The top 10 stories of 2019 as determined by Southern Standard staff members.
10 points were awarded to first-place stories, 9 points to second-place stories, etc. With 10 Standard employees voting, there was a possible 100 points.
1. Man arrested for mother’s murder 23 years later – 85 pts
2. Civic Center shuts down for $10 million renovation – 67 pts
3. County raises property taxes 28 cents – 62 pts
4. Bishop, former basketball star, murdered – 59 pts
5. Haley ousted as County Commission chair – 58 pts
6. Man arrested for neighbor’s murder 10 years ago – 50 pts
7. Amazing $5 million robotics center opens – 38 pts
8. Teen in horse-drawn carriage rescued from flood waters – 20 pts
9. Veteran shot, killed at local biker club – 19 pts
10. Nolan Ming named new city administrator – 18 pts
Warren County had its share of major stories in 2019. Taking the lead was an arrest in a cold case from 1996, according to a poll of 10 Southern Standard employees.
Along with the arrest of Paul Alvin Adcock, who was charged for the murder of Lela Mae Adcock, 74, four other stories received at least one first-place vote from the 10 newspaper staff members who participated in the poll. One story, county raises taxes 28 cents, received 10 on two ballots, while civic center shuts down for $10 million renovation and Haley ousted as County Commission chair each received one first-place nomination.
Stories just missing the top 10 included dirt work starts on new hotel (17 pts), VFW closes (15 pts), public bus routes begin (12 pts), Emily Pennington wins state fairest (12 pts).
1. Man arrested for mother's murder
Many local residents thought an arrest would never be made for the murder of Lela Mae Adcock, who was killed in her McMinnville home in 1996.
But her son, Paul Alvin Adcock Sr., was booked at Warren County Jail on Dec. 4 and charged with second-degree murder for her death.
Mrs. Adcock, 74, was found dead in her home on Rebel Hill Street by authorities conducting a welfare check on Dec. 23, 1996. The widow was found with her throat slit in an otherwise quiet neighborhood near WCMS.
Paul Adcock was long believed to be the prime suspect. A special session of the Warren County Grand Jury was called Dec. 4 which resulted in a two-count indictment against Paul Adcock. He was also indicted for tampering with evidence.
Mrs. Adcock was living in a McMinnville Housing Authority home at 134 Rebel Hill Street when authorities conducted a welfare check based on a request from an out-of-state relative. The welfare check was conducted on a Monday morning. She was last heard from the Friday before.
The front door of her home was found locked, but the back door was unlocked, investigators said. Adcock was found in a pool of blood on her living room floor.
An eight-member TBI forensic team brought a mobile crime lab to the scene to scour the residence for six hours.
Robbery was ruled out as a motive as investigators said it didn’t appear valuables were removed.
Contrary to previous reports which have appeared in the Standard, District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis clarified recently there was no sexual assault involved with the murder. The Standard apologizes for the mistake and is happy to set the record straight.
Paul Adcock, now 76, has made bond and is making his way through the legal process.
2. Civic Center shuts down for $10M renovation
McMinnville Civic Center closed its doors in February. After more than four decades serving the public’s recreational needs, the facility is being given a $9.2 million renovation.
“When finished it will be a fantastic facility for our community to enjoy,” said City Administrator Nolan Ming. “The project is currently on schedule and due to be completed in early September 2020. As with any $9 million project, there have been some hurdles, but the project team has come together and overcome those. We will continue to do so as we approach the next project phases.”
The demolition portion of construction started Feb. 18
The project includes two additions and complete renovation of the existing facility to address issues. According to pre-construction information, the gymnasium will offer stadium seating for 1,200, indoor tennis court, walking track, two racquetball courts, office spaces, community rooms, updated and additional bathrooms, and elevator to access the second floor.
One of the additions is an expansion of the center’s Wellness Center.
It will include bathrooms with showers, separate area for weights, and an area for children to wait while their parents exercise. The children’s area will be glassed-in so parents can watch their children as they exercise.
HFR Design is the city’s architect and Sain Construction is general contractor.
