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.

Library remains closed as engineers check building

Structural engineers and a local contractor were scheduled to meet at the Dickson County Library and Life-long Learning Center Monday afternoon to finalize a plan to ensure the facility is safe to re-open. The library announced on its Facebook page Monday that the building will remain closed for all of this week. Mayor Bob Rial said personnel from the Brentwood office of HDR Inc., an international engineering company, and local contractor Kerry Pruett were meeting at the library Monday afternoon to assess the safety of the building. The library has remained closed since a concrete section of the exterior wall fell Nov. 20. Rial said at that time the wall failure also exposed other concerns that need to be addressed before employees and patrons are allowed back in the building. Rial said he wants the integrity of the other wall panels examined and also wants to check the support for the cover at the rear entrance for the building. That led to the closing of the library’s book return as well. At last week’s county commission work session, Rial said he hoped plans to address the building would be completed on Wednesday and work begin last week. But an email forwarded from the county’s insurance agent says Pruett and the HDR personnel were not scheduled to examine the building until Monday. In addition to the library, the building issues have closed the UT Extension-Dickson County office. The library has said late fees for all materials will be waived while the building remains closed. Built in 1973 as a directory assistance center for South Central Bell, the county purchased the building in 2002 for $1.4 million.

Weiss names Kimberly Givens as new city recorder

Dickson Mayor Don L. Weiss Jr. has officially named Kimberly Givens as the city’s new recorder. A 12-year employee of the city, Givens has been serving as the interim recorder since the Sept. 20 retirement of Dianne Shelton after 23 years with the city. Givens began working with the city’s Public Works Department in 2004 and has served as office coordinator under Andy Mathis, Rydell Wesson and now Jeff Lewis. In making the nomination at last month’s city council meeting, Weiss said Givens will remain in her position with the Public Works Department and take on the recorder duties that were handled by Shelton. The mayor said Shelton originally was hired as an administrative assistant to the city administrator and mayor and then took on the recorder duties following the retirement of Peggy Mason. Weiss said he plans to separate those duties and the city is currently seeking to fill the position of an administrative assistant for the mayor and city administrator. Weiss said Givens had been assisting Shelton for the past two years and has obtained her City Clerk and Recorder Certification from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service of the University of Tennessee. The city recorder serves as custodian of official city records and public documents, maintains the minutes and records of city council meetings, performs certifications of certain documents and oversees codification of ordinances into the municipal code. For the city of Dickson, the recorder also oversees beer permits and cemetery deeds. The city recorder is nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. The council unanimously approved Givens to become the new city recorder at its Nov. 7 meeting.