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Unsolved mystery remains priority
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A pair of major cases pursued by local law enforcement remain unsolved.

On Oct. 1, 2019, Loudon County Sheriff’s Office received a call for an “unconscious and unresponsive” man on Shaw Ferry Road North in Lenoir City.

Jacob Dean Bishop, 35, was found by his mother. He was physically bound and shot multiple times, according to an LCSO release.

The case remains open.

Jimmy Davis, LCSO chief deputy, said the department has been working with Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

“The technology that they have available that we don’t, and when COVID hit that slowed the investigation way down because we were looking to do some polygraph testing and we wanted to use a state agency on that case for this murder case, they’re usually predicated by the DA to help us in those,” Davis said. “We couldn’t use some local law enforcement. We wanted to use the state agency for the homicide case, obviously, and so that slowed down because they were not doing any polygraph examinations for several months.

“We’ve sent some things to them and that I think has been slowed down also by COVID,” he added. “I’m not saying COVID is the whole reason why we don’t have any results yet by any means, but some of the leads and things we’re trying to eliminate are taking a little bit more time. We’re still in the process. We’ve got some things back from the lab that we’re still looking for leads and how to build on leads on that.”

Davis said LCSO has remained in contact with the family and considers the case a “priority.”

“It’s just we’re working on the leads that we have and trying to thoroughly examine those to the fullest extent before we turn to something else,” he said.

A white SUV was in the area days prior to the murder and left the day of Bishop’s death.

There are several contributing factors that make a case like this difficult to solve, Davis said.

“The victim being one of not being involved in any criminal activity that we know of or any kind of things or have any a lot of hard feelings from anybody or toward anybody that makes him, I wouldn’t say your normal victim,” Davis said. “It wasn’t a homicide of opportunity related to another crime, whether it be drug related or a break-in or theft or anything like that. That was not involved, so it lessened your areas of what you want to look at first, of known enemies or anything like that. We don’t believe that he had any, so it’s kind of a — as we call it, a ‘whodunit’ — and it takes time to go through and have the processing and testing that we have. We’re waiting on some DNA testing of evidence found at the scene and that’s just taking time to get back and hopefully turning up leads with that. Once that gets back, we think we’ll have a pretty hot trail in which direction to be able to turn our focus on.”

Despite being hopeful for DNA to turn up leads, Davis has concerns about a case that has taken more than a year.

“I mean every homicide we’ve had in Loudon County has 100% solve rate, and this one is concerning,” Davis said. “But do I think we’ll come to a resolution? Absolutely. I think with the technology that we’re using and the testing that we’re doing through the state agency, I absolutely believe it will be solved. I obviously can’t guarantee it, but I think we’ve done a very good job at preserving the scene and collecting what evidence was there and I have confidence in our (criminal investigations) division that eventually (it will be solved). It may take a little time, and some cases do, some cases take more time, whether it be by waiting on testing to come back or somebody saying something, whether it be guilt or somebody gets mad at somebody and tells on them for whatever crime may be.

“That happens a lot in drug cases and happens a lot in several cases and crimes are solved that way,” he added. “Time is a little bit you would think not on our side but as time goes on I think it increases our chances. Like I said, it’s worrisome that it won’t be solved but I’m confident that we will do it.”

If anyone has information, contact LCSO at 865-986-4823.

Swimmer death puzzling

Authorities are still looking for the person responsible for the death of 55-year-old Michael Carnock Sr., who went swimming May 2018 in Tellico Lake and died after a boat apparently him.

Carnock was found in June 2018 after a 17-day search. He was in town from Maryland visiting with family in Tellico Village.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is in charge of the investigation.

“The incident remains under investigation,” Matthew Cameron, TWRA spokesman, said in an email correspondence. “There have been some leads that have been investigated by several different agencies, however, there hasn’t been anything recent.”

Cameron said unwitnessed boating incidents are always difficult to investigate.

“Besides the fact there is no apparent person that saw what happened, there is no damaged boat to look at, no roadway with skid marks, no physical evidence and no real crime scene,” Cameron said.

