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Archives 06-25-08

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Grogger convicted of murdering couple
“Mibsters” place in national tourney
Comptroller audit finds Dept. of Revenue at risk

Checkpoints held in county last week

Grogger convicted of murdering couple
By Robert Forsman,
OCN court reporter

Shane M. Grogger, 31, was convicted last week of murdering Sandra Johnson Looper, 42, and her husband, L.J. Looper, 71. Grogger was also convicted of especially aggravated robbery and abuse of a corpse.

A 7-woman, 5-man jury deliberated for approximately 3 hours before returning the verdict. Judge Leon Burns sentenced Grogger to life in prison plus 15 years for the robbery and abuse charges.

A life sentence carries a minimum 51 years imprisonment, according to Tennessee law. The 15-year sentence is scheduled to begin when the life sentence is complete.

District Attorney Tony Craighead and Assistant District Attorney John Moore prosecuted the case. Patrick Johnson represented Grogger.
Jury selection began Tuesday, June 17. The verdict was returned Friday evening.

The prosecution said Grogger lured the Loopers to the 1036 Copeland Cove Lane residence of Harold Johnson Jr. under the pretense of buying a 1987 Toyota 4x4 owned by Mr. Looper.

Johnson, Mrs. Looper’s father, was convicted last year of murdering the couple. Johnson was sentenced to life in prison.

The Loopers were reported missing Friday, April 1, 2005. The following Sunday, shortly after midnight, Overton County Sheriff Deputies Jacob Boswell and Lee Swallows spotted Mrs. Looper’s Dodge Stratus parked next to Johnson’s Copeland Cove residence.

Windows of the Dodge were broken out and what appeared to be blood and tissue were seen inside the vehicle. The deputies discovered two bodies in a nearby brush pile.

At daybreak, Sheriff Bud Swallows tentatively identified the bodies as Mr. and Mrs. Looper. The bodies were transported to Nashville for examination. During the autopsies, a medical examiner discovered ten $100
bills concealed in Mrs. Looper’s clothing.

Inside Johnson’s residence, authorities found items belonging to the Loopers. The items included a purse, wallets, Mr. and Mrs. Looper’s driver licenses, the couple’s cell phones. A disassembled shotgun and shotgun shells were also discovered.

Following Grogger and Johnson’s arrest later that day, TBI agent Steve Huntley interrogated Grogger. A recording of the interview was played for the jury.

At the beginning of the interview Agent Huntley asked if Grogger knew something was up.

“Not really,” Grogger responded.

Near the end of the interview Agent Huntley said, “You went along with the plan. You had an opportunity to warn them. You knew Harold was going to kill them.”

“Yeah,” replied Grogger.

More than 200 items were introduced into evidence, including gloves, a jacket, pants and shoes, each splattered with blood. Gunshot residue was on the jacket and gloves.

Grogger, who testified at his trial, admitted the clothing was his. He said the gunshot residue occurred before the murders when he and Johnson went practice shooting because turkey season was coming soon.

Grogger admitted helping Johnson move the bodies with a tractor and scoop to the brush pile. Grogger said he did so because he was afraid Johnson would kill him if he didn’t.

During his interview with Agent Huntley, Grogger called Johnson, “A good guy.” Grogger also said Johnson gave him the shotgun to put inside after the murders.

Grogger said Johnson gave him a $100 bill after the murders, told him to keep his mouth shut.

Following the murders, Grogger and Johnson went to a house in Putnam County, according to testimony, cleaned up, changed clothes. Then, along with Grogger’s girlfriend and her mother, went to eat at a restaurant in Crossville.

Grogger testified that he wanted to report the murders to authorities, that he wanted to tell his girlfriend and her mother about the murders, but he couldn’t with Johnson around because he was afraid of him.

Later, according to Grogger, the four returned to Putnam County. Grogger and his girlfriend went to get pizza, rented a few movies, bought a 12-pack of beer. Johnson and Grogger’s girlfriend’s mother stayed home.

The following morning Grogger, his girlfriend, and her mother went shopping in Cookeville for at least 4 hours, according to testimony.

