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Hance back in custody after daylong manhunt

NEWPORT—An escaped Cocke County Jail inmate is back in custody after a 24-hour manhunt.

Billy Wayne Hance, 47, Old Sevierville Highway, is now charged with felony jail escape, according to the Cocke County Sheriff’s Office.

He was in custody on charges of driving while license revoked, reckless driving, reckless endangerment, kidnapping, financial responsibility, evading arrest, failure to exercise due care, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, and failure to maintain his lane of travel following a vehicle and foot pursuit from Newport City Officers on July 6.

On Monday, two bailiffs were in the process of transporting Hance, along with five other inmates, from the Cocke County General Sessions Courtroom back to the Cocke County Jail Annex when Hance managed to flee from bailiffs.

According to a press release, Hance, who was handcuffed in the front, fled down the courthouse stairs and out a side door near the County Clerk’s Office.

Efforts were continued throughout the evening and night by the Cocke County Sheriff’s Office, Newport Police Department, Knox County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshall’s, and TWRA in an attempt to find Hance.

On Tuesday afternoon, nearly 24-hours after Hance escaped, Deputy Joshua Matthews, Special Patrol Captain David Robertson, and Detective Josh Hall spotted Hance at the Holiday Inn on Cosby Highway. Hance attempted to flee once again but was apprehended and taken back into custody.

According to CCSO Officials, Hance’s girlfriend, identified as Melissa Anne Harris, 39, Clear Creek Road, was also arrested earlier that day and charged after she played a part in helping Hance escape custody.

Sgt. Chris Barnes reported Harris “had knowingly” concealed Hance following his escape from custody.

Captain Detective Eric Ramsey and Jail Administer Josh Hartsell advised Harris to call 911 if she had any contact with Hance. However, during the course of the investigation, deputies learned that Hance was with Harris at her residence from 2:30 a.m. until noon on Tuesday. Harris did not attempt to contact law enforcement during those hours, the report stated.

At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, deputies came in contact with Harris at Family Farm Restaurant where she was taken into custody. Sgt. Barnes said while searching Harris’ vehicle, he found a pair of peerless handcuffs from the Cocke County Jail Annex in the front seat of the car.

Deputies questioned Harris’ daughter about the handcuffs, and she said they belonged to Hance.

Harris was charged with accessory after the fact.

Cocke County students earn highest number of Work Ethic Diplomas

NEWPORT—A total of 180 students graduated from Cocke County and Cosby High Schools in May 2019 with a Work Ethic Diploma, the highest number of graduates achieving this goal in Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Greeneville, Hamblen, Hawkins, and Sevier County school systems.

Begun in 2015, the Work Ethic Diploma came about after local business and education leaders from Hamblen, Grainger, and Hawkins Counties began to work together to seek ways for students to graduate from high school more “work ready” and to be able to put their knowledge into practice.

“This meeting was a component of the Lakeway Region’s LEAP (Labor Education Alignment Program) grant,” explained Chris Edmonds, LEAP coordinator at Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Morristown.

Edmonds said, “At that meeting, it was determined that attendance, punctuality, and being drug-free were common trouble areas in the young adult workforce.”

Cocke County teacher Love Henderson, who oversees the program locally, said, “Cocke County’s participation in the program began in 2016. That year 14 students, 10 from CCHS and 4 from Cosby, completed the requirements. That number jumped to 84 the second year.”

Henderson works with Law Loving, describing him as the “go-to person” with Niswonger Foundation, a major supporter of the Work Ethic Diploma. “I also work with Megan Loving, CCHS guidance counselor, and Shawna Murrell, Cosby High vice-principal,” she said.

Henderson said in the beginning, Gail Burchette, then Ben W. Hooper Vocational School Director, “sent out information to inform us of what was going to happen (with the Work Ethic Diploma) the following year.”

Emphasizing that the Work Ethic Diploma is “not just for vocational students, but for those in the academic program, too,” Henderson outlined ways in which a student can earn a Work Ethic Diploma.

“A student must earn a minimum of 20 points and a regular high school diploma in order to qualify for a Work Ethic Diploma,” Henderson said.

“There are 14 standards by which a student can earn these points,” she added. “These include attendance, absence, tardiness, discipline, overall grade-point average, drug free, CTE course work, CTE competition, TN Promise, Dual Enrollment/Credit, Industry Certification, Enrollment in Post-Secondary, Career Readiness Certificate, and Industry Awareness.”

Nearly 40 area industries, including three in Cocke County, guarantee a student earning a Work Ethic Diploma a job interview. These include American Appliance Products, Inc., Phoenix Closures, Inc., and Eastern Plating, all in Cocke County, as well as Ball in Chestnut Hill.

