Mother Indicted in Child's Death
A Memphis mother has been indicted on reckless homicide charges in the death of her four-month-old daughter.
On November 23rd, 2013, Catrina Perryman, 34, alerted paramedics that her infant daughter, Isabella Chavez, had been having difficulty breathing and was turning blue, according to the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office. Chavez succumbed to drug toxicity at her mother’s home.
Although Perryman initially informed authorities that her child was given only ibuprofen, an autopsy revealed Chavez also had a level of Benadryl in her system that was several times the amount considered to be therapeutic for an adult.
Killer on Death Row Gets Additional 21-Year Sentence
A Memphis man currently on death row for murdering his girlfriend and her parents has received an additional 21-year prison sentence for attempted murder and several other offenses.
Sedrick Clayton, 31, was convicted in June on three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Pashea Fisher, 23, and her parents Arithio Fisher, 56, and Patricia Fisher, 46. The murders happened on January 19th, 2012, following an argument between Clayton and Pashea.
On Friday, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to sentencing Clayton to an additional 21 years for offenses stemming from the same incident. According to the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office, Clayton received 15 years for attempted murder, six years for employment of a firearm, three years for possession of a firearm, and 11 months and 29 days for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
Clayton’s attempted murder and employment of a firearm sentences will run consecutively, while the others will be concurrent.
An Oviedo, Florida man currently serving 15 years for sexual battery on a minor has received an additional 25-year sentence for raping the same child in Tennessee.
Marc Anthony Baechtle, 46, will serve a 25-year prison sentence in Tennessee subsequent to completing the remaining eight years of his Florida sentence. According to the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office, Baechtle began sexually assaulting a Florida girl when she was 10 years old. It continued for several years and took place in several states.
The victim, now an adult, appeared in Criminal Court Thursday, August 28th, and asked the judge to sentence Baechtle to the 25-year maximum for his criminal actions. The lady said he “ripped her childhood from her and that she testified against him in trial in July so he could not do the same to others,” according to a press release from the District Attorney General’s office.
Baechtle issued an apologetic statement to the court for his actions, and he requested maximal punishment: “I hope you give me the maximum sentence, because I deserve it.”
Baechtle’s Tennessee sentence carries no parole. He will be on the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry and under community supervision for life. In Florida, he is classified as a sexual predator under the law.
Enjoying a cocktail or two won't kill you, but over-consumption of alcoholic beverages isn't good for one's health.
For more than 20 years, Dr. Alex Dopico, professor and chair of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s (UTHSC) Department of Pharmacology, has researched alcohol’s effects on ion channel proteins in the central nervous system and brain circulation.
In 2009, Dopico was awarded a $3.6 million Method to Extend Research in Time (MERIT) Award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Dopico was permitted to use the award over a 10-year period for his alcohol studies, which involves him researching the effects of alcohol on BK channels in excitable cells, such as central neurons and brain arterial smooth muscle.
The first half of Dopico’s MERIT Award expired this past June. He was recently awarded a $1.85 million extension to fund the remaining five years of his research. With the additional funding, Dopico seeks to develop drugs that target the proteins within cells that control the physiological and behavioral changes associated with alcohol intoxication in order to prevent or reverse those effects, according to a UTHSC press release.
“My job is to find molecular sites and mechanisms by which alcohol affects excitable tissue physiology, and thus agents that fight the consequences of alcohol intoxication in the brain,” Dopico said in a statement. “To do that, you need to find the protein sites where alcohol docks or interacts, and we had a very critical breakthrough in the BK channel protein.”
Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year in the United States from 2006 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, excessive drinking was responsible for one in 10 deaths among adults aged 20 — 64 years. The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion, or $1.90 a drink.
Brand new signs could light up the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts and the Cook Convention Center after leaders get permission to install them from the Downtown Memphis Commission [DMC].
Kevin Kane, president of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Pierre Landaich, the general manager of the Cook Convention Center, will present the new signs to the DMC's Design Review Board on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 4 p.m.