If anyone has information, contact TWRA at 1-800-831-1174.

County ranks high in well-being
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Loudon County recently ranked near the top in Tennessee for overall child well-being, but local experts believe there’s room for improvement.

According to the Tennessee Commission for Children & Youth, Loudon County comes in at 16th in the state. High marks include a high median household income, comparatively low rate of children living in poverty, above-average percentages of third- through eighth-grade students displaying TNReady reading and math proficiency and no child or teen deaths.

Areas of improvement include a somewhat high school suspension rate and a high rate of pregnancy among girls ages 15-17.

Loudon County ranks 11th in median household income at $55,186. Child poverty at 16% also ranks 11th.

“If 16% of our children are living in poverty in the county, ranking Loudon County No. 11 across the state, then fewer of our children are living at the poverty or below level,” Chris Evans-Longmire, Kids First Child Advocacy Center of the Ninth Judicial District executive director, said. “Again, we know families that are living at or below poverty are struggling in so many ways that children are going to be negatively impacted, period. For families to be experienced in less unemployment, less homelessness, less of a need to bring in outsiders to help them pay bills. Hopefully if they’re gainfully employed, there’s less drug and alcohol use. There’s less transition and interruption in the child’s home setting, so there’s less transition and interruption in their school setting.

“Again, all those things feed into a child having more stability,” she added. “A child having more consistency, a child having the opportunity to be more stable in their school environment, to be more stable in their community, to be more likely to be successful in all those areas, which minimize and reduces their adverse childhood experiences, which sets them on to a better path to be more successful in their adulthood and to create a safer and healthier community. ... All of that starts in childhood, and that’s such an important part of the puzzle for creating a safer and healthier community. It starts now with these children and then it goes forward.”

Overall economic well-being ranked ninth, although Evans-Longmire believes teen pregnancy at 47th is a concern.

Overall family and community ranked 39th. Substantiated abuse and neglect case ranked 37th with 4.9 cases per 1,000 residents. Reported child abuses cases ranked 11th.

The CAC in 2019-20 worked with 285 children, Evans-Longmire said.

She pointed to CAC’s school-based program that educates children through seventh grade on body safety.

“The bright side is they’re telling, and we’re able to help them sooner instead of them struggling through adolescence and middle school and becoming teens and young adults that are now using drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, to numb out, because they can’t deal with what happened to them,” Evans-Longmire said. “They’re dropping out of school, they’re becoming pregnant early on or suicidal ideations or unfortunately some of them actually commit suicide. Thankfully, we can find out sooner than later and we can start to intervene in services and help those children work through it and become survivors of their abuse so that they actually have a life that they look forward to and they are not held captive by their abuser.

“How do I look at it? For me, we have the opportunity to make changes and the county supports that,” she added. “That’s the bright side to me. We know about them, because the truth of the matter is those kids are out there and they’re going to continue to be out there and either we can help them and we can make changes or we’re going to lose them one way or another.”

Education makes gains

Loudon County ranked 14th in the state for overall education, receiving high marks in third- through eighth-grade reading and math proficiency at 15th and 11th, respectively.

“I think obviously if kids are proficient in reading then that’s going to improve their self-esteem, it’s going to improve their confidence, improve their ability to function in society to become a better citizen,” Michael Garren, county director of schools, said. “We’re excited that that ranked out 15th in the state with our reading proficiency. That’s something that we’ve been focusing the last few years is our early literacy and reading proficiency by focusing on some high-quality instructional materials, changing the way we do our instruction in those areas. That just helps show that what we’re doing is being effective and we’re on the right track.”

Garren pointed to efforts with the State Collaborative on Reforming Education and The New Teacher Project to improve literacy.

School-age special education services also proved high for the county at eighth in the state.

The school suspension rate is at 3.8%, coming in 64th in the state.

The Boys & Girls Club of Loudon County averages 85-90 children daily. Sarah Wilkerson, executive director, said the organization regularly examines child well-being reports.

