2012 stories included homicide, child neglect and officer deaths
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
Jan 06, 2013 | 3439 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
2012 Year in Review
Ira Cox
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Some of 2012’s top news stories include allegations of homicide, child neglect and even moonshining. Also, the shock of two local law enforcement officials who died while on duty was captured in headlines.

A young Cleveland Police officer was killed in a tragic car crash and a veteran of public service died of natural causes while he was also on duty.

The stories tugged at the hearts of Bradley countians who unexpectedly lost individuals in the field of law enforcement.

CPD officer Justin Maples died in May while responding to back up city and county officers.

His untimely death and funeral were documented by the Banner and other media.

Longtime constable Ira Cox died Nov. 29. Cox had 58 years invested in public service to the community — as firefighter, rescuer and law enforcement officer and an integral component involved in raising money to buy equipment credited with saving countless lives.

Cox was an advocate and began a fundraising effort to purchase the “Jaws of Life,” and he was the first rescuer in Bradley County to use the tool.

He was laid to rest in December.

- Law enforcement had a busy year beginning the first day of 2012 after a fire was discovered inside a local motel room. After firefighters contained the blaze, they found the body of Harold Montgomery inside.

Montgomery, 39, had been stabbed numerous times, according to information provided by CPD’s Criminal Investigation Division.

Russell Brown, 35, was eventually arrested and charged in the alleged homicide. His case has not been presented in trial as of yet.

- In November, court officials set a date for trial of a woman charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the death of her sons.

Natasha Moses Bates was arrested after River Bates, 3, and Leland Bates, 5, reportedly died from hyperthermia, or elevated core body temperature, in July.

“Through investigation and statements, investigators found reason to believe the boys died in a car and an autopsy ruled the cause of death to be from hyperthermia,” said Bob Gault of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office following Bates’ indictment by a Bradley County grand jury.

Other child neglect cases in 2012 included a woman who allegedly left her child in a car at Walmart. Cleveland Police officer Jennifer McKee charged Kellie L. Veney, 21, in September after Veney reportedly left her 5-month-old child in her car while she and a woman reported to be her mother went inside to shop.

Walmart employees found the child crying and reported the incident to police.

Two people were arrested in July at a local motel after reports of alleged drug activity. April Suzanne Gabbert, 45, and Kenneth Joseph Thacker, 46, both of Cleveland were taken into custody and eventually charged with narcotics violations and aggravated child abuse and neglect. According to Bob Gault, media relations coordinator for the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, patrol deputies for the BCSO responded to a motel in the 2500 block of Georgetown Road and found components used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

A number of robberies also occurred in 2013.

- Cleveland Police arrested a man on armed robbery charges in January after an officer reportedly confronted him regarding a disturbance at a pain management clinic. Officer Jacob Varnell took Charles Franklin Garrett, 32, into custody just a short time after he allegedly robbed the CVS drugstore located on APD 40. Garrett was reportedly seen leaving the store driving a dark-colored vehicle. According to detective Stacy Smith of the Cleveland Police Department Criminal Investigations Division, Garrett entered the store wielding a knife and demanding “all of the morphine in the pharmacy.” As the pharmacist was complying with the suspect’s demands, Garrett reportedly jumped across the counter and grabbed approximately 10 bottles of pain medication, including OxyContin. He then fled on foot to the parking lot where he got into a vehicle and left, according to Smith. Video security was utilized to pinpoint a possible identification of a suspect. According to Smith, Varnell recognized Garrett from the original incident. Officers went to Garrett’s Dalton Pike residence. As they approached the residence, Garrett reportedly attempted to flee. Varnell deployed his Taser and took Garrett into custody. Smith said the narcotics taken during the armed robbery were recovered. Garrett was charged with aggravated robbery and resisting arrest, according to Smith.

- Randall Lee McCracken, 35, was arrested in February and charged with aggravated robbery after being established as the suspect in the robbery of the BI-LO Pharmacy in the Ocoee Crossing complex. According to Evie West, information officer for Cleveland Police Department, a call was received by 911 dispatchers stating the pharmacy inside the store had been robbed by a man who was possibly armed; however, he never produced a weapon.

- An alleged lone robber also entered Bank of Cleveland located on Perimeter Drive in March and took an undisclosed amount of cash.

Officials with Cleveland Police Department and other law enforcement agencies searched for the suspect after the reported robbery. He was described as being 6 feet tall, weighing 180 to 250 pounds and wearing a ski mask, hooded jacket and dark pants.

FBI, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and others aided in the search for the suspect.

- Cleveland Police and the FBI are investigating a December bank robbery at the FSG Bank located on Keith Street at the Village Green. According to reports, the alleged robber wore a brightly colored outfit.

The lone robber entered the bank and demanded money, according to Evie West, information officer for Cleveland Police Department.

- A day-care center and some area schools were locked down on a late Wednesday afternoon in December after an armed robber left a store on foot, headed in the direction of the schools.

A black male dressed in dark clothing with his face painted white entered the Mr. Zip location on North Lee Highway, wielding a knife.

