Friday fire under investigation

An investigation is underway into a fire last Friday which burned items around a home on Vinson Hollow Road in Newport.

Deputy Lt. Michael Whitmer of the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department said he responded to the Myra Hale home on a report of a brush fire. He was told by the occupant she heard a sound of someone hitting her mobile home at 8:15 p.m., and outside Hale saw an array of sparks.

The fire burned the side of a Dodge pickup, and then spread destroying a Honda UTV, box of housing siding and stacked lumber, resulting in a total loss of $4,400.

Personnel with Newport Utilities say the sparks Hale saw may have come from a wire arcing. The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Morristown woman charged child abuse or neglect

A Morristown woman has been charged with aggravated child abuse or neglect in a criminal investigation initiated after one of her family members expressed concern about the welfare of her children, a 1-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl, according to police.

The defendant, Taylor Rayden Hopkins, 22, Jefferson Street, remained in the Hamblen County Jail this morning in lieu of $10,000 bond.

Hopkins youngest child had bruises and bumps on his face and head, injuries Hopkins says were inflicted late last week by a man she identified, according to Detective Lt. Vicki Arnold with the Morristown Police Department. Arnold reported Hopkins allegedly did not report the injuries to police or seek medical treatment for her son.

The woman says she left the child in the care of the man, and noticed the injuries when she returned. The infant and her 2-year-old brother were checked out Monday in the Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System emergency room, and the Department of Children’s Services was notified.

A search of Hopkins bedroom turned up a small quantity of marijuana and drug paraphernalia on a nightstand, according to Arnold. The man who allegedly injured the child was not in custody this morning. Arnold charged Hopkins under Haley’s Law, a statute that provides for stricter punishment for children under the age of 9.

Pence asks for support of Mexico-Canada trade deal

GOODLETTSVILLE, (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence on Monday urged a group of Tennesseans to call the state’s two Democratic congressmen and ask them to help pass the Trump administration’s trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

Pence’s remarks came during a speech to several hundred people at a Tyson Foods plant in Goodlettsville, just outside of Nashville.

The event was sponsored by Trade Works for America, a bipartisan coalition advocating passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Pence said he believes the votes are there to pass the agreement if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring it up for a vote.

Democrats have been negotiating with the administration over the agreement for months. They want stronger protections for workers and the environment. They also want to jettison a provision they see as a giveaway to big pharmaceutical companies.

The USMCA would replace the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which eliminated most trade barriers between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Critics — including Trump, labor unions and many Democratic lawmakers — have called NAFTA a job killer for America. The do-over aims to nudge manufacturing back to the U.S., but it requires congressional approval.

“It’s time for the Democrats in Congress to set politics aside and pass the USMCA,” Pence said Monday.

He urged attendees to call U.S. Reps. Jim Cooper of Nashville and Steve Cohen of Memphis and tell them, “Tennessee needs the USMCA.”

Pence was joined by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee at the event, who both spoke in favor of the trade agreement.

Pence did not address the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump directly, but did say, “Too many in Congress have spent the last two and a half years on endless investigations, trying to overturn the will of the American people in the last election.”

Pence was expected to attend a fundraiser later in the day for Trump’s reelection.

TCAC accepting applications from contractors

Tennessee’s Community Assistance Corporation is accepting applications from licensed contractors for the rehabilitation of single-family residential housing units for their HOME programs, funded by the Tennessee Housing Development Agency.

The non-profit agency will rehabilitate approximately 10 to15 residences within Claiborne, Cocke, Hamblen, Jefferson, and Union counties. All approved contractors have the option of bidding on each individual contract for each residence. Minimum requirements for general licensed contractors to be accepted and added to the approved builders list include the submission of a fully completed application, proof of a valid State of Tennessee Contractor’s License and verification of general liability and workman’s compensation insurance. Other conditions apply and will be provided to all applicants.

To receive an application, please make request to Shannon Delk, 740 East Main Street, Morristown, TN 37814 or call 423-586-7636, ext. 304. TCAC is an Equal Opportunity Employer and urges the participation of minority and female contractors.

Federal officials probe 6th church fire near Memphis

MEMPHIS (AP) — Federal authorities are investigating a fire that was intentionally set at a vacant church in Memphis, Tennessee.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesman Michael Knight says the blaze at First Church of Christ is the sixth church fire reported to the federal agency in the past year.

Memphis Fire Department spokesman Wayne Cooke said the one-story church caught fire Sunday night. Cooke said more than 120 emergency personnel responded to the fire, which was brought under control at around 2 a.m. Monday.

Cooke says the church sustained smoke, fire and water damage estimated at $670,000. Investigators determined the fire was intentionally set in multiple locations inside the building.

Knight says the ATF’s bomb data center is working to determine if there are any similarities to previous church fires.

Man pleads guilty in special agent’s death

MEMPHIS (AP) — A convicted felon was sentenced to life in prison Monday for the 2016 killing of a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent.

Brenden Burns pleaded guilty to felony murder and aggravated robbery in the shooting death of Special Agent De’Greaun Frazier, Madison County District Attorney Jody S. Pickens said. Frazier, 35, was killed during an undercover drug investigation in Jackson in August 2016.

Burns, 24, received a sentence of life in prison without parole in a plea deal that resulted from discussions between prosecutors and defense attorneys in the run-up to a trial scheduled in November, Pickens said.

Frazier was the first agent in the history of the state police agency to be killed in the line of duty.

TBI is building a new laboratory and regional headquarters named after Frazier in Jackson, about 100 miles east of Memphis. In a statement, TBI Director David Rausch called Frazier, who went by “Dee,” a great agent.

“There is no way to make what happened to him right, but this plea allows for a sense of justice for the family,” Rausch said.

Frazier was working with other agents and narcotics officers on a drug investigation when he met a person for a controlled buy in a car in Jackson, the TBI has said. The person that Frazier met pulled out a firearm in an apparent robbery attempt and fired at least once, hitting the agent.

Frazier died later at a hospital. Burns was arrested a short distance away.

Frazier was married and had worked as a police officer in Millington before joining the TBI.

Inmate says attorney general can’t challenge resentencing

NASHVILLE (AP) — Attorneys representing a Tennessee inmate whose death sentence was converted to life in prison say the state attorney general has no authority to challenge the agreement.

Abu-Ali Abudur’Rahman was within eight months of his scheduled execution when he signed an agreement with Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk on Aug. 28 to change his sentence.

The agreement came after Abur’Rahman, who is black, raised claims that racism tainted the jury selection process.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery filed an appeal last month, claiming Funk had no right to alter Abdur’Rahman’s sentence.

In a response filed Monday, the inmate’s attorneys argue Slatery’s action threatens the division of power between the attorney general and local prosecutors. They argue that Funk does not require Slatery’s approval nor can Slatery veto Funk’s decisions.

Police: ‘Mummified’ body leads to charges against 3

KNOXVILLE (AP) — Police in Tennessee say the discovery of a body in a “mummified state” in a shed behind a residence has led to charges against three people.

News outlet report Knoxville police said in a statement that officers responded on Sunday to report of a possible homicide and while searching the property found the deceased body wrapped in a tarp.

Authorities say three people at the residence have been charged with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence: 62-year-old Tommy Wayne Rose, 41-year-old Deborah Maria Gister and 48-year-old Christina Barbara McCormack. All three have denied having any knowledge of the person’s death.

Officials said an autopsy would be conducted at the Regional Forensic Center to determine the cause of death. The person’s identity wasn’t immediately released.

It wasn’t clear whether those charged have attorneys.