Sonya McCaul (from Facebook)
A Dickson County judge has ruled that the juvenile court order that sent Sonya McCaul to live with her biological father in Nebraska was illegal and “must be vacated.” In a memorandum opinion filed Friday in Dickson County Circuit Court, retired Chancellor Robert Burch grants the petition by former foster parents Kim and David Hodgin by vacating the Jan. 29 ruling by now-retired Judge Andy Jackson that led to the removal of Sonya from the Hodgins’ home and returned her to John McCaul that day. While the final order is still to be drawn by the Hodgins’ attorneys for the judge to sign, the opinion does not reflect what the result of the judge’s order will be. Burch does not order a new hearing and the opinion does not address Jackson’s subsequent order on Aug. 29 that transferred custody of Sonya from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services to the Nebraska Division of Children and Family Services. In his opinion, Burch says there appears to be confusion as to which motion Jackson was granting at the conclusion of the Jan. 29 hearing in Charlotte and there is a conflict between the transcript of the hearing and the written order that came out of it. Burch says prior to the Jan. 29 hearing, attorneys for McCaul filed a motion to return custody of Sonya to her father and attorneys for the Hodgins filed a motion to retain custody or placement of the child in their home, while at the hearing attorneys for the Department of Children’s Services recommended Sonya be removed from placement with the Hodgins and “placed” with the father. After all three motions were argued, Burch says it appears Jackson gave a conflicting ruling that is based on the use of the words “custody” and “placement.” In the transcript of the hearing, Jackson says, “Custody is returned to the father.” “From the words of the ruling, it appears that the juvenile court granted the motion to return custody filed by the father,” Burch writes. But in the written orders issued by the judge, Jackson approves “placement” of Sonya with the father under the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children and awards custody to DCS. In subsequent hearings, Jackson contended that DCS had custody of Sonya and McCaul had temporary physical custody until a final order is issued. “The oral pronouncement of the juvenile court from the bench is in conflict with the written order of said court,” Burch writes. When such a discrepancy exists, Burch says case law provides that the transcript of what the judge said controls the decision. Based on that conclusion, Burch writes that the ruling by Jackson was to transfer full custody of Sonya from DCS to her father. Burch then says the Jan. 29 hearing contained no testimony or proof that a material change in the child’s circumstances after living with the Hodgins for eight years existed sufficient to satisfy the requirement for a change in custody. “Therefore, the order of the juvenile court is without basis in fact and is, thus, illegal,” Burch’s opinion states. Based on Jackson’s use of the word “custody” in his ruling and the conflict between the judge’s oral and written rulings, Burch grants the Hodgins’ petition and vacates both the oral and written orders of Jackson. Neither side has commented on Burch’s ruling and it is not clear whether it means custody of Sonya is returned to the Hodgins or if the questions have been left moot by Jackson’s order last month turning the case over to the state of Nebraska. Sonya remains with her father in Omaha where a judge continued a hearing last week on the Hodgins’ request to be involved in the final custody decision. The Hodgins also have a petition to terminate John McCaul’s parental rights pending in Dickson County Chancery Court.
After taking last year off, the Center for Dental Excellence brings back free dental services with Saturday’s sixth annual Dentistry With a Heart. Dr. Stephen Deloach and the staff at the Center for Dental Excellence and other dental professionals will volunteer their time to provide basic dental services for free 7 am-noon for those in need. Each patient may choose a free cleaning, a free filling or a free extraction. Referrals for other services will be available. Patients can begin lining up at the center at 212 East College Street at 6 am. There will be no concessions available and patients are urged to bring their own food and water. Services will be on a first-come, first-served basis with no appointments or reservations. The center staff hopes to be able to serve at least 150 patients in the time allowed. For more information on Saturday’s Dentistry With a Heart, call 615-446-2372.
The 9th annual Apple Butter Festival signals the start of fall this weekend in White Bluff. Hosted by Crossroads Church of God of Prophecy, the annual festival features family entertainment, demonstrations, food, craft vendors and hundreds of gallons of handmade apple butter. The festival is 9 am-3 pm Saturday at the church at 1002 Claylick Road, just outside White Bluff at the intersection of Highways 47 and 250. Admission is free. Members of the Crossroads congregation have already been busy peeling, slicing and grinding dozens of bushels of apples with a goal of creating more than 200 gallons of the sweet treat at the center of the festival. The supply never fails to sell out and proceeds benefit the church’s building fund. In addition to the apple butter, food will include various baked goods, barbecue chickens, pulled pork, hamburgers, hotdogs, pork rinds, funnel cakes and cotton candy. There will be inflatable fun and a playground for children, a silent auction, several vendor booths and live music. For more information on the 9th annual Apple Butter Festival, call 615-797-3778.
Dickson County High School’s Hunter Wolcott and Jack Story begin their quest for a state golf title today. The two Cougar juniors tee off this morning in the two-day TSSAA Class AAA state tournament at WillowBrook Golf Club in Manchester. The Region 6-AAA champion after shooting 67 at GreyStone Golf Club, Story starts from the 10th tee at 9:10 am. The District 11-AAA champion after shooting 68 at GreyStone, Wolcott starts from the 10th tee at 8:20 am. Both Cougars are making their second appearances in the state tournament. Wolcott finished tied for seventh with a 145 at WillowBrook in 2012 while his brother, Ben, was the state runner up. Story also claimed the region title in 2013 and finished tied for 15th last year with a 150. The tournament concludes tomorrow. Dickson County High School’s only state golf champion in its 42-year history is Bob Wolcott, Hunter’s father, in 1979.