According to reports, he demanded money from the store’s clerk, then left on foot. He escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash. The robber was described as wearing a dark green sweatshirt and dark pants. Authorities also said he had a dreadlocks hairstyle.

- David Keith Daugherty, 41, entered a guilty plea to first-degree murder in Bradley County Criminal Court in August. He was sentenced to life in prison. Daugherty appeared before Judge Carroll Ross in the strangulation death of his wife, Elizabeth Annette Carney, at the couple’s 6th Street home on July 12. Carney’s mother had not been able to reach her by phone and as deputies responded to a missing persons investigation, family members found Carney’s body stuffed in a converted closet space inside the couple’s home. The investigators’ report indicated Daugherty choked Carney with his arm. After a short while, he noticed she wasn’t dead and he then used a ligature to kill her, according to reports. Cindy LeCroy-Schemel of the District Attorney General’s Office also noted Daugherty confessed to Swain County, N.C., and Bradley County detectives he had killed his wife sometime after midnight July 8, then fled to North Carolina where he was taken into custody after he reportedly attempted to rob and assault a woman at a motel. According to Tennessee Department of Corrections information provided by Assistant District Attorney General Stephen Hatchett, Daugherty had a prior first-degree murder charge reduced to voluntary manslaughter after a conviction in 1991 for the murder of Larry McKinney the previous year. Daugherty’s criminal history includes convictions for robbery, assault and thefts, according to TDOC reports.

- A double-homicide trial was delayed until 2013 after the defense counsel asked for an evidentiary ruling from the Criminal Court of Appeals.

Randy Rogers is representing Aaron Lawson who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the April 2011 shooting deaths of Charles “Eddie” and Debbie Phillips.

- Tiffany Isaza who was convicted in the vehicular homicide of Dustin Ledford’s death in 2010, was denied parole earlier this year.

Isaza had served only two years of a 10-year sentence.

Kim and Danny Ledford traveled to Nashville recently to argue against the release of Isaza, who was convicted in their son Dustin’s death.

Isaza was granted the parole hearing in September.

Isaza was imprisoned in Nashville following her 2010 conviction for vehicular homicide and child endangerment in connection with the APD 40 crash that killed Ledford. She had also left her small children at home unattended. Isaza had alcohol and methamphetamine in her system at the time of the head-on collision. She left her two small children at home and drove toward Cleveland on APD 40. She was traveling on the bypass in the wrong direction. In the darkness, Dustin Ledford was traveling east on APD 40 when Isaza’s vehicle collided with his. Dustin Ledford died a short time later and Isaza was severely injured.

“We will continue to work over the next two years on ‘Dustin’s Law,’” Kim Ledford said, regarding stiffer penalties for suspected drunk drivers.

- Tennessee Highway Patrol was able to kick off a campaign in July for the state’s “No-Refusal” law.

Two DUI arrests were made in Bradley County during a July 4 holiday weekend blitz in which the THP and local law enforcement performed the state’s first-ever “No Refusal” operation. Five counties participated. Bruce Cantrelle, an officer with the city of Charleston was the first to utilize the new law. Cleveland Police Department officer Tyler Pride also used the law to force a blood draw from a suspected DUI offender, whether by consent or search warrant.

The campaign was a coordinated effort by THP, the Governor’s Highway Safety Office, local district attorneys, and various local and state law enforcement agencies. This special enforcement was effective in selected counties where impaired driving and fatal crashes have increased this year, specifically Anderson, Bradley, Davidson, Maury and Warren counties. State and local officials conducted sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in those counties as well as in other parts of the state, according to information provided by the THP. The “No Refusal” law, enacted this year by the General Assembly, allows law enforcement to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers. Previously, a suspected impaired driver could refuse a blood alcohol content test and face charges of violating the implied consent law. This new law enables law enforcement to legally obtain blood samples by working with prosecutors and judges throughout the state during the warrant acquisition process.

- Donnie Brantley failed to show up in court to claim the property he once shared with his wife.

Marsha Brantley’s family took possession of the house located in Benwood.

Brantley was reported missing in 2009, and her heirs were able to obtain possession of the home she lived in prior to her disappearance.

Investigators also took the opportunity to search for additional evidence, hoping to find clues to her disappearance.

Attorney James Logan represented heirs and members of Marsha Brantley’s family. In a twist of events, Logan filed a civil complaint for declaratory judgment in July for the family to take possession of the house where Marsha and Donnie had lived in the Benwood addition.

Marsha was 52 when she allegedly left her husband and was seeking a divorce, according to Donnie Brantley’s statement to investigators.

She disappeared in early June 2009, and friends reportedly alerted authorities in the fall.

Marsha Rader Brantley was a graduate and former employee of Lee University. Her husband did not report her missing, citing that she had left him and was planning a divorce, according to information provided by the TBI. Logan filed the complaint for Brantley’s family members Wills, of Greeneville, and Justis, of Clemmons, N.C.

The family cited the home had “fallen into disrepair and taxes had not been paid on the property.”

Donnie Brantley reportedly abandoned the property after his wife’s disappearance.