Take a look:
A 25-year-old Bartlett man has been sentenced to 52 years in prison for a 2011 shooting in southeast Memphis that left a teenager dead.
Carlos Gonzalez, a member of Playboy Sureños 13, a predominantly Hispanic street gang, was convicted in July in Criminal Court of second-degree murder for fatally shooting 17-year-old Miguel Villa, according to the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office.
The shooting took place in the parking lot of San Francisco's Bar and Grill near Ridgeway and Winchester around 11:45 p.m. on August 13th, 2011. Villa’s brother informed jurors that a group of men attacked him and several friends with a bat and a pipe. Gonzalez subsequently stepped out of a vehicle and began shooting, striking Villa. After hearing the shots, Villa's peers frantically ran for their lives.
Eleven spent shell casings were recovered from the scene by investigators.
Gonzalez presumed the victims were members of a rival gang known as the Pelones, according to a testimony in the trial. Prosecutors, however, said Villa was not a gang member.
Earlier this week, Gonzalez was sentenced to 20 years in prison with no parole for second-degree murder, 20 years in prison for three counts of attempted second-degree murder, and 12 years in prison for three counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.
The University of Memphis' (U of M) Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law is one of 50 legal institutions across the globe that have been recognized for boasting exceptional buildings.
Bestchoiceschools.com ranked the U of M's School of Law school 24th on its "50 Most Impressive Law School Buildings in the World" list. Law schools were selected “for their ingenuity, aesthetic beauty, and commitment to creating an environment that honors the history and study of law,” according to the website.
“This honor confirms what all of us in Memphis have long known,” said Dean Peter Letsou in a press release. “We have an absolutely spectacular facility that instills a great sense of pride among our students, alumni, faculty, staff and the greater Memphis community.”
The U of M's School of Law moved from the university's main campus in East Memphis to a downtown facility in 2010. The building, which formerly stationed a post office and customs house before undergoing renovations, overlooks the Mississippi River.
“Architect Bill Nixon took care to preserve many of the building’s original details including the decorative ceiling and an old federal courtroom,” the website reads. “Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building houses a number of small study spaces and offices, and though updated for efficiency, retains much of its original Southern charm.”
Other law school buildings highlighted on bestchoiceschools.com's list include Yale, Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and schools in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.
When the 2014-15 school year began for Shelby County Schools earlier this month, more than 10,000 kids were reportedly missing in attendance. This was largely attributed to many students lacking school uniforms and supplies.
Building Blocks Mentoring Program (BBMP), a local organization dedicated to empowering inner-city youth, will be providing underprivileged youth with new uniforms, backpacks, and school supplies, during its upcoming “Back-to-School Charity Event."
In collaboration with Grammy-nominated producer Drumma Boy's Drum Squad Foundation, BBMP seeks to not only supply Memphis youth with school necessities through its charity event, but also to lessen the burden parents have to make ends meet and provide for their kids.
“We usually have this weekend event two weeks after school starts, so that we can really help those families that have to make a choice [of either] buying a backpack or paying a phone bill or putting food on the table,” said BBMP Chairman Stephon Smallwood. “We want to be a true blessing to those families.”
BBMP’s sixth annual back-to-school event will be a three-day affair. It begins with a school supplies giveaway at Airways Middle School (2601 Ketchum) on Saturday, August 23rd. The giveaway will last from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A community day and charity basketball game will take place later that day at Street Ministries (1304 N. Graham) from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
On Sunday, August 24th, there will be a "Building Lives Fashion Show" that will feature models strutting in brands from local boutiques. Ampro Gel Industries will present the event, which will take place at Street Ministries from 3 to 5 p.m.
That evening, Drumma Boy will host a tasting of Moreno BHLV Luxury Sparkling Wine at Prive’ Restaurant (6980 Winchester) from 5 to 7 p.m.
On the culminating day of BBMP's charity event, Monday, August 25th, kids will be able to receive free haircuts from 1 to 3 p.m. at Airways Middle.
The organization will present its annual awards ceremony and silent auction at Street Ministries from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday evening. Drumma Boy is slated to be presented with BBMP’s "Entrepreneur of the Year" award. Attendees are encouraged to dress in business casual attire.
