The countdown to the start of the high school football season continues as teams get their final preseason preparations in this week. After picking up a 28-21 win over Kenwood, coached by former Cougar Brian Beaubien, the Dickson County High School Cougars travel to Beech tonight for a scrimmage. The 2009 and ’12 5A champ Buccaneers are coached by former Dickson County assistant Anthony Crabtree, now in his 12th season at Beech. Kickoff in Hendersonville is 6:30 pm Tuesday. New head coach Randy Murphree and the Cougars will wrap up the preseason playing in a jamboree at Columbia Central High School Friday. The jamboree starts at 6 pm with the Columbia freshmen taking on Lawrence County’s freshmen. Dickson County will face Lawrence County at 7 pm. The Wildcats pulled out a 7-0 scrimmage win over Creek Wood with the varsities playing two quarters last week. Columbia battles Lipscomb Academy at 8 pm. Admission to the Columbia Jamboree is $5. Creek Wood’s Red Hawks will close out the preseason in a jamboree at Hickman County High School Friday night. Teams will play two 15-minute quarters. Wayne County faces Fairview at 6:30. Perry County goes against East Hickman at 7:15. Creek Wood will battle the host Bulldogs at 8 pm. Jamboree admission is $6. Dickson County and Creek Wood will open the regular season Aug. 19 in the eighth meeting of the in-county rivalry.
Dickson County Commissioner Tony Adams also will be Constable Tony Adams and Michael Baker has won his second election to be constable by getting just one vote. After Thursday’s election, the Dickson County Election Office released the write-in campaign results on Friday. Adams and Chance Allen had qualified as write-in candidates in the race for constable in the 4th Constable District, which consists of the county’s 8th and 9th districts. After winning a special election in 2012, incumbent Terry Bright did not seek a second term. Adams received 16 write-in votes to nine for Allen to win his second elected office. Adams has been a commissioner for the 9th District since 2008, when he won a special election following the resignation of Buddy Tidwell. Baker was a write-in candidate in the 1st Constable District for the third time and was elected with one vote for the second time. The 1st Constable District consists of the county’s 10th and 12th districts. Baker lost a write-in campaign to Jeff Eby in 2012. But when Eby began qualifying to run for county commissioner in the 2nd District in 2014, it was discovered he had moved out of the district and had to resign. When nobody qualified for the ballot in a special election, Baker ran as a write-in candidate and was elected after receiving just one vote. Baker picked up a qualifying petition for the 2016 ballot but did not turn it in by the April 7 deadline. He again qualified as a write-in candidate and according to the unofficial election results again received one vote to be elected to his first four-year term. Elected to the county commission in the 2nd District in 2014, Eby won a new term as constable in the 3rd Constable District, which is the county’s 2nd and 7th districts. On Thursday’s ballot, Eby topped challengers Danny Tucker and Dale Selvidge. In the other constable races on the ballot, Harden Lane won an unopposed race in the 2nd Constable District, Robert L. Jackson won an unopposed race in the 5th Constable District and Tim Cunningham won an unopposed race in the 6th Constable District. Thursday’s election results are unofficial until certified by the Dickson County Election Commission Aug. 18. The election winners will begin their new terms Sept. 1.
