Judges struggle to schedule 13 pending murder trials

The number of pending homicide and murder trials in Dickson County has grown to 13 with 15 defendants. Various delays are making it difficult for the county’s three circuit judges to find dates to accommodate the growing list and right now 12 trials are scheduled in Charlotte between Monday and May 30, 2017, a period of 27 weeks. One trial still is to be scheduled. The October grand jury session added an indictment for second-degree murder and a defendant in a 2011 murder has been declared competent to stand trial. 57-year-old Jurgen Horst Whitfield is scheduled for a May 30 trial for the 2011 beating death of his elderly mother after almost five years of mental evaluations. 30-year-old Brandon Odom was indicted for second-degree murder for allegedly selling drugs to a Charlotte man who died from an overdose. A series of events has forced delays in several trials and the resulting shuffling of dates has left judges scrambling to meet the demand. The death of retired Judge Robert Burch resulted in the postponement of one murder trial, which was then rescheduled to the date of another murder trial, causing it to be delayed. A trial that was scheduled to begin Wednesday was postponed, but only for five days into the spot where a vehicular homicide trial had been scheduled but was continued. The trial of three men for a triple shooting in Charlotte that left two men dead was changed to start a week earlier than originally scheduled. But the aforementioned vehicular homicide trial is scheduled for the same day in case the Charlotte shooting trial is postponed. The only trial still waiting to be scheduled is in a double shooting and fire at a Dickson duplex, with the possibility of the death penalty causing the latest delay.

The homicide and murder cases pending in Dickson County Circuit Court at this time include:

  • Steve Marty Jarman
    Steve Marty Jarman

    52-year-old Steve Marty Jarman of Charlotte is charged with first-degree murder for the April 18, 2015, death of his girlfriend. 49-year-old Shelley Denise Heath died after suffering a gunshot wound that was first reported to be self-inflicted in Jarman’s Maple Valley Road home. Jarman’s trial was scheduled to start Wednesday, but has been postponed to Monday because of questions over the admissibility of some testimony. Jarman remains in the Dickson County Jail on $250,000 bond;

  • 37-year-old Michelle Marie Widner of White Bluff is charged with vehicular homicide by intoxication and vehicular homicide by recklessness for the April 3, 2015, wreck on Highway 70 that killed 46-year-old Ron Askins of White Bluff. Prosecutors say Widner had prescription medications in her system at a level that would have impaired her when she pulled off Buddy Road and struck Askins on his motorcycle. Widner is being held in the Dickson County Jail on $50,000 bond with a trial scheduled for Dec. 1;
  • Thomas Lee Wortham
    Thomas Lee Wortham

    47-year-old Thomas Lee “Tommy” Wortham of Bon Aqua is charged with first-degree murder and two counts of felony murder for the Aug. 20, 1998, shooting of 32-year-old Eric Baxter. Wortham and his half-brother, 58-year-old Wallace Wade “Wally” Brasel of Lyles, were scheduled to stand trial in August but Judge David Wolfe granted a motion to sever the trials. District Attorney Ray Crouch has chosen to try Wortham first. Wortham remains in the Dickson County Jail on $350,000 bond and his trial is scheduled for Dec. 5;

  • Kenneth Ray Niles
    Kenneth Ray Niles

    38-year-old Kenneth Ray Niles of Dickson is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated arson, especially aggravated burglary, especially aggravated robbery and theft for the April 2015 deaths of 27-year-old John Christopher Goldtrap and 23-year-old Lisa Wade Mackenzie McDonald. Prosecutors say Niles shot both victims in the head the night of April 13 and returned to the McFarland Lane duplex early the next morning to set it on fire in an attempt to conceal the crime. Because the district attorney has filed notice of intent to seek the death penalty, Niles was appointed his fourth different attorney. He was scheduled to stand trial Dec. 5 but Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash has scheduled a hearing with Niles’ new attorneys Dec. 13, at which time a trial date could be set. Niles is being held without bond in the Montgomery County Jail;

  • Robert Edward Huse
    Robert Edward Huse

    33-year-old Robert E. Huse of Dickson is charged with felony murder and aggravated child abuse for the Sept. 24, 2012, death of his two-month-old son. The medical examiner says Grayson Michael Sanders died from blunt force trauma to the head. His trial scheduled for Oct. 31 was postponed due to the death of Burch and has been reset for Feb. 6. Huse is being held in the Cheatham County Jail on $500,000 bond;