“We want the city to know that you have small organizations that do their part, and really want to see the city grow as a whole," Smallwood said. "We also [want to] let kids know that, ‘Hey, we love you. We’re here.' We’re going to play our part in seeing the betterment of them in their futures in the community.”
Memphis-area organizations got around $3.5 million in clean-air grants from the Tennessee Department of Transportation Thursday.
The grants are part of the state’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program [CMAC]. The oversized checks TDOT officials were handing out in Memphis Thursday were part of 31 CMAC grants going to 11 Tennessee communities that total $27 million.
Here are the projects funded in Memphis:
MLGW, $500,000 - Purchase 20 heavy-duty trucks that run on compressed natural gas.
City of Memphis, $600,000: Upgrade traffic signal equipment on Walnut Grove (west of I-240) to inter-connect signals, reduce congestion, and improve traffic efficiency.
Main to Main Multi-Modal Connector Project, $1.6 million: construction funding.
“This means the project can forward; it’s critical,” said Downtown Memphis Commission president Paul Morris.
Morris said the project should be under contract in November and if construction runs on schedule, the project should be complete by spring or summer 2016.
Greenline Park and Ride, $20,000: 100 parking spaces to be built next to Shelby Farms Greenline and Shelby County Government Complex.
Route 34 Express, $212,001: New, direct bus route from Cordova to Downtown Memphis. Four round trips daily.
Shelby Farms Shuttle, $180,000 - Will initially run only on the weekends between Southwest Tennessee Community College and Shelby Farms Park.
MATA bus transit expansion, $408,000: Expand existing service between proposed Greenline Park and Ride facility and major centers in the i-40 corridor.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) board of directors voted to retire Memphis' Allen Fossil Plant in Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park and replace it with a 1,000 megawatt natural gas plant by December 31st, 2018 at their regular meeting on Thursday morning in Knoxville. The new plant is expected to cost $975 million.
The TVA is under a consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency to either close the Allen coal plant or install emission controls by that 2018 deadline. Over the past few months, the TVA has been taking public comments on the decision. An Environmental Assessment report studied various options, including replacing Allen's generation capacity with renewable power sources, such as wind, solar, and biomass.
At the board's public listening session, several environmentalists spoke about their wishes for the TVA to focus more on wind and solar power.
But TVA president Bill Johnson said, while the TVA hopes to work more with renewables in the future, "we need utility-scale support." In other words, the TVA wants a more reliable source of generation now, but it may add more renewable generation sources later on.
"If we ever hope to do work with Clean Line, we need to have this plant behind it," Johnson said.
Houston-based Clean Line Energy Partners has proposed the Plains and Eastern Clean Line, a 700-mile overhead direct-current transmission line that would deliver 3,500 megawatts of low-cost wind power from the Great Plains to Tennessee and other areas in the Southeast. It wants to build its energy delivery station in northeast Shelby County. Clean Line is working under a memorandum of understanding with the TVA to study the benefits of how it could be used as a power supply source for its overall grid.
The TVA's Environmental Assessment suggested a natural gas plant ranging in capacity from 600 to 1,400 megawatts, but the board chose the 1,000 megawatt option.
Scott Banbury, conservation program coordinator for the statewide Sierra Club, is calling the move a win because the smaller generation capacity for the gas plant leaves more room for the TVA to work with solar and wind options. Johnson said at the meeting that they plan to diversify their generation portfolio with more renewable options as they become more reliable and cost-effective.
“We can save money, decrease pollution and ensure that the proposed gas plant is used sparingly with strategic investment in key renewable resources, like wind, solar and energy efficiency," Banbury said. "These twenty-first century solutions to our energy needs will save consumers money while creating good-paying jobs right here in Tennessee.”
The closure will mean a reduction in jobs at the site. The Allen coal plant requires more workers than a natural gas plant will, but TVA's Ashley Farless has stated that the company will work to shift displaced workers into other jobs with TVA or try to help them find new jobs using the skills they have gained at the TVA. Banbury has previously stated that if the TVA adds more renewable capacity, those displaced workers could take jobs in the wind and solar sectors.
