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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for March 28, 2024

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


We start with local news…

Missing Teen (Press Release)

The Columbia Police Department is trying to locate a 15-year-old runaway juvenile, Ayden Blake Ramey-Northrup.

Ayden was last seen on March 26th, 2024, in the area of Quail Run Way. Ayden is 5’11” tall and weighs 140 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing a white shirt, black shorts, white/black Nike shoes, and a black backpack.

Any person with additional information that may assist in this or any other investigation is encouraged to contact Columbia Police Department Dispatch (24 hours) at 931-388-2727, Maury County Crime stoppers at 931-381-4900, or Columbia Police SAFE Tip Email to SafeTips@ColumbiaTN.Com

Justice Sentenced (MSM)

A former corrections officer with the Maury County Jail, James Stewart Justice, was sentenced on Friday, March 15 to 15 months in prison and one year of supervised release. A federal jury previously convicted Justice of falsifying a record in a federal civil rights investigation for a report he wrote in response to allegations that he had sexually abused an inmate in his custody.

“Corrections officers are entrusted with immense power over the inmates in their care. The vast majority of them carry out their important jobs with honor and integrity,” said United States Attorney Henry C. Leventis for the Middle District of Tennessee. “This prosecution, and the sentence imposed last week, however, should serve as a reminder that we will not hesitate to hold corrections officers accountable when they violate the law and the public trust.”

“This defendant abused his authority as a corrections officer to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Law enforcement officers who oversee our jails and prisons have a responsibility to protect people in their custody. Officers must treat allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and document them carefully. We will continue holding officers accountable when they abuse their position of power to cover up their unlawful conduct.”

“This sentence is the result of relentless efforts by the FBI to bring to justice corrections personnel who abuse their position of trust,” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas S. DePodesta of the FBI Memphis Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with our partners to ensure the physical safety and civil rights of all individuals and ensure that any public servant who abuses their authority is held accountable.”

According to court documents, the defendant, formerly known as James Stewart Thomas, wrote an official report for the Maury County Jail in response to allegations that he had sexually abused an inmate he had guarded in a hospital room while the inmate recovered from major surgery. In his report, Justice falsely claimed that he had reported to two Maury County Jail supervisors that an inmate had made sexual advances toward him while the inmate was in his custody at the hospital, falsely claimed that those two Maury County Jail supervisors both advised him not to write a report about the inmate’s alleged sexual advances and omitted a claim he later made to criminal investigators that he had a sexual relationship with the inmate after the inmate’s release from custody.

The FBI Memphis Field Office, Nashville Resident Agency investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda J. Klopf for the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

First Responders Save Buried Man (MSM)

The Maury County Fire Department and other first responders are finding themselves credited as heroes after recently rescuing a man who was buried alive as the result of a landslide accident.

According to a press release from MCFD, the department responded on Tuesday, March 19 to a mutual aid call from Lewis County on Keg Springs Road in the Hampshire community. The Lewis County and Hohenwald fire departments had discovered the face of a chert pit had collapsed onto a backhoe, almost completely burying it and its operator.

First responders were able to make verbal contact with the backhoe operator, who had been buried for approximately 12 hours before being found by family members who became concerned when they could not reach him by phone.

“It was an open-station piece of equipment and there was just a small pocket and that’s where his head was. The rest of his body was completely covered in dirt,” MFCD Deputy Chief Richard Schatz.

Only part of the backhoe’s roof was visible, along with the man’s head and one arm. Officials lowered a pipe into the void area to provide fresh air during the rescue.

Two civilians provided backhoes, while Hohenwald Utilities and the Maury County Highway Department each provided excavators to help dig the man out. Maury, Lewis and Hohenwald fire department members also formed a bucket brigade to remove dirt from around the buried backhoe. The Spring Hill Fire Department provided a trench trailer and additional manpower which was used when initial responders became exhausted by the length of the rescue.

Officials with the Maury County Office of Emergency Management handled air monitoring to ensure the heavy equipment was not emitting carbon dioxide into the area where the victim was stuck. OEM also provided lumber for shoring up areas as needed. In addition, Maury County EMS paramedics provided oxygen and Advanced Life Support (ALS) care to the victim.

After removing enough dirt to clear the sides of the backhoe, the roof was cut off with a rotary saw and removed by the Maury County Highway Department. The victim was then successfully extracted and taken to a Vanderbilt University Medical Center LifeFlight helicopter. Updates on his condition were not immediately available, but the man was reported to be conscious and talking to first responders throughout the rescue.

“The tremendous skill and precision displayed by these heavy equipment operators was pivotal to the successful outcome of this incident,” MCFD said in its statement. “We appreciate the great working relationships with our emergency service and public works partners who all came together to ensure a successful rescue of a high-risk, low-frequency event.”