“A great example of that is with COVID and kids after spring break being out of school, one of the things that we were able to implement over the summer was some tutoring,” Wilkerson said. “All of our kindergarten through sixth-grade members were able to work with a tutor for an hour a day either in English or math, and that’s kind of based on the numbers that we see generally for summer learning loss and the anticipation that that was going to be worse with them being let out after spring break. A lot of numbers like these definitely impact our program and the things that we choose to offer for our members, whether that’s tutoring, whether that’s preventative programs such as our SMART Moves program, where we teach kids positive peer pressure, how to handle emotions. Our older kids will delve into smart choices, saying ‘no’ to alcohol, drugs and those types of things as well.”

Wilkerson said families haven’t paid fees since spring, which will continue through at least April.

“This is the biggest impact we have, and I think it’s the main reason why we have Boys & Girls Clubs, is serving families who are working,” she said. “These families a lot of times it’s single parents that are having to work jobs that whatever they can get, low-income families, families with two-parent household incomes. That lower income, and it really does affect each and every one of these areas (listed on the well-being report). Us being open, being able to serve members at a reduced rate or a free scholarship like we have been for most of this year, that I think is one of the greatest impacts that we can have.”

Needs improvement

Loudon County ranked 59th in overall health.

Despite a positive median household income, children without insurance ranked 89th. Only 6.2% have insurance.

“I know that nationwide we’ve higher levels of employment across the board,” Evans-Longmire said. “People wanted work from at least from what it appears, people were able to find employment. I don’t know if health care wasn’t made available. I don’t know if health care is unaffordable as an option through some employment avenues. I don’t know if in Tennessee there is a problem accessing health care for children, or if people just aren’t aware how to access health care for children.

“I know here when we work with families here at the center, and even with Iva’s Place, it’s a little surprising to me when women with children under the age of 5, 5 and under, come in and how many of those kids are not on (Women, Infants and Children), for example,” she added. “They’re WIC eligible, but they’re not on WIC. Immediately one of the things we do is get them scheduled at the health department and get those kids over there, because with WIC it’s not just a food subsidy program, but there’s a health care component to that.”

For more information, visit http://www.tn.gov/tccy/countyprofiles.

City, LCUB acquire Creekwood properties
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Lenoir City and Lenoir City Utilities Board recently obtained property off Creekwood Park Boulevard that could have a future economic impact.

Tony Aikens, Lenoir City mayor, said LCUB in December paid $600,000 to First Horizon Bank for 13.3 acres beside the current office building, while the bank donated 8.92 acres beside The Venue at Lenoir City to the city.

“The property to the right of the utilities we felt like, not in the immediate future but in the future, LCUB may need that property,” Aikens said. “It was a good time to get it. We have no immediate plans.”

Aikens is eyeing something big for land beside The Venue.

“Obviously, you can build on it, and we may try to market the property next to The Venue hopefully when the coronavirus, when that situation gets better,” he said. “We may try to market the property next to The Venue for a hotel.”

There have been discussions in the past about a possible hotel near The Venue.

“(First Horizon) wanted to show that they’re good neighbors to the city, and certainly they didn’t just come up to us and say, ‘We’re going to donate this property to you’,” Aikens said. “We have been in talks with for quite some time with that property and the utility property. They saw a good opportunity and so did we. ... They don’t really want to be in the land business, and they would like to market — I mean, obviously, all that’s on the market out there. But it was a good deal for the city.”

Aikens said prior to the COVID-19 pandemic he was in talks with a developer of a potential hotel.

“I was going to approach First Horizon, and then when we started talking about the property next to the utilities, that’s when I started talking to First Horizon about the property next to The Venue,” Aikens said. “I saw a good opportunity there, and they were acceptable to donating the property. They gave us eight acres of prime property.”

He hopes something can happen once the economy improves.

“I think right now I don’t think they have any interest at all until the country goes back to work,” Aikens said. “I don’t foresee anything taking place right there until we all go back to work. ... Obviously, we would want a nice hotel out there. I don’t want a motel, I want a hotel. I think it’d be a perfect fit for that situation, but it’s just too early.”

Allison Sousa, The Venue director, said a hotel could make a big difference.

