Armed robbery reported at Applebee’s

The Morristown Police Department is investigating an armed robbery reported Monday night in the parking lot of Applebee’s on West Andrew Johnson Highway, authorities say.

No arrest had occurred by late this morning. The alleged victim, a Morristown woman, described the suspect as a gray-haired white male. She reported the suspect is about 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs approximately 250 pounds, according to officer Nathan Cruey.

The woman who reported the robbery, an Applebee’s employee, told Cruey that as she was preparing to leave in her car around 9:15 p.m., the suspect, who was armed with a black revolver, climbed into the passenger seat and demanded money. A second suspect sat in the rear passenger-side seat, but the woman could not provide a description of him, according to an offense report.

After stealing $40 and a credit card, the two suspects fled on foot. Those with information about the suspects are encouraged to contact the MPD at 423-585-2710 or the 911 dispatch center at 423-585-2701.

Man faces animal cruelty charges

A Cocke County man faces animal cruelty charges stemming from an incident in his home last week.

Shawn Casey Walker, 23, Sulpher Springs Road, Newport, is currently being held in the Cocke County jail in lieu of a $10,000 bond.

Deputy Lt. Ricky Holt says Walker was captured on surveillance video abusing the small dog on Friday. The suspect picked up the small animal, sat on a couch and put the dog on the sofa beside him.

Walker then “started to punch the dog on the head and body. The dog tried to get up several times but he would not let it. He started to punch it harder and faster. He beat the dog for nearly an hour before he got up and walked into his bedroom with the dog,” the officer said, in response to viewing the video.

When Walker walked back into the living room he is heard saying the dog was dead, according to Holt.

The defendant’s sick and elderly aunt was asleep in her recliner in the living room during the entire episode of abuse.

At last report the defendant was being held in lieu on a $10,000 bond.

Gas line rupture reported near Hillcrest

A gas line ruptured by a backhoe at Hillcrest Park early Monday afternoon resulted in an alert at Hillcrest Elementary School to “shelter in place,” but the minor emergency was resolved in about an hour with no injuries, authorities say.

The rupture point was approximately 200 feet from the school, according to Capt. Scott Kimbrough with the Morristown Fire Department.

Firefighter and police blocked access to the area until an Atmos Energy service representative cut the gas flow at a valve located at the intersection of East Morris Boulevard and South Liberty Hill Road, according to Kimbrough.

“It was a simple operation,” he said.

Kimbrough says the gas leak could have been stopped earlier. Not all natural gas valves inside the Morristown city limits can be closed with the same tool, and the Atmos representative had to return to the main office to retrieve the correct tool, according to Kimbrough.

Two stolen vehicles recovered

Cocke County authorities on Saturday recovered two vehicles that had been reported stolen.

Deputy Lt. Michael Whitmer said both vehicles, 2012 Ford Fiesta models, were found on a dead-end driveway off Indian Camp Creek Road in the Cosby community.

Responding to a tip, officers found a blue Fiesta which had been reported stolen by the owner, Jennifer Cody, Cabbage County Road, Hartford on Oct. 4. Cody said the car was taken by Cory Hazelwood and a girl she knew only as Megan. Cody said her purse was in the car when it was taken from her home. The vehicle also contained clothes belonging to Gregory Owen of Cabbage County Road. When found, the $8,000 vehicle was on blocks with the wheels and tires removed, the hood was damaged and the battery was missing.

Also found at the scene was a grey Fiesta which had been reported stolen from Sevier County. The car is owned by Judy Murray, of Walland. It too was on blocks, missing the wheels and tires, the hood was up, and the battery was missing.

iHeartMedia announces 2nd headquarters coming to Nashville

NASHVILLE (AP) — Broadcast radio streaming company iHeartMedia has announced it will be establishing a second headquarters in Nashville.

The New York-based company said in its statement Monday that the city’s rich music culture, “eccentric vibe,” lower cost of living and university presence were among factors attracting it to the area. Executives also cited Nashville’s growing technology sector and digital talent as a main draw for the new site, which will house the company’s digital product team.

The office is expected to open in early 2020.

The company didn’t list a potential office location or say how many jobs may be created. The Tennessean reports nine Nashville openings were posted as of Monday. Economic development officials told the newspaper the state and city aren’t providing financial incentives to the company.

Election security lawsuit in appeals court Tuesday

MEMPHIS (AP) — A federal appeals court in Cincinnati is holding oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the security of voting machines in Tennessee’s largest county.

The Shelby County Advocates for Valid Elections are hoping the appellate judges will call for a switch to handwritten ballots and a voter-verifiable paper trail. They claim the outdated touchscreen voting machines used in the Memphis area aren’t secure, and more safeguards are needed to shield the system from outside manipulation.

A judge dismissed their lawsuit in September, saying they failed to show any harm has come to them and that they have no legal standing.

Attorneys for the state of Tennessee will tell the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday that any claims of vote miscount and dilution are merely hypothetical.

Men get plea deal in Smokies rape of homeless men

KNOXVILLE (AP) — Two men accused of taking homeless men to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to rape them have agreed to a plea deal.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Dusty Oliver and Richard Graham have each agreed to plead guilty to two charges of aiding and abetting an aggravated sexual assault.

Court records say the charges stem from nearly identical attacks that took place in 2012 and 2015. In both cases, the victims were walking in Knoxville when Oliver and Graham offered them a ride.

The pair took the victims to the park, making them walk along a trail before sexually assaulting them. DNA evidence was obtained in both cases.

The plea agreements were filed in federal court in Knoxville last week. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

Gov. Lee transfers early education program

NASHVILLE (AP) — Gov. Bill Lee has signed an executive order transferring an early education program for infants and toddlers with disabilities to a new state agency.

Lee announced Monday that the Tennessee Early Intervention System will now be housed at the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities after previously being under the Department of Education.

The voluntary educational program helps support families through child development resources.

DIDD Commissioner Brad Turner thanked the Department of Education for making gains with the program for the past 10 years. He said he looked forward to making sure the state does “everything we can to set children up for success in school and in life.”

Lee, a Republican, has signed 10 executive orders since taking office in January.

Pregnant woman fatally shot

BROWNSVILLE (AP) — Authorities in Tennessee are asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect in a shooting that killed a pregnant woman and her unborn child, paralyzed her 8-year-old daughter and injured another adult family member.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, 24-year-old Alexis Branch was eight months pregnant when she and her unborn baby were pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting Sunday night at a home in Brownsville.

TBI says the shooting paralyzed Branch’s 8-year-old daughter over much of her body, while an adult family member suffered injuries that weren’t life-threatening. The suspect was captured on surveillance cameras near the scene. Anyone with relevant information is asked to contact TBI.

Review of juvenile facility escape underway

NASHVILLE (AP) — Several staff members at a juvenile detention center in Tennessee have been placed on leave while a court reviews the escape of four teenagers.

News outlets report Davidson County Juvenile Court Administrator Kathryn Sinback said in a statement Monday that “critical oversights” by multiple staff members at the Nashville center allowed the escape to happen Saturday night. Two of the teens, ages 16 and 17, are charged in separate slayings. One death involved Nashville musician Kyle Yorlets, who was found dead in February. The other two escapees, ages 15 and 17, face armed robbery charges.

Police said the four escapees should be considered dangerous.

Sinback said a supervisor asked the four to clean an area. Sinback said the supervisor left to check on a fight in another part of the building, and the four were left unsupervised.