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Teen driver faces attempted murder
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A Lenoir City teenager is facing attempted first-degree murder and numerous other charges after he attempted to flee from a traffic stop.

Loudon County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Clay Jenkins attempted to conduct a traffic stop at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the intersection of Old Highway 95 and Hotchkiss Valley Road East after seeing the driver, Isaac Hunter Pennington, 19, was not wearing a seat belt and knew he was driving without a valid license.

Pennington, in a green 2005 Acura ATL, increase speed and nearly hit Deputy Keith Swinney’s vehicle after Jenkins initiated his lights.

“Mr. Pennington fled on Harrison Road reaching speeds of 90 mph in a 30 mph zone,” Jenkins wrote in a report. “He then did not stop at the stop signs at the intersection of Harrison Road and Norwood Street and another intersection of Loudon Ridge and Hubbard Road while driving on the wrong side of the road passing cars in the wrong lane of travel.”

Cpl. Lance Anderson was stationed ahead at the intersection of Old Sugarlimb and Sugarlimb roads.

“Up ahead of the pursuit, Cpl. Lance Anderson positioned himself to pull spike strips on the other side of the road,” Jimmy Davis, LCSO chief deputy, said. “... He was beside his car in a ditch line off the roadway, his car was in the lane of travel. As the car approached he started to attempt to pull the string and pull those across. Pennington was actually headed straight for Cpl. Lance’s car and ended up taking a left and going off the road toward Cpl. Anderson, almost striking him. Instead of going on the roadway and on the opposite lane of traffic where Cpl. Anderson’s vehicle was, he went off the roadway toward Anderson where he was posted up to pull the string, barely missing him, and then coming back out on the road and then wrecking and that’s when we took him into custody.”

Davis said deputies believe Pennington intentionally tried to hit Anderson.

After wrecking, Pennington attempted to flee on foot but was taken into custody.

Jenkins could smell a “strong alcoholic beverage” coming from Pennington, who refused to perform field sobriety testing or give a blood sample.

“Upon search of the vehicle I then located a glass pipe used to smoke methamphetamine in the back of the driver seat,” Jenkins wrote in the report. “It was then found that Isaac had three warrants out of Blount County and had a suspended driver’s license, confirmed through dispatch. Contact was then made with the back seat passenger, Elizabeth Kress, who was found to have one active warrant out of Loudon County.”

Kress told deputies she begged Pennington to stop the car.

Both were taken to Loudon County Jail. Kress was found with 0.63 grams of a crystal-like substance, according to the report.

Davis said it lately seems law enforcement calls are becoming more dangerous.

“Obviously, we had the shooting a couple of weeks ago where officers were shot at,” he said. “This one an officer was almost struck with a vehicle that was pursued. Pursuits are going up. I’m not sure whether people just don’t feel they need to stop or think we won’t pursue them, but it just seems to be getting more dangerous for the officers as well as the community as people are just refusing. Usually, obviously there’s a very good reason why they do not stop when we try to do a traffic stop on them and it’s just hard to have that judgment call of what’s more of a danger — the pursuit or them being just to let them go. That’s a very difficult decision and we have to evaluate those every time someone fails to stop and we call a pursuit, we have to evaluate what is more of a greater danger to the public, the person being out of custody or the pursuit itself. That’s something we take very seriously.”

Pennington was charged with evading arrest, reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, attempted first-degree murder, underage driving while intoxicated, violation of implied consent, driving on a revoked/suspended license, traffic control device, use of safety belt in a passenger vehicle, driving on roadways laned for traffic, speeding 21 mph over limit, resisting arrest, due care, reckless driving, vandalism and possession of drug paraphernalia and held on $182,000 bond.

Elizabeth Kay Kress, 30, Philadelphia, was charged with contraband in a penal institution, violation of probation and manufacture, delivery, sale or possession of meth and held on $32,000 bond.

A juvenile male also in the car was not charged.

Vaccine distribution progressing
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Loudon County Health Department is asking for patience as representatives work through a vaccine distribution plan projected to last through the year.

According to a Vaccine Allocation Phase chart from the Tennessee Department of Health, vaccinations will go through the fourth quarter.

Phases 1a1 and 1a2 include first responders, residents and staff at long-term care facilities, 18-year-olds who cannot live independently, funeral/mortuary workers and people over age 75. Estimated timeline and phases are subject to change, according to the state

“Right now we are doing 1a2, outpatient health care workers, mortuary (workers) we’ve done them and now we’re in part of 1a2 is 75 and older, so we’re in 1a2,” Teresa Harrill, county health department director, said Jan. 6. “We have been told we need to do as many as we can — everybody 75 and older that wants a vaccine we need to vaccinate them. Now the problem is the process of getting, and I know people have been complaining, people have been calling — we’re doing the best we can.

