered throughout the game. Brett Nelson and Jacob Saylors would, in addtion to their offensive merit during the matchup, would also both take an interception from the Jacket offense. The Warriors together posted 410 total offensive compared to the Jackets’ 305 yards.

Isaiah Sampson earns rushing yardage.

Warriors quarterback, Isaiah Sampson would once again post yard of his own at 40 yards including a rushing TD. As the Warriors look forward to their quarterfinals matchup against division foe Tyner Academy (who defeated Watertown 33-22 in order to face the Warriors) The 37-28 loss the Warriors suffered at the hands of the Rams of Tyner Academy can serve as the catalyst for avenging the the loss or the albatross that forces mental mistakes by the Warriors.

The Warriors now a boast a more experienced secondary which serve them well against Tyner who has a quarterback that is prone to run. In their first matchup, the Warriors played to prevent the pass and left 6-7 yards on the table a number of times that Tyner got through the line. Today, that would be very different as the defense has had the opportunity to read the offense better and close those lanes faster.

The proof is in the pudding… or on the scoreboard.
Man on mission. Saylors looking for a hole.

South Pittsburg makes emergency police chief hire


The Board of Mayor and Commissioners of South Pittsburg convened an emergency special call meeting for the purposes of hiring a new police chief. The city has seemingly had a rotating door for the police chief position as this new hire makes the “fourth chief in three years,” as illustrated by one commissioner during the meeting.

The Board unanimously embraced the City Administrator Gene Vess’ recommendation to approve Clifford Wayne Jordan as the new top cop for the city. Vess said, “I checked with the attorney to make sure that we could do this as far as what our charter reads as far as having an emergency meeting since we do have it posted to receive applications up to November 13, we’re not in violation of any state laws, city ordinances, municipal codes, or our personnel policy. So it’s my recommendation tonight that, after interviewing…four applicants…that we hire Clifford Wayne Jordan as police chief.” Jordan is currently a police officer with the nearby Jasper Police Department which, Vess contends, makes him “familiar with the area.” Vess said that there would still be some communication yet to be had with Jasper regarding the transition, but that Jordan would accede to working out a notice with Jasper while spending his off days in South Pittsburg to begin that transition.

Vice Mayor Paul Don King acknowledged during discussion of the motion that he hoped that the chief would be supported and trusted to do the job. “I’ve been here almost three years and we’ve been through four police chiefs since I’ve been here. I don’t know if I’m the problem or we’re the problem. We need a chief that is going to come in here and run the department and I don’t know this guy personally, but we need to let him do it,” King continued, “And the five of us…need to sit back and let this guy do his job.” Mayor Virgil Holder agreed. “We should be interfering.” King went on to say, “I get calls asking ‘Why did the police do this?’ or ‘Why did the police do that?’…I say you need to ask someone other than me. But this guy right here needs to come in and run the show and we need to get back out of his way because we’ve got bigger problems we need to be addressing. So let’s see if we can’t get going in a different direction.” King went further saying, “I don’t think we’re better than we were two years ago when I came on here. The police department is low…we’re just in worse shape than we were two or three years ago and it falls back to the five of us.”

SPPD woes continue as new allegations surface


Officials with both the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have acknowledged that there was an incident late Friday, October 27 or early Saturday, October 28 that has resulted in an investigation into the behavior of at least one South Pittsburg Police Department officer.

Marion County Sheriff Bo Burnett said, “There was complaint against a police officer. I was notified Friday night. I had a detective respond and TBI was called in also.”

This is on the heals of an excessive force investigation already in the hands of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s (TBI) from an incident a few weeks ago dealing with an officer allegedly kicking a suspect in the head who was already in handcuffs. That incident was immediately followed by the demotion of SPPD Chief of Police Ryan Meeks due to “low morale” of the department. Morale seems less and less likely a consideration as the department continues to be on the receiving end of serious complaints.

Whereas details are stilll coming forward, the allegation stems from a female that was transported by the police department earlier in the evening from a Halloween-themed party. The female was allegedly taken from the party for public intoxication. The decision was made to take the woman to her residence in lieu of arrest. Later, a separate officer was reported coming to the female’s residence and the female “came out and jumped in the back of the patrol car.” The second officer allegedly then took the female on a personal tour inside of municipal building or buildings. Upon returning the female to her residence, the female’s father allegedly indicated that the female had been sexually assaulted by the second officer. The female was then brought to Parkridge West by the father where there was no disclosure of what medical care was administered.

TBI spokesman Josh DeVine reported late Sunday morning, after a Marion County News inquiry regarding an investigation, said via email, “We have no information or confirmation to provide as the District Attorney General has not requested we open an investigation.” All local indicators are that DA Mike Taylor has now asked for an investigation.

Of course, Marion County News will continue to monitor the story.

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