2009 sees lots of court action
2009 in Review
2009 turned out to be a litigious year in Polk County, with a variety of lawsuits and court actions in addition to the top stories like the Benton Banking Company fraud case and the continuing rafting tax case. The big criminal trial was the death penalty case against Brad Waldroup but there were others as well. The year also saw some tragic fatalities, the resolution of a long-standing missing persons case, and criminal activity.
In March, four days of testimony and nearly two days of deliberation ended in a jury conviction of Davis Bradley Waldroup, Jr., for the aggravated kidnapping and voluntary manslaughter of Leslie Bradshaw and the especially aggravated kidnapping and attempted second degree murder of his estranged wife Penny Waldroup. State Prosecutors Drew Robinson, Wayne Carter and Cynthia Schemel attempted to prove that Waldroup intended to confine the two victims by removing the keys from the ignition of Penny Waldroup’s van and throwing them into the yard, and that the confinement led to the murder of Bradshaw and attempted murder of Penny Waldroup. Had the jury convicted Waldroup of especially aggravated kidnapping and felony first degree murder, he would have faced the death penalty.
Defense attorneys Shari Young and Wiley Richardson painted a picture of Waldroup as an irrational, frustrated and intoxicated man who snapped and was not in control of his actions. In closing arguments, Richardson said the case was not a “whodunit,” but a “why-done-it.”
Penny Waldroup testified that she and her best friend went to the home of Brad Waldroup to drop off the kids for a visit and an argument ensued. She said Brad, who was carrying a .22 rifle, took the keys out of her van and was frustrated that Penny did not want to talk about their marital problems. She said as the arguing continued, Brad pulled the gun up and started firing, mortally wounding Bradshaw. Penny said when she took off running, Brad shot her, stabbed her with a pocket knife, bit her with a square shovel and hacked her with a machete before police arrived.
Brad Waldroup testified he felt Penny and Bradshaw were having a laugh at his expense, which enraged him. He said his ears were ringing, his head was roaring and he did not remember shooting Bradsaw, but knew that he did. After a lengthy debate, Judge Ross allowed the defense to introduce genetic testing results to show issues with seratonin levels and transmitters in Waldroup’s brain that rendered him unable to engage in the reflection and judgment necessary to premeditate the crimes.
Prosecutors put on rebuttal witnesses who listed alcohol addiction as the main issue and a moderate depressive disorder, likely brought on by alcohol dependence and said Waldroup was primarily paranoid and secondarily antisocial but that there was no data to support the idea that psychotic features were present at the time of the crime.
In May, Judge Carroll Ross sentenced Waldroup, to 32 years for what he called, “the most senseless, brutal slaying I have ever seen in all my years of prosecuting, or here on the bench.” During sentencing, Judge Ross told Waldroup, who was seated directly in front of the bench, “There is absolutely nothing to excuse or justify the actions you committed against these innocent women in ANY civilization.”
The maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter is six years. “If I could sentence you for 20 years more, I would do that; I want you to know that,” Judge Ross said. Waldroup was given 12 years for the aggravated kidnapping of Bradshaw, 20 years for the especially aggravated kidnapping of Penny Waldroup and 12 years for the attempted 2nd degree murder of Penny Waldroup. Ross cautioned Waldroup to think long and hard before seeking post-conviction relief. "All that does is set the verdict aside. The State probably would not mind retrying this and getting the death penalty. Think real carefully about that; you might not be as fortunate next time," Ross said.
At one point during the trial, sparks flew between Judge Ross and District Attorney Steve Bebb, who had angrily left the courtroom after Ross sustained a defense objection and told Assistant DA Wayne Carter to give Brad Waldroup time to answer questions. Bebb "started spouting off" to capitol case attorney Susan Jones in the clerk's office after leaving the courtroom. A visibly angry Ross called Bebb into the courtroom during a break to ensure his comments were on the record, then chastised Bebb for his comments and instructed him to go back to Cleveland. Bebb later said he knew was Ross was disappointed in him and that he was disappointed in himself.
