Around the State

Police: Gunman dead after killing 2 at fire hydrant factory

ALBERTVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A worker who killed two people and wounded two more at an Alabama fire hydrant plant early Tuesday has been found dead, apparently after killing himself in a car, a police chief said.

“The person was deceased from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Police Chief Jamie Smith told Al.com.

The gunfire broke out about 2:30 a.m. at a Mueller Co. plant in Albertville, Smith told news outlets. The gunman then got in a vehicle and left the factory. His body was found hours later inside a car in Guntersville, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) away, Smith said.

Smith says it wasn’t immediately clear what prompted the shooting.

A company representative did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Mueller Co., based in Cleveland, Tennessee, is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Mueller Water Products Inc., which calls itself a leading maker of water distribution and measurement products in North America. More than 400 people work at the plant in Albertville, giving the city in northwest Alabama its nickname of “Fire Hydrant Capital of the World.”

A maintenance worker from North Carolina arrived at the plant early Tuesday, unaware of the deadly shooting hours earlier. John McFalls said he spent five days in the plant last week and saw nothing out of the ordinary.

“Everyone here was friendly,” he told Al.com. “Radios playing, everybody getting along.”

He swallowed hard as he heard what had happened, the news site reported.

“I was thinking about coming in early this morning and getting the jump on everything,” McFalls said. “It’s kind of shocking, and then it isn’t, given the state of the world.”

Autopsy: Mother overdosed, infant starved to death

PORTLAND, Tenn. (AP) — Autopsies in Tennessee show that a 1-year-old child starved to death in his car seat in a house where his mother died of a drug overdose, while his 3-year-old sister, found alive, had tried for days to feed her brother.

The bodies of Tiffany Spears, 32, and her infant son, Nicholas Crowder, were found in February at their home in Portland, about 35 miles northeast of Nashville. The boy had been strapped into a car seat that was left on a bedroom floor.

The autopsy results released Monday showed that the woman had been dead for several days when a probation officer making a home visit alerted the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office, officials said.

Tests showed her cause of death to be drug toxicity from methamphetamine and fentanyl, news outlets reported. The 15-month-old boy died of starvation and dehydration. Both deaths were ruled accidental.

The 3-year-old was treated at a hospital as a precautionary measure.

“It appeared the decedent’s sister tried to take care of the decedent for several days,” the autopsy report said, noting that food was found in and around the car seat.

DA: Caretaker indicted for woman found dead in hospital bed

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A caretaker at a nonlicensed home for elderly and vulnerable adults has been indicted on first-degree murder and other felony charges, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich’s office said Monday.

According to a news release, Anthony Freeman, 53, was charged nearly a year after a woman was found dead in her hospital bed with blunt force injuries and cuts on her body.

Law enforcement officials say video surveillance shows that Cynthia Garrison, 59, fell out of her bed at her residence in Cordova and then for more than two hours was beaten with a board by Freeman.

Freeman is being held on a $150,000 bond.

Lee picks 2 for district judgeships

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has appointed two judges in different districts.

The Republican’s office announced Friday that he has picked Michael Jenne in the 10th Judicial District Circuit Court that covers Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties and Gadson “Will” Perry in the 30th Judicial District Chancery Court in Shelby County.

Jenne is from Bradley County and is a partner at the Jenne Law Firm. He previously practiced at Baker Donelson. His term begins July 1. He will replace Judge Lawrence H. Puckett, who is retiring.

Perry is from Shelby County and is a partner at Butler Snow. He previously was a law clerk for the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His term begins immediately. He will fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Chancellor Walter L. Evans.

Big South Fork visitors spent $24.3M in nearby communities

ONEIDA, Tenn. (AP) — The National Park Service reported Friday that visitors to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area last year spent $24.3 million in communities near the park. Big South Fork had 773,000 visitors, and their spending supported 295 jobs in the local area, according to a news release from the park.

Big South Fork Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas said the park has been safely increasing access since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We welcome people back to the park and are excited to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides,” she said in a news release.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists with the National Park Service and the US Geological Survey.

It put total spending in gateway communities surrounding all the national parks at more than $14.5 billion, supporting 194,400 jobs. The cumulative benefit to the US economy was $28.6 billion.

Lawyers seek commutation of death sentence

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Lawyers for the only woman on Tennessee’s death row are asking the state Supreme Court to recommend that Gov. Bill Lee commute her sentence to life after prosecutors sought an execution date.

The Tennessee Attorney General’s Office asked the high court to set an execution date for Christa Gail Pike, contending she has exhausted her appeals.

Pike was 18 when she and Tadaryl Shipp killed Colleen Slemmer in a remote spot on the University of Tennessee’s agriculture campus in 1995.

Pike’s legal team cited their client’s youth at the time of the crime, mental illness and childhood trauma in arguments against setting a date, news outlets reported.

Similar arguments previously made in Pike’s case have been unsuccessful.

If a commutation is denied, Pike’s lawyers asked for more time in order for a psychologist to examine their client and so the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights can finish investigating whether Pike’s human rights have been violated.

Man found guilty in missing son’s death

CHARLOTTE, Tenn. (AP) — A jury on Saturday convicted a Tennessee man of first-degree murder in the perpetration of a felony in the death of his 5-year-old son, whose body remains missing years later.

Joe Clyde Daniels was reported missing April 4, 2018. His father, Joseph Daniels, was charged in the case.

A 12-person jury brought in from Chattanooga convicted Joseph Daniels in a Dickson County courtroom of first-degree murder in the perpetration of a felony, second-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, initiating a false report and tampering with evidence. He was found not guilty of a separate first-degree murder charge.

The trial started with opening statements on June 3. The jury began deliberations Friday.

Investigators say Joseph Daniels admitted to fatally beating the child, who was autistic and nonverbal, for urinating on the floor. They say he led authorities to places he said the boy was buried, but the body hasn’t been found.

Joseph Daniels later recanted and blamed the boy’s death on his wife, Krystal Nicole Daniels. She’s charged with offenses including aggravated child neglect or endangerment.

Joseph Daniels’ sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 14.

Father indicted in death of 2-year-old son

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee man faces charges that include first-degree murder in the perpetration of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect in what prosecutors say was a beating that killed his 2-year-old son last year.

On Friday, Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich announced the grand jury indictment against 36-year-old Antonio First from Memphis.

Weirich’s office says in June 2020, First called 911 and said the boy was not breathing. Prosecutors say the boy, Brayton Brooks, died at the hospital from injuries that included fractures on his skull, binding marks on his neck, body-wide bruising and blood filling his stomach.

Weirich’s office says the boy previously was hospitalized in April 2019 in critical condition with a bruised forehead suffered while in First’s care, but First was not charged and the court barred custody of the child.