Hall of Famer Curtis receives two Million Air awards

Sonny Curtis (center) receives two Million Air certificates from BMI's (left to right) Mason Hunter, David Preston, Nina Carter and Jody Williams for the songs 'I'm No Stranger to the Rain' and 'The Straight Life.' (photo courtesy BMI)
Sonny Curtis (center) receives two Million Air certificates from BMI’s (left to right) Mason Hunter, David Preston, Nina Carter and Jody Williams for the songs ‘I’m No Stranger to the Rain’ and ‘The Straight Life.’ (photo courtesy BMI)

Dickson County resident and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Sonny Curtis was recognized recently with two Million Air awards. A member of the late Buddy Holly’s band The Crickets and a hall of fame songwriter, Broadcast Music Inc. recognized Curtis for 3 million radio spins of “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” and 1 million airings of “The Straight Life.” Curtis previously received Million Air certifications for “I Fought the Law,” “Walk Right Back” and “More Than I Can Say.” Curtis has lived in southern Dickson County for almost 40 years. A West Texas native, Curtis was lead guitarist in Holly’s first band, The Three Tunes. Curtis was with Holly on his first trip to Nashville in 1956 to record several songs, then went on to play and tour with several other artists. A few years later, Curtis rejoined The Crickets not long before the 1959 plane crash that claimed Holly, J.P. Richardson and Ritchie Valens. Curtis has written more than 500 songs that have been recorded by artists ranging from Holly and The Everly Brothers to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Grateful Dead, from Bing Crosby and Hank Williams Jr. to Green Day and The Clash. He wrote “I Fought the Law” in 1964 and it became a number one hit for the Bobby Fuller Four. Curtis and fellow Cricket Jerry Allison wrote “More Than I Can Say” for their second album in 1959 and it was a part of the live performances by The Beatles in the early 1960s before spending five weeks at No. 2 on the charts for Leo Sayer in 1980. While in the Army, Curtis wrote “Walk Right Back,” which became a hit for The Everly Brothers. Glen Campbell and Bobby Goldsboro recorded “The Straight Life” in 1969. “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” is the signature song in the short career of the late Keith Whitley. In addition to hundreds of songs, Curtis has written national jingles for companies like McDonald’s, Buick, Honda and others. He wrote and sang “Love Is All Around,” the theme song for the popular 1970s television series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Curtis was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association International Hall of Fame in 1991. While Holly was a part of the first class at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, The Crickets were inducted as a group in 2012. Curtis moved to the Nashville area in 1976 and shortly after settled in Dickson County. He continues to tour internationally with The Crickets.

17-2 run sparks Lady Red Hawks; teams head to tourneys

A 17-2 run in the first quarter gave the Creek Wood Lady Red Hawks a lead they would never give up for a 63-40 win over Montgomery Central in Charlotte Thursday. Timely free throws in the fourth period helped the Indians pull away from Creek Wood for a 54-41 District 11-AA victory. The Lady Red Hawks bounced back from their first district loss to Lewis County to stand 4-1 in the conference. The Red Hawks dropped their second consecutive decision to fall to 2-3 in the district. After a pair of three-pointers by the Lady Indians tied the game early 6-6, Creek Wood hit fives treys and Sam Kilian came off the bench with 7 points to spark a 17-2 run to put the Lady Red Hawks firmly in control 23-8. The lead grew to 20 points by halftime, 38-18. Taylor Moore’s 8 points in the third pushed the margin to 55-32 and the 23-point margin stood to the final buzzer. Moore led Creek Wood with 17 points including 5 three-pointers. Raegan Hohl hit 4 treys in her 16 points. Kilian finished with 11 and Lydia Edmondson scored 10. The Red Hawks overcame some early foul trouble to trail the Indians 22-21 at halftime. Coulter Dotson had 10 points in the first quarter and Anthony Neblett stepped up with all 9 of the Red Hawks’ points in the second period. Montgomery Central managed to pad the difference to four heading into the fourth where the Indians connected on 10 free throws to ice the 13-point win. Dotson finished with 24 and Neblett added 11. Dickson County High School will host a pair of non-district doubleheaders with a visit from Beech tonight and the rescheduled games against Harpeth at 2:30 Saturday. Teams head into holiday tournaments next week. The Red Hawks will face Rossview at 8:30 pm Monday in the Rossview Roundball Christmas Tournament. The winner meets the Cheatham County-Central Magnet winner at 8:30 Tuesday while the losers play each other at 2:30. The tournament concludes Wednesday. The Lady Red Hawks will play in the Dyersburg Christmas Classic, taking on Bolivar at noon Monday and the host Lady Trojans at noon Tuesday. The Cougars travel to Columbia where they will play Martin Luther King at 3:30 Monday and Wilson Central at 6:30 Tuesday. The Lady Cougars are off until the Above the Rim Christmas Invitational at Hickman County Dec. 28. Dickson County-Beech will be live tonight on WDKN and 101.5 The One FM, wdkn.com, 1015theone.com and the WDKN app with coverage beginning with the A-1 Signs Pregame Show at 5:45. Dickson County-Harpeth will be live on the RFC Sports Network Saturday with coverage beginning at 2:15.