To read more about the TVA's decision, check out last week's Memphis Flyer cover story.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying a cheeseburger and fries or cold milkshake on a hot summer day, but over-indulging in delights like these can lead to an undesirable outcome: obesity. And unfortunately, this medical condition affects one in three adults in America.
A University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) professor has been awarded a million dollar grant to research the causes of obesity.
Kristen O’Connell, assistant professor for UTHSC’s Department of Physiology, along with her research team, received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a subsidiary of the National Institutes of Health.
O’Connell will use the grant, which will be distributed over a five-year period, to support a project titled, “Modulation of AgRP Neuronal Excitability: Role of Diet and Body Weight.” The goal of the project is to identify the changes that high-calorie diets have on the neural circuits that control appetite and food intake.
“We hope to better understand the molecular basis of these changes, as well as how quickly they occur and whether they are reversible,” said Dr. O’Connell in a statement. “Our results will hopefully lead to better, safer therapies for obesity and appetite control. In addition, we would like to learn how environmental factors, such as diet, influence flexibility in these key areas of the brain that control appetite, and ultimately identify ways to restore appropriate control of hunger and food intake.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. And 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years old are obese.
Obesity is associated with dramatic changes in the parts of the brain that control appetite, according to the UTHSC. These changes may compound the difficulty that many people have in losing weight and keeping it off, since the brain is effectively telling them they are hungry, even if there is no reason to be.
Obesity-related conditions (also the leading causes of preventable death) include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, according to the CDC. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008. The medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
During his visit, Perez toured the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps Center close to Stateline Road. He spoke with students, educators, and local leaders about their experience with the program, which gives free education and training to young people to learn a skill, get a GED, or find a job.
After the tour, he gave a speech that was less about posturing on policy than it was a rousing sermon to inspire the students in the room.
“Every single person in this room — every single person who comes through a Job Corps center — is gifted and talented,” Perez said. “It is up to us to draw out those gifts and talents.”
Perez spoke of learning from bad days and of second chances, telling the students that his boss, President Barack Obama, “got his butt kicked” in his first run for Congress.
The Hooks Center in Memphis is one of Job Corps’ highest performing centers in terms of job placement, and other metrics, according to Perez.
A Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) security guard has been indicted on criminal charges following the death of a passenger who was pushed from a bus.
Adicus Mitchell, a guard for Protech, has been charged with aggravated assault resulting in death for pushing James "Semaj" Gray, 68, off of a bus on May 6th. Gray, a homeless man who suffered from mental illness, had been arguing with Mitchell over bus fare. Witnesses have said Gray landed face down, and blood began streaming from his head. Gray was transported to the Med with a severe head injury.
Gray was hospitalized in a coma and suffered seizures and strokes because of his injury. He was moved to a nursing home in July, but he never recovered from his injury. He died as a result of the injury on August 3rd. Gray preferred to be called "Semaj" rather than his given name "James." "Semaj" is "James" spelled backward.
Mitchell's offense carries a punishment of 3 to 15 years in prison. The Memphis Bus Riders Union is calling on MATA to step up sensitivity training for security guards. Since the incident, MATA has dropped its contract with Protech and is now using Ambassador Worldwide Protection Agency for security.
Indictments are ready on 22 Memphis rape cases that were part of the city’s backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
Harvey delivered the news Tuesday during the monthly update on the sexual assault kit backlog to the Memphis City Council’s public safety committee. Committee chairman Kemp Conrad said he’d like to see more than 22 indictments in these cases. Harvey said, “believe me you’re going to start seeing these numbers grow,” but did not elaborate on a process or a specific timeline.
MPD Director Toney Armstrong added seven investigators to the DNA unit this month, Harvey told the committee. Sixteen permanent investigators are dedicated to the sexual assault backlog project, he said.
So far, 162 sexual assault kit cases have been investigated, Harvey said. Of those, 10 victims and suspects are deceased, eight cases have passed the statue of limitations, two kits yielded insufficient or degraded DNA samples, and in 13 of those cases the victims declined to participate in the investigation.