  • Keianthony Mignon Garrett
    Keianthony Mignon Garrett

    21-year-old Keianthony Mignon Garrett was indicted for felony murder in the death of 51-year-old Cynthia Darlene Green of Dickson. The indictment charges Garrett killed Green during the commission of aggravated burglary. Her body was discovered March 8 in her duplex behind the Dickson County Fairgrounds. An investigator says Garrett’s DNA was found on pieces of a broken iron believed to have been used to beat her to death. Garrett remains in the Dickson County Jail on $1 million bond and is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 13;

  • Wallace Wade Brasel
    Wallace Wade Brasel

    58-year-old Wallace Wade “Wally” Brasel of Lyles faces first-degree and felony murder charges for the 1998 shooting of Eric Baxter. Brasel and his half-brother, Tommy Wortham, were scheduled to stand trial together in August but it was delayed when attorneys sought to have separate trials. At a hearing, a defense attorney said the prosecution will present two witnesses who claim while incarcerated in the Hickman County Jail on an unrelated charge Brasel admitted to shooting Baxter. Brasel remains in the Cheatham County Jail on $350,000 bond with his trial set for Feb. 21;

  • Brandon Lee Odom
    Brandon Lee Odom

    30-year-old Brandon Lee Odom was indicted in October for second-degree murder for the July 3 drug overdose death of 33-year-old Kenneth James Porter of Charlotte. The indictment charges Odom sold heroin and methamphetamine to Porter, which caused his death. He also faces several probation violation and failure to appear charges and remains in the Dickson County Jail on $91,000 bond. His trial is scheduled for March 22;

  • 25-year-old Alonzo M. Greer is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder for April 11 shootings in the areas of Sunny Ridge and Batey Circle. Police responded to reports of shots fired from a vehicle and found shell casings in both areas, but nobody was hit. A June indictment charges Greer with attempting to kill Kellye Raley and Joshua Hunter in the shootings. Greer was scheduled to stand trial Wednesday but it was rescheduled to March 22 because a murder trial was scheduled to begin that day. Greer remains free on bond;
  • Kurtis Lamar Primm
    Kurtis Lamar Primm
    Isiah Jaypaul Primm
    Isiah Jaypaul Primm
    Jonathan Keith Hughes, Jr.
    Jonathan Keith Hughes, Jr.

    28-year-old Kurtis Lamar Primm, 24-year-old Isiah Jaypaul Primm and 28-year-old Jonathan Keith Hughes Jr. face two first-degree murder, one attempted first-degree murder and three conspiracy to commit first-degree murder charges for the April 12 triple shooting near the picnic grounds in Charlotte. They are charged in the deaths of Quintin Dewayne Tidwell and Marcedez Teroy Bell and the wounding of Montae Springer in what a witness says started as a fist fight over a $200 drug debt. Their joint trials were scheduled for April 24 but Judge Larry Wallace moved them up to start a week earlier on April 17. Hughes and Isiah Primm are being held in the Dickson County Jail and Kurtis Primm is in the Montgomery County Jail, all three on $1 million bonds;

  • Johnny Morgan Dye
    Johnny Morgan Dye

    36-year-old Johnny Morgan Dye of Clarkrange, Tn., is charged with vehicular homicide by intoxication and vehicular homicide by recklessness for the July 7, 2014, wreck on Highway 49 that killed 22-year-old medical student Jacob T. Akers of Charlotte. Prosecutors say Dye had pain killers in his system and witnesses say he was driving at over 80 miles an hour when he struck Akers’ vehicle head-on. Dye’s trial was scheduled for Monday but was postponed until April 17 because four prosecution witnesses are unavailable next week. April 17 is the same trial date for three defendants in a triple shooting in Charlotte. Judge Larry Wallace said if the shooting trial is postponed, then Dye will be tried that day. If the shooting trial is held, Dye will be tried as soon as it is over. After his bond was revoked last month, Dye is being held in the Dickson County Jail until his trial;

  • 36-year-old Mendy Powell Neal of Tennessee City is charged with first-degree murder, felony murder and aggravated arson for the July 11, 2012, death of her husband, 50-year-old Matthew B. Neal. Prosecutors say Neal set the fire in the family’s Loggins Road home in Charlotte that killed her husband. Neal also is charged with nine counts of obtaining prescription medications by fraud as part of a scheme in which a friend who worked as a medical assistant called in prescriptions without a doctor’s authorization. 37-year-old January Paige Shelton faces 52 prescription fraud charges. Neal was scheduled to stand trial Feb. 6 but because she is out on $250,000 bond, that trial date was given to Robert Huse, who is in jail. On Tuesday Neal’s trial was reset for May 15 with Shelton’s trial to follow;
  • Jurgen Horst Whitfield
    Jurgen Horst Whitfield