Dickson council considers changes to beer ordinance language

The Dickson City Council is considering changes to language in its municipal code regarding the definition of a church and criminal offenses that could prevent someone from obtaining a beer permit. At the recent Finance and Management Committee meeting, city attorney Jerry Smith said the city has been working with the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service to review its beer ordinances to see if clarification is needed to help in considering future beer permit applications. Smith identified two sections of the code that he believes could be changed. The first section he addressed is the code’s definition of a church with regard to the city’s 400-foot distance requirement. The code currently identifies a church as a place where religious services are held at least once a week, the premises are occupied for church purposes exclusively and the church is exempt from taxation by the Internal Revenue Code. Smith suggested the council could consider adding a requirement that the church own the property in question. Smith said churches are more frequently starting up in “storefronts” that would prevent retail spaces within the 400-foot distance from getting a beer permit, only to see those churches close or move. By adding a requirement that the church own the property, Smith said it would provide more permanency before excluding locations. The code currently provides that if a church opens within 400 feet of a location that already had a beer permit as of Jan. 1, 1993, it will not preclude that location from having a beer permit unless the beer permit is inactive for six consecutive months. Smith also suggested adding a list of specific criminal offenses for which a conviction would make someone ineligible to hold a beer license. The city’s code currently says no permit shall be issued to any person “convicted for the possession, sale, manufacture or transportation of intoxicating liquor or any crime involving moral turpitude within the past 10 years.” Smith said in 1976 the Tennessee Supreme Court stopped using crimes involving moral turpitude because “it has no satisfactory definition” and is an “inexact standard.” Smith suggested the council should consider changing the language to include a list of specific crimes that would be exclusionary for beer permits. As an example, he presented council members with a copy of Gallatin’s ordinance that identifies those crimes as any misdemeanor conviction involving the misuse of alcohol or drugs within two years or felonies involving alcohol or drugs within 10 years. Most recently, the council denied a beer permit for an applicant who had a DUI conviction, even though Smith advised that would not meet the definition of exclusionary crimes under the city’s current ordinance. The council subsequently issued a permit for that same business under the applicant’s wife’s name. Smith said the courts have found that moral turpitude is “vague and hard to define” and suggested changing to language specifically listing crimes that would be included. The committee voted to have Smith prepare amendments to the beer ordinances addressing the issues he identified to be considered at a future council meeting.