When council member Janis Fullilove asked Harvey why a victim would refuse to participate, he said he didn’t have the exact information on the 13 victims associated with this investigation.
“I can tell you that normally when they decline to participate, they’ve moved on with their lives,” Harvey said. “They’ve married or it’s just not something they want to go back into or they may have moved to another state.”
Training has also been a big part of the push to investigate the sexual assault kits, Harvey said. The city’s cross functional team, a group assembled to eliminate the backlog, hosted a training day session attended by more than 100 local law enforcement officers. The sessions focused on victim behavior, DNA, forensic analysis, and more.
More training all be offered in the future, Harvey said, on using the Rape Crisis Center and on human sex trafficking.
“We’re at a point now where we’re not so swamped with work that we can’t send our investigators to training,” he said. “And we’re trying to the training in place as soon as possible.”
The new health insurance plan proposed by unions representing city employees will not fix the city’s long-term problems or even be ready in time for employees next year, according to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton.
The plan increased employees’ premiums by 24 percent, cut some of their spouses from the program, cut a 70 percent subsidy the city paid toward retirees’ health care insurance, and more.
Employees’ unions proposed a high-deductible insurance plan to the city’s health oversight committee a few weeks ago. The unions said that plan would save about $24 million, keep retirees’ subsidies, keep premiums where they are now, and keep spouses on the city’s health plan.
Wharton administration officials asked Mercer, a benefits consulting firm, to run the numbers on that plan. The company said the plan would not save enough money and could not be implemented by a January deadline.
The results of the study were delivered to the council’s Personnel & Intergovernmental Committee Tuesday.
Memphis Police Association president Mike Williams said he didn’t necessarily like the plan proposed by his organization and the Memphis Fire Fighters Association. But he said coming back to the table shows the groups are willing to compromise, something he said the Wharton administration is not willing to do.
“They made no effort whatsoever to help us change our plan or even meet us halfway,” Williams said.
Williams then suggested the council bring in an independent consultant to review the unions’ health insurance proposal, much in the way the council sought independent counsel on the city’s pension system
The proposal will come back to council for a further review in two weeks.
New data shows murders, forcible rapes, aggravated assaults, and robberies across Shelby County are on the rise compared to 2013.
The Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission disclosed countywide crime statistics for January through July 2014 in the latest Operation: Safe Community monthly crime trends report.
According to the report, violent crime has increased by 5.7 percent in Memphis and 5.8 percent countywide this year thus far compared to last year.
From January to July 2014, there were 80 murders, 233 forcible rapes, 4,880 aggravated assaults, and 1,987 robberies in Shelby County. Over the same period in 2013, there were 73 murders, 218 forcible rapes, 4,622 aggravated assaults, and 1,872 robberies.
“We are concerned about the increase in reported major violent crimes,” said Bill Gibbons, chair of Operation: Safe Community and commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, in a statement. “It points out the importance of continuing to focus on those parts of the Operation: Safe Community plan designed to curb violent street crime, in particular, data-driven deployment of police resources to areas of high rates of youth crime.”
On the contrary, major property crime decreased by 5.4 percent in Memphis and 5.5 percent countywide from January through July 2014, compared to the same time period in 2013.
In 2014, there were 6,845 burglaries, 16,630 theft offenses, and 1,792 motor vehicle thefts. However, in 2013, there were 7,513 burglaries, 17,446 theft offenses, and 1,781 motor vehicle thefts.
“We are encouraged by the continued decline in reported major property crimes, both in Memphis and countywide,” Gibbons said. “We hope the decline in reported domestic violence offenses is a sign that state and local efforts to address this problem are paying off.”
The Operation: Safe Community monthly crime trends report utilizes data reported by local enforcement agencies to the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System.
Operation: Safe Community was launched in 2007 and is an initiative to reduce crime in Memphis and Shelby County. Spearheaded by the Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission, the initiative involves an organized network of more than 100 partner organizations.