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80 Years Ago

Archives 03-20-2002






High school students charged with burglary
Overton County Voters moved to new districts
Masters kidnapping case set for new trial appeal


High school students charged with burglary

Becky Meredith/OCN staff

Two Livingston Academy students were taken into custody by Livingston Police Department last week, following a burglary at Waterloo Tire Company, located on West Main Street, and the recent vandalism and theft at Livingston Academy.

The burglary at the tire company was discovered Thursday morning, March 7, when owners Delon and Elzie Clark arrived for work.

The suspects reportedly gained entry to the building by prying open a steel side door of the building and took two Kumho 17-inch tires, an audio amplifier, and a small amount of money from the register.

Chief Phillips said last week of the case, "We got lucky over the weekend. Officers discovered a backpack containing some of the items taken from the school. Officers followed the leads from there and, after questioning people, made the arrest.

"Both students were at school when the arrests were made. According to school staff, students were upset about the damage to their school and relayed any information they had. It was one of those tips that made the case"

Thought to be in connection with both of these robberies are 20 additional burglaries of businesses and vehicles in Clay County, Jamestown, Livingston, and Cookeville, officials reported. Three vehicles allegedly used in the burglaries were also seized in the investigation.

Chief Phillips reported that everything stolen from Livingston Academy has been returned, with the exception of several hundred dollars, thought to be spent by the suspects.

He said damage to Livingston Academy might reach $10,000.

Arrested for the robberies of the tire company and high school were Benjamin Dalton Massengill, 18, of Rock Springs Road, and a 17 year-old male.

Massengill was charged with eight offenses in Overton County, including theft of property, burglary, burglary of an auto, and vandalism. He was arrested Wednesday, March 13 and placed in Overton County Jail on a $50,000 bond.

He appeared in Overton County General Sessions Court on Thursday, March 14 for a bond hearing, with Judge John Officer presiding.

Massengill's attorney, Michael Giaimo, requested the $50,000 bond be lowered to $25,000.

Giaimo said, "There are holds on him in Fentress, Clay, and Putnam for similar offenses. The issue of bond is academic at this point."

Judge Officer denied the request and asked Assistant District Attorney Owen Burnett if Massengill would be sent to Fentress County Jail.

"Not unless he makes bond here," Burnett replied.

Judge Officer scheduled Thursday, March 28 as the next hearing date for Massengill in Overton County.

The juvenile, whose identity is being withheld by OCN, will be tried in Overton County Juvenile Court.

Chief Phillips noted appreciation to members of Overton County Sheriff's Department for assisting in the case.


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Overton County Voters moved to new districts


Reapportionment on the state level will move Overton County into the 15th State Senatorial District, currently represented by Charlotte Burks. Just as the county will be moved to a new state senate district this fall, so will more than 400 Overton County voters be moved to new precincts where they will vote for new School Board and County Commission representatives.

Overton County Election Commission Administrator Lucy Newberry said, "It comes around every 10 years."

Reapportionment follows the U.S. Census. To meet the one-person, one-vote requirement, each voting precinct within the county has to be within 10 percent of each other. Results from the 2000 Census will require moving voters from Fairgrounds into Livingston Ward 3, from Hardy's Chapel to District 5, and from a portion of District 4 into District 3.

Voting districts have to follow a natural boundary, so the Election Commission had to run the redistricting along roads and creeks.

New to Livingston Ward 3 are residents in an area from the city limits down Upper Hilham Road to Flatt Creek Road down to Thomas Road then to Hilham Highway on to Zollicoffer Creek down to Windle Community Road on to Carr Creek then to Highway 111 over to Spencer Road down to Highway 84 and over to County House Road.

Everyone living on the inside of this area should now be voting in Livingston Ward 3.

Though the precinct is a city precinct, those outside the city limits will not be able to vote in city elections. The reapportionment only affects where voters will go to cast ballots in county elections, and who will represent them on the Board of Education and on the County Commission.

The entire Hardy's Chapel voting precinct has been moved from District 4 into District 5.

A portion of Pleasant Valley voters moves from District 4 to District 3. This portion consists of people on the left of Highway 84, going out of Livingston, on Highland Mountain Road. The line goes down Rickman-Monterey Highway and down Thorn Gap Road.

So far, the Election Commission has sent notices to 206 voters in District 4 and 192 in District 5. A few notices remain to be sent out. The Election Commission urges anyone in these affected areas who has not received a new voter registration card to visit the Election Office before the August 1 general election.

The reapportionment does not affect the May primaries, but it will affect voting for school board members and county commissioners in the fall.

If the move proves inconvenient for some voters, they can choose to participate in early voting. Early voting is conducted at the Election Office in the Overton County Courthouse Annex, located on University Street, beginning 20 days before an election for a period covering 15 consecutive days. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Deadline to register for the May 7 primary election is Friday, April 5.



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Cookeville officer indicted in shooting

Cookeville policeman Zac Birdwell, 30, has been arrested and charged with assault, after allegedly shooting a fellow officer in the neck around 2:40 a.m. Sunday, March 3.

Officer Brad Sperry, 30, former deputy at Overton County Sheriff's Department, had reportedly been with Birdwell at a party attended by other off-duty Cookeville officers. After the party, the two went to Birdwell's home, where they got into an altercation. Birdwell allegedly pulled out a .38 calliber pistol and shot Sperry. The bullet was reportedly a clean shot, going straight through Sperry's neck.

Sperry made his way to the Conoco convenience store located on East 10th Street in Cookeville and had someone call 911.

Officer Shannon Smith arrived at the store, helped Sperry into his car, and drove him to Cookeville Regional Medical Center where he received treatment for the wound.

Two city police officers went to Birdwell's home and asked for his badge and service weapons, also taking his squad car.

Birdwell, who failed to appear at a disciplinary hearing regarding the shooting, was fired Thursday morning, March 7 after five years of service.

Sperry, who had reportedly been close friends with Birdwell, stated that he did not know the reason Birdwell shot him.

According to District Attorney Bill Gibson, a full and thorough investigation of the event was completed by Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

A report of the investigation was presented before Putnam County Grand Jury for consideration on Monday, March 11.

The grand jury handed down an indictment on Birdwell, charging him with Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon by Causing Serious Bodily Injury.

Birdwell was then processed at Putnam County Justice Center on Wednesday, March 13.

Out on bond, he is set to appear in court on Tuesday, March 26.

DA Gibson said, "I have been closely involved in this matter from the very beginning. I am familiar with all facets of the investigation and have been in communication with the victim.

"The Cookeville Police Department and Chief Robert Terry have acted in the most professional and appropriate manner possible in stepping aside and requestng an external investigation by the TBI.

"No law enforcement agency should ever conduct a criminal investigation involving its own members. To do so would leave members of the public with possible uncertainties about the objectivity and influence of internal factors."


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