CWHS looks to bounce back against Central tonight

Creek Wood High School looks to bounce back from a pair of district losses when it hosts Montgomery Central tonight. The Lady Red Hawks suffered their first District 11-AA loss at Lewis County Friday night while the Panthers’ sweep left the Red Hawks 2-2 in the conference. Following tonight’s 6 pm doubleheader in Charlotte, the Red Hawks and Lady Red Hawks will head different directions for holiday tournaments next week. The Red Hawks travel to Clarksville where they will play the host Hawks in the Rossview Roundball Christmas Classic at 8:30 pm Monday. A loss means a 2:30 consolation bracket game Tuesday while the winner advances to an 8:30 pm game against the Cheatham County-Central Magnet winner. The tournament concludes Wednesday. The Lady Red Hawks head to a classic in Dyersburg where they will play Bolivar at noon Monday and the host Lady Trojans at noon Tuesday. Dickson County High School hosts Beech Friday and Harpeth Saturday, before the Cougars head to a holiday tournament in Columbia next week, taking on Martin Luther King at 3:30 pm Monday and Wilson Central at 6:30 pm Tuesday. Creek Wood-Montgomery Central will be live on WDKN and 101.5 The One FM, their streams and apps starting with the A-1 Signs Pregame Show at 5:45.

Niles’ trial for double murder scheduled for Dec. 4, 2017

Firefighters at the scene of an April 14, 2015, fire in a duplex on McFarland Lane in Dickson.
Firefighters at the scene of an April 14, 2015, fire in a duplex on McFarland Lane in Dickson.
Lisa 'Mickey' McDonald and Chris Goldtrap (from Facebook)
Lisa ‘Mickey’ McDonald and Chris Goldtrap (from Facebook)
Kenneth Ray Niles
Kenneth Ray Niles

The trial of a man for killing a young couple and setting fire to their apartment has been scheduled for a year from now. During a hearing in Dickson County Circuit Court Tuesday, Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash scheduled the murder trial of 38-year-old Kenneth Ray Niles for Dec. 4, 2017. In the first hearing with Niles’ new attorneys, Lockert-Mash set a deadline for discovery to be turned over and set two dates for any potential pretrial motions. In October, Lockert-Mash appointed Nashville attorneys Paul Bruno and John G. Oliva to represent Niles after District Attorney Ray Crouch Jr. filed notice that he intends to seek the death penalty if Niles is convicted. Niles is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated arson, especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated burglary and theft for the April 2015 deaths of 27-year-old John Christopher Goldtrap and 23-year-old Lisa Wade Mackenzie McDonald. Niles was arrested in May 2015 after Goldtrap and McDonald’s bodies were discovered in a burning duplex on McFarland Land in Dickson. Autopsies revealed both victims had been shot in the head. Niles originally was scheduled to stand trial June 6 but it was continued when the Tennessee Supreme Court suspended the law license of Centerville attorney Kenneth Crites, who had been hired by Niles. Lockert-Mash appointed Dickson attorney Jerred Creasy to represent Niles, but Creasy withdrew in July because of a conflict from having previously represented a witness in the case. Lockert-Mash appointed Clarksville attorney Chase T. Smith and set Niles’ trial for Dec. 5. But Smith withdrew in October after the notice filed by the DA because he is not qualified to represent a defendant in a death penalty case under Tennessee law. Lockert-Mash appointed Bruno as primary counsel and Oliva as co-counsel and set a hearing to issue a scheduling order for Tuesday. Lockert-Mash met with Bruno, Oliva and Crouch in chambers before taking the bench. Bruno said the defense has received discovery from the DA’s office and Crouch said he believes the prosecution has turned over all its evidence. Lockert-Mash set a deadline of Feb. 28 for any remaining discovery to be provided. She scheduled hearings on any pretrial motions for April 7 and Sept. 8 and scheduled the trial for Dec. 4, 2017. While Bruno said the defense has not yet determined its case and potential witnesses, Crouch estimated the trial could take as much as two weeks, including jury selection. Lockert-Mash said she would schedule the trial for the two weeks but also keep the following week’s docket open in case it takes more time. During Tuesday’s hearing, Bruno did not discuss with the judge the possibility of moving Niles, who is being held without bond in the Montgomery County Jail. Lockert-Mash is scheduled to be off the bench in January and February for knee surgery and retired Judge George Sexton has been appointed to preside over her dockets during her absence. Investigators say Niles reportedly argued with Goldtrap, who was a cousin by marriage, the day before the bodies were discovered. They believe Niles shot the couple the night of April 13, 2015, and stole firearms, accessories and ammunition, then returned early the next morning to set the duplex on fire to cover up the crimes. Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that another person or persons were involved in the crime, but at this point nobody else has been charged. While there are 12 pending homicide trials in Dickson County, Niles is the only defendant facing the death penalty at this time.

