ROGERSVILLE - Hawkins County 911 Director Gay Murrell has been placed on restricted duty by the 911 board of directors pending the outcome of an internal investigation into her assault charge, Rogersville attorney Daniel Boyd said Wednesday.
Boyd, who represents the Hawkins County 911 board of directors, said an interim supervisor has been named to oversee dispatchers, while Murrell will continue to perform administrative functions.
Murrell was served Monday with a criminal summons charging her with simple assault stemming from an altercation with her daughter that occurred at their home Friday afternoon.
On Monday Murrell's daughter, Samantha Napier, 20, swore out the complaint - commonly called a private prosecution - against her mother. The summons was served to Murrell Monday afternoon at the 911 Central Dispatch office in Rogersville.
"The restricted duty is pending the outcome of our internal investigation, and also we can't violate her due process rights," Boyd said. "We're also waiting to see what's going to happen with the charges itself."
According to a Hawkins County Sheriff's Office report, Napier alleges that she was attempting to retrieve clothing from a dresser drawer Friday afternoon when "Gay Murrell grabbed her arms at the wrist area and pushed her away. Samantha advised she pulled her arms away from the grasp of Gay's hands. At this point she noticed she had scratch marks on her right upper wrist and on her left thumb area."
According to that same report, Murrell told a deputy, "When Samantha reached in to get her clothing from the drawer, Samantha jerked her hands out and scratched them on the frame of the dresser. Samantha then looked at her and said, ‘See what you have done to me. You are going to jail.'"
Rogersville attorney Herb Holcomb, who represents Murrell, said Wednesday Murrell "vehemently denies" that she assaulted her daughter. Holcomb added that the fact that the attorney general's office recommended a private prosecution in this case "speaks volumes about the merit of the charge."
"The DA wasn't interested in prosecuting it, and I think that pretty much shows that there's not a case there," Holcomb said. "Anybody can have you charged with a crime if they are willing to swear to something that's not true. We just don't feel like there's a case here at all, but of course we have to defend ourselves, and we intend to vigorously do that."
Holcomb added, "We regret that the 911 board of directors felt compelled to put her on restricted duty, but I don't think it's a reflection on her job performance."
A Hawkins County deputy was dispatched to the Murrell residence on Caney Creek Road Friday afternoon shortly after the alleged assault was to have taken place. That deputy was dispatched on a "property retrieval assistance" call. According to Sheriff Roger Christian, no mention was made by the dispatcher to the responding deputy that an alleged assault had taken place.
Christian told the Times-News Monday he listened to the 911 tape of the incident and heard Napier tell the dispatcher she had been "scratched" and "shoved" by her mother, but she didn't want to get her mother into trouble.
Another deputy contacted Napier later Friday evening at her place of employment after a third party notified the sheriff's department of the alleged assault.
Napier reportedly signed a non-prosecution form Friday evening while meeting with the deputy.
Christian said Monday he was concerned that his deputy who initially responded to the Murrell residence Friday afternoon was not notified by the dispatcher of the alleged assault.
Boyd said Wednesday he has listened to the 911 tape one time, although he admitted he needs to hear it again. He said there were four people in the room with him while he was listening, and those people were talking.
"I've listened to the tapes, and I think the dispatchers handled it beautifully," Boyd said. "The dispatchers relayed to the officer the information that they had - that it was a property retrieval. I did not hear the part where she (Napier) said that she had been scratched or shoved, but it's safe to say I'll be reviewing it more closely and conducting a formal investigation on behalf of the board."
Murrell is scheduled for arraignment in Hawkins County Sessions Court on Feb. 7.