    57-year-old Jurgen Horst Whitfield is charged with second-degree murder in the Dec. 25, 2011, death of his mother, 78-year-old Ingrid Maria Whitfield, in the Burns home they shared. Investigators say Whitfield admitted striking his mother with his hands and an autopsy showed she suffered blunt force trauma to her head. Whitfield has been undergoing mental evaluations since his arrest and was reported to be competent to stand trial Tuesday. His trial is scheduled for May 30 and he remains in the Dickson County Jail on $1 million bond.

Debbie Watts and Friends perform at Bibb tonight

Debbie Mathis Watts poses in a costume for a segment of patriotic music in her performance.
Debbie Mathis Watts poses in a costume for a segment of patriotic music in her performance.

Former Dickson County resident and educator Debbie Mathis Watts presents an evening of music, stories and art tonight at the Bibb-White Bluff Civic Center. “Debbie Mathis Watts and Friends” will be at 7 pm Friday and those attending are asked to bring a canned or non-perishable food donation for the Harry Murrell Chapter 28 of the Disabled American Veterans’ food drive as admission. A Burns native, Watts was an English teacher at Dickson County High School for six years and then taught 20 years in the Sumner County school system. She also has been a writer, producer and program developer for the The Nashville Network, an entertainer on the Belle Carol Riverboat and at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, the author of a book about riverboat Capt. Tom Ryman and the play “The Ryman Diaries,” in which she performs. Tonight’s program is described as a celebration of Watts’ career in entertainment through songs at the piano and stories. Also a part of the evening will be an exhibit of art by Dickson resident John Reynolds. A classmate of Watts in the Dickson High School class of 1970, Reynolds is known for his pencil drawings of local landmarks that have regularly graced the covers and programs of several local events such as Old Timers Day and the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum’s fall home tour, but also has paintings of aircraft and other subjects. Watts said she also has a couple surprise musical guests who will join her. Watts also will be selling her new book, “What’s in My Stocking?,” which she describes as the story of her favorite Christmas gift. Proceeds from books sold at tonight’s event will go to the DAV’s shopping spree for children of local disabled veterans. Watts will return to the Bibb-White Bluff Civic Center at 3:30 pm Dec. 9 to read her new book in the Jennie Woodworth Memorial Library. Watts said she is currently working on a book about Tennessee’s three first ladies, Rachel Jackson, Sarah Polk and Eliza Johnson, that she hopes to turn into a one-woman show.

