Around The State

Cosby home destroyed by fire

A three-story home on Mantooth Road in the Cosby community of Cocke County was destroyed by fire early Saturday morning.

Cocke County Firefighter Chase Gregg said his agency, along with Cosby and Grassy Fork volunteer firefighters responded to the Dale Mantooth residence at 1:15 a.m.

“The large home was fully involved in flames when firefighters arrived,” Gregg said. He added the home was equipped with smoke detectors, which allowed the occupants to escape the flames without injury. The Mantooths are reportedly a foster family.

“We pumped water from a nearby creek and also shuttled water from a fire hydrant some distance away,” Gregg said, adding a total of 18 firefighters worked to control the flames.

In addition to the home, an attached garage which contained a vehicle also was destroyed. The loss has been tentatively estimated at $200,000.

10 deaths in Tenn. storm aftermath

MEMPHIS (AP) — Incoming and outgoing passenger flights at Memphis International Airport resumed Saturday after being canceled due to terminal closures caused by system-wide water pressure issues, the facility said.

Yet water woes continued to plague Shelby County, the state’s largest county which includes Memphis, forcing officials to scramble to provide safe and clean water as they race to repair damages caused by deadly storms from earlier this week.

Separately, the Department of Health on Saturday confirmed two weather-related fatalities in Sumner County, bringing the state’s current weather fatalities to 10.

According to the the Memphis airport, temporary restroom facilities were set up because the water pressure problems had still not been resolved. However, Memphis Light, Gas and Water is continuing to work on the system to restore reliable water supply for restrooms, operations, food and beverage, and the airlines.

The airport was resuming passenger flights as of 3 p.m. CST after canceling those flights on Friday.

At least 46 passenger flights were canceled Saturday, according to FlightAware, a flight tracking and data platform website. Cargo operations were not affected.

Overall, roughly 260,000 homes and businesses in the Tennessee county that includes Memphis were told to boil water because of water main ruptures and pumping station problems. Restaurants that could not do so or did not have bottled water were ordered to close.

Separately, the Tennessee departments of Correction and Transportation were providing the Mark Luttrell Transition Center in Memphis with potable and non-potable water.

A total of eight water tankers have been sent to or located in Shelby County to assist with potable water issues. The Tennessee National Guard is supplying water for St. Francis Hospital.

US deports former Nazi concentration camp guard

MEMPHIS (AP) — A 95-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard was deported from the United States and arrived Saturday in his native Germany where he was being held by police for questioning, authorities said.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in a statement that Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen, was sent back to Germany for serving as a guard of a Neuengamme concentration camp subcamp in 1945. The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

German authorities confirmed Berger arrived Saturday at Frankfurt and was handed over to Hesse state investigators for questioning, the dpa news agency reported.

Berger was ordered expelled by a Memphis, Tennessee court in February 2020.

German prosecutors in the city of Celle investigated the possibility of bringing charges against him, but said in December that they had shelved the probe because they had been unable to refute his own account of his service at Neuengamme.

Berger admitted to U.S. authorities that he served as a guard at a camp in northwestern Germany, which was a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp, for a few weeks near the end of the war but said he did not observe any abuse or killings, Celle prosecutors said.

Celle prosecutors asked for him to be questioned again upon his return to Germany, however, to determine whether accessory to murder charges could be brought, police said.

In recent years, German prosecutors have successfully argued that by helping a death camp or concentration camp function, guards can be found guilty of accessory to murder even if there is no evidence of them participating in a specific killing.

According to an ICE statement, Berger served at the subcamp near Meppen, Germany, where prisoners - Russian, Polish, Dutch, Jewish and others - were held in “atrocious” conditions and were worked “to the point of exhaustion and death.”

Berger admitted that he guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping. He also accompanied prisoners on the forced evacuation of the camp that resulted in the deaths of 70 prisoners.

Berger has been living in the U.S. since 1959.

4 family members die in apparent murder-suicide

SOMERVILLE (AP) — Authorities in Tennessee are investigating the deaths of four family members in what they said is an apparent murder-suicide.

Evidence indicated one person killed three family members then took their own life, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office said. The deaths occurred Thursday.

Autopsies were planned. No additional details were released, but investigators said there was no history of violence or law enforcement-related calls at the residence.

Request to allow abortion waiting period in denied

NASHVILLE (AP) — A federal court on Friday denied a request to keep Tennessee’s 48-hour waiting period for abortions in effect while it hears an appeal of a lower court’s ruling that found it unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled in October that Tennessee’s waiting period law serves no legitimate purpose while placing a substantial burden on women who seek abortions in Tennessee. The 2015 law required women to make two trips to an abortion clinic, first for mandatory counseling and then for the abortion at least 48 hours later.