The city of Dickson officially kicked off its “Seconds Matter” campaign with the ceremonial placement of its first address marker Thursday morning. Dickson Mayor Don L. Weiss Jr. and representatives of the city’s emergency services placed a marker at the 405 Murrell St. home of Holly and Jeremy Spencer. Dickson Police Department Crime Prevention Officer J. David Cole said the McCreary Heights neighborhood was chosen to start the new campaign because it currently has the only active neighborhood watch program in the city. The Dickson City Council approved the “Seconds Matter” campaign at its July meeting in what Weiss called an opportunity for residents to get some of their tax dollars back in an effort that could save lives and property. A committee of emergency agency representatives proposed that the city offer free to all residents an address marker that is reflective in the dark and will be placed in a consistent location so emergency responders will know where to find it when responding to calls. Dickson Police Department Chief Ricky Chandler and Dickson Fire Department Chief Richard Greer talked about how the seconds wasted trying to find an address can make a huge difference when it comes to responding to an emergency call, whether it is police, fire or emergency medical personnel. In the “Seconds Matter” campaign, police, fire and emergency communications personnel will go door to door in the city offering to place the markers furnished by the city. While at each house, the emergency responders can distribute information with contact numbers for emergency calls, the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Yellow Dot program and the Drug Free Dickson Coalition, while also offering free home and fire safety inspections. While emergency personnel plan to visit every home in the city over a period of time, Dickson County 911 Director Paul McCallister said Dickson residents who know they want a marker can request one by calling 615-446-5403. Tennsco is manufacturing the metal markers and the city is purchasing the reflective numbers at a total cost of $6-$7 per marker. With some of the city’s more than 6,000 residences already having similar markers and the program being voluntary for residents, City Administrator Rydell Wesson estimated the program could cost $25,000-$30,000 over the time it takes for personnel to visit every home.
The Dickson County School Board cut $485,000 in expenses from its 2016-17 budget proposal during a special meeting Friday and hopes that will be enough to get approval from the county commission. After the commission’s Budget Committee voted Monday night to reject the school system’s budget until the board cuts $500,000 in proposed expenditures, Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks presented the board with a list of 10 potential cuts that total $645,000. But Weeks said he is uncomfortable with two of the proposed cuts and recommends the other eight for a total reduction of $485,000. The cuts Weeks was not ready to propose were $150,000 for the health clinic operated by the school system and $10,000 for maintenance of athletic fields. Weeks said the clinic is an annual expense of around $200,000 for the contracted service, but it requires a 90-day notice of termination, meaning closing it would save approximately $150,000. The school system provides the clinic for employees of the school system, Dickson County and the city of Dickson. Mayor Bob Rial has said having the clinic for county workers has helped keep the county’s health insurance premiums from increasing. Weeks said in 2015, the clinic had 2,520 visits from 2009 unique patients, with 1,705 by school employees, 517 by county employees and 298 from city employees. Weeks said he also is hesitant the reduce the $25,000 allocated for field maintenance by $10,000 and recommended leaving those funds in place. The remaining cuts include: $100,000 in the technology department that Weeks said will not impact instructional technology or training but will consist of scheduled upgrades of infrastructure and replacements for administrative computers; $125,000 in the transportation department that Weeks said Coordinator Melissa Garton believes can be made in fuel and other maintenance costs as long as diesel prices remain steady; $75,000 in the maintenance department by postponing some of the scheduled projects and purchases; $50,000 in utilities expenses as long as the weather remains moderate; $50,000 in the safety and security budget by not adding a school resource officer proposed for William James and Charlotte middle schools; $50,000 in architect fees for the middle/high school project that C&I Design and Lyle-Cook-Martin Architects have agreed to defer to the next budget year; a $30,000 reduction in the community services budget for the Students Taking a Right Stand, or STARS, counseling program offered at Dickson County and Creek Wood high schools; and $5,000 in cuts in the office of the director. Weeks said the new SRO is the only position that will be affected by the cuts, which will not impact instruction, new teaching and administrative positions or salary increases. Several board members expressed concern about making cuts in the transportation, maintenance and technology departments, saying that is how the school system got behind in those areas and is having to borrow money to get caught up. Ricky Chandler said cutting those areas will become a major problem down the road while he sees the clinic as something that is not necessary. Chairman Tim Potter also addressed the mayor and Budget Committee’s contention that the school board asked for a $1 million increase in local revenues and is getting a $500,000 hike. Potter said the board’s original budget proposal only increased revenues $1 million from what was budgeted last year, but is still less than what the school system actually received from sales and property taxes. Potter said for years the school board was criticized for its conservative revenue projections that resulted in a bigger fund balance that anticipated. He said several years ago the county commission asked to use $2 million from the school system’s reserves to balance the county’s budget. Potter said now the Budget Committee is balking at the school board’s use of more accurate revenue projections and instructing the school board to build a healthy fund balance for when the economy might not be as strong. When board member Phil Buckner asked if the proposed $485,000 in cuts will be enough when the committee asked for $500,000, Potter said it’s “pretty close” and he hopes so. With member Steve Haley absent at Friday’s midday special session, the board approved the budget reductions 4-1 with Josh Lewis in opposition. The revised budget will be presented to the Budget Committee Aug. 15 prior to that night’s regular meeting, at which time the commission could vote on the county’s $117 million total budgets and set the property tax rate. According to a new state law, if a budget agreement cannot be reached by the end of the month, the local revenue budget from the previous year is put into place for this fiscal year. If no budget agreement is reached within three years, the schools get a 3 percent increase in local revenues.