Testimony issues delay murder trial until Monday

Steve Marty Jarman
Steve Marty Jarman

Due to continuing questions about the admissibility of some testimony, the trial of Steve Marty Jarman for the 2015 shooting death of his girlfriend was postponed until next week. Dickson County Circuit Court Judge Larry Wallace told the almost 200 potential jurors Wednesday morning that “legal issues” have prompted him to reschedule the first-degree murder trial until Monday. Next week was available for the trial because on Tuesday Wallace rescheduled the vehicular homicide trial of Johnny Morgan Dye from Nov. 21 to April 17 due to schedule conflicts with four “essential” prosecution witnesses. 52-year-old Jarman is charged with first-degree murder for the April, 18, 2015, shooting death of 49-year-old Shelley Denise Heath in the Maple Valley Road home they shared outside Charlotte. After instructing the jury to return Monday, Wallace listened to testimony that defense attorney Olin Baker had asked to be excluded from the trial. At a hearing Tuesday, Wallace said he would reserve judgment on the testimony until he could hear it with the jury out after the trial had begun. But in consideration that the hearing could take a couple hours and the judge’s ruling could impact the strategies for either side, Wallace decided to reset the trial and conduct a hearing Wednesday. During the two-hour hearing, Wallace heard testimony from a Dickson County Sheriff’s Office deputy and Heath’s brother and two sisters about a 2013 domestic assault case and alleged threats made by Jarman. Deputy Joseph Calhoun testified he responded to a call about a domestic assault Dec. 6, 2013, at the Maple Valley Road home and on the way encountered Heath walking on the road. He said she was upset and he could detect the odor of alcohol. Calhoun said Heath told him she had been assaulted by Jarman and he could see signs of strangulation on her neck, lacerations to her arm and she was holding her ribs. Jarman was charged with aggravated assault but at a September 2014 trial, Heath testified she made up the claims and Jarman did not assault her. The jury found him not guilty. Heath’s brother testified he was in the home drinking with his sister when she and Jarman got in an argument because they had consumed all of a fifth of whiskey he had given her. Paul Heath said he went outside and Shelley and Jarman “spilled out” the front door in a struggle and fell to the ground. “I seen him choke her, beat her in the face and boot stomp her,” Paul Heath said. Heath said he heard Jarman threaten his sister multiple times, including threatening to shoot her just days before she was shot to death. He said he also heard Jarman threaten to “shoot up” the car of their sister, Stephanie Jackson, if she came on his property. Heath testified he had been approved for public housing assistance and Shelley was going to move out of Jarman’s house to take care of him after she received a check on an insurance claim. Heath said he did not testify at the assault trial because he was not subpoenaed and believed there might have been warrants for his arrest. Jackson testified she was on the phone with Shelley discussing picking up Paul to go house hunting when she overheard Jarman threaten to shoot her if she came to the house. In another call later that evening, she said she overheard Jarman say, “Get her over here and I’ll take care of both of them.” Terrinda Duncan testified her sister said multiple times that she was planning to move out of Jarman’s home when she received an insurance check for a broken leg she suffered after falling on ice. “That check was going to provide her a means for a new beginning,” Duncan said. Assistant District Attorney Carey Thompson said Tuesday there will be testimony that Jarman attempted to cash the more-than $1,800 insurance check three days after Heath’s death. Wallace ruled that Calhoun and Heath’s siblings will be allowed to testify to what they personally observed and heard only. Because a jury found him not guilty, Wallace said he would not allow testimony about Jarman’s 2013 arrest for aggravated assault. Heath’s death originally was reported to be from a self-inflicted gunshot wound but Jarman was indicted in December for voluntary manslaughter and then a June superseding indictment charged him with first-degree murder. He has been in the Dickson County Jail on $250,000 bond since his June 21 arrest. The attorneys say they expect the trial to last 2-3 days. The jury is not expected to be sequestered.

Trial March 22 on murder charge in overdose death

Brandon Lee Odom
Brandon Lee Odom

A man accused of selling the drugs that led to an overdose death pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder during an arraignment in Dickson County Circuit Court Tuesday. Judge Larry Wallace scheduled the trial for 30-year-old Brandon Lee Odom for March 22 during an appearance by closed-circuit television from the Dickson County Jail. Wallace announced Odom is represented by Nashville attorney Mike Flanagan, who was not present at Tuesday’s arraignment, so Assistant Public Defender Lisa Donegan waived reading of the indictment and entered not guilty pleas to second-degree murder and failure to appear charges on behalf of Odom. The judge set a deadline of March 20 to enter a plea bargain before the trial. Odom was indicted and arrested last month for the July 3 death of Kenneth James Porter of Charlotte. Investigators say Odom sold heroin and methamphetamine to Porter and was with him when he ingested the drugs. Porter died from an overdose the day after his 33rd birthday. Odom faces four additional charges of violating his probation and remains in the Dickson County Jail on $91,000 bond.

Peach pleads not guilty to child porn, solicitation counts

Daryll Lynn Peach
Daryll Lynn Peach

A Benton County man pleaded not guilty to possessing child pornography and soliciting sex from an undercover officer posing online as a teen-aged girl at an arraignment in Dickson County Circuit Court Tuesday. During an appearance by closed-circuit television, 30-year-old Daryll Lynn Peach of Camden said he could not afford to hire an attorney. Judge Larry Wallace appointed the public defender’s office, who waived reading of the indictment and entered not guilty pleas. Peach was indicted last month for sexual exploitation of a minor for more than 100 images of child pornography and solicitation of a minor. An affidavit says Peach communicated by email with an undercover officer posing as a girl under the age of 18 and agreed to meet for sex in Dickson. When Peach showed up July 29, he was arrested by Scott Levasseur of the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The affidavit says Peach was in possession of a flash drive that contains thousands of images of children engaged in sexual activity. Peach estimated there is at least 20,000 images on the drive, according to the affidavit. Peach remains in the Dickson County Jail on $10,000 bond. During Tuesday’s arraignment, Wallace scheduled Peach’s trial for March 22 and set a March 20 deadline for a plea bargain. Possessing more than 100 images of child pornography is a class B felony with a possible sentence of 8-60 years in prison. Solicitation of a minor for an act that would constitute aggravated statutory rape is a class E felony with a possible sentence of 1-6 years in prison.