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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for January 12, 2024

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Columbia Man Charged (MSM)

A Columbia man has been indicted on multiple charges of sexual battery by an authority figure. The indictment, which was returned by a grand jury on Dec. 13, states that John Robin Waldrum unlawfully engaged in sexual conduct with a child 13 years of age or older, but less than 18 years of age.

The indictment also states that Waldrum, 53, “was in a position of trust and/or parental or custodial authority” over the juvenile at the time of the offense, and “used the trust and/or authority to accomplish the sexual contact,” which is a violation of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 39-13-527 and is considered a Class C felony.

According to the indictment, the crimes occurred “on or about the 14th day of June, 2023 to the 1st day of August, 2023, in Maury County.”

Waldrum was booked into the Maury County Sheriff’s Department on Tuesday, Jan. 2, and released on a $50,000 surety bond.

Waldrum is expected to make his first appearance in court Feb 1.

Tennessee Troubadour Returns to Stage (CDH)

Columbia resident Makky Kaylor is no stranger to overcoming the odds, and on multiple occasions.

The Memphis native has endured many struggles over the years, all with the goal of getting back to the stage and being the "Swanky Southern Crooner" as he's always been known. He was also recently named as the "Tennessee Troubadour" by proclamation of the Tennessee General Assembly in April for his contributions to the music industry.

On Saturday, Feb. 10, Kaylor will return to the stage in celebration of his 60th birthday. The show is also one of his first following a long recovery after undergoing open-heart surgery in November.

The show will be hosted at Puckett's in downtown Columbia, the venue Kaylor has come to call home, as well as the place he recorded his 2019 live album "Live from the Swanky South," which was recorded prior to him suffering two strokes later that year.

To Kaylor, music has always been his life's passion and what's gotten him through the hard times of medical scares and recovery. This latest bout with heart surgery also isn't his first, having undergone a similar ordeal in 2000 when he received a mechanical heart valve implant.

"With my last surgery, they said I'd probably make it 25 years before having to undergo surgery again, and I made it to 23," Kaylor said. "But I'm doing well and grateful to be getting back."

In addition to his career as a singer and songwriter in Memphis and on Music Row in Nashville, Kaylor's most recent foray has been creating a new brand with Southern Roots Radio, which continues to grow into 2024.

The programming, as he describes it, features a mix of all things Southern, including country, blues, jazz, as well as a monthly tourism podcast with Visit Columbia broadcast from the Columbia Welcome Center on North Main Street.

"When people think about Southern music, it's not just country," he said. "It's also jazz, soul and all kinds of things."

Their "Swanky Southern Nights" show airs 7-10 p.m. every Sunday.

"We love doing that show, and it's a blend of jazz, country, a little bit of soul. It's like putting the best elements of country and jazz together," Kaylor said. "We just love it so much."

Overcoming a second round of open-heart surgery last fall was something Kaylor said "was to be expected," following his initial surgery in 2000.

Only this time, the ordeal included a LifeFlight from Maury Regional to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, as well as a moment when things took a grim turn, requiring a crash unit after his heart stopped, and he was technically dead for a few minutes.

"I spent Thanksgiving at Vanderbilt and was there for 16 days," Kaylor said. "I just went back a few nights ago and thanked the nurse that revived me. She cried, and we hugged, and she was so glad to see me. She was with me the entire time telling me 'Stay with me.'"

Since his recovery, Kaylor is eagerly awaiting his return to the stage, as well as becoming a grandfather for the first time. To him, music, family and the Maury County community he has loved has kept him moving forward.

With a positive outlook on the future, for his health, his family and the Southern Roots Radio brand, Kaylor looks at broader horizons for the new year and getting back to what he loves most.

"I did a New Year's show, and I'm singing fine, in good voice," Kaylor said. "I'll get stronger with time. Otherwise, I'm fine, and we'll have a full band at Puckett's for my 60th. I'm grateful for that number, grateful for every number now, and it's going to be fun."

Ransom Spirits and Provisions Opening (WKOM Audio 4:42)

Yesterday afternoon, Ransom Spirits and Provisions held their grand opening. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the ribbon cutting and spoke to Daniel Peterson, one of the owners of the upscale eatery…

Brooks’ Suit Terminated (MSM)

The wrongful termination suit filed by Roy Brooks against the City of Columbia has been dismissed after both parties jointly filed for dismissal of the case. 