Directors of Tennessee abortion clinics testified at the 2019 trial that the two-visit requirement posed logistical challenges that caused abortions to be delayed far beyond the 48 hours required by law. The delay pushed some women beyond the time when they could have medication abortions, which have lower risks of complications than surgical abortions. A few women were pushed beyond the time when they could receive an abortion altogether.

Tennessee had asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put aside Friedman’s ruling until the state’s appeal is resolved, arguing that Friedman erred in balancing the law’s benefits with its burdens, applying the wrong legal standard. In a split 2-1 decision, a panel of 6th Circuit judges wrote that regardless of the analysis, the facts seem to point to the law posing an undue burden on women seeking abortion in Tennessee. The panel concluded that the state was not likely to succeed in its appeal and so was not entitled to have Friedman’s ruling put on hold.

Writing for the majority, Judge Karen Nelson Moore said the Tennessee law “appears to be yet another unnecessary, unjustified, and unduly burdensome state law that stands between women and their right to an abortion.”

Judge Amul Thapar disagreed, writing that “the Supreme Court says that waiting periods are constitutional.”

2-year-old fatally shot by another young child

CLARKSVILLE (AP) — A Tennessee toddler has been fatally shot by another child who was able to access an unsecured firearm, police said.

The accidental shooting happened Wednesday night at a home in Clarksville where three children under the age of 4 were living, according to a statement from the Clarksville Police Department.

One of the children was handling the gun when a 2-year-old boy was fatally shot, the statement said.

No other details were immediately available.

National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis to reopen March 1

MEMPHIS (AP) — The National Civil Rights Museum is scheduled to reopen next month after it was closed late last year during a surge in coronavirus cases in Memphis, Tennessee.

The museum said it is scheduled to reopen March 1. Restrictions imposed by local health officials after a rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths led to the museum’s closure in December.

Based in Memphis, the museum chronicles the U.S. civil rights movement. It is located at the site of the former Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot on April 4, 1968. The civil rights leader was staying at the motel after coming to Memphis to support a sanitation workers strike.

Guided tours will be limited for at least the first few weeks after the reopening, the museum said. Interpretive talks will be staged outdoors.

Staff and visitors will be required to wear face masks and staff will undergo daily temperature checks.

Valentine’s Day surprise: A wedding in the middle of brunch

FRANKLIN (AP) — Valentine’s Day diners got a surprise floor show in the middle of brunch: a pop-up wedding.

About 50 were eating just before 11 a.m. Sunday when a server got on stage at Puckett’s Franklin to announce a couple was about to get married.

A big “awwww!” gushed from the diners as a minister and a man and woman stepped onto the stage.

“Well, we’re about to have a wedding up here,” the officiant, Norm McDonald, said, smiling. “Y’all are welcome to listen in, but please keep eating if you’d like.”

The entire restaurant fell quiet, save for a few clangs and bangs from the kitchen, as the couple faced each other and held hands.

Amber Hobdy, 38, and M.K. Absher, 39, of Somerset, Ky. — who’ve known each other since they were 10 — had planned to have a small ceremony outside on the downtown square.

But once their officiant saw all the ice and cold winds whipping around, he suggested the three of them find an indoor venue. They saw Puckett’s was open, got permission from a restaurant manager and suddenly had 50 happy witnesses for their wedding.

One of them was a reporter for The Tennessean.

“We just wanted it to be about us...,” Hobdy started.

“Well, and a restaurant full of other people!” her new husband finished, laughing.

The crowd applauded loudly as the couple, just pronounced husband and wife, kissed. And a server played a recording of the couple’s favorite song, Millionaire by Chris Stapleton, for their first dance.

Afterward, the restaurant provided free champagne and a dessert as well-wishers came up to congratulate the newly married couple and share pics and video they took on their cell phones.

Power outages continue across Appalachia after winter storms

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Thousands of residents across West Virginia and eastern Kentucky remained without power on Saturday due to severe winter weather.

In West Virginia, Appalachian Power said that approximately 44,000 customers were without electricity after experiencing back-to-back ice storms hit the state Feb. 11 and Feb. 15. More than 3,200 workers were spread across the six hardest hit counties on Saturday attempting to get power back online.

The company has identified roughly 1,500 separate locations that need repairs.

The company warned that while repairs are being made, the work remains difficult. In Wayne County, workers had to replace the same pole three times because trees kept falling on it.

Over in eastern Kentucky, approximately 41,100 residents were without power, according to, a website that tracks outages.

Utility officials said some of their customers are still recovering from the recent paralyzing winter weather, particularly in Boyd, Carter and Lawrence counties. More than 2,000 Kentucky Power employees, foresters and assessors are working to get power restored.

Meanwhile, in middle Tennessee, power outages remained for approximately 3,300 residents.