“Rachel (Harrell, Loudon County Visitors Bureau executive director) and I met last week to discuss (a request for proposal) for a travel writers conference,” Sousa said. “... It’d be a four-day event, and between The Venue and the meeting rooms next door and Rachel working with the hotels, we felt — it was 150 rooms for four nights — we felt like we could make it work. We’re reading through, we’re hitting all the parameters, it’s looking great and then we get to ‘sleeping rooms must be on site or within walking distance,’ and 90% of the RFPs that are out there for conferences and conventions have that requirement.”

Sousa believes building beside The Venue is just another step toward growth on Creekwood Park Boulevard.

“When you look at how (U.S. Highway) 321 is right now, it’s logical to think it’s got to expand somewhere,” she said. “I think having a hotel next door would not only bring in group-type business and tourism-type business, but I think it would also serve as an anchor perhaps for more of the retail and restaurant development, and especially in conjunction with the medical that’s there. I mean that’s becoming a hub as well, and when you think about the people in and out of those medical facilities, I think it could all work together really nicely to kind of come together and create some critical mass.”

Fishing near dam dangerous

Fishing near dams is known to produce great catches, but local experts are warning residents of the grave risk.

Since 2018, three fatal boating incidents have occurred below Fort Loudoun Dam. One non-fatal incident occurred under Melton Hill Dam.

While these numbers might seem low, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Officer Anthony Chitwood can only recall one other non-fatal incident below the dams in the last 10 years.

Chitwood believes the increase in incidents could be due to the rising popularity of tailwater fishing. Although he has been more proactive about warning fishermen of the dangers below dams, the incident rate has continued to increase.

Thomas Jumer, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 082-12-02 commander, said the danger is so great he won’t boat past the Gold Star Families Memorial Bridge on U.S. Highway 321.

“The dam, when it’s wide open, there’s about 250,000 gallons of water a second that goes over it,” Jumer said. “If you want to put it in weight, that’s over 2 million pounds of water per second. When that water hits the bottom of the dam, it creates a huge void. It creates a void, and the surrounding water flows into it. What happens then, that creates a swirl, and it’s called the entrapment zone and it varies with how much water is going over the dam. But it can go out many, many yards. In that zone, there’s a reverse current that takes you back to the dam.”

The water has high amounts of air, which makes water lighter. Jumer said in this water a boat’s motor does not operate at full power and makes the vessel unstable.

Jumer said the dam is a desirable place to fish because bait fish spill out and create chum in the water, which attracts striper. Even though some fishermen go to the dam often, he said there are constantly changing variables that could increase danger.

“If you are going to fish near the dam while spill gates are open and your boat is in neutral or the motor is off and the current isn’t pushing you down stream, you are too close,” Chitwood said. “When the dam only has a few spill gates open, anglers like to get in the slack water on the side of the swift water, however, this is the most dangerous place to be. Almost every incident we have comes from this scenario. Boat motors may stall or won’t restart and trolling motors aren’t strong enough to pull away. When this happens, the circulating current pulls the boat back toward the spilling water.”

Doug Douglas, Tellico Boaters Assistance Response Team Night and Special Support incident commander, assisted in the November countywide effort to locate a missing boater whose vessel capsized after being pulled into the spillway. What he saw is enough to “traumatize” survivors and the rescue teams, he said.

“The missing person was actually found on our fifth day of the search by a private boater under the generators discharged at the dam,” Douglas said. “He had never left the dam, and we thought he would’ve been swept south because of the tremendous turbulence coming from the gates that were open. … It’s so dangerous underneath that dam.”

Chitwood advised boaters near the dam to always wear a personal flotation device. However, they do not guarantee safety.

Douglas does not recommend people fish near the dam.

“The survivor that was found held on to his life jacket,” Douglas said. “They both had life jackets on. … I examined that life jacket after he was pulled out of the water, and it was actually almost shredded. The power of the water had ripped the seams apart. He actually held on. That’s the only reason he survived. The victim that didn’t survive had a life jacket on, but when he was recovered, it was ripped off by the power of the water.”