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Crime
breaking
Two face murder charges in case of burned body in Hawkins County

By RICK WAGNER

MOORESBURG — Two people have been indicted and arrested in connection with the death of a man whose burned body was discovered in Hawkins County.

Authorities have identified the deceased as Jacob Britt Sawyer, 26, of Erwin. His body was found Sept. 20 on Substation Road.

Deputies have arrested Jordan Vance Coleman, alias Jordan Vance Way, 23, of Teleford, and Isabelle A. Krueger, 22, of Mooresburg.

The two became persons of interest in the case, which is being handled by the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

“The evidence in the case was presented to a Hawkins County grand jury on Oct, 1, 2021, and an indictment was obtained charging both with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, felony murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of a firearm during a dangerous felony, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence,” Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said in a Friday news release.

“An autopsy of Mr. Sawyer revealed that he had been shot multiple times and set on fire,” the release states.

At about 10:30 a.m. Sept. 20, the HCSO received a call about what appeared to be a “burnt human” on Substation Road in Mooresburg.

Both suspects are being held in the Hawkins County Jail: Coleman on a $1 million bond and Krueger on a $750,000 bond.

Their initial court date is scheduled for Dec. 10 in Hawkins County Criminal Court.

Assisting the HCSO and TBI were the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office, Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

This is still an ongoing investigation, no other details or information are available.

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Branch House awards

By MATTHEW LANE

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy presented Detective Michelle Gilliam with the Mark Vance Memorial Award Friday morning at the Branch House in Blountville.

For 17 years, the award has been given to an officer or deputy for exceptional service and efforts in the prosecution of domestic violence cases. The award is named in honor of a Bristol, Tenn., police officer who was killed in the line of duty in November 2004 while responding to a domestic violence call.

In addition to the award, certificates of recognition were given to the two runners-up: Officer Shannon Barker (Bristol Tennessee Police Department) and Officer Dillon Moyers (Kingsport Police Department).

“These officers every day when they suit up, they don’t know what the day brings,” said District Attorney General Barry Staubus. “Yet they suit up and they go out in this violent world that we live in to try and make the world better.”

The awards are bestowed annually during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Branch House is a multi-agency organization that provides a variety of services to victims of interpersonal violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, stalking, human trafficking and to secondary victims of homicide. The organization works with 45 partner agencies throughout the Tri-Cities region.


centerpiece
Black Lives Matter demonstrators march through downtown

By Becky Campbell and JONATHAN ROBERTS

Johnson City Press

JOHNSON CITY — A group of Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched through downtown Friday night to protest a Washington County grand jury’s decision not to indict a motorist who ran over a man at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in the city last September.

In a cellphone video that went viral after the incident, a white SUV can be seen attempting to turn right onto West State of Franklin Road from Spring Street toward Interstate 26, where a small group of demonstrators was gathered nearby. As the vehicle turns, it bumps into Jonathan Bowers, who said he was following the group and taking photos while walking his dog.

Bowers, in an attempt to get the driver’s attention, hits the hood of the car, which then accelerates and runs Bowers over, resulting in two broken legs.

District Attorney General Ken Baldwin said he doesn’t know the discussion among grand jurors — that is a secret process — that led the panel to decline returning an indictment against the driver, who was identified as Jared Benjamin Lafer, 27, Bakersville, North Carolina.

Lafer’s initial charge, aggravated assault, requires the element of intent to cause harm, but a Sessions Court judge reduced it to reckless aggravated assault — which does not require intent to harm — after hearing testimony and watching video of the incident captured on a cell phone and a nearby surveillance camera.

“We went to great lengths to explain to the grand jury what reckless aggravated assault was,” Baldwin said. “I wanted them to clearly understand it. After we explained the law to them, the evidence was presented and the video was played (and) we took questions.”

The secret discussion among grand jurors led the panel to return a “no true bill” on Monday, which means the case is dead. Baldwin said if additional evidence surfaced, there could be another review, but that’s unlikely at this point. Lafer’s attorney, Mac Meade, continued to maintain that his client was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

According to Meade, when Lafer was turning onto State of Franklin from Spring Street, he had to go around a car parked in the right lane and that pedestrians parted, but the victim, Jonathan Bowers, “aggressively” hit the hood of Lafer’s vehicle. Bowers had testified he was simply trying to get Lafer’s attention because he felt himself being pulled under the car.

{p class=”tncms-inline-link”}Meade said that Lafer feared for his family’s safety and that his client believed he ran over a bicycle, not a person, and as soon as he learned what happened, he turned himself in at the Washington County Detention Center. Lafer was taken into custody on Sept. 14, two days after the incident took place.

“He was trying to protect his family,” and didn’t know what might happen as the protesters seemed to surround his vehicle, Meade said.

Demonstrators marched from Founders Park to City Hall chanting “No justice, no peace” and “Black Lives Matter,” among other calls for social justice.


Sports
Moore, a founder of Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway, dies at 91

By Jeff Birchfield

Carl Moore, one of the founders of Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway, died Thursday. He was 91.

Moore, an Army veteran, served in the Tennessee House of Representatives and later as the majority leader of the state Senate. He also served on the East Tennessee State University Board of Advisors.

Along with Larry Carrier and R.G. Pope, Moore attended a NASCAR race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1961. They were inspired to build Bristol Motor Speedway, which was located on the land of a former dairy farm. Four years later, the state-of-the art Bristol Dragway was carved between two mountains after plans for a road course fell through.

“The entire Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway family is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our dear friend and colleague Carl Moore, one of the founding fathers of this iconic facility 60 years ago,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway. “Carl was one of the visionaries who created the initial sketches and diagrams of Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway on the back of a brown paper bag.

“With his leadership and tireless work ethic, along with co-founders Larry Carrier and R.G. Pope, the track quickly became an established venue in NASCAR and has grown to be one of the sport’s fan-favorite destinations. Throughout the years he has been a wonderful supporter of everything that we do and he will be greatly missed. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Elliott, and the family.”

Moore remained involved in racing for the majority of his life. He and Carrier formed the International Hot Rod Association in 1970 after a falling out with the American Hot Rod Association.

In a 2005 story on the drag racing website CompetitionPlus.com, Moore recounted their conversation.

“Well, we no longer have the NHRA and now you just threw the AHRA out. What are we going to do?” Moore asked Carrier. “There are no other sanctioning bodies.”

Carrier responded, “We’ll just start our own.”

They did just that and the IHRA is in the midst of celebrating its 50th anniversary. It remains a top grassroots Sportsman drag racing organization in North America and, as noted by its “international” name, is a top professional and Sportsman sanctioning body in Australia.

In addition, Moore’s son, Randy, raced a specially designed Pro Mod Lamborghini and later a Pro Mod car with a 1953 Corvette body. Later on, Randy Moore competed in Monster Trucks, attempting a world speed record at Bristol Dragway.

Noted for his decades of service as a local lawmaker, Carl Moore was a strong advocate for Bristol, helping to get its designation as the “Birthplace of Country Music” and instrumental in the revitalization of downtown with the restoration of the Paramount Theatre.

He was married to Elliott G. Moore and was the father of four children. He was preceded in death by his oldest daughter, Janet, and is survived by daughters Cynthia Moore Lotz, Dana Moore, and son Randy as well as grandchildren and several friends.

A private service is scheduled for Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Bristol with post-pandemic Celebrations of Life to be held in Bristol and Nashville.


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