A new SignUpGenius program should now be in use, replacing Eventbrite.

Appointments can be made at https://www.signupgenius.com/go/loudon-priority-list. A notification will be sent to the person on the waiting list when they can be vaccinated. Harrill said they will then need to come back in 28 days for the second shot.

The health department received the first shipment of 600 Moderna vaccine vials Dec. 21. Harrill said those have been used to vaccinate 1,181 people.

“From what we understand, Tennessee hasn’t got as many doses as they thought they would,” Harrill said. “A lot of the doses that probably would be coming to us more in more quantity is probably going to the nursing homes, which that’s a good thing. We’re just kind of wait and see whenever we get another shipment in.”

Jan. 2 was the department’s first big community push when 448 people were vaccinated.

Judy Hurst, nursing coordinator, said workers were on site 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

“The big thing Saturday was our first big community (push), and that was for 75 and older, health care and 75 and older,” Harrill said. “The problem with that when people show up and they don’t have an appointment, if we know we’ve got — like yesterday, Judy said we have 260 doses and there was 260 people on the list. If somebody had another person in their car that went, ‘Well, I brought them along,’ you’re not getting it because you weren’t on the list.”

Hopes are to give vaccines off site in the future due to high traffic, but a location has not been announced.

“We’re going to take it off site so that we don’t have people parked (down the road),” Hurst said. “I’m sure that we did disrupt a lot of traffic flow, and I know that we disrupt a lot of stuff when we’re here but, one, we know what works now. The paperwork takes the most time. We need to get more people out to do paperwork, that’s it, and advise people. ... For the second one it shouldn’t be so hard because, again, all we have to do is make sure everything’s the same and just get the shot.”

The plan is for vaccinations Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while Tuesday and Thursday will be for testing at 1:30 p.m., Harrill said.

“I promise them that as soon as they give us vaccine, I promise that it’ll be available to them,” Hurst said. “That has been throughout. The first day that we got it, we had long enough to process it, to catalog it, get it into the system so that we could start dispersing it and it went into arms. That’s what the governor has wanted and that’s what — everybody wants them to get into arms, and it’s patience. I really want us to get the vaccine, and we will get it in arms as soon as we possibly can.”

Loudon resident Harold McNabb received his shot Jan. 6.

“I’ve been detected for the COVID once,” he said.

“But he didn’t have symptoms,” Jane McNabb, Harold’s wife, added. “He’s fighting cancer so he needs everything he can to help.”

County sees gains in pulled permits
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The number of permits pulled in Loudon County showcase positive growth even during a difficult 2020.

The county issued 647 permits, which surpassed the prior high of 622 in 2018.

“I thought it would be another good year,” Jim Jenkins, county codes enforcement director, said. “I think we were going to hold true for the past few years. We’ve been on this uptick and we’re kind of at this level where even last year was pretty good, so I expected it to be fairly even with last year. We didn’t issue 600 more permits, we issued more. ... I expect Loudon County to continue no matter what the economy does. I think Loudon County will continue to be shielded from a lot of the effects of the rest the country and will continue to grow.”

Lenoir City experienced gains in residential, more than doubling single-family permits from 2019, Beth Collins, city planner, said. Lenoir City pulled 113 permits compared to 69 in 2019.

“In 2019 we wrote 23 single-family permits and 2020 we wrote 66,” Collins said. “I mean it’s great. It’s great that things are still moving forward. We’ve been very fortunate in Lenoir City that since I’ve been here we’ve never really had much of a slowdown. We’ve either stayed steady or increased year to year pretty much. We’ve got several subdivisions that are going on right now, which has helped drive this. But I mean sheer number-wise that’s a big jump from ‘19 to ‘20.”

Collins pointed to expansion in Knoxville as a possible reason why Lenoir City continues to grow.

“We have a very unique location here with all the roadways that come in and out of the city,” Collins said. “You’ve got (Highways) 321, 11, you’ve got 95 and 70, plus you’ve got Interstates 40 and 75. You can be in a lot of places in 20 minutes. A lot of people can get — their money goes farther as far as the housing market and things here than say West Knoxville or something. They can get a little bigger house, nicer house, it’s also not as dense, so you have a little bit more elbow space here. You have more of a smaller-town feel than you do in West Knoxville or something like that, and it’s not a bad commute anywhere.

