Law enforcement officers inspect a guy wire struck by fleeing driver James Lee Russell during a high-speed chase Oct. 5.

T-G Photo by David Melson

This morning, we conclude our review of the top local news stories from 2018, three months at a time. Today, we look at the last quarter of the year, from October through today.


•A Shelbyville fast food restaurant was scammed out of more than $2,000 by a midnight caller claiming to represent its corporate headquarters.

An employee said she received a phone call Oct. 1 from the man, who falsely told her the local outlet’s general manager was secretly under corporate investigation and surveillance.

The employee was told by the caller to get the code to the safe and call him back, She was then instructed to enter the safe, count the money inside the money bags and cash drawers and report back to him. He said a corporate representative was coming to the restaurant to conduct an audit and the facility would be closed if the money wasn’t deposited. The caller ordered her to send him the money and he would make the deposit.

•On Oct. 3, Gov. Bill Haslam participated in ground-breaking ceremonies for a new $5.7 million conference center on the grounds of the Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy on Unionville Deason Road. The building had been part of the original plan for the school 20 years ago, but was not built at that time due to state budget constraints.

•A man thought to have been living in a downtown Shelbyville homeless camp — and considered a subject of interest by the FBI for allegedly-threatening social media posts — was captured near Normandy in a stolen pickup truck after a high-speed chase on Oct. 5. James Lee Russell of Florida was captured after wrecking the truck while attempting to turn from Normandy Road onto Dement Road.

•Bedford County Highway Superintendent Stanley Smotherman announced Oct. 10 that he will retire at the end of January 2019. Smotherman was first elected superintendent 2000 and has been re-elected every four years since. He has been with the highway department for 40 years. In December, Bedford County Board of Commissioners appointed Mark Clanton, former director of Shelbyville Public Works, to the post. Clanton will serve until the next general election in 2020.

•The October 21 accident which killed 29-year-old Keri King is still having repercussions. King was killed when a car driven by Omar Edgar Torres-Rangel struck her car head-on. Torres-Rangel was hospitalized for his own injuries and then released. Law enforcement was unaware of his release and he is still at large. Torres-Rangel had just come from an event at a horse racing facility on Anderton Road, and county officials have been highly critical of the control of alcohol use at the facility, asking about whether its beer license should be revoked. By December, the county commission was considering changes to the rules for issuing beer licenses going forward, although those changes wouldn’t affect existing licenses.

King was not the only traffic fatality that day; Rodd Aaron Griffin Jr., 17, of Shelbyville was killed shortly before noon on State Highway 64 east of Wartrace in an unrelated accident.


•Actress and Shelbyville native Sondra Locke actually died Nov. 3, but her death was not publicly reported until mid-December. Locke was an actress and director in her own right, but in the public consciousness she’s remembered in connection with Clint Eastwood — first as Eastwood’s co-star and romantic partner, and then for the couple’s litigious breakup. An appearance by Locke was also a plot point in “Our Very Own,” the independent film shot (and set) in Shelbyville.

•Law enforcement personnel were held at bay for hours on Nov. 3 by a man who repeatedly fired at responding officers after allegedly shooting a man at the Higgins Road home they share.

Deputies returned fire. One shot wounded suspect Timothy Ledford in the hip, but that didn’t stop Ledford’s gunfire.

George Henderson, 53, was pinned down in the home’s front yard, very close to the front door, with officers for approximately two hours before help could reach him. Ledford allegedly shot the victim “two or three times,” said Sheriff Austin Swing, although it wasn’t immediately clear why.

•Incumbent Shelbyville Mayor Wallace Cartwright easily won re-election on Nov. 6, as the county’s voters solidly supported Republican candidates for state and federal offices. Cartwright had no ballot opposition, but former city council member Lee Roy Cunningham had mounted a last-minute write-in campaign, drawing only a handful of votes.

In the 2nd Ward, challenger Marilyn Ewing defeated incumbent City Council member Sam Meek.

In Wartrace, challenger Vickie Smith unseated incumbent Mayor Thomas Hurt.

•Shelbyville City Council voted Nov. 8 to enter a contract agreement with Ragan Smith, a Murfreesboro construction and planning firm, for the first phase of new expansion and development at H.V. Griffin Park.

•Former County Executive Paul R. Parker (the position is now known as county mayor) died Nov. 14 at age 87. Parker was known for his fiscal conservatism and for speaking out on the side of rural taxpayers in debates over whether the tax structure favors urban or rural taxpayers.


•Bell Buckle Vice-Mayor Frank Reagor, 76, died Dec. 13 following back surgery. Reagor was first elected to the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2000.

•A state grant announced Dec. 17 will allow the Nash Family Dairy on U.S. 41A — the county’s largest dairy farm, which relocated operations her from California five years ago — to start its own creamery, which will make small-batch cheese and ice cream and sell them to the public, both in take-home packaging and on the menu of a restaurant which will be attached to the creamery. Plans are to break ground on the facility in spring 2019 and open it later in the year.


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