“The general contractor Sain Construction has been great to work with, as has the architect HFR Design,” said Ming. “It has taken extensive coordination with their consultants, city staff and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to keep this project on track. I’m thankful to each of them for their commitment to making this a successful project. We look forward to continuing to press on and get this project finished in September.”
McMinnville officials borrowed up to $10 million to cover both construction costs and architectural services.
3. Tax streak snapped
Warren County commissioners ended a 16-year property tax streak in July of 2019 with a 28-cent increase.
The measure, which required 13 votes in favor in order to pass, was approved 13-10. The property tax rate went from $1.96 to $2.2464.
Ending the dry spell were Commissioners Carl E. Bouldin, Carlene Brown, Deborah Evans, Steve Glenn, Richard Grissom, Robert Hennessee, Lori Judkins, Ron Lee, Daniel Owens, Christy Ross, Tommy Savage, Joseph Stotts and Phillip Stout.
Grissom, chairman of the county’s Budget and Finance Committee at that time, supported the budget for 2019-20 and its tax increase.
“I will just say, as chairman of Budget and Finance, we sat and listened to all the department heads and officials and their requests of the things that they need and we made the best decision that we could at the time,” he said.. “We did that in good faith. I feel good about it.”
Opposed were Commissioners Michael Bell, Carl D. Bouldin, Randy England, Steven Helton, Gary Martin, Gary Prater, Scott Rubley, Tyrone Sparkman, Cole Taylor and Blaine Wilcher.
Bouldin said the county has a spending problem and not a revenue problem.
“I don’t think we have a revenue problem as much as we have an expenditure problem. Since this new administration has taken office, we’ve heard that we’re in horrible financial shape. Horrible financial shape. When my business is in horrible financial shape, I don’t spend money in every single department.”
The increase generated an additional $1.85 million for Warren County government and was divided between Warren County Schools and Warren County Sheriff’s Department, with 13.5 cents going to the school system and 14.5 cents for new correctional officers at the jail.
4. Bishop, former basketball star, murdered
Three people were arrested in connection with the murder of former WCHS basketball star Reese Bishop, who was shot and killed in January.
Charged with criminal homicide were Terrence Lamont Malone, 43, and James Earl Wells Jr., 39. The men were also charged with especially aggravated burglary. Wells faces four counts of aggravated assault. Celeste Jones, 38, was charged with filing a false report.
According to the TBI, Bishop, 33, was at his Lind Street home on Jan. 11 when two masked men forced their way through the front door around midnight. Bishop confronted the men and was shot.
According to TBI agent Derrin Shockey, who testified during a preliminary hearing for Malone, both intruders entered the home in all black, including black gloves and black ski masks. Shockey testified it’s his belief Wells brandished a gun while Malone was armed with a pipe.
Shockey testified that Malone admitted during taped interviews to visiting the Lind Street home earlier that same day, around 5:30 p.m., with a different person to buy cocaine. He then returned later with Wells.
“Mr. Malone confirmed he transported (an individual) to that residence earlier in the day for the purpose of buying drugs,” Shockey testified, saying he later picked up Wells from his home. “He suggested he owed Mr. Wells and this was some way to pay him back. He said Mr. Wells went through the door and shot the homeowner and they were all in black. He said Mr. Wells told him he had dropped a magazine from his gun and there was a magazine found at the scene.”
Shockey added, “They had gone there for the purpose of robbing whoever was in that house of drugs, money, or both.”
Shockey testified Donta Weir was there and he wrestled with the gunman and may have contributed to the magazine falling out of the weapon. He said Amy Bain picked up the magazine and that Weir rushed over, grabbed it, and threw it outside. It was recovered from the backyard, Shockey said. Bain is also the person who called 911.
The men were tied to the scene by their very unique getaway vehicle, a purple-colored Chevy Malibu V-Max.
Malone was seen on video surveillance footage with the car the day of the murder in front of a local laundromat, Shockey testified.
That vehicle was traced to Celeste Jones, who told an investigator she had let Malone borrow the car, but claimed he returned it well before midnight, which is when the shooting took place.
Jones was sentenced to 120 days of a two-year sentence in Circuit Court.
