published Saturday, February 16th, 2013

Eight arrested on drug charges and other news from areas around Chattanooga

Eight arrested on drug charges

JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. — Eight people were arrested on drug charges in two Valentine's Day raids in Jackson County, authorities said.

The first was on state Highway 71 in Rosalie, Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen said in a news release. Officers serving warrants entered a home and found methamphetamine, part of a meth lab, marijuana and drug paraphernalia, he said.

Dennis Eric Thornhill, 23, of Pisgah; Matthew Edward Sargent, 19, of Rainsville; and Matthew Ryan Wallace, 24, of Pisgah, were charged with unlawful manufacturing and possession of controlled substances and possession of drug paraphernalia. Thornhill also was charged with possession of marijuana, Harnen said.

The second raid was at a home on Pace Drive in the Skyline community. Officers armed with a search warrant found methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and unprescribed prescription medication, Harnen said.

Those arrested were Kenneth Dean Smith, 49, of Estill Fork; Michael Monroe Medley, 58, of Skyline; Randall Craig Brooks, 44, of Skyline; Nicole Christine Blackmon, 35, of Scottsboro; and Melissa Ann Jent, 33, of Estill Fork.

All were charged with possessing meth, marijuana, paraphernalia and prescription medications.

Jent also was charged with promoting prison contraband after corrections deputies found her with banned items during a jail search.

No bond had been set for any of the defendants as of Friday afternoon, Harnen said.


Sinkhole forces school closing

ERWIN, Tenn. — The sinkhole won. Unicoi County has closed an elementary school.

The county school board voted unanimously to close Love Chapel Elementary School permanently Thursday after receiving an engineering report on the school ground.

After the vote, Director of Schools Denise Brown told the Johnson City Press the county can't send students back into an unsafe environment.

A passerby spotted the sinkhole Aug. 18 and notified authorities. The chasm turned out to be 120 feet deep and grew to 25 feet in diameter.

Students were assigned to different schools, and Love Chapel remained closed.

Brown said test borings and seismograph readings showed sinkholes in four areas, and two other areas were developing holes.


Smokies road opening early

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — The road to Clingman's Dome in the Smokies will be opened this weekend -- well ahead of its usual March 31 scheduled opening.

Weather conditions will dictate possible temporary closures of the road, which leads to the highest elevation reachable by vehicle in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Officials said a milder-than-usual winter is allowing them to open the road early.

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