- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014
Haslam tours tornado damage in Lincoln County

FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Haslam said Wednesday that he is impressed by the resiliency of Lincoln County residents whose homes were damaged or destroyed by a tornado earlier this week.

Haslam surveyed the damage to homes and a school by helicopter and on foot, telling reporters afterward that he was struck by the “horrible destructive nature of this and the randomness” of the tornado.

“You’d see one house destroyed and another house 50 yards away, where not a shingle had been overturned,” he said.

Two people were killed in the storm that hit the largely rural area near the Alabama line Monday evening. Officials say at least 35 homes were destroyed.

Haslam said he visited the area to “express our sympathy to the families who lost two loved ones and all the other people who have seen their lives turned over end due to the destruction of the storm.”

Haslam said the state is estimating the damage to homes and businesses to apply for federal disaster relief.


3rd man could face charges in missing student case

DECATURVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A Benton County man pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to murder and kidnapping charges in the disappearance of 20-year-old nursing student Holly Bobo three years ago.

Jason Autry, 39, entered his plea in Decatur County a day after a specially called grand jury indicted him.

“I’m falsely accused and innocent,” he told the judge. “Right hand before God, I’m innocent.”

A second defendant, Zachary Adams, also faces murder and kidnapping charges. The 29-year-old Benton County man pleaded not guilty to those charges in March. On Wednesday, he pleaded not guilty to an additional charge of coercion of a witness.

A third defendant could face charges in the case after prosecutors revoked an immunity agreement that had been worked out for him.

The March 6 agreement granted Shayne Austin, 29, of Decatur County, immunity from various charges, including “all charges arising out of the disposal, destruction, burial, and/or concealment of Holly Bobo’s deceased body,” according to documents filed in Decatur County Chancery Court and posted online by The Jackson Sun, which first reported them.


US investigating sexual violence at Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating allegations of sexual violence at Vanderbilt University. News of the investigation was first reported by The Tennessean.

The investigation follows complaints filed in November by students and former students at Vanderbilt who alleged that the school responded inadequately to reports of sexual assault. It also comes amid a criminal case in Nashville of allegations that four former Vanderbilt football players took part in a gang rape of a student in a school dorm last June.

Similar complaints have been filed at a number of other schools. Currently the office is investigating 51 schools for allegations of sexual violence on campus, a spokesman for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights said in an email. The office would only confirm the investigation but would not discuss any details, the spokesman said. He did not provide a list of the schools, but said it would be released in coming days.

There are a number of federal laws that require colleges to address sexual assaults on campus. They include the renewed Violence Against Women Act, which has new provisions for sexual assault on campus and Title IX, which bars gender discrimination in education.

“Vanderbilt is fully cooperating with a Title IX regulatory compliance review being conducted by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights,” Beth Fortune, a spokeswoman for Vanderbilt, said in an email. “We understand the Department of Education to be conducting these reviews at a number of campuses across the country.”

She said the university has not seen any complaints that may have been filed with the Office for Civil Rights.


Prosecutor refutes allegations in Vandy Rape case

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A district attorney said Wednesday that defense attorneys representing a former Vanderbilt football player accused of rape have filed court documents with baseless allegations designed to intimidate the victim and malign prosecutors.

The remarks by Davidson County District Attorney Torry Johnson cane a day after defense attorneys filed documents accusing prosecutors of destroying or not preserving evidence in the case. The defense motion had asked that charges against former football player Brandon Vandenburg be dismissed while accusing prosecutors of intentionally concealing evidence from the defense.

Vandenburg and three other former Vanderbilt players are accused of gang raping a student in a campus dorm in June. All have pleaded not guilty to charges.

The case has become increasingly rancorous with both the defense and prosecution trading allegations of misconduct against one another.

“This is an obvious tactical ploy by Mr. Vandenburg’s attorneys to intimidate the victim and malign veteran prosecutors and experienced police detectives by circulating unfounded allegations that not only can taint a potential jury pool but also prevent the state of Tennessee and the victim from obtaining a fair trial,” Johnson said in a statement.

The statement added that Johnson’s office had given attorneys for all four former plays “complete access to the investigative file” as the materials have become available.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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