“... 2020 was kind of an up year for residential and I think that’s because we had several subdivisions that had some expansions going and we’ve got so much trickle down as far as residents coming from other cities or states,” she added. “We have a lot of people moving here from other states that like the climate and weather and that sort of thing.”

New subdivisions such as Ashe Avenue are popping up, while Harrison Glen, Carrington and Allenbrook remain strong.

Even commercial development is “steady,” she said.

“For instance, in ‘19 we did six new commercial and in ‘20 we did eight,” Collins said. “In ‘19 we did 14 additions or renovations to commercial, we did 17 in ‘20, so they’ve stayed pretty even as far. Now, a lot of times on the commercial side of things you’re thinking out way into the future. Toward the end of last year we had a dramatic drop off on our commercial side. I think that had to do with many people didn’t know where things were going to head with the pandemic and stuff, so probably put a halt to some projects. That has kind of stayed like that so far. Of course, this our down time anyway building-wise until we hit about March. When March and April get here I’ll be interested in seeing if things pick back up. It may take a moment for the commercial side to pick back up.”

Loudon’s residential permits have increased since 2018. In 2020, the city pulled 98 residential and 14 commercial permits.

Ty Ross, Loudon manager, believes that’s a good sign for the city.

“The cost of money is with interest rates being low that helps the city as well,” Ross said. “It’s easier for the city to borrow money for projects. ... Loudon County, the city of Loudon in particular, it’s a great place to live. There’s great bones here for development, major arterial and connector roads on this side of the county, along with the interstate and the waterfront.”

He hopes similar growth will occur in 2021.

“If I had a crystal ball I would say that the second half of 2021 would be better than the first half of 2021 just because we’ll have hopefully a handle on the pandemic through greater vaccine distribution,” Ross said.

'Nuisance' house shuttered

Another house in Loudon County has been boarded up after law enforcement served an injunction following several drug-related incidents at the property.

Loudon County Sheriff’s Office, 9th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office and Loudon County Maintenance Department arrived Thursday to board up the house in the 300 block on Clarke Road in Lenoir City. There were no arrests.

The verified petition for abatement of nuisance lists property owners Cynthia Winfree of Louisville, Ky., Lonnie Raper and Marion Raper, both of Maple Grave, Minn., and Jeffrey Raper of Lenoir City.

According to a release from Russell Johnson, 9th Judicial District attorney general, the residence had multiple calls ranging from drug overdoses, sale of illegal drugs and other criminal activity. Until the court orders otherwise, residents of the house are not allowed to be on the property.

“These operations are a lot of work and it takes a substantial number of verified calls for service that are drug and criminal activity,” Johnson said in an email correspondence. “... These are not something that happen frequently — probably one or two a year, although we are seeing more need for them as the Detroit gangs that traffic in heroin seem to be making their way into our communities through Knoxville for Loudon County and Oak Ridge for Roane County.

“Both meth and heroin, and sometimes even cocaine, which is coming back again, laced with fentanyl, are what is causing both the fatal and non-fatal overdoses,” he added. “When the COVID-19 pandemic began we were first seeing an increase in overdoses and now, as we reached the end of the 2020 year, the violent gun activity related to drug trafficking. Violent crime with guns in 2020 was up 200%-250% in most areas of Tennessee per the (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) statistics.”

Johnson said there have been three non-fatal overdose calls and other activity, the most recent being a drug sale associated with Devin Damascus McGuire, 31, who was charged with attempted first-degree murder after he fired an AR-15 at officers during a pursuit Dec. 27.

Drugs and paraphernalia were found at the residence.

“We had started building a case on it but we’ve had some recent, what we call accelerated, traffic in the recent time span and we decided once those last few incidents had happened there related to other drug investigations, we petitioned the court and they saw fit to go ahead and close it because of the numerous (incidents),” Jimmy Davis, LCSO chief deputy, said. “Basically it was just a good case, built a bunch of evidence against them, finally got enough that we believed the court also agreed we could go ahead and shut it down.”

According to the petition by Johnson, the nuisance property was associated with 17 incidents dating back to January 2019.

The petition recounts a Feb. 16, 2019, structure fire at the property after a woman called 911 and was “hysterical” speaking with dispatchers. When deputies arrived, they found a man using a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and located 75 syringes, six can bottoms with drug residue, a tourniquet, two crack pipes and several spoons with drug residue.

Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider said the house was a destination for “numerous complaints.”

“We’ve certainly had our intentions on trying to get the injunction and get it boarded up for a little bit of time but it takes time in court. Thankfully, it was time,” Guider said.