While still unhappy about the decision to reduce hours of operation at the Charlotte Post Office, town officials plan to ask the U.S. Postal Service to consider adjusting the hours to meet the needs of the most customers. Postal officials announced in August that starting next week the hours of operation at the retail window will be reduced to six per weekday. After sending out surveys in the 37036 zip code and holding a public meeting Aug. 7, the postal service announced the window hours will be 8 am-4 pm weekdays while closing 11 am-1 pm for lunch beginning Oct. 4. At last week’s meeting, Mayor Bill Davis and members of the Charlotte Town Council said those hours are not the most convenient for the majority of customers, especially those in the county seat of government who make their trips to the post office on their lunch breaks. Postal officials said access to the mail receptacles will remain 24/7 and will not be affected by the change in hours and Saturday window hours will remain unchanged at 8 am-noon. The officials also said all mail will be available for pickup in the receptacles by 10 am each day. The mayor and council decided to contact the postmaster in Ashland City, who is over the district that includes the Charlotte Post Office, to ask about adjusting the reduced window hours to better meet the demand of customers, perhaps even opening later so the window can remain open during the normal lunch hours. As part of the national POST plan to reduce expenses, the postal service has closed and reduced hours at hundreds of facilities across the country. Retail window hours have already been reduced to two per weekday at the post office in Slayden and six per weekday Cumberland Furnace, Charlotte’s hours will be reduced next week and officials said hours at the Vanleer Post Office will be reduced to six a weekday by Jan. 9.
Dickson County School Board members recently re-elected their leaders for another year. Without discussion the board chose Tim Potter to continue serving as chairman, Kirk Vandivort as vice chairman and Steve Haley as Tennessee Legislative Network representative at its September meeting. All three were re-elected by acclamation. Potter was re-elected to his third four-year term representing the 4th School District in August. Vandivort and Haley were re-elected without opposition in 2012 in the 1st and 3rd school districts, respectively. The school board elects its leadership in September each year. Prior to the meeting, the board of education hosted a reception to honor school system employees who have retired in the last year. Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks said the 34 workers who were honored represent the loss of more than 775 years of collective experience in the school system. Those honored included administrators, teachers, bus drivers, secretaries, educational assistants, maintenance personnel and school nutrition workers. Twelve of those retirees leave with more than 30 years in the school system, including bus driver Richard Anderson with 41 years of service, teacher and coach Henry Hamilton with 40 years, teacher Harriett King with 38 years, food service manager Terry Primm with 38 years, teacher Pam Hayes with 34 years and secretary Pat Roberts with 33 years, among others.
Creek Wood scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to win a seesaw battle 40-28 over Stewart County for Homecoming Friday night. The Red Hawks improve to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in District 11-AA. A blocked extra point gave the visiting Rebels a 14-13 edge at intermission and two scores within 11 seconds at the end of the third period put Stewart County back on top 28-27. But Creek Wood scored on a long pass and turned an interception into points in the fourth period to pull out the win. The Red Hawks scored on their opening drive when Ian Spence connected with Kyle Klotz for a 27-yard TD. After Creek Wood’s next drive ended in a fumble deep in Rebel territory, Stewart County caught Creek Wood off-guard with a 70-yard reverse by Timothy Clark to tie the game 7-7. Creek Wood came back with a 15-yard run by Spence but his extra point was blocked. That opened the door for Stewart County to take its first lead when Taeton Wienk scored on a one-yard run following an interception and the extra point by Gustavo DeSousa put the Rebels ahead 14-13 at intermission. Creek Wood opened the second half with a 62-yard drive capped by a three-yard run from Klotz to regain the lead. Following a big punt return, Dalton Pentecost extended the lead to 13 points with a short touchdown run at 27-14. -But Stewart County struck back with two quick scores. Trey Wienk ran in from three yards out, then the Rebels pulled off an onside kick to set up a 47-yard scoring pass from Wienk to Kameron Heina for a 28-27 lead 11 seconds later. But the Red Hawks took control in the fourth. Spence and Mathis Duncan hooked up for a 57-yard touchdown to retake the lead. Devon Higgins then returned an interception to the Rebel 5-yard line and Klotz plowed in from there for the final 40-28 margin. Creek Wood heads into its open week with a chance to get some injured players back before returning to the district wars at Montgomery Central next week. Creek Wood’s regular-season finale against Camden has been moved from Halloween to Thursday, Oct. 30.
Dickson County overcame a 21-point deficit but was unable to hold on to the lead in a 41-31 loss to Wilson Central at Homecoming Friday night. The Cougars dropped their fifth in a row with the non-district loss. The visiting Wildcats used a couple of big pass plays to build a 21-0 lead in the opening period before the Cougars began to claw their way back. On the last play of the first quarter, Jacob Murphree hit Isaiah Burns behind the defense for a 39-yard score. A 41-yard field goal from Jacob Williams cut the difference to 21-10. The two sides traded scores before intermission as Murphree and Burns hooked up again from 10 yards out and Wilson Central led 28-17 at the half. The Cougars stormed back to take the lead in the fourth period. Murphree scrambled for a 17-yard touchdown but the conversion failed, leaving Dickson County behind 28-23 after three periods. Early in the fourth, Collier Wolcott ground out a long drive capped by a two-yard run. Murphree ran in for the two points and Dickson County took its first lead of the game 31-28 with 8:39 left. But Dickson County couldn’t hold on as the Wildcats came back with two late scores to get their second win of the season 41-31. The 1-5 Cougars look to snap their five-game skid with a trip to Summit Friday night for a District 11-AAA contest.