Wells and Malone are being held at Warren County Jail under a $1.1 million and $1.5 million bond, respectively. Both have trial dates in February.
5. Haley ousted as County Commission chair
A first in local government history occurred in September when Commissioner Blaine Wilcher successfully took the reins as Warren County Commission chairperson.
Historically, the position is given by commissioners to the county executive unless he or she declines to serve. Historic precedent was broken in September when commissioners chose Wilcher over County Executive Jimmy Haley.
“The meetings had become chaotic and seemed to drag on and on with what I felt was personal attacks,” said Wilcher. “I also felt, with my experience from my work history and my time on the commission, I could help bring order to the meetings. I also had a different opinion about the structure of the committees. I tried to be as fair as I could. It seemed the committees were stacked towards the “progressive” side or those in support of a tax increase. I felt we needed a more level playing field.”
The majority of commissioners agreed. Fourteen voted in favor of his chairmanship: Michael Bell, Carl D. Bouldin, Carl E. Bouldin, David Dunlap, Randy England, Steven Helton, Gary Martin, Gary Prater, Scott Rubley, Tyrone Sparkman, Joseph Stotts, Phillip Stout and Cole Taylor.
Haley served as chairman since his election in 2018 and voiced a desire to retain the position.
“Respectfully, I would like to continue to be chair of this commission,” said Haley. “I think it’s what the voters expect as part of my leadership role. It has been the traditional honor given to the office of county executive for generations.”
Nine commissioners cast their vote in favor of Haley: Carlene Brown, Deborah Evans, Steve Glenn, Richard Grissom, Robert Hennessee, Ron Lee, Daniel Owens, Christy Ross and Tommy Savage.
The seat is up for re-appointment each September. By county policy, any member of the commission may be nominated and elected to the position.
6. Man arrested for decade-old murder
In a murder which had gone without an arrest for 10 years, Marty Lynn Judd, 51, was arrested Oct. 18 for the shooting death of Rebecca Mooneyham.
Mooneyham, 46, was shot through her front window as she slept in her living room on Aug. 28, 2009. It happened around 11:30 p.m. at her home on Lawson Mill Road, which is off Viola Road.
A written statement from the murder suspect’s own son served as a crucial piece of evidence against Judd. In the signed statement, Dennis Judd reportedly said he was driving home from Bledsoe Correction Facility with his father. They had both worked there and Dennis had been fired that day.
During the ride home, Dennis says his father reportedly confessed to taking cover in bushes in front of a house on Lawson Mill Road and shooting a female one time through a window.
Investigators found what they say is the murder weapon, a rare Russian rifle, in Judd’s home. A forensic investigation by the TBI has tied a bullet fragment found at the scene to that type of gun.
When conducting their search for the murder weapon, local law enforcement officials say they found a very large quantity of guns at Judd’s home, which is not far from the home where Mooneyham was killed.
A motive has not been provided about what may have prompted Judd to shoot his neighbor.
Judd remains held at Warren County Jail on $2.075 million bond.
7. $5M robotics center opens
The dream of an advanced robotics training facility in Warren County became a reality in 2019 with the opening of a $5.5 million Automation and Robotics Training Center.
Larry Flatt, executive director of the robotics center, says the center has been successful in drawing individuals from across the United States into Warren County for training to enhance their skill set.
“We had our first classes in May,” said Flatt. “We’ve had roughly 12 industry classes since then. Only about 10 percent of the participants are local. We are drawing people from all over the United States including California, Kentucky, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and New York. We’re on target and on course to go into 2020 and continue to grow the number of classes that we offer.”
A grand opening was held in April. Tennessee Commissioner of Economic and Community Development Bob Wolfe was among those who spoke.
“This is the wave of the future,” said Wolfe. “The other states we compete with for jobs every day, they want to get in on the action with a center like this. What we’re seeing across the globe is automation and robotics.”
Motlow State Community College received a $5.5 million grant, which funded the project in its entirety, from the state’s Drive to 55 Capacity Fund. That fund aimed at increasing the number of Tennesseans with a post-secondary degree or certificate to 55 percent by 2025. Motlow received 22.6 percent of the $24.3 million awarded.