Morris Lynn Long II will spend the rest of his life in jail for beating his wife to death with a hammer in 2012. After finding Long guilty of first-degree murder Thursday, a jury deliberated an hour Friday morning before sentencing him to life in prison without parole. The 10-man, 2-woman, sequestered jury heard testimony in a sentencing hearing after returning the verdict Thursday evening, but decided to wait until Friday for deliberations. Since the district attorney decided not to seek the death penalty, the jury was left to decide whether Long would get life in prison or life without parole. In Tennessee, a sentence of life in prison has been defined as a minimum of 51 years before becoming eligible for parole. During Thursday night’s hearing, the jury heard from Abigail Needham, the mother of 21-year-old Ashlee Brook “Sissy” Long, about the devastation of losing her daughter to such violence and the impact it will have on the Longs’ two children. District Attorney Ray Crouch, Jr. also reminded the jurors of the heinous and cruel nature of the crime as a factor to seek the maximum punishment. Before the start of Friday’s deliberations, the jury submitted four questions to Judge Larry Wallace, who conferred with Crouch and Public Defender Jake Lockert before responding. The jury asked if on a life sentence there is any chance of being released before serving 51 years, to which Wallace said, “no.” The jury asked if 51 years means an actual 51 years, to which Wallace said, “yes.” The jury asked how old Long is, to which Wallace referred them to the copy of the indictment they had been provided, which shows Long to be 26 years old. And the jury asked if it is unable to make a unanimous decision, would the sentence automatically be life in prison, to which Wallace responded, “yes.” After getting the judge’s answers, the jury began deliberations at 9:28 am. Word came at 10:30 that a decision had been reached and at 10:37 am the foreman announced the jury had unanimously agreed that the prosecution had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime “was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel” in setting the sentence at life without the possibility of parole. After the jury was discharged following the five-day trial, Lockert asked Wallace for an extension of the deadline for filing a motion for a new trial in order to obtain a full transcript. Wallace agreed that Lockert could file a “skeleton motion” within the allowed time and within the next year follow up with a detailed motion citing the reasons to grant a new trial. A motion for a new trial is the first step in the appeals process. The prosecution’s testimony showed the couple was having financial difficulty, Ashlee Long had stopped wearing her wedding ring and her step-father had told Morris he would have to move out of their apartment after Christmas. The prosecution contends that Morris Long straddled his wife’s back while she was asleep and struck her 14 times in the head with a hammer with a force that the medical examiner equated to chopping wood. After trying to borrow money from several people over the next two days, Long drove to Bellevue where he ran out in front of a semi on Interstate 40 in what was described as a suicide attempt. Later that same morning, Ashlee Long’s mother and step-father discovered her body in her bed where blood had soaked through the mattress and into the box springs and castoff and impact droplets were found on all four walls of the room. Long did not take the stand during his trial or the sentencing phase and the defense did not present any witnesses.
