lights brighten Christmas season
Bonds set for
Looper murder suspects
Investigation problem causes dismissals
lights brighten Christmas season
Dewain E. Peek/OCN staff
Bright, colorful lights such as this display at the Bowers home
on Terrapin Ridge Road can be seen on various homes throughout Overton
County this Christmas season.
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set for Looper murder suspects
By ROBERT FORSMAN, OCN court reporter
Bonds were set for two murder suspects last week in Overton County
Criminal Court, Judge Leon Burns presiding.
A $500,000 bond was set for Harold Johnson Jr., and
a $250,000 bond was set for Shane Michael Grogger.
Johnson and Grogger were indicted in October on two
counts each of Premeditated First Degree Murder, Felony Murder,
Especially Aggravated Robbery, and Abuse of a Corpse.
Johnson and Grogger, who have been in custody since
their arrest, are charged with killing Johnson's daughter, Sandra
Ann Johnson Looper, 42, and her husband L.J. Looper, 71, earlier
According to the indictment, on or about April 1,
Johnson and Grogger killed the couple with a gun in an attempt to
perpetrate a robbery of the couple's money, vehicle, and other items,
exceeding the value of $1,000.
Johnson and Grogger allegedly tried to hide the bodies
in a trash pile, using heavy equipment.
The indictment charges that Johnson and Grogger physically
mistreated the corpses of the couple.
The bodies were discovered April 2 at Johnson's Copeland
Johnson and Grogger allegedly fled the scene and were
arrested in Putnam County the following day.
Both suspects had been held without bond since their
Both have been mentally evaluated and determined to
be of sufficient capacity to go through the judicial process.
If convicted, both defendants could be sentenced from
25 years to life in prison to the death penalty.
Trial dates for the defendants are pending.
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problem causes dismissals
By MARY JO DENTON, Herald-Citizen staff
with permission Some said Christmas came early, and others said
it was true justice. Either way, it was a rarity when state prosecutors
went to Criminal Court in Overton County on Wednesday, Dec. 14 and
dropped the charges against 26 persons who had been indicted on
drug crimes last October.
They said they did so because they had no choice.
The 26 Overton Countians had been charged with various
drug crimes after an undercover investigation by Overton County
Sheriff's Department. The deputies who conducted that investigation
used a confidential informant, sending that person to make drug
buys from suspects.
But something went very wrong with the investigation
apparently, prompting what amounted to an investigation into the
investigation later on and resulting in last week's court action
in which prosecutors stood up in court and dropped the charges.
Reportedly, some of the defendants arrested in the
October drug bust had already confessed their guilt or were preparing
to; however, the charges they faced are all being dropped due to
some alleged irregularities in the undercover investigation that
Those close to the investigation of the investigation
are not giving many details, noting that other matters involved
in the original investigation are still being probed.
The official order filed in court, called an "order
of nolle prosequi", says the decision to drop the charges is
based on "the results of an investigation initiated by the
Office of the District Attorney General that revealed facts unknown"
prior to presentation of the cases to the Overton County Grand Jury.
Contacted by the Herald-Citizen, District Attorney
Bill Gibson declined to give details of his investigation into the
tactics used in the sheriff's drug bust last October.
But Gibson did say that after receiving the cases
and presenting them to the Overton County Grand Jury, prosecutors
learned of some "disturbing" facts, which caused them
to conduct their own investigation of the drug investigation.
"We had reason eventually to question some of
the information in these cases, and we looked beneath the allegations,"
Gibson said. "We found some of the information given to us
was not credible."
He acknowledged that TBI agents and FBI agents helped
the DA's staff "look beneath the allegations".
State prosecutors have a duty to pursue only those
cases that are based on solid and credible evidence, Gibson said.
"Some facts came to light after these indictments
were returned which caused me to question the credibility of some
of the information," he said.
"A prosecutor's job description is to pursue
justice, and justice means doing what's right, even if sometimes
that requires dropping a charge."
He declined to give any details about the information
that derailed the prosecutions of 26 persons accused of illegal
Assistant DA Owen Burnett, one of the prosecutors
who works Overton County cases, told the Herald-Citizen it would
be improper to comment in detail on what went wrong with the drug
But he did say that finding it necessary to drop the
charges due to irregularities made it very awkward for prosecutors,
who are accustomed to pursuing cases vigorously.
"It's really a very uncomfortable situation,"
He also said, "I appreciate the work of the FBI
and the TBI. Their assistance in this situation was very helpful."
It has long been the practice of law enforcement to
use "confidential informants" to gather evidence of crimes.
Those informants are instructed to gain social contact with suspects
for the purpose of nailing down proof of wrongdoing, often by video
or audio recording of incriminating activities.
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Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570