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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for May 1, 2023

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

We start with local news…

Child Rape Suspect on the Run (MainStreetMaury)

The District Attorney General of the 22nd Judicial District is requesting the public’s assistance in locating a former Culleoka man facing child rape charges.

In a press release issued Friday, DA Brent Cooper’s office asked the public to be on the lookout for Jonathan Marchon Ullrich, who was indicted last December on 21 counts, including rape of a child, aggravated sexual battery, rape, incest and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. Ullrich was released after posting $350,000 bond.

The release says that Ullrich should be considered as potentially armed and dangerous and that he has made statements indicating he may be violent and suicidal.

The release states that as a condition of bond, Ullrich was required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet. On Thursday deputies in Clay County, where Ullrich had moved to, went to his residence to perform a welfare check and found he was not there. Deputies reportedly found the ankle bracelet lying beside a note that read, “I can’t do this anymore.”

The DA’s office filed a motion to revoke Ullrich’s bond and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. A hearing is scheduled in Maury County Circuit Court on May 4.

Ullrich has reportedly been known to visit the Dale Hollow Lake area and is also known to have stayed previously in Henry Horton and Fall Creek Falls state parks.

The release states that in a previous incident, Ullrich barricaded himself inside his home for hours when deputies attempted to serve an order of protection upon him.

Ullrich served as the first principal of Longview Elementary School in Spring Hill from 2007 until 2014, when he violated the district’s anti-harassment policy by making inappropriate comments to a staff member. He was suspended for three days without pay and was required to attend harassment/sensitivity training. He has also taught at Fairview Elementary School.

Anyone with information on Ullrich’s whereabouts is asked to contact the district attorney’s office Criminal Investigations Division at (931) 380-2356, ext. 109 or the Maury County Sheriff’s Deoartment at (931) 388-5151.

Corrections Officer Convicted (CDH)

A Maury County corrections officer was convicted Thursday by a federal jury of obstruction of justice, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office of Middle District of Tennessee.

James Justice, also known as James Stewart Thomas, 32, of Columbia, a corrections officer with the Maury County Sheriff’s Office, was indicted in May 2022 and "charged with falsifying records relating to nonconsensual sexual contact that he had with a female inmate in his custody," a press release says from the office of U.S. Attorney Henry C. Leventis.

“Today’s verdict ensures that James Justice will be held accountable for his actions. As importantly, it ensures that he will no longer be entrusted to serve as a law enforcement officer,” Leventis said. “I commend our trial team and partners at the FBI for an excellent job of investigating and presenting this case to the jury.” 

Testimony and evidence produced at trial established that Justice wrote an official report in which he 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 a hospital. 

The report also falsely claimed that those two Maury County Jail supervisors both advised him not to write a report about the alleged sexual advances by the inmate, and the report omitted that he had a sexual relationship with the inmate after her release from the custody of the Maury County Jail.

Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland called the incident unfortunate and a career-ending outcome, but also said repeated investigations into Justice, aka James Stewart Thomas, have uncovered no evidence of an inappropriate relationship with a female inmate while in custody.

"After numerous attempts of gaining evidence, there is no proof, information or complaint from a willing victim that would indicate James Thomas had any inappropriate relationship while an inmate was in custody," Rowland said.

"The Maury County Sheriff's Office, the 22nd District Attorney and the FBI have investigated finding no proof and no alleged victim has come forward to cooperate with authorities."

Justice faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 18. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Klopf of the Middle District of Tennessee and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton of the Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case. 

Farm City Breakfast (WKOM Audio 2:00)

On Friday morning, Maury Alliance hosted the annual Farm City Breakfast. WKOM/WKRM’s Delk Kennedy attended the event and spoke to Melissa Jones, whose property was recognized as this year’s century farm…

CSCC Lineman Rodeo (Press Release)

The Columbia State Community College Office of Workforce and Continuing Education recently hosted a Pre-Apprentice Lineworker Academy Mini-Rodeo that allowed students to demonstrate the skills they learned during the seven-week program. 