Jenny Heath Martin will be Dickson County’s new assessor of property after picking up more than half the votes in a three-way race for the open seat. A senior field evaluator who has worked in the assessor’s office for 14 years, Martin will be sworn in Sept. 1 to succeed Gail Davis Wren, who is retiring after five terms and a total of 46 years in the assessor’s office. According to the unofficial vote totals, Martin received 1,965 votes, 53.1 percent, to 1,356 for Dickson City Councilman Horace Perkins III and 379 for business owner Cheryl Smith Scott in her second run for the position. Two interim members of the Dickson County Commission won special elections to the two years remaining on vacated terms and a former commissioner won a special election in a crowded race. Stacey Alan Batey won the special election for the two years remaining on the term in the 4th District. The seat became open when Kelly Sesler Weatherspoon resigned in March because she was moving out of the district. Batey served two terms on the commission from the 1st District 1998-2006. Batey received 134 votes to top a field of six candidates. David Smith, the son of the late 4th District Commissioner J.B. Smith, got 77 votes, Dusty Harris Duke received 66, former 4th District Commissioner Orval “Bubba” Sesler got 58, Mack Pilkinton received 45 and Renee Boehm, who ended her candidacy, was selected by 14 voters. In the 6th District special election, Becky Spicer held on to the seat to which she was appointed following the death of her uncle, Benny Spencer. Spicer topped Luke Blair 271-42. Spencer’s son, Jeff Spencer, got the interim appointment following the resignation of Randy Hogin in the 12th District and will serve the two years remaining on that term after beating Terry Choate 168-73. In the only opposed constable race on the ballot, Commissioner Jeff Eby won in the 3rd Constable District with 239 votes to 152 for Danny Tucker and 100 for Dale Selvidge. The only other constable race with opposition was in the 4th Constable District where Tony Adams and Chance Allen were write-in candidates, but write-in results were not provided by the Dickson County Election Office Thursday night. Michael Baker was a write-in candidate in the 1st Constable District. In unopposed races for constable, Harden Lane received 399 votes in the 2nd Constable District, Robert Jackson got 633 in the 5th Constable District and Tim Cunningham got 441 in the 6th Constable District. The three school board seats on the ballot saw the incumbents unopposed. In the 1st School District, Kirk Vandivort received 518 votes, Steve Haley got 467 in the 3rd School District and Phil Buckner received 654 in the 5th School District. The results of Thursday night’s election are unofficial until certified by the Dickson County Election Commission Aug. 18. The winners will be sworn in Sept. 1.
Dickson residents Michael Curcio and Dustin Evans won their party’s primary and will face off Nov. 8 for the open 69th District seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Incumbent Democrat David Shepard is retiring after 16 years. Curcio topped a three-candidate field to win the Republican nomination for the second time in a row. Curcio received 1,700 votes, 65.64 percent, across the district that includes the western half of Dickson County, all of Hickman County and a portion of Maury County. The Dickson businessman won an unopposed primary in 2014 and lost by 16 votes to Shepard in the general election. Slayden resident Wayne White, who was the GOP nominee in 2010 and 2012 and ran in the 25th District Senate primary in 2014, received 617 votes while Raymond Bauhs of Hickman County got 273. A deputy with the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office, Evans topped Hickman County School Board member Timothy Tucker Hobbs in the night’s closest local race, 711-662. Evans ran unsuccessfully for the Dickson City Council in 2015. Evans carried Dickson County with 66.7 percent of the vote, 375-187. Two-term incumbent Mary Littleton received 3,290 votes in an unopposed Republican primary for the 78th District seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives. She will face challenger Travis Staten in the Nov. 8 general election after the bondsman and bounty hunter won an unopposed Democratic primary with 1,148 votes. The 78th District includes the eastern half of Dickson County and all of Cheatham County. Stacy Ries Snyder won the Republican nomination in the race for the 5th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. She received 7,647 votes in the district to 4,285 for John Smith and 3,119 for Jody Ball. Snyder carried 57 percent of the vote in Dickson County. She will face incumbent Democrat Jim Cooper in November after he won an unopposed primary with 31,866 votes, including 1,121 in Dickson County. The unofficial vote total for Dickson County showed a turnout of 3,825 voters, or about 12.75 percent.