Board addresses concerns over Burns school plan

Dickson County School Board Chairman Tim Potter responds to questions at an informational session on the plan for a new middle/high school in Burns.
Dickson County School Board Chairman Tim Potter responds to questions at an informational session on the plan for a new middle/high school in Burns.

Questions about how a new middle/high school in Burns would affect student zoning and concerns about the proposed location’s impact on traffic and neighbors dominated the discussion at the Dickson County School Board’s second informational session on its building program at Oakmont Elementary School Tuesday night. About 40 people, many of them educators, heard board Chairman Tim Potter and Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks outline the general plan for the new school proposed to open in August 2019 on Highway 96 in Burns. Potter said many of the details of answers to questions will have to be determined once the Dickson County Commission makes a decision on whether to fund the new school. He said he hopes to make a comprehensive building program presentation to the commission in January. Five of six school board members and two of 12 county commissioners were in attendance Tuesday. Weeks said the plan is to open the new school with about 150 students in each grade. With an average of around 100 fifth graders coming out of Stuart-Burns Elementary School each year, Weeks said another 50 students would be rezoned primarily from the Oakmont zone to attend the new school. Potter said whether those students attend Oakmont through grade five and then go to the new middle school or are rezoned to Stuart-Burns to be a part of that cluster still must be determined. Stuart-Burns is proposed to get additional classrooms as part of the building program. As in last week’s first meeting in Burns, several people who live near the proposed school site identified as the McCall property raised concerns over the impact the school could have on their properties, what noise issues there could be and how the school will affect traffic, especially on Eastside Road where the two primary entrances to the school are proposed. At Monday night’s work session, the board’s architects discussed constructing berms and using trees and other vegetation to create a natural buffer between the school and homes. While saying he understands the concerns of some of the area residents, Potter said the school board’s job is to do what it believes is in the best interest of education in Dickson County. For more than 10 years, the school board has discussed the need for a new middle school to reduce the student population at Dickson Middle School. Counting the sixth graders at Dickson Intermediate School, there are about 1,200 students in the DMS cluster while Charlotte Middle has around 400 and William James Middle is at 300. Potter said moving some DMS students to a Burns school would allow the sixth graders to return to the main campus and leave the current Dickson Intermediate building for other uses, most likely as an elementary school that could replace Dickson Elementary and/or The Discovery School. The resulting domino effect of the new Burns school could create savings in other areas of the budget to offset some of the anticipated revenue needs for the new school. Potter said he doesn’t know from where the money to operate the Burns school will come, but also believes there is not enough information right now to determine how much additional revenue will be required. While the original plan started with just a middle school, Potter said the board no longer believes a middle school is the “optimal thing to do.” By building a middle/high school, the system addresses population and zoning issues affecting Dickson County and Creek Wood high schools. If just a middle school is built, those Burns students likely will be zoned to Creek Wood and the county will be transporting students from the south end of the county to Charlotte. Weeks said there are “a lot of efficiencies” in building a middle/high school that would share core facilities. The preliminary design presented by architects Monday night does allow for the school to be scaled back to just a middle school should the county commission decline to fund a middle/high school. But Potter said the board’s commitment is to a middle/high school in the Burns area to open in 2019 with the project including renovations and expansions at Oakmont, Stuart-Burns and White Bluff elementary schools. Weeks has said the board could hold another informational session to continue presenting its plans to the public sometime after the first of the year. Potter said he plans to meet with Mayor Bob Rial to discuss scheduling a special meeting for the school board to present its plan to the county commission.