Logan’s complaint stated “the defendant (Donnie Brantley) who was her husband, had and continues to embark upon a course of lies, deceit and misrepresentation.” Logan’s complaint also said Donnie Brantley has given inconsistent statements regarding his wife’s disappearance and “... has asserted falsehoods regarding the circumstances surrounding her death and disappearance.

“The defendant has failed to maintain the real property and the power to the real property has been terminated which is Marsha Brantley’s substantial asset. The property is depreciating in value because of the lack of proper maintenance,” Logan said.

Donnie Brantley was later taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service on a charge of hindering a creditor over alleged lack of payment on a recreational vehicle which he reportedly attempted to keep creditors from repossessing. The vehicle was located in Georgia, according to officials and reports. Donnie Brantley was released from the Bradley County Jail after posting a $100,000 bond.

- A veteran Tennessee State trooper and members of his family were charged in September after a grand jury indicted them on various charges relating to the death of the trooper’s granddaughter.

Lt. Tommie Graham, 57, was charged with criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment in September. His wife, Deborah Louise Graham, 56, was charged with reckless endangerment.

Their daughter, Jennifer Haylee Graham, 23, was charged with reckless endangerment and Elizabeth Hayden Graham, 25, (the child’s aunt) was also charged with reckless endangerment.

Kydaylynn Robinson, 3, reportedly found a .45 caliber handgun at the Graham home and accidentally shot herself, according to reports.

- A number of local law enforcement agencies across the state were involved in an alleged bomb hoax which forced officials to evacuate county and federal courthouses recently.

The Bradley County Courthouse was one of those buildings.

The threat was apparently part of a wave of such activity across the state.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency officials said 30 courthouses and government buildings in the state received what they think was a threat which was automatically generated.

According to Dean Flener of TEMA’s information office, nine West Tennessee counties, seven Middle Tennessee counties and 14 East Tennessee county courthouses were affected.

The complete list of counties affected included Benton, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Shelby, Bedford, Cannon, Cheatham, Clay, Franklin, Giles, Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cumberland, Fentress, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hamilton and Hancock, according to information from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

- The Bradley County Sheriff’s Office was successful in collecting more than 200 pounds of unused, unneeded narcotic drugs from area residents.

BCSO  again served as the collection point for the program made possible by a partnership between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the GRAAB Coalition, or Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors.

The project yielded 231.5 pounds of unused, out-of-date medications, according to Bob Gault, media relations coordinator for BCSO.

“Drug Take Back week provides an opportunity for cleaning out the medicine cabinet,” Gault said.

The unused drugs are collected at the Sheriff’s Office, then documented and loaded onto a trailer provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

They are then transferred to an undisclosed location for proper disposal.

Gault said DEA information revealed 20 agencies in North Georgia and Southeast Tennessee collected 2,000 pounds of drugs while the entire state of Tennessee collected approximately 7,000 pounds.

If unused drugs are simply flushed in a toilet or poured down a drain, they can leach into the water table and pose environmental concerns.

Another Drug Take Back event is being planned this spring.

- Work resumed in October at the Wacker Polysilicon North America construction site near Charleston, following a four-day shutdown to allow agencies time to complete an investigation into an accident that took the lives of two contract employees.

The pair died after falling from a tower at the work site, prompting an investigation by Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials.

Hugo Mendoza, 45, of Florida and Luis Oachoa, 31, died after it was reported they had fallen from a tower under construction. The men worked for Baker Concrete Construction which is based in Ohio, but has several operations offices across the U.S.

According to early reports from Bradley County 911 and emergency officials who were on the scene, both men fell. It was reported that scaffolding had collapsed.

Mendoza and Oachoa fell approximately 100 feet.

- A Bradley County deputy came up on an unusual discovery in late October after he responded to an area in East Cleveland.

“It’s been a while since we busted up a still,” said Sheriff Jim Ruth.

Deputy Doug Boucher was dispatched to the area where shots were reportedly fired.

As he rolled up to a home on 15th Street, Boucher noticed several people at the address. All appeared to have been consuming alcohol and when questioned regarding the gunshots, individuals reportedly admitted to firing weapons. The homeowner invited Boucher into his house and led him to a bedroom where the deputy noticed suspected marijuana, drug paraphernalia, the weapons and two 5-gallon glass jugs and another 1-gallon jug which was filled with a clear liquid, according to his report.

He told the deputy it was “‘Everclear’ with flavoring” inside the jug.

Everclear is an unflavored distilled beverage.

According to the report, several pieces of copper tubing and stainless steel implements were located.

As Boucher continued his investigation, he walked to a porch at the rear of the house and found an alleged moonshine still.

Further investigation revealed two 10-gallon containers of fermenting corn mash, according to Boucher.

Ruth said the last moonshine still bust he could recall in Bradley County was in the 1970s.

- A Bradley County teacher was freed on bond after being arrested on an indictment of sexual battery by an authority figure.

Christie N. David, 32, a teacher at Walker Valley High School, was charged after allegations she was “having an inappropriate relationship with a male, a 15 year-old former student,” said Bob Gault of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office.

David’s case is still pending in Bradley County Criminal Court.