News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced that the state is increasing a $10,000 reward to $20,000 for information leading to the apprehension, arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of Dawn Shannon Hercutt.
“I am hopeful that this new reward encourages someone with information about this case to come forward,” Haslam said. “It is past time for the person or people responsible for this terrible crime to be brought to justice.”
On August 3, 2009, Hercutt’s body was found in her car at the bottom of a 150-foot embankment in Sevierville. Her death initially appeared to result from a car accident, but autopsy results later revealed that she was murdered.
Along with the additional $10,000 in reward money, the governor announced that the state will match any new reward offered by a third party in this case up to a maximum of $5,000.
The initial $10,000 reward was approved by Gov. Phil Bredesen in December 2009.
James Dunn, District Attorney General for the 4th Judicial District, requests that anyone with information about this case call the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office tips line at 865-453-0312 or the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND
Scott DesJarlais, a first-term Republican congressman who was elected in the GOP tidal wave of 2010, tells Michael Collins he’s approaching his re-election campaign much the same way he approached his first race two years ago. He faces Shannon Kelley, a Southwest Airlines pilot who lives in Murfreesboro, in the Republican primary on Aug. 2. The winner will face state Sen. Eric Stewart, a Democrat from Belvidere in Franklin County, in November.
Though DesJarlais is considered the heavy favorite in the primary, the race will pose some challenges for him.
The 4th Congressional District shrank from 24 to 16 counties when the state legislature redrew congressional maps earlier this year. Fourteen counties were stripped out of the district, and six new counties were added. The remapping means roughly 400,000 of the district’s 700,000 voters are new to the district.
“It will be a bit of a challenge to build name ID in the new counties,” DesJarlais concedes. But he said he intends “to be aggressive and very proactive.”
Kelley, who has never held public office, thinks the newly reconfigured district provides an opening for him in what otherwise looks like a long-shot campaign.
“That is a part of the district that does not know Scott,” Kelley said.
Kelley, 39, said he thinks DesJarlais sometimes focuses too much on the economic impact of legislation instead of looking at the real cause of the nation’s problems, which he says is a lack of moral principles and self-reliance.
But in general, “I think he has had a fairly good voting record,” Kelley said. “What I am doing is I am offering people from District Four another option.”
About 60 percent of voters in the 4th Congressional District were in a different district two years ago when U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais won his first term, reports Chas Sisk. His challenger in the Republican primary is one of them.
But DesJarlais is pretty much already looking past the primary to a November match with state Sen. Eric Stewart, who is unopposed for the Democratic nod. Only Shannon Kelley, a Murfreesboro resident who flies for Southwest Airlines, signed up to run against DesJarlais in the Aug. 2 primary. Kelley says he was motivated to enter the race not because he dislikes DesJarlais, but because he wanted to give Rutherford County residents the option of electing a local.
“I don’t have a problem with the incumbent. He has a good voting record,” said Kelley. “We’ve wanted a representative from this county, and I wanted to offer that choice to people.”
Republicans dominate local offices in Rutherford County and likely hold the edge districtwide, but Democrats believe they can make inroads.
They point to a poll done for the Stewart campaign that showed only 54 percent of likely voters recognized DesJarlais by name and that only about 30 percent were committed to voting for him again.
“Scott DesJarlais has not done anything to keep jobs from going from places like Tennessee to places like China,” Stewart said. “He’s proved he’s out of touch.”
Still a relative newcomer to politics, DesJarlais believes anti-Washington sentiment will not work against him. He points to the some of those votes that upset the Republican establishment last year as evidence.
“I’m not sure the anti-incumbent mood is quite the same as it was in 2010,” he said. “People can look at how I voted as an independent conservative.”
DesJarlais is already swinging back at Stewart. He says Stewart would not vote to roll back the Affordable Care Act, with DesJarlais’ campaign pointing to Stewart’s vote against a state measure that sought to exempt Tennessee residents from the health insurance mandate as evidence
…Democrats attack DesJarlais for his use of congressional mailing privileges. Citing House records, the Stewart campaign says DesJarlais has spent $455,308.30 on mailers and other communications, the second-most among House members during the 107th Congress.
DesJarlais defends the practice, saying his mailings often include surveys and other solicitations for feedback from his constituents.
“It is a very rural, expansive district,” he said. “I plan to be proactive in constituent outreach … and mail is one of the most efficient ways to do that.”
The mailings will be of limited use to DesJarlais this November. By law, congressmen can send mail only to people who live in the district they represent, which until the end of this year is the old 4th District.
A former Gov. Phil Bredesen-appointed member of the state Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Collection Service Board now faces federal charges, including 16 felony counts, related to three different investment schemes.
More from The City Paper: In March 2011, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation arrested Edward Shannon Polen, on three felony charges of theft, but the full scale of his alleged crimes came into focus on Monday when prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Nashville charged Polen with scamming 74 individual investors and banks out of $8,796,000.
Bredesen appointed Polen to the Collection Service Board, which oversees debt collection agencies in the state, in July 2008. He served a full term, before resigning on April 5, 2011, according to board minutes.
Polen, also a former Robertson County commissioner, is charged with five counts of bank fraud, three counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering for operating three investment schemes.
“Despite his assurances to investor-victims of significant returns on their investment … Edward Shannon Polen never intended to invest their funds as promised,” the charges state.