Emily Beard scores 32 in DCHS win over Summit

Emily Beard sparked the Dickson County Lady Cougars to a 62-50 win at Summit Tuesday night while the Cougars had no answer for the Spartans’ new dominating center in a 75-59 loss. Senior Beard had her best offensive night of the young season with a game-high 32 points, including 13 in the third quarter when the Lady Cougars took control. Dickson County jumped in front on a Ryann Roberts three-pointer in the second period and held the lead the rest of the way to its second District 11-AAA victory. Kailey Rosenbaum added 11 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals. The Cougars had problems matching up with 6’9” Summit junior transfer Demontae Dixon, who finished with 23 points and an astounding 18 rebounds. Dickson County put together its most balanced offensive attack of the season with four players in double figures and used its speed and outside shooting to stay in the game. A Demontez Coleman jumper in the third period tied the game 43-43, but Summit went on an 11-0 run and Dickson County could never get any closer than 5 points the rest of the game. Freshman D.J. Stacey led the Cougars with 16 points while Coleman had 12 and Jacob Murphree and Darian Burns finished with 11 each. Dickson County returns home for a pair of non-district contests before heading into holiday tournaments. Beech visits Friday and the Harpeth games previously postponed have been reset for 2:30 pm Saturday. Creek Wood plays its fourth consecutive District 11-AA contests hosting Montgomery Central Thursday. The Red Hawks will play in a holiday tournament at Rossview next week while the Lady Red Hawks head to Dyersburg. The Cougars will be in action in Columbia.

JeQuan Lewis leads VCU comeback over Old Dominion

JeQuan Lewis (1) leads the VCU offense against Old Dominion under the watch of Will Wade.
JeQuan Lewis (1) leads the VCU offense against Old Dominion under the watch of Will Wade.

Former Cougar JeQuan Lewis scored 17 points to spark a second-half comeback in VCU’s 67-64 victory at Old Dominion Saturday. Lewis led the Rams with 20 points, including 12 in a 16-1 run that gave VCU the lead for good. The Rams trailed by 11 points with 7:37 left in the game when they scored 11 straight to tie the game 55-55. Lewis hit a three-pointer and capped the run with a four-point play to forge the game’s only tie. After the Monarchs retook the lead on a free throw, Lewis scored five straight points. The senior guard hit a layup to give VCU its first lead of the game and followed with a three-pointer to extend the margin to 60-56 and the Rams never trailed again. Lewis hit 6 of 11 from the floor, including 5 of 8 treys, and 3 of 4 free throws for his game-high 20 points. He added 2 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist. The Rams are 7-3 and Lewis leads the team with 14.9 points per game and 31.2 minutes per game, is shooting 45 for 99 from the floor and 30 for 63 on three-pointers, all team highs, is shooting a team-best 82.9 percent from the foul line and leads the team with 44 assists while his 15 steals are second on the team. VCU hosts Middle Tennessee State in Richmond Saturday.