Henderson also said, “Students earning a Work Ethic Diploma get to wear a special stole at graduation. A special seal on their diploma shows the college/industry they completed this goal.”

Part of Henderson’s work also includes traveling between the two schools, meeting with the students. In the beginning, Henderson worked with Burchette, Patrick O’Neil, guidance counselors at both high schools, and Casey Kelley. “I met with all the seniors in September of 2016 to start the program here.”

Henderson, a former CLB member, said she also goes to the CLB and the Newport City Council once a year “to update them” on the program.

Edmonds, who has been an integral part of the program’s initiation and success from its inception, said, “It has been a career highlight for me to be a part of developing and implementing an initiative that has meaning for graduating seniors and benefit for our employers. It is a unique experience, especially to watch the program grow from three counties to six counties to 13 counties in East Tennessee. Now it is to be carried statewide with a new grant which was recently awarded to the Niswonger Foundation.

“The Niswonger Foundation has been a major supporter of the Work Ethic Diploma. They have made a substantial investment in a website dedicated to promoting and tracking student progress toward earning the required points to receive the distinction. We owe the Niswonger Foundation much gratitude for what they do to better our communities through educational opportunities and programs.”

City Council honors Newport Police Officers

NEWPORT—The City of Newport Board of Mayor and Aldermen met Tuesday evening where they received monthly reports and approved a number of bids.

City Administrator James Finchum reported that the Newport Street Department is working diligently to continue their efforts to clean up brush from the series of storms that swept through Newport at the end of June.

Finchum also reminded everyone the summer concert series will continue on Thursday, July 11 at 7 p.m. behind Newport City Hall. Mountain Edge will be performing that evening.

Alderman Mike Hansel was on the agenda with a few suggestions for the council to consider.

Those suggestions were to install a camera system at the intersection of McMahan Street and Broadway and the consideration of implementing an early storm warning system.

According to Alderman Hansel, the City of Newport does not have any type of warning system to alert the community when a strong storm or a possible tornado is in the forecast. Hansel mentioned working with the Cocke County Emergency Management Agency in implementing the system.

In other news, Council gave their approval to reapply for the annual Partners Safety Matching Grant. Finchum advised this grants helps purchase safety equipment for the Newport Police Department.

A trio of Newport Police Officers was recognized on Tuesday evening. Of those officers were Patrolman Will Garber for receiving the DUI award.

Members also recognized Patrolman Brandon Cassady for his efforts in attempting to save a 37-day-old infant who was reported unresponsive at a hotel in Newport Sunday evening.

Sgt. David Clevenger was also recognized for saving a woman who was choking and for his efforts of helping community members during the storm on June 17.

Council approved a number of bids during the meeting. One of those bids was for a filtration system for the Community Center pool. The bid was priced at $90,531.45.

Council members also approved bids for annual paving and for road salt.

Under appointment of boards, commissions, and committees, Jimmy Lee was re-appointed to the Beer Board. Elizabeth Parker was reappointed to serve on the Library Board and Jim McSween was reappointed to the Newport Planning Commission.

Ramsey receives Keeper of the Flame award

The Tennessee Gas Association recently presented Carolyn Ramsey with the Association’s new 2019 TGA Keeper of the Flame Award at the June 2019 annual meeting of members and delegates.

“The TGA Keeper of the Flame Award is a new award for the Association, acknowledging the recipient’s exemplary spirit and loyalty to the natural gas industry in Tennessee,” said 2018/19 TGA President, Brooke Sinclair.

With twenty-seven years of experience in the natural gas industry as Office Manager of Jefferson-Cocke County Utility District and her previous 30-year career with AT&T, Carolyn Ramsey represents the true character of this award. Jefferson-Cocke County Utility District was established in 1957 and serves 2 counties with over 7,900 customers and 48 employees.

Ramsey’s involvement with TGA is invaluable.

Her years of customer service experience served TGA well as she served countless years on the TGA Customer Service Committee.

Under her Chairmanship, the Committee offered valuable training to the members of TGA.

Most recently Ramsey and JCCUD hosted a very successful TGA Customer Service Workshop.

The Jefferson and Cocke County communities have benefited greatly from Ramsey’s love and generosity.

She is instrumental in the work of the Cocke County Education Foundation pursuing grants to fund the Imagination Library Program where children from ages birth to five receive books.

Ramsey is also involved in the Cocke County Leadership Program, Kiwanis, March of Dimes and Relay for Life.

Cooking and baking are a passion of Ramsey’s and she blesses countless people and organizations with her canned and bakes goods.

Ramsey resides in her family home in Del Rio, TN with her husband of more than 50 years, Barney.