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Four charged with burglary of abandoned Gilley's Hotel in Bulls Gap

Jeff Bobo • Oct 28, 2019 at 6:30 PM

BULLS GAP — The old abandoned Gilley's Hotel in Bulls Gap is a dangerous place with “no trespassing” signs posted for a reason, but four males arrested there Thursday night allegedly failed to heed the warning.

The Bulls Gap Railroad Museum owns the old Gilley's Hotel and is seeking grant funding to restore the structure.

Museum Manager Bill Harkins told the Times News on Monday that at this time the building is unstable and dangerous to enter, especially at night by people who aren't familiar with the dangerous areas.

Shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Billy Begley, Detective John Pruitt and Deputy Hunter Lamons responded to the old Gilley's Motel, 153 S. Main St., on a burglary complaint.

Pruitt, who was first on the scene, detained four males, including one juvenile, as well as one female, who reportedly stated they were making a YouTube video.

“They stated they went into the hotel next to the Bulls Gap Railroad Museum to explore the stuff inside,” Begley said in his report.

Begley noted that the four boys had a pry bar and several items in their possession that were allegedly taken from the hotel including four cassette tapes, two Bibles, a pack of electrical fuses, a can of oil, a pack of double edge razors, a nutcracker, an ashtray, a Rubik's Cube, a photograph and a personalized tag.

The female stated she didn't go inside the motel and that she had tried to talk the boys out of going inside but they wouldn't listen to her.

The three adult males were charged with burglary, criminal trespassing and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. They were Dakota Bryson Cox, 18, of Mosheim; Matthew Dylan Waddell, 18, of Greeneville; and Eric Allen Miller, 24, of Greeneville.

All three were scheduled for arraignment Monday in Hawkins County Sessions Court.

The juvenile male was charged with burglary and criminal trespassing and released to his parents.

Gilley's Hotel was built beside the railroad tracks in 1895, and during its existence has housed a doctor's office, barber shop, movie theater and formal dining room. 

Harkins told the Times News that parents of two of the defendants visited him Saturday and asked him not to press charges so that a criminal record doesn't interfere with their ability to join the military.

It wasn't within his power to drop the charges, Harkins said.

“Me and another guy had been over here working (at the museum), and we were in the process of leaving, and we didn't even know they were over there,” Harkins said. “The windows on this side are boarded up, so we couldn't see the flashlights or anything, and one of the neighbors in the apartments behind us seen them and called the law. I didn't find out about it until Friday, and if the police press charges we're out of the loop on that deal.”

Harkins added, “It''s on the (HCSO) watch log, and if they catch them over there we're not going to waive any charges. … Stay out of it. It's not safe to be in there. Part of the floors are gone in the basement, and no one is supposed to be in there.”

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