Murder suspect charged with threatening TBI agent

Wallace Wade Brasel
Wallace Wade Brasel

A man awaiting trial on murder charges has been accused of threatening to harm an investigator on the case. Special agents from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have charged 58-year-old Wallace Wade “Wally” Brasel with one count of retaliation for past action for a threat he allegedly made during a recorded phone conversation in the Cheatham County Jail. Brasel and his half-brother, 47-year-old Thomas Lee “Tommy” Wortham, are charged with first-degree murder and two counts of felony murder for the 1998 death of 32-year-old Eric Baxter in Dickson County. According to a statement released by the TBI Monday, Brasel had a phone conversation with a family member during which he made a threat of bodily harm against TBI Special Agent Joe Craig, who investigated Baxter’s murder. The TBI says District Attorney Ray Crouch Jr. of the 23rd Judicial District requested the agency open an investigation into the alleged threat Dec. 6. A TBI agent served the warrant on Brasel Monday in jail. Brasel was scheduled to stand trial on the murder charges Feb. 21, but it is being delayed so Wortham’s trial can begin that day. New evidence recently discovered in the investigation prompted Wortham’s Dec. 5 trial to be postponed and Judge David Wolfe said the only date available for what is expected to be at least a week-long trial is Feb. 21. Since the DA’s office chose to try Wortham first after their trials were separated in August, Wolfe bumped Brasel’s trial to hold Wortham’s on Feb. 21. Wortham and Brasel are scheduled to appear in Dickson County Circuit Court for a motions hearing Thursday and a new trial date for Brasel could be set at that time. Baxter was found shot to death in the Jones Creek Road home he shared with his mother, Joy Marsh, on Aug. 20, 1998. After a 17-investigation, Wortham was indicted for the murder in October 2015 and Brasel was indicted in April. A former detective with the Hickman County Sheriff’s Office, Wortham leased a convenience store from Baxter’s family owned company and had unsuccessfully sued the West Meade Corp. after it canceled an agreement to sell the market to Wortham when he missed a contract deadline. The indictments allege Wortham and Brasel planned to kill Marsh, too, but she was not home and discovered her son’s body when she returned from out of town that night. Investigators said Baxter was shot 6-8 times in the head, chest and hand. No murder weapon has been recovered. At a prior hearing, Wortham’s attorney said he expects there will be testimony from two men that while they were incarcerated together in the Hickman County Jail Brasel admitted shooting Baxter. Brasel remains in the Cheatham County Jail and Wortham in the Dickson County Jail on $350,000 bond each. Motions to be argued Thursday include another request to reduce their bonds.

Board committed to middle/high school in Burns

School board members say they remain committed to building a middle/high school in the Burns area and will pitch the proposal at a second informational session tonight. Board members held a session for the public last week at Stuart-Burns Elementary School and will hold another session at 6 pm tonight at Oakmont Elementary. At Monday night’s work session, board Chairman Tim Potter said the board will stick with its proposal for a new school for grades 6-12 on the McCall property on Highway 96 in Burns to open in fall 2019. Potter said those are the last votes taken by the board and there has been no change in that plan, despite residents who voiced opposition to the school being near their homes and county commissioners who have questioned the need for a third high school. Potter said the proposed school is in the best interest of education in Dickson County. He said the school system needs the new school to address the overcrowded situations at Dickson Middle School and Dickson County High School. Potter said the new school also will help address student zoning issues where if only a middle school is built in Burns, the board will then have to figure out a way to send students from the south end of the county to Creek Wood High School, where there is still room to grow. Potter also said it is inevitable that the county will need a third high school and it will be “a heck of a lot cheaper for the taxpayers” to build it now than in the future when construction costs are higher. Potter said the middle/high school combination fulfills the board’s obligation to plan for providing quality education for the future. The chairman also said comments that the operating cost of a middle/high school will result in a 44-cent property tax increase might not be accurate. Potter said he is “not willing to concede” that every dollar of operational costs will necessitate additional revenue. He said the county’s sales tax collections continue to grow at a healthy pace, which will result in more revenue. Additionally, the creation of a new middle/high school could enable the school system to close another school and free up some money. When the student population at Dickson Middle is reduced, the sixth-grade students currently at Dickson Intermediate School could return to DMS, making that building available to become a new middle or elementary school. There has been discussion about closing Dickson Elementary School and/or The Discovery School and using those buildings for other purposes, such as a new location for New Directions Academy, relocating the board of education central office or creating a magnet school. While C&I Design and Lyle-Cook-Martin Architects continue to work on the design of the middle/high school for Burns, the board heard from John Cheney of Cope Associates in Knoxville Monday night about working on renovations at three elementary schools that would be concurrent with the new school project. The board plans to upgrade the HVAC system and create a secure entrance at Oakmont, add classrooms and expand the cafeteria at White Bluff Elementary and add classrooms and a new drive to improve traffic flow at Stuart-Burns. In order to keep all the projects moving ahead, the board will consider hiring Cope Associates for those projects at its Thursday meeting. Potter said he still hopes the board can make a comprehensive building program presentation to the county commission early next year.