Raging flames consume building on Thursday
Estes pleads guilty to sexual assault of child
Solicitation for murder suspects arraigned
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
D&D "The Carpet Shop", located on West Main,
caught aflame by an unknown source just before 7 a.m., authorities
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,"
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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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
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
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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
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
Judge Sells asked Jeff Loftis if he could afford an
"No, Ma'am,” Loftis replied. "I was drawing
Judge Sells appointed Public Defender Art Johnson
to represent Loftis. "Do you have any conflict?" Judge
"Not that I know of, Your Honor," Johnson
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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Brown seeks re-election as court
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