A jury found Morris Lynn Long II guilty of first-degree murder in the 2012 death of his wife, Ashlee Brook “Sissy” Long. The same 10-man, 2-woman jury will decide whether 27-year-old Long will spend the rest of his life in prison. The jury took 90 minutes to return a guilty verdict shortly after 6 pm Thursday following a four-day trial in Dickson County Circuit Court. With District Attorney Ray Crouch, Jr. deciding not to seek the death penalty, the jury will resume deliberations Friday morning on whether Long will be sentenced to life in prison or life in prison without parole. With a life sentence, Long could be eligible for parole after serving 51 years in prison. After jury selection took all of Monday, the jury heard testimony from prosecution witnesses Tuesday and Wednesday. Long did not take the stand and the defense did not call any witnesses. On Thursday, the jury heard closing arguments and Judge Larry Wallace’s instructions before beginning deliberations at 4:34 pm. At 6:03 it was announced the jury had reached a verdict and the foreman pronounced Long guilty of first-degree murder at 6:13. The sequestered jury opted to return Friday morning to consider the sentence. In closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Stribling said it was not contested at trial that Long beat his 21-year-old wife to death with a hammer in their Burns duplex on Dec. 20, 2012. “We know who did it. Morris Long killed his wife,” Stribling said. Throughout the trial, the prosecution and defense maintained the only question is whether the crime was premeditated first-degree murder or something less. “We know that our client killed her,” Public Defender Jake Lockert said in his closing. Lockert maintained that there was no proof that Long killed his wife after reflection and judgment free of excitement and passion, which is the standard for premeditation. Lockert suggested there was a struggle between Long and his wife and that he killed her in a crime of passion. Crouch called the defense’s theory “absurd” and said there was no evidence presented at the trial to prove there was a struggle or anything different from the state’s theory that Long beat Ashlee to death while she was sleeping in their bed. Crouch ended his closing by striking the prosecution table with a hammer 14 times, the number of blows the medical examiner said Ashlee Long suffered to her head. Following a conviction for first-degree murder, there is a hearing in which the state presents evidence to enhance punishment and the defense presents evidence to mitigate the punishment. Crouch said the enhancing factor he will present to the jury is the cruel nature of the victim’s death, showing them autopsy photos of her fractured skull and brain injuries. Long has been in prison since his arrest Jan. 9, 2013. The couple had two small children.
Creek Wood High School will scrimmage Lawrence County and the Creek Wood Athletic Booster Club will hold its annual barbecue fund-raiser tonight in Red Hawk Stadium. Due to incorrect information provided to WDKN, it was first announced the scrimmage and barbecue would be held last Tuesday. William James and Charlotte middle schools will open the action on the football field at 5:30 pm. The Tigers saw last year’s 10-game winning streak snapped Thursday night in a lightning-shortened 40-0 loss at Dickson in the regular-season opener. The Dragons avenged last year’s 12-0 loss in Charlotte. The Red Hawks and Wildcats will take the field around 6:15 pm. Lawrence County was 3-8 with a first-round playoff loss to Livingston Academy last year. Creek Wood went 3-7 in its one season under Justin Palmer and Chuck Daniel returns as interim coach of the Red Hawks. Creek Wood battled Harpeth in a scrimmage last week that saw both teams score twice. Gates open at 4:30 pm and the booster club will be selling barbecue and hamburger plates that include chips, drink and dessert for $6. The club will be selling Creek Wood, Charlotte and William James apparel. The club also will be selling memberships to raise funds to support all athletic programs at the three schools. Creek Wood will participate in a jamboree at Hickman County High School Aug. 12 and opens the regular season Aug. 19 at county rival Dickson County. The Cougars hold a 6-1 advantage in the series and will make their debut under new coach Randy Murphree. The game will be broadcast on WDKN and 101.5 The One FM and stream at wdkn.com, 1015theone.com, rfcsports.com and The One FM and RFC Sports apps.