“I am so proud of this program and the participants,” said Melody Murphy, Columbia State Workforce and Continuing Education director. “They come here every day and work hard for seven weeks in order to gain valuable skills and credentials to set them up for an opportunity to join the electrical lineworker workforce. We are thankful to have this program, and we could not do it without the support of our area utilities and municipalities. I look forward to seeing this program continue to grow.”

Upon completion of the program, the students received a Tennessee Valley Public Power Association climbing certification, first aid and CPR certifications, 10-hour safety card and flagging certification. In addition, the students are prepared to sit for a commercial driver’s license.

During the mini-rodeo, students competed in different activities including the 80-foot pole climb, bell change and switch transfer. 

In the first activity, students climb up and down an 80-foot pole, which is a necessary part of the TVPPA Climbing Lab Certification. In this activity, Caleb Carter came in first place, Karson Hendon from Culleoka came in second place and Wayne Johnson came in third place.

The bell change and switch transfer are activities lineman would do in the field as a result of lightning, loose connections or replacement of aging materials to maintain electricity for those in the service area.

In the bell change, students climb a 40-foot pole and change out the bell that holds the line to the pole. In this activity, Caleb Carter came in first place, William Sparkman from McMinnville came in second place and Hayden Arnold came in third place.

In the switch transfer, students climb a 40-foot pole to change out the switch attached to the cross-arm of the pole. In this activity, Caleb Carter came in first place, Hayden Arnold came in second place and Noah Webb from Pleasant View came in third place.

In the overall rodeo, Caleb Carter came in first place, Hayden Arnold came in second place, and Wayne Johnson came in third place. 

In addition to his performance in the rodeo, Caleb Carter was presented with the Pre-Apprentice Lineworker Academy Outstanding Student Award.

The Pre-Apprentice Lineworker program is a result of communities from across Middle Tennessee coming together to fill a need in the workforce. 

For more information about the program, please visit Upcoming cohorts are scheduled for fall 2023. All individuals interested in the program should register through the link and it will place them on a contact list for future classes.

Principle Decides to Stay in Columbia (CDH)

After principal of Columbia Central High School Michael Steele was considered as a candidate to serve as the next superintendent of Hickman County Schools, he has instead decided to stay in Lion Nation.

The Hickman County School Board voted, 5-2, on April 26 in favor of making Steele an offer of $125,000 as a starting point to spark negotiations for an annual salary rate. Board members supporting Steele called him the best person for the job and talked about drafting a contract by Monday, after a long and arduous superintendent selection process.

However, Steele sent an email notice to staff Friday morning, informing them of his decision to keep leading CCHS to future academic success and growth.

In the email, Steele explains he was approached twice by a "search company" to apply for the superintendent job in Hickman just northwest of Maury County, bordering Dickson and Fairview.

"At that time, I turned down the opportunity, because frankly, I love it here," Steele said in the email. "A few weeks ago, they asked me to reconsider, and I thought it prudent to go through the process and see what the opportunity might look like. I did that."

Steele said he pursued the application process to gain more information about the opportunity, ultimately deciding to stay at the helm of CCHS.

"As you know, I was not going to enter anything without giving my very best, and I did not go into the interview process to lose, but I also did not go into the interview process certain I would accept an offer. When I think about how much you and these students mean to me, it became very clear, I not only need to stay, but want to stay. And I do not want to leave a place I’ve come to love and appreciate so much. This team has done tremendous work this year, and we have work to do. I’m returning to LION NATION next year, and I’m very excited that we will have the opportunity to impact so many students."

Steele outlined his plan for continued growth and success at the school next year as follows:

Finish this year with excellence.

Have an amazing summer.

Come back and let’s have a flawless opening. 

Reinvent yourself to be better and more creative.

Start the year with a higher level of consistency and expectation.

Continue to raise the bar for excellence.