The center was built on 4.3 acres of land donated by Warren County government to Motlow in 2016 for construction of the facility.
An open house was held May 8.
8. Teen in carriage rescued from flood
A teenager and his horse were rescued on Feb. 20 when they were overcome by floodwaters more than 4 feet deep on Pettigap Road.
The 18-year-old Amish teen was traveling by horse and buggy trying to get from a home on Ivy Bluff to his residence on Jacksboro Road when the accident took place.
The teen was atop the carriage when emergency responders with the Rescue Squad, Sheriff’s Department, and Centertown Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene. Rescuers were able to fight heavy current to reach the teen by boat and pluck him from atop the carriage and take him to shore.
Attention then turned to saving the horse, which was in a heavy brush area near the carriage.
Rescuers were unable to reach the horse using two kayaks and the boat. The swift-moving current knocked one of the rescuers from a kayak into the water, but he was able to grab the kayak before getting swept downstream.
When efforts proved unsuccessful, the boat returned to shore to pick up Rescue Squad swift-water rescue team member John Kester, who was dressed in a wetsuit. Kester was able to reach the horse, attach a halter, and lead it safely to shore.
“The main thing was keeping him calm and leading him through one deep part,” said Kester of the chilling rescue. “The water was pretty cold, but once I got in and my adrenaline started flowing, it didn’t really bother me.”
Rescuers thought they may have to leave the carriage overnight and wait for the flood water to recede, but a tractor was able to pull the buggy out of the water shortly after the horse was rescued.
Asked about the condition of the carriage, one member of the Amish community joked, “I hope it will still start.”
The area is a known flood zone with a marker in place to give travelers an indication of water levels. The marker, which goes up to 4 feet, was completely underwater making the road look like a river.
9. Veteran killed at local biker club
Three suspects were charged with criminal homicide after the shooting death of a military veteran on June 1 at Rebels Motorcycle Club.
John William Cherry, 65, Kate Prichard, 27, and Timothy Baer, 53, were charged in the death of military veteran Dennis Carter, 51, who lived in Grundy County and was the father of two children, as well as a grandfather.
All three suspects were part of Rebels Motorcycle Club. No other motorcycle clubs were involved in the altercation at 833 Pike Hill Road.
After a group meeting at the clubhouse earlier in the night, five members were still on the property when a physical dispute broke out between Carter and Baer over a poker game. Carter was then fatally shot.
Autopsy results showed Carter was shot through the buttocks with the bullet going into his abdominal region and hitting a main artery, leading him to bleed to death. Carter’s face and head had severe trauma.
First Sgt. Carter was an Operations NCO of the Army National Guard’s 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment before his retirement in 2015. First Sgt. Carter was deployed in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2005 during his 29 years of service in the National Guard with 22 of those years being active duty.
Prichard is represented by an attorney from the law firm Mitchell & Mitchell out of Murfreesboro. Baer is represented by attorney Melanie Bean from Lebanon. Cherry was appointed local attorney Bud Sharp.
Cherry and Prichard are still being held at Warren County Jail under $750,000 and $1 million bonds, respectively. Baer, who was given a $750,000 bond, made bail.
The next court date for the trio is Jan. 22.
10. Ming named city administrator
Nolan Ming was named McMinnville city administrator on May 1.
“Things have been very busy since I started,” said Ming. “I feel like we’ve worked through some growing pains and we’re now moving forward in a very positive and productive manner. My goal is to help support the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and city staff in achieving their goals, and to do so with an eye on constantly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of which we provide the vital services that we do to our community. I’m continually thankful for being trusted with this opportunity, and with the support of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and our community, we can do great things.”
Reviews of his performance will be quarterly. An annual evaluation will also be conducted and may include a meeting between Ming and city officials to discuss goals, objectives and priorities and prepare a written evaluation of goals and objectives for the past and upcoming year. A written summary of the evaluation results will be presented to him.
Ming, as city administrator, has the authority to fill the open director position when he determines it is necessary.