No indictment in cemetery case

No indictment in cemetery case

February 11th, 2011 by Todd South in News

A 46-year-old schoolteacher arrested last year will not face charges related to his holding a group of teens at gunpoint as they tried to leave a Sale Creek cemetery.

The Hamilton County grand jury chose not to indict Stacy Swallows on nine counts of aggravated assault and nine counts of false imprisonment stemming from the event.

Swallows could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Assistant District Attorney Neal Pinkston said that, since the grand jury chose not to indict, there's little reason to continue with new charges.

"Unless new evidence emerges, this is essentially the end of that particular case," Pinkston said

One of the teens who was at Shipley Cemetery on Sept. 4 said he was glad the teacher didn't have to go to trial.

"Honestly, I thought the whole thing was blown out of proportion to begin with," said Haden Lamb, 19.

Lamb said he and most of the other teens involved saw the entire incident as a "big misunderstanding."

He said the teens went to the cemetery on a one-time "ghost hunting" trip and that he had not been back there.

In the incident, the Sequoyah High School teacher held a rifle and used his car to block the teens from leaving the cemetery near his home while he called police, according to court documents.

Swallows' attorney, Jerry Summers, said Thursday that he and his client were pleased. He called the incident an "unfortunate situation for everybody."

There was a history of vandalism and late-night parties at the cemetery, and Summers said descendants of the cemetery owners had asked Swallows to watch the place.

"It seemed that everyone involved was at the wrong place at the wrong time," General Sessions Court Judge Bob Moon said. "I think everyone has learned a lesson when it comes to guns, teens and cemeteries."

Friends of Swallows' testified on his behalf in a November General Sessions Court hearing. Tommy Iles told the court that the cemetery had been "trashed so many times by a bunch of punks," according to newspaper archives.

Moon noted that no proof was provided in the Sessions Court hearing that the teens were even on cemetery property.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree or 423-757-6347.