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80 Years Ago

Archives 03-06-2002






Raging flames consume building on Thursday
Estes pleads guilty to sexual assault of child
Solicitation for murder suspects arraigned
Candidates Announce


Raging flames consume building on Thursday

Becky Meredith/OCN staff

D&D "The Carpet Shop" burned down early Thursday morning. Livingston Fire Department workers attempted for hours to stop the blaze. The building, however, was already flooded with flames when the workers arrived.


Huge billows of smoke hung over the center of Livingston early Thursday morning of last week, as a local business went up in flames.

D&D "The Carpet Shop", located on West Main, caught aflame by an unknown source just before 7 a.m., authorities reported.

A city employee on his way to work noticed smoke puffing from the building and immediately called Livingston Fire Department officials, who arrived at the scene right at 7 a.m. and began spraying down the blazes.

The 20-degree weather made fighting the fire more difficult, Assistant Fire Chief Rocky Dial said.

"All four lanes of traffic were iced over, the building was iced over – it was a mess," he said.

The 12-fireman crew continuously sprayed the building from different angles for hours, attempting to save the store. "It was just so far gone when we got here," Dial said.

"It was coming through the roof. We put an enormous amount of water on it and tried to make an interior pack. It was unsafe to do that, so we pulled back and went into defense mode and just tried to extinguish it."

While most of the firemen left around 3 p.m., a few stayed to keep a watch on the fire.

"We came back last night around 7:30 p.m. or so for one little hot spot," Dial continued.

Not only was the carpet store destroyed, the car wash next door sustained minor damage to the roof.

After the fire was put out, the Tennessee Fire Marshal's Office was contacted to come in and seek out the origin of the fire.

"It was beyond our capabilities of determining it, so we requested them to assist us," Dial explained.

Ten special agents from the state's bomb and arson department arrived on Thursday and began working the scene.

Bob Pollard, deputy director of the state Fire Marshal's Office, oversaw the investigation procedures.

"What occurs in a fire of this magnitude, we're able to come in and support the local authorities in assisting them in determining what occured here," Pollard said Friday. "We do criminal investigations involving fires of undetermined origins and illegal use of explosives.

"We have a K-9 team here, we have on-team medics, we have people trained in advance origin and cause of fires and explosives, and that's basically what they're going to be doing today," Pollard said.

"We know absolutely nothing at this point," he emphasized.

Along with firemen and state employees working the scene were members of Livingston Police Department.

According to Police Chief Roger Phillips, police officers responded to the fire and blocked off the road.

After the fire was extinguished for the most part, one lane in the westbound side of Main Street was opened for traffic.

Passersby turned and strained to see the scene, causing a problem, Chief Phillips implied.

"It increased our concern about accidents," he said. "You can see that everybody wants to slow down and kind of see what's going on. We've had a couple of close calls – people looking down here and not paying any attention to the car in front of them. We want to keep everybody as safe as we can while we're working on this."

The business, operated by Doug and Dana Holman, was located on the property of Gene Gantt.

Evidence gathered by state officials is on its way to a lab for testing to determine the cause of the fire. This process could take up to two weeks, according to Fire Chief A.B. Coleman. Pollard said the outcome of the investigation will be reported to Livingston Fire Department when lab results are acquired.

Officials at the scene noted their appreciation to Dairy Queen of Livingston for supplying Friday's breakfast to the workers, The Pizza Place for supplying supper, and West End Market for supplying fresh coffee.




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Estes pleads guilty to sexual assault of child

By ROBERT FORSMAN, court reporter

Richard Lee Estes, 41, pled guilty Monday, March 4 in Overton County Criminal Court, Judge Leon Burns presiding, to aggravated sexual battery of a child less than 13 years of age.

Estes, who was arrested August 22, 2001, shortly after committing the crime, has been in jail since his arrest.

According to a confession by Estes, penetration didn't occur. Intimate sexual contact did. Overton County Grand Jury indicted Estes on February 11 for rape of a child and the lesser included charge of aggravated sexual battery of a child.

Explaining why the state agreed to accept a plea to the lesser offense, Assistant District Attorney Owen Burnett said, "This will save a child from testifying."

Estes was sentenced to 8 years in a Department of Corrections (DOC) prison. According to Tennessee sentencing guidelines, defendants convicted of sexual crimes against children serve prison sentences at a rate of 85 to 100 percent.

"You might get credits," Judge Burns told Estes. "But no more than 15 percent."

Estes will be listed on the sexual offenders' registry for at least 10 years after his release. Estes will provide a sample of blood for DNA identification.

Following his release, Estes will be required to notify the TBI of his residential location and any change of residential location.

After accepting the plea, Judge Burns asked Estes if he wanted to make a statement.

"No," replied Estes.

Estes will be transported to a DOC prison when a space is available.





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Solicitation for murder suspects arraigned

By ROBERT FORSMAN, court reporter

Two suspects, charged in an alleged solicitation for murder plot, were arraigned by Judge Lillie Ann Sells in Overton County Criminal Court on Monday, Feb. 25.

Jeff G. Loftis, 38, and his wife, Paula Loftis, 41, of Livingston, were arrested earlier this month after Livingston Police Chief Roger Phillips received a tip that a man was trying to find someone to murder his ex-wife.

The information gathered during the investigation that followed was presented to the Overton County Grand Jury February 11.

The grand jury indicted Jeff Loftis on two counts of solicitation to commit first degree murder.

Paula Loftis was indicted on two counts of criminal responsibility for solicitation to commit first degree murder.

The couple have been held in Overton County Jail on a $100,000 bond each since their arrests.

Jeff Loftis was led into the courtroom for arraignment through a connecting door to the jail. Paula Loftis was led in through another door.

Judge Sells asked Jeff Loftis if he could afford an attorney.

"No, Ma'am,” Loftis replied. "I was drawing disability."

Judge Sells appointed Public Defender Art Johnson to represent Loftis. "Do you have any conflict?" Judge Sells asked.

"Not that I know of, Your Honor," Johnson replied.

Probation Officer Leigh Smith told Judge Sells that Loftis was scheduled to be in Overton County Criminal Court on March 4 for a probation violation hearing. Smith said he was placed on probation for burglary-theft.

Judge Sells deadlined the solicitation to commit murder case against Jeff Loftis for May 3.

Judge Sells appointed attorney Michael Savage to represent Paula Loftis and scheduled May 3 as the deadline date for that case.

Cases that aren't negotiated for a plea on or before deadline are supposed to be scheduled for trial.

Mr. Loftis appeared before Judge Leon Burns on Monday, March 4 on a violation of probation charge. Judge Burns ordered Mr. Loftis held without bond.

Mrs. Loftis also appeared, with her attorney, Mike Savage, before Judge Burns on March 4 to motion the court to reduce the $100,000 bond. Judge Burns ordered the bond to remain the same.




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Candidates Announce

Brown seeks re-election as court clerk

Johnny Brown has informed Overton County News he plans to run for re-election as Overton County Circuit Court Clerk. His statement is as follows:

"I am the son of Willard Brown and the late Lester Brown of Hilham. I am married to the former Juanita Peterman of Rickman. Our home is in the Hilham Community. We have two children and three grandchildren.

"I have enjoyed working for you as your circuit court clerk and want to thank the people of Overton County for giving me the opportunity to serve in this office.

"I ask each of you for your vote and support in the upcoming election."

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Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570
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