Berke's comments raise 'unusual concerns,' prompt TBI investigation

Mayor Andy Berke speaks to media outside Calvary Chapel about a domestic assault case involving his advisor Lacie Stone and her husband Bobby after the mayor appeared at the Chattanooga Police Department's annual awards ceremony on Thursday, May 26, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Mayor Berke declined to answer questions about the case, citing its ongoing nature.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation launched an investigation Thursday into a domestic violence incident involving one of Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke's senior advisers, even as new details about the incident emerged.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston asked the TBI to look into the case, which involves allegations that Mayor Andy Berke had a sexual relationship with his adviser, Lacie Stone, and that the relationship prompted Stone's husband, Bobby Stone, to attack her Friday night.

Bobby Stone was arrested and charged with domestic assault and vandalism early Saturday morning, after Lacie Stone called police Chief Fred Fletcher for help and said her husband was going to kill her, Fletcher said Wednesday. She then went to Fletcher's house to wait for police.

Berke has adamantly denied allegations of a sexual relationship with Lacie Stone, and Fletcher said the domestic violence case was treated like any other.

But Pinkston's spokeswoman, Melydia Clewell, said Wednesday that Pinkston's office wanted the TBI to look into how police handled the case, and that Berke and Fletcher's comments raised "unusual concerns" for prosecutors.

A spokesman for the TBI declined to release any details about the scope of the investigation on Thursday.

"The investigation is active and ongoing and we have no additional detail to offer at this time," spokesman Josh DeVine said in a statement.

Fletcher said he welcomes the TBI's investigation.

"We welcome the support and assistance of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation," he said. "I have called on them many, many times, whether it is helping to investigate my own officers or on a case that needs extra assistance."

Local media sources reported Thursday that an internal police record says that Lacie Stone gave inconsistent statements to police and that Bobby Stone claimed his wife punched him several times during the Friday incident.

The Times Free Press requested copies of that report from both Chattanooga police and Pinkston's office. Police spokesman Kyle Miller said Pinkston's office was handling the release of that record and that the office asked the police department not to release it. Clewell declined to release the report in a Thursday evening email, saying it is now part of the investigative records of the TBI and therefore considered a confidential record.

It's unclear where WRCB obtained the record, and the station did not publish a copy of the document.

Lacie Stone's attorney, John Cavett, said the record that had been released was incomplete and defended his client in a statement Thursday.

"After Lacie gave an initial statement to the police, she had multiple contacts with investigators and gave approximately two hours of statements on Tuesday which were not released today," he said. "Lacie was injured in the attack and those injuries have been properly documented. To suggest she was the perpetrator in this instance is ridiculous."

Cavett said he finds it unfortunate that select documents have been made public, and he said those documents do not reflect the entire story.

"A lot of untrue comments are being made about Lacie," he said.

Berke said Thursday he will cooperate with the TBI. Despite reports he had cancelled all of his public appearances this week, he attended at least two public events Thursday - a meeting of the Mayor's Council for Women and an annual awards ceremony for the police department. After the awards ceremony, he declined to answer several questions about the investigation and allegations, but did speak to reporters.

"I'll let the proceedings go forth," he said, and added later, "I'm not going to comment on the investigation. I've been asked not to comment on it."

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or with tips or story ideas. Follow @ShellyBradbury.