Suspect in Grundy County shooting to face murder, attempted homicide charges

Suspect in Grundy County shooting to face murder, attempted homicide charges

September 24th, 2018 by Rosana Hughes in Local Regional News

Crime scene tape encloses the front yard of a home on Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, where a shooting took place the day before along State Route 108 in Altamont, Tennessee. A woman was killed and three men, including the shooter, were injured, one critically. (Photo by Rosana Hughes)

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Halloween decorations and children's toys littered the front yard of the home along State Route 108 in Altamont, Tennessee, where one person was shot dead and three more were injured on Sunday.

What used to be a playground for the homeowner's grandchildren is now a crime scene, cordoned off by yellow crime scene tape. A green and white swing set that stood in the front yard now served as a post the tape looped around before it was tied to the home's front porch.

It's still not clear what led up to the shootings, Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum said Monday. That is what authorities are working on now, and they have collected cell phones to help in that process, he said.

John Wesley Smith (Photo by Marion County Jail)

John Wesley Smith (Photo by Marion County Jail)

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

But what they do know is that 37-year-old John Wesley Smith began firing shots after an argument with his wife, 32-year-old Carolyn Nicole Powell.

Nicole Powell was killed, and her father, 50-year-old Jerone Powell, and an acquaintance of hers, 38-year-old Christopher Gary Hurst, were injured. Smith was injured after Jerone Powell shot him, Shrum said.

Jerone Powell and Hurst have undergone surgery at a Chattanooga hospital. Jerone Powell remains in critical condition, Shrum said. Smith has been hospitalized with injuries that are not life-threatening.

What happened

Carolyn Powell and Hurst showed up at her parents' house Sunday afternoon, Shrum said. Smith had been staying there for reasons that remain unclear.

At some point, Smith and Carolyn Powell then began arguing outside the house. The argument escalated, and Smith began firing shots.

Investigators know that Smith shot Nicole Powell and Hurst, then Jerone Powell and Smith exchanged gunfire with one shot striking Smith in the head and the other striking Jerone Powell, critically injuring him.

Six children — all under 13 years of age — were at the house, Shrum said, and while none of them saw the shots being fired, the oldest child did try to stop a wound from bleeding.

Police got the call at around 3:09 p.m. Carolyn Powell died at the scene.

Smith was found lying on the ground with the shotgun still in his hand, Shrum said.

It's not yet clear what kind of relationship Carolyn Powell had with Hurst, but they hadn't known each other very long, Shrum said.

It's also not clear how many shots were fired in total, Shrum said. That's something investigators are working to determine.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is probing the shooting at the request of 12th Judicial District Attorney General Michael Taylor. The bureau will work along with the sheriff's office.

The TBI is equipped to conduct criminal investigations, encompassing everything from interviews, to evidence collection and analysis, to interfacing with local authorities and the district attorney general who requested the agency be involved in the case, TBI spokesman Josh DeVine said.

Smith faces charges of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted criminal homicide, as well as reckless endangerment charges because of the children being present, Shrum said.

He has a "lengthy criminal history," Shrum said, and is a convicted felon in Marion County, Tennessee.

Shootings are rare in Grundy County, Shrum said.

"Unfortunately, this is just one of those things that did not appear like there were any kinds of warning signs that this was gonna happen," he said. "It just happened."

The sheriff said the goal now is "to put [pieces] together to see if there was any conversation on the front of this thing that indicated something might happen."

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423- 757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.


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