Archery Range Groundbreaking (WKOM Audio 2:07)

Yesterday, Yanahli Park Recreation Area held the groundbreaking for their archery range and new shelter. Front Porch Radio’s Mary Susan Kennedy attended the opening and spoke to Maury County Parks Director Al Ray and Clint Owen, President of Columbia Breakfast Rotary to learn more…

Spring Hill Historic Development Plan (CDH)

The city's Town Center Redevelopment Committee, a group formed in 2019 with the intent to revitalize and preserve one of Spring Hill's oldest districts, presented its latest findings and updates to the city's planning commission Monday.

The committee discussed three different character areas in Spring Hill and how to connect them with "common threads."

"When we started this project, we realized that we had three distinctive character areas, which contained a different part of our history," Spring Hill Historical Commission Chair and committee member Alisha Fitts said. "Old Towne is essentially from Kedron to Duplex, with a block or two to the west side. Town Center, which is where we are at now, is chapter two."

The third character area encompasses what will become the Kedron Square mixed-use development located at the former Tennessee Children's Home property.

"The concept is that we have these different parts of our history, and if we can find a way to connect them with common threads ... then it doesn't quite look so crazy," Fitts said. "Old Towne probably has the most challenges, since it is the oldest part of our town."

The group's latest project has been developing a long-term development plan, which was done in partnership with CT Consultants in 2022.

One of the initial goals regarding Town Center's long-term plan is getting other city departments involved, Fitts said.

"Part of what we are trying to do in looking at stakeholder information is tying it together, like for example with Parks and Rec and having a greenway ... which feeds into the pedestrian, walkability kind of setup," Fitts said.

Options for funding could include applying for grant funding.

"I think the group understands that the community does want a place to gather, want it to be safe and can promote economic development," Town Center Committee Chairman Bill Benedict said. "After living in Spring Hill for 20 years, I can say that I know where its soul is, but just don't know where its heart is."

While the heart of the project lies along the Main Street corridor, as a district, improvements would also be focused on side streets, such as School Street, Spruce Street and McLemore Avenue, and local neighborhoods. Improvements would include street lighting, retail space, parking, underground utilities and signage.

The city is also in talks to purchase the Ferguson Hall property for future restoration, which Fitts said would "provide a proper anchor" for the district.

"This plan is intended to be fluid, and there will be a lot of things happening over time in this area," Fitts said. "This plan is intended to give us guardrails and to be flexible enough to tweak it as things modify in the Old Towne area."

When it came time for feedback from city planners, the general consensus was supportive, but also that more work lies ahead.

"I'm really encouraged by what's been put together. It's really trailblazing work, very good work and I am impressed," Commissioner Jonathan Duda said.

Duda added that adopting an official revitalization plan puts the city in good standing for grant eligibility through resources like the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

"You are demonstrating that you've got the political will of the body and that their funds can be put into action, whether that's further design or working with other aspects," Duda said.

No votes were taken Monday regarding adopting the Town Center long-term plan. The plan will be presented to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at a later time, who will hold authority over the final vote.

Monday's Town Center discussion, which lasted about an hour, can be viewed in full online via Spring Hill's homepage at www.SpringHillTN.org.

Simple Beauty by Gina Opening (WKOM Audio 1:24)

A new business opened in downtown Spring Hill yesterday. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy stopped by Simple Beauty to see what the new shop has to offer…

Towne Coffee (WKOM Audio 2:19)

Towne Coffee in North Columbia held a ribbon cutting at their new location in Columbia. Our own Delk Kennedy attended the grand opening and spoke to proprietors Betsy and David Wood to hear about what cuisine and coffee they offer…

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

Leonard Charles Cole, 81, former resident of Columbia, died Friday, March 22, 2024 in Milton, Florida where he had made his home in recent years.

Graveside services will be conducted Thursday, March 28, 2024 at 2:00 PM at Rose Hill Cemetery.  Online condolences may be extended online at www.oakesandnichols.com.

Sue White Harlan, 90, resident of Roberts Bend Road, died March 25, 2024, at Poplar Estates Assisted Living in Columbia. 

Funeral services will be conducted Friday, March 29, 2024 at 10:00 AM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. Burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery.  The family will visit with friends on Thursday from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

Fire Station No. 3 Dedicated (WKOM Audio 3:02)

Yesterday, Fire Station No. 3 was dedicated and named in honor of late Columbia Mayor Barbara McIntyre. Front Porch Radio’s Delk Kennedy attended the dedication ceremony and spoke to former Vice Mayor Christa Martin about Mayor McIntyre’s legacy…

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Featuring more than 100 performances covering a range of genres and styles, the Nashville Symphony has announced its 2024/25 season. Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero will conduct 8 of 15 Classical Series programs, with the full Series offering seminal works to showcase the virtuosity and versatility of the Orchestra’s musicians, including Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony No. 8, and Gustav Mahler’s Fifth and Eighth Symphonies. In addition to beloved staples of the classical repertoire, he will also give voice to underrepresented composers, with works including Carlos Simon’s The Block and Fate Now Conquers, Mary Lou Williams’s Zodiac Suite, and Jasmine Barnes’s Four Winds Concertante, among others.

Classical, Pops, Movie, Jazz, and Family Series subscriptions are on sale now, with packages ranging from 4 to 14 concerts. 


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