A year-long TBI investigation that included information from the 10th Judicial Drug Task Force, The Polk County Sheriff’s Department and a wired undercover agent resulted in the raid of the Copperhill office of Dr. Richard Adler last in March. An affidavit filed by TBI Special Agent Kimberly Harmon with the Medicare Fraud Unit alleged Adler was involved with Prescription Fraud, Tenncare Fraud and the violation of the Tennessee Drug Control Act. The affidavit included interviews with patients who said Adler was providing unnecessary drugs, and an undercover agent acting as a patient was given increasing amounts of drugs even though the required x-ray was normal.
Among the items taken from Dr. Adler’s office were patient and laboratory records for Medicaid recipients who have received prescriptions, computer records of insurance billings, Medicaid provider information and billings, cash receipt books and registers, medical insurance forms, records relating to the ordering of narcotics, records of dispensing narcotics, employee records, appointment lists, and computers. According to the affidavit, Dr. Adler refused to sign the warrant.
Polk County will have to go to the bankruptcy court for payments due from Toby McKenzie on the Polk County High School athletic complex. McKenzie had pledged $200,000 in 2005, saying he would make five yearly payments of around $43,000 to cover the cost, with the final payment in 2010. The school system covered a partial payment in 2008 and the full payment in 2009. County attorney Jimmy Logan was asked to file a claim with the bankruptcy court.
In January, Nicholas Brumbley of Farner, the man responsible for the death of three-year-old Brady Singleton, pled guilty to second-degree murder in Cherokee County. In April 2008, Brady was riding on a four-wheeler with his grandfather, Grady Anderson, when it was struck by a truck, throwing Anderson off and overturning the four-wheeler on the child in a creek with about 15” of water, where he drowned. Brumbley was sentenced to minimum of 12.7 years; 15.9 years maximum.
In March, former County Commissioner Fred Wilcoxon pled guilty to two charges of theft over $1,000 – one against Harold Sutton and the other against the school system. He was sentenced to two years on each charge, reduced to probation, and restitution.
In April, Circuit Judge Mike Sharp rejected a Friends of the Library request to amend his earlier ruling against FOL’s effort to force the county commission to live up to a commitment to build new libraries with funds raised by FOL. In May, FOLA decided not to appeal the decision, saying it was in the best interest of the dream for new libraries not to continue the litigation. FOL filed the original suit in an attempt to force the County Commission to uphold their January, 2006 vote in favor of providing operating funds for two full service libraries if FOL could raise the money to build them.
Ducktown Dodge fraud
Erik Brucker, former owner of Ducktown Dodge, was found guilty of three counts of bank fraud in August in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga. The indictment against Brucker listed three specific loans – for $18,582, $20,794 and $14,531. Brucker was charged with devising a scheme to defraud Sun Trust Bank from May 2001 through January 2002, using Sun Trust loan officer Baron Mayes to facilitate the approval of car loans to customers regardless of their credit worthiness in exchange for payments and the free use of vehicles provided by Ducktown Dodge. By year’s end, sentencing was delayed as Brucker asked the court to vacate the judgment or allow a new trial. Mayes pled guilty in 2008 to his role in the scheme.
In August, Keith Roberson of Copperhill filed a complaint against the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association seeking an easement and an injunction for interference with existing easement across the railroad line to his 19.5 acres of property in Grassy Creek. He claimed there was an easement from the old Grassy Creek Road, which crossed the line before the new road was built and noted the property is landlocked without a crossing across the rail line.
In a September jury trial, Sharon Laycock was found not guilty of theft of school land money from the school system. Around $11,000 in cash payments for land leases was missing over a three-year period. Payments were kept in Laycock’s desk until they were deposited with the Trustee. The defense successfully argued that there was no evidence that Laycock had taken the money, noting her desk was in a central location and other employees also accepted payments.
Former State Senator Jeff Miller was indicted in April on one count of Official Misconduct, one count of Conspiracy to Commit Official Misconduct and one count of Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Perjury in connection with his role as Bradley County tax attorney. According to the indictment, Miller and April Miles engaged in a conspiracy whereby he refrained from performing lien searches as part of his legal duty and she lied about the performance of said searches. In October, a jury took less than two hours to come to the verdict of not guilty on the charge of official misconduct. Charges of conspiracy to commit official misconduct and conspiracy to commit aggravated perjury had been dismissed by the judge.
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