When asked where Johnson was during this time, Grogger said he wasn’t sure.

D.A. Craighead asked why Grogger didn’t notify authorities about the murders when Johnson wasn’t around.

Grogger said he was afraid Johnson might hurt his girlfriend and her mother if Grogger informed on him.

D.A. Craighead asked how that could happen when Johnson would be arrested.

Grogger said Johnson told him he knew people in law enforcement, he knew how to beat the rap, how the system worked, how to keep from going to jail

D.A. Craighead asked if lies just rolled off Grogger’s tongue or if he had to think about them first.

Grogger said he didn’t lie. D.A. Craighead said he counted at least a dozen lies Grogger told.

“You want me to point them out to you?” asked D.A. Craighead.
Grogger said he didn’t.

“Let’s do it anyway,” D.A. Craighead said.

Attorney Patrick Johnson said Grogger couldn’t be guilty of the murders because Harold Johnson Jr. had been convicted of committing them.

A.D.A. Moore said only Grogger and Johnson knew who pulled the trigger. It could have been either or both.

After sentencing, Grogger, who had been out of jail on a $300,000 bond, was taken into custody.



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“Mibsters” place in national tourney


Overton County resident Trevor Norrod represented Standing Stone Park on the way to finishing second in the 85th Annual National Marbles Tournament held from June 15 to 19 in Wildwood, NJ.

Two of the nation’s top three marble players are from Clay and Overton County, and three others are not far behind them in the rankings.

When marbles competitors from across the nation, nicknamed “mibsters”, met at this summer’s 85th Annual National Marbles Tournament, five young Clay County-Overton County students representing Standing Stone State Park emerged among the elite.

This year Trevor Norrod from Overton County finished second and Brooklyn Cherry from Clay County finished third. Both Trevor and Brooklyn won the stick trophies (which is equal to the title of home run king in baseball), Trevor also won the Walt Lease award for being in first place in the preliminaries. Three others finished not to far behind them in the rankings: Andrew Walker of Clay County finished 8th, Lauren Camp of Overton County finished 11th, and Austin Wright of Overton County finished 22nd.

Jeff Kimmell, Clay-Overton County marble coach, said, “Trevor, Brooklyn, Andrew, Lauren, and Austin played extremely hard! All five displayed great sportsmanship and represented Clay-Overton County, Standing Stone State Park, and the State of Tennessee in a way that would make us all proud of them.”

In Clay, nearly 200 kids participated in the countywide tournament. Each of the elementary and middle schools in Clay has court where kids can practice, and in Overton nearly 1,200 kids participated in the tournament.

Shawn Hughes, a ranger at Standing Stone, was the organizer of the tournament. The county and open tournament finals are played at Standing Stone State Park.

After the finals the four county champions and one open tournament champion went to New Jersey for the nationals.

In order to get to the national tournament, the marble players depend on all of their sponsors who take care of the expenses of getting to New Jersey.

“Without their sponsorship, these kids wouldn’t be able to go,” said Kimmell.

“You do not have to ‘sell’ marbles competitions to anyone in this area,” he said. “All the dads and granddads have been playing Rolley Hole marbles all their lives.”

The National Marbles Tournament originated in 1922 in Philadelphia, PA, making it the nation’s oldest surviving contest for kids. Each year, the best marble players ages 8 to 14 from around the country have practiced all year and travel to Wildwood, NJ, to compete in the game of Ringer for the title of the National Marble Champion. Not only are they playing to become the Best Marble Player in the US, they can also earn a scholarship to the college of their choice.

Standing Stone State Park has a history of marbles competition. Each year the park hosts the National Rolley Hole Marbles Championship and Marbles Festival every year. But Rolley hole is a different game from Ringer marbles.

By the end of June, Clay and Overton counties had raised enough to send the five competitors and their coaches and chaperones to Wildwood, NJ, on the 14-hour drive up north.

For Trevor Norrod, Brooklyn Cherry, and Andrew Walker, the trip was a repeat performance and they knew what to expect: this was Trevor and Brooklyn’s third year and Andrew’s second year to have won the county championships and traveled to the Jersey Shore.