Brooks was suing the city in federal court, claiming he was unjustly terminated following multiple reports to his superiors about several alleged safety issues within the department. Brooks’ claims include staffing issues and false information being given to the Insurance Services Office (ISO), as well as employees conducting work without the proper credentials. 

Following those alleged reports, Brooks was reprimanded for allegedly failing to check personal equipment. 

One month later, Brooks claims he spoke with his superiors about out-of-date rope equipment, but was ignored on the matter. Brooks claimed this event led to a sexual harassment complaint and an accusation of not following the city’s COVID-19 policy. 

Following that meeting, Brooks was demoted from his position as Captain and was transferred to a different fire station. 

“As a result of the City of Columbia’s retaliatory behavior towards Plaintiff and adverse employment actions taken against him, (Brooks) began to suffer from anxiety and no longer trusted his superiors. (Brooks’) anxiety and distrust became so severe that he requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act on or about April 18, 2022,” case documents read. 

City attorneys contend Brooks was terminated after numerous policy violations that include the aforementioned issues with personal equipment and sexual harassment, but also failing to complete mandatory inspections of fire hydrants and continuing to work at Columbia State Community College while on leave. 

Brooks’ termination was upheld by a civil service board made up of citizens following an appeal.

While Brooks’ civil case has been dismissed, a criminal case in which he is the defendant is set for trial in May. Brooks is accused of carrying a firearm on school property, stemming from his 2023 response to Columbia Central High School during what turned out to be a hoax school shooting call. 

Brooks faces two years in jail if convicted of the offense.

Shelter Director Under Fire (MSM)

Allegations of abuse and negligence at the Maury County Animal Shelter were brought before the Maury County Health and Environment Committee at its most recent meeting on Jan. 2, but county leadership maintained progress is being made in those areas.

Heather Amagrande said she worked at the shelter for just 17 days, but in her time of employment she was concerned about the treatment of animals and the cleanliness of the shelter.

“I worked there for 17 days and in 17 days I saw the most disgusting, horrific conditions that I have ever seen in an animal shelter or rescue,” she told the committee. “I want to be a witness for the neglect, abuse and mistreatment of animals in the shelter. I sent pictures of the kennels of how they are filled with feces and urine for up to 20 hours a day.”

Shelter director Kaitlyn Stewart was elevated to her position in December 2022 after serving as a part-time employee and then office director previously. She has been employed at the shelter since 2015.

County Mayor Sheila Butt said she is standing behind Stewart at this time because she has been in the job for a short period of time and feels like she and the staff are working to improve conditions.

“We are doing leadership training, we are doing customer service training, we’re going to work with the volunteers,” she said during the meeting. “I think we have to give it some time to work through these issues. Then, if it doesn’t work, we have something to deal with. As long as I can stand behind my department heads, I will do that, and I will try to support them to do that job. That’s when I’ll make a decision whether they’re doing that job or not.”

Commissioner Jerry Strahan said he would like to see some movement toward a resolution in the matter quickly, and hoped his fellow commissioners agreed.

“I’m really getting kind of sick of this mess. I spoke with a volunteer when I was out there one day. This volunteer kept looking over her shoulder when I spoke to her, saying she was going to get in trouble for talking to you. Something is badly broken if that’s the situation,” he said. “I’m a commissioner. I have the responsibility to fix it, and I would ask this commission to help me fix it and fix it pretty quick – whatever that might be.”

The commission is only the funding body for the shelter, however, and has no jurisdiction over the department or the department head, Commission Chairman Eric Previti reminded his peers.

Strahan added he believes there is a personnel issue that needs to be addressed, which would fall under the commission’s purview once that decision has been made.

Currently, part-time employees and volunteers make up the vast majority of the shelter’s personnel, along with Maury County Jail inmates up until the end of the year in 2023. Trustee inmates are expected to return to the shelter once ankle monitors are able to be obtained by the sheriff’s office.

Volunteers, however, have felt mistreated at times as well. Volunteer coordinator Kim Raffauf told commissioners she would prefer the relationship between the staff and volunteers be mended, if possible.

“The volunteers are willing to work with the shelter, we want it to be a good place. We don’t come there to cause trouble,” she said. “We’re there to make it better for the animals; sometimes we’re met with a lot of opposition. I’ve never been able to figure out why – it’s always miscommunication gaps and things that can be easily solved.