Testimony in the Morris Lynn Long II murder trial ended Wednesday and the jury is expected to begin deliberations Thursday afternoon. District Attorney Ray Crouch, Jr. rested the state’s case shortly before 4 pm and, after consulting with his client, Public Defender Jake Lockert announced the defense would not present any witnesses and rested his case. With the 11-man, 3-woman jury with two alternates out of the courtroom, Lockert asked Judge Larry Wallace for a judgment of acquittal, saying the prosecution had not proven premeditation in the 2012 beating death of 21-year-old Ashlee Brook Long and the jury should only consider guilt or innocence on a lesser charge. Wallace denied the motion, saying any rational trier of fact could find premeditation had been proven to convict Long of first-degree murder. The prosecution and defense are scheduled to argue over special instructions regarding premeditation to be included in the judge’s jury charge Thursday morning with closing arguments tentatively set to begin at 10 am. Following the judge’s final instructions, the jury is expected to begin deliberations. If the jury convicts 27-year-old Long of first-degree murder, it will immediately begin a sentencing phase in which the jurors will decide whether Long is sentenced to life with the chance of parole or life without parole. Crouch opted not to pursue the death penalty. If the jury finds Long guilty of any charge less than first-degree murder, Wallace will schedule a hearing in which the judge will decide the punishment. During two hours of cross-examination by Lockert Wednesday, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Shawn Adkins said his investigation revealed no evidence that would indicate Ashlee Long’s murder was a crime of passion or that there was a struggle between the couple. Lockert admits Long beat his wife to death with a hammer in the couple’s Bishop Lane duplex, but has tried to make a case that there was no premeditation and Long acted out of passion and excitement. Adkins said he believes Ashlee Long was asleep face down in the couple’s bed when Morris Long straddled her back and struck her repeatedly in the head with a hammer on Dec. 20, 2012. Adkins said Long spent the next two days trying to borrow money for gas in an attempt to flee. TBI forensic biologist Charly Castelbuono testified Wednesday that blood on a hammer found under the bed belonged to Ashlee Long and her blood was found on a do-rag Morris Long was wearing when he jumped in front of a truck on Interstate 40 two days later. Dr. David Zimmerman, an assistant medical examiner with Forensic Medical, said his autopsy of Ashlee Long revealed no defensive wounds on her hands and arms and no alcohol or drugs were found in her system. Zimmerman said Ashlee Long suffered multiple fractures, lacerations and abrasions to the top and right side of her head and blunt force injuries to her brain. He said the blows show significant force that he equated to chopping wood. Zimmerman testified he could distinguish at least 14 separate impact sites on her head. While Zimmerman said any one of the blows would have rendered a person unconscious or proved to be fatal, he said he found aspirated blood that indicates Ashlee Long was still breathing after suffering the first strike. Crouch told the jury that the issue to be decided is whether Ashlee Long’s death was premeditated or the result of what Lockert has described as an act of passion and excitement. Lockert has suggested that Morris and Ashlee were arguing over money and she came at him with the hammer, which he pushed back into her face, resulting in what Lockert says are two lacerations under her right eye that Zimmerman said could be consistent to a less forceful blow from the claw end of a hammer. But Adkins testified there was no significant accumulation of blood anywhere except in the area of Ashlee Long’s head and under her body and only castoff droplets in the rest of the room, indicating she was not injured while standing. Her body was found face down in bed with her face turned to the right and resting on her forearms. She was wearing a camisole that appeared to have been ripped and her ripped bra was under her body with the cups full of pooled blood. Adkins said a void in the blood spatter on her back and hips indicates there was something covering her, possibly Morris Long straddling her. Testimony during the two days indicated the couple was struggling financially, had their car repossessed the day before the murder and Ashlee had stopped wearing her wedding rings. Ashlee Long’s step-father testified he told Morris Long he would have to move out of the couple’s apartment after Christmas. Long’s sister testified Tuesday that Morris told her he was in trouble and had smashed a man in the face with a hammer during an argument but did not know if he had killed him. Brandon Torres testified that while he was riding with Long to cash a moneygram on Dec. 21, Long said he might have hurt somebody. Several other witnesses said Long asked to borrow money for gas for his father’s pickup late the night of Dec. 20 and through the next two days before he drove to Bellevue and jumped in front of a tractor-trailer. He has been in jail since being arrested following his release from the hospital Jan. 9, 2013.