Phone tirade prompts higher bond for murder suspect

Wallace Wade Brasel
Wallace Wade Brasel
Thomas Lee Wortham
Thomas Lee Wortham

After listening to an expletive-filled phone conversation that included a threat to beat a TBI agent senseless, a judge increased the bond for one of two defendants awaiting trial for a 1998 murder. Attorneys for 58-year-old Wallace Wade “Wally” Brasel and 47-year-old Thomas Lee “Tommy” Wortham had filed second requests to have their clients’ bonds reduced from $350,000 as they await separate trials for the Aug. 20, 1998, murder of Eric Baxter. But in a hearing in Dickson County Circuit Court that began last week and concluded Thursday, Judge David Wolfe left Wortham’s bond unchanged but increased Brasel’s bond to $500,000. Wortham is scheduled to stand trial on murder charges Feb. 21 and Wolfe reset Brasel’s trial to March 14. During Thursday’s hearing, the judge listened to a recording of a phone conversation from the Cheatham County Jail between Brasel and Wortham’s wife in which Brasel talked about “hunting down” and getting even with everybody involved in his prosecution and said if he gets out of jail he would make it a “personal crusade” to beat senseless the TBI agent who worked on the Baxter investigation for the last 18 years. That Nov. 1 conversation led to a charge of retaliation for a past act being filed against Brasel by the TBI Monday. During an arraignment in Cheatham County General Sessions Court Wednesday, attorney Leonard Belmares waived the charge to the grand jury and bond was set at $10,000. In an expletive-laced tirade, Brasel is heard cursing his lawyer, family members, the judge and TBI Special Agent Joe Craig. “I’m going to beat him senseless if I ever get out,” Brasel is heard saying on the recording played in court Thursday. In reference to Craig, Brasel also says, “I’ll make him a personal crusade,” “There’s going to be payback” and “I’m going to deal with him.” With regard to the investigation that led to his indictment and arrest in April, Brasel said, “I’m going to hunt down everybody responsible and get even” and “paybacks are Hell and they’re going to come.” Belmares and Wortham’s attorney Mike Flanagan incorporated the same arguments for reducing bond that they made in a prior motion hearing June 2. Three brothers of Brasel’s testified Thursday they have property they are willing to put up for bonds for Brasel and Wortham, who is a half-brother. Following his October 2015 arrest, Wortham’s bond was reduced from $500,000 to $350,000 under an agreed order between Flanagan and District Attorney Ray Crouch Jr. In June, Wolfe refused to reduce Wortham’s bond again and dropped Brasel’s bond from $1 million to $350,000. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Wolfe’s ruling on the bond motion and Wolfe said Thursday he heard no new evidence to convince him to reduce the bonds again. And based on the threats heard in Brasel’s jail phone call, Wolfe said he believes Brasel’s bond should be higher and increased it to $500,000. Wortham and Brasel face one count of first-degree murder and two counts of felony murder for the death of 32-year-old Baxter, who was shot 6-8 times in the Jones Creek Road home he shared with his mother, Joy Marsh. Wortham had leased a Dickson market from Baxter’s family-owned company and prosecutors say he was angry after the West Meade Corporation refused to sell him the store when he missed a contract deadline. A former Hickman County Sheriff’s Office detective, Wortham unsuccessfully sued the company and lost an appeal of his lawsuit just weeks before the shooting. The indictments charge Wortham and Brasel also planned to kill Marsh but she was not home and discovered her son’s body after returning from out of town.

Library, Extension Office to re-open 8 am Monday

A section of the library extension wall fell over Nov. 20. (photo courtesy UT Extension-Dickson County Facebook page)
A section of the library extension wall fell over Nov. 20. (photo courtesy UT Extension-Dickson County Facebook page)

The Dickson County Library and Life-long Learning Center and the UT Extension-Dickson County office will re-open at 8 am Monday. Mayor Bob Rial announced Thursday that while a comprehensive review of the building will continue, structural engineers have determined that the entrances to the building are safe. Engineers from HDR Inc and local contractor Kerry Pruett examined the building on Henslee Drive this week after a concrete exterior wall panel fell Nov. 20. The library and affiliated offices have been closed since Nov. 21. Rial said temporary fencing has been installed to create a fall zone around the exterior walls but his primary concern is making sure the entrances are safe before employees and patrons return to the building. The temporary fencing will be replaced with permanent fencing and the county commission is expected to be asked Monday to approve a contract for engineering services to assess the building and develop a plan of action to address any structural needs. With the entrances determined to be safe, the library and Extension office will resume normal hours of operation Monday. The library announced that all late fees for materials not returned while the building has been closed will be waived.

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.