“This isn’t a dictatorship. The second that people ask a question about something, they’re going to be asked to leave and not be a volunteer.”

Amagrande said while she worked in the facility, she felt staff believed they were above accountability.

“These people have been there for years . . . they have this mentality that they’re untouchable and this is how things have always worked,” she said. “As far as I’m concerned, the things I’ve seen in the shelter are horrific. This is a disgrace to the community – we should be horrified at what is going on here at this animal shelter.”

Additionally, she raised a concern that stray animals and those available for rescue are treated drastically different.

“The strays barely have any food, any water – they never see the light of day. They don’t get out of their kennels,” she claimed.

Stewart confirmed that stray animals – prior to any surgery they may require – are not walked or let out of their kennels.

“Since we had a distemper outbreak back in August, we’ve stopped moving them around as much, and we’ve seen a decrease in the number of respiratory infections in the shelter,” she told commissioners. “Most of the time, that is no more than two weeks, but like I said we do have some long-timers that are waiting for rescue to pull them.”

One of the animals has been awaiting rescue since Oct. 31, 2023.

Mayor Butt maintained the shelter is improving under Stewart’s leadership and staff is being trained to improve, and until she feels it is otherwise necessary, she will remain committed to Stewart and her staff.

“Work has been going on in the background for three months on this. It’s not like we’re just sitting here and saying it’s happening and we’re just going to let it happen – it does not work that way,” she said. “But I’m also not going to throw people under the bus when they’re trying to do their job, trying to do it better.

“There is a time where we say we’ve done everything we can do.”

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Mr. Price Keller, 85, retired from Aramark and a resident of Columbia, died Monday at Maury Regional Medical Center. A funeral mass will be conducted Friday at 3:00 PM at St. Catherine Catholic Church. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Mr. James Allison “Jim” Cook, Jr., 88, retired banker died Tuesday at his residence. Funeral services for Mr. Cook will be conducted Saturday at 12:00 noon at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 10:00 AM until 12:00 noon at the funeral home.

Mrs. Juanita Ann Overbey Taylor, 93, resident of Columbia, passed away Saturday, January 6, 2024 at NHC Columbia. Funeral services will be conducted Saturday, January 13, 2024 at 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends from 12:00 P.M. till the time of service at the funeral home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Guns at BNA (Tennessean)

The Transportation Security Administration in 2023 found the highest amount of guns at airport security checkpoint since 9/11, the agency announced this week. Nashville International Airport ranked in the top ten on that list.

In 2023, TSA discovered 6,737 guns in carry-on bags across 265 airports. At Nashville's BNA there were 188 guns discovered, putting the city at number five on the list. Approximately 93% of the firearms stopped at security checkpoints across the country were loaded.

Ranking in the top spot was Atlanta's Hartsfield–Jackson International Airport with 451 gun discoveries over the course of the year.

Though the number of guns found this year was about 200 higher than in 2022, the rate of guns discovered was slightly improved. TSA reported it screened more than 858 million individuals in 2023 for a rate of 7.8 firearms per million passengers. The agency discovered 8.6 guns per million passengers in 2022.

In 2023, guns were found and confiscated most often at the following airports:

451 guns found at ATL (Atlanta, Georiga)

378 guns found at DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas)

311 guns found at IAH (Houston, Texas)

235 guns found at PHX (Phoenix, Arizona)

188 guns found at BNA (Nashville, Tennessee)

When TSA finds a firearm in carry-on baggage, law enforcement is immediately contacted and the person is removed from the security checkpoint area. Depending on local laws, the person may be arrested or given a citation by law enforcement.

TSA does not confiscate firearms, but it was the authority to issue fines to passengers carrying guns, up to $15,000.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Anyone wishing to start a career in healthcare are invited to attend the New Year, New You Career Fair at Hospitots.

The fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at The Children's Academy at Hospitots, 1219 Trotwood Ave.

The event will feature industry experts and nursing professionals, who will provide interviews, advice sessions and resources for careers in healthcare service.

The first 50 attendees will also receive a free career development session voucher worth $50.

Race for the win, while having a lot of fun at Fairview Park this weekend for a day playing with RC cars.

Muletown 1RC Racing will host races at the Christa S. Martin Community Center, 871 Ironbridge Road, starting at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Races will include classes of crate late models, super late models and Eastern dirt modified cars. The event is also free to attend.

For more information, call (931) 922-8381.

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