Steele was named as the new principal of CCHS last year.

Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Ventura said she is "elated" at the news Steele is staying put.

“Dr. Steele was one of my first hires in MCPS as Superintendent, and I am extremely excited to see him continue the progress at Columbia Central High School. MCPS is thriving. We are retaining exceptional staff and look forward to improving academic success."

Mule Day 5K Raises Over $34k (Press Release)

A total of 564 runners and walkers participated in the 2023 Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot, presented by First Farmers Bank, at Riverwalk Park on Saturday, April 1, raising a record $34,784 for the Maury Regional Health Care Foundation thanks to contributions from racers and local sponsors.

Proceeds from the Mule Kick 5K & 1-Mile Trot help to support Maury Regional Health’s mobile medical unit, which serves at-risk and uninsured patients throughout the region and has touched the lives of thousands of individuals since 2017. Proceeds also support the Foundation’s Wellness and Aquatics Center Healthy Living Endowment, the city of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department and the physical education program at Santa Fe Unit School, the area school with the most race participants.

Ace Hardware Garden Center (WKOM Audio 2:54)

On Saturday, Columbia Ace Hardware held a grand opening for their new garden center. Our own Delk Kennedy stopped by and spoke to store manager Trip Stoltz to learn more about what the garden center has to offer…

Southern Farmscapes (WKOM Audio 2:36)

At Ace Hardware was an exhibit created by Southern Farmscapes. Delk Kennedy spoke with Tom Viera to learn more about what Southern Farmscapes has to offer…

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

Mrs. Bettye Jean Worley Malugin, 90, Key Punch Operator for CPS in Franklin, died Wednesday, April 26,2023 at Magnolia Healthcare. A graveside service for Mrs. Malugin will be conducted Tuesday at 2:00 P.M. at Pleasant Mount Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Elizabeth Anne Davis Hendrix, 80, resident of Columbia, died Thursday, April 27, 2023 at Brookdale of Columbia. Per Anne’s wishes there will be a private family burial at Rose Hill Cemetery. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

…And now, news from around the state…

Tennessee Renaissance Festival Opens (MauryCountySource)

The Williamson County Parks and Recreation Department (WCPR) proudly presents the 37th Annual Tennessee Renaissance Festival May 6-29, 2023.

Travel back to 16th Century England where the Village of Covington Glen comes alive with the bustle of a Renaissance Marketplace. Artisans from all over the country display their wares from silks and swords; to jewels and unique forms of art. A variety of flavors, aromas and tastes greet festival-goers as the voices of renaissance musicians and merrymakers echo through the trees. Enjoy the revelry and pageantry of the joust, along with tea and a special visit with Her Majesty, the Queen. This year’s event also features a variety of additions including new entertainers and merchants; a new special event, Fairy Training, for ages 5-10; and a new form of admission, our exclusive Ambassador Pass.

WCPR Department Director, Gordon Hampton says, “As we embark on our second year hosting the Tennessee Renaissance Festival; we are excited to welcome everyone back to the festival grounds at Castle Park. Our staff has worked tremendously hard on upgrading facility amenities and adding new experiences and features to this time-honored, beloved event. We look forward to seeing you this spring and every year to come at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival.”

Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday in May (6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21, 27, and 28) and on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29. Daily General Admission Tickets start at $25 per adult; $10 for children ages 6-12; and children ages 5 and younger are admitted for free. Ambassador and Festival Passes, good for admission on all nine days of the event, range from $100-$135; and parking is free. The festival is held at Castle Park, 2135 New Castle Rd., in Arrington. For detailed information on this year’s festival, pass options, and to purchase tickets, visit

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

Nashville International Airport (BNA®) opened an additional parking garage this past week to accommodate the airport’s exponential growth. The new garage, named “Garage B” is a six-level parking garage with 1,800 covered parking spaces. The garage connects directly to the on-site Hilton hotel that will open in late 2023.

For more information, please visit:


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