But for Lauren Camp and Austin Wright the trip was a new experience. Both got to see the boardwalks, ride the carnival rides, and stay in motel rooms that had ocean views, and, of course, they got to play marbles.

“We are looking forward to next year,” stated Kimmell. “Brooklyn, Lauren, and Austin know the ropes and have their eyes set on the championship.” For 14-year-olds, Trevor and Andrew, this was their final year of eligibility. “Both are great kids and marble players that plan to be active in coaching future marble champions for years to come.”



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Comptroller audit finds Dept. of Revenue at risk
The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s Division of State Audit recently released a financial and compliance audit report on the Tennessee Department of Revenue for the period covering April 1, 2006, through April 30, 2007. The audit found that inadequate internal controls within certain areas of the department increased its risk of fraud, waste, and abuse.

Arthur Hayes, director of the comptroller’s Division of State Audit, said, “We audit state agencies to promote accountability, enhance fiscal integrity, and encourage constructive change. We hope this audit will be used as a tool for the Tennessee Department of Revenue to ensure taxpayers’ resources are handled with care and accounted for appropriately.”

An example of the seriousness of risks is the finding that the department’s motor carrier section did not have adequate system controls; was not able to account for all pre-numbered cash receipts for commercial vehicle registration fees; and could not ensure that the fees were all collected and recorded. The motor carrier section collects over $52 million annually in registration fees from commercial vehicle operators for tags, decals, and cab cards as part of the International Registration Plan. In light of the large amount of funds involved – some transactions are in excess of $200,000 – the risk is potentially material.

In light of the lack of adequate controls and requisite, reliable records, neither state auditors nor internal auditors were able to determine whether all funds were accounted for. The audit recommends that the department’s internal auditors continue to follow up on the problems noted to determine if funds are missing.

Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 8-19-501, requires any official of any agency of the state to immediately report to the Comptroller of the Treasury any shortages of moneys of the state, or unauthorized removal of state property, brought about by either malfeasance or misfeasance in office of any state employee.

“It is management’s responsibility to ensure that appropriate controls are in place and operating effectively,” Hayes said. “The inadequacy of controls over these areas increased the department’s risk of fraud, waste and abuse.

By taking the initiative to follow the recommendations in the audit, I believe the Department of Revenue will be able to add more accountability to the cash receipting process in the motor carrier section.”

The following findings and recommendations, including responses from the Department of Revenue’s management staff, are included in the report:

• With the absence of effective controls and heightened risk of fraud in the Department of Revenue’s Motor Carrier Section, neither management nor the auditors could ensure that all cash receipts for registration fees were collected and recorded.

• The Department of Revenue’s Tax Enforcement Division and Motor Carrier Section failed to adequately communicate in order to effectively update the dishonored checks list, and the Tax Enforcement officers did not effectively pursue collection of dishonored checks.

• Management of the Department of Revenue did not adequately mitigate the risks of fraud, waste, and abuse relative to motor vehicle registration revenue collections in the Motor Vehicle Title and Registration Division.

• The department has not established adequate controls over purchases made through E-Way, increasing the risk of unauthorized purchases.

The full audit report may be found online at www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/repository/SA/ag07043.pdf.


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Checkpoints held in county last week
Overton County Sheriff’s Department, in conjunction with Tennessee Highway Patrol, conducted sobriety checkpoints from Wednesday, June 18 through Saturday, June 21.

The checkpoints were held in various locations throughout Overton County. A total of 1,806 vehicles were checked.

The following are results of the sobriety checkpoints: 1 DUI; 2 public intoxication; 3 possession of marijuana; 3 insurance law violations; 4 driver license violations; 7 seatbelt violations; 7 helmet law violations; 7 light law violations; 15 registration violations.

Checkpoints are conducted in an effort to curb drunk driving and promote safe driving, according to Sheriff W.B. Melton, who expressed appreciation to the communities for their support and to Clay County Sheriff’s Department and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department for their participation.

 





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