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Murder, attempted murder leads to two arrests in Mt. Verd area

Two people have been arrested and charged by the McMinn County Sheriff’s Department regarding a shooting in the Mt. Verd community Saturday evening that left a woman dead and another man injured.

According to McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy, officers responded to a residence on County Road 202 near Athens to a report of a shooting. Upon arrival, they discovered a woman — identified as Mary Denise Dalton, 54 — deceased. Jonathan C. Burger, 31, was wounded and later transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Both lived at the residence on County Road 202.

“It appears that a group of two to three people who were having a dispute with the victims came to the residence sometime after 8 p.m.,” Guy said. “At least one member of the other party apparently produced a firearm and fired the shots that killed Ms. Dalton and injured Mr. Burger.”

Guy stated that his deputies and detectives, along with the Tenth Judicial District Attorney’s Office and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents, processed the crime scene Saturday night. Several search warrants were obtained and executed Sunday morning in relation to the incident.

Arrested Monday evening were Esau C. Kelly, 24, of Ooltewah, who was charged with murder in the second degree and attempted murder in the second degree; and Melissa K. Pueirtt, 45, of Etowah, who was charged with accessory after the fact of murder in the second degree. Both were booked into the McMinn County Jail: Kelly on a $350,000 bond, Pueirtt on a $10,000 bond.

“I want to thank DA Steve Crump’s office, TBI Agent Colton Brown, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, and the Etowah Police Department for their assistance in this investigation,” Guy noted. “And especially the efforts led by McMinn County Dets. Dillon Presswood and Jared Price.”

The investigation is continuing.

At 4 a.m. Tuesday, fire departments were dispatched to N. Amhurst Place in Englewood. Upon arrival, flames were visible on one side of the house causing extensive heat and fire damage to the interior. No one was home at the time of the fire. Englewood Rural Fire, Etowah Rural Fire, Athens City Fire, Madisonville City Fire, AMR, McMinn County Sheriff’s Department and Englewood City Police Department all responded. Englewood Rural Fire Chief Billy Roach was in command of the scene.

Homeowners unharmed in Englewood blaze

Etowah receives grant to help restore L&N Depot

The Etowah Historical Commission was the recipient of a grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to rehabilitate the L&N Depot.

Paul Barnette, a member of the Etowah Historical Commission who wrote the grant, expressed his excitement for receiving the money.

“We are very pleased to have gotten this and we are very much looking forward to getting the contract and getting this project underway,” Barnette said.

The commission received $13,560 in funds to help with the revitalization to a specific part of the depot.

“The Etowah Historical Commission is paying 70% and the remaining 30% is the grant,” he noted.

The planned work in the depot will be in the Portico room and the adjacent kitchen.

“We made the decision to move forward with working on that when we were notified that a grant was available, so we applied for it,” Barnette said. “We are basically restoring the room from scratch. We have removed the carpet, refinished the floors to the natural wood floor, repairing all of the walls and woodwork, and in the kitchen we need plugs so we are doing a little bit of plumbing and electrical work.”

He noted they would be reusing around 95% of the existing furniture that already exists in the rooms.

“We are working with a designer that the commission had hired to give advice on restoring the room,” he noted. “The entire room shall be refurbished and we will put it back together moreso like a Victorian room rather than a club car, which was the original inspiration for the room.”

The room use to be used for receptions, birthday parties and more as the city used to rent it out.

“Once we restored the windows last year we realized that we really didn’t have a choice but to restore the room as well,” he stated. “The room was not usable after the windows were restored without refurbishing.”

Aside from this room, there have been other restorations made to the Etowah Depot as well.

“Over the years the current board has already done some major updates inside. We revamped the entire museum and have rooms on the second floor that are for the museum,” Barnette expressed. “We finished all of that work before the pandemic started and during the pandemic we hadn’t done much other than restore the windows and that led to our current project.”

Barnette stated the town has a very “ambitious” board and thanked all of the community for the support they have received.

“We are all working together and we have done some really important things at the depot over the last several years,” he expressed. “We can’t wait for everything to fully open back up again and we hope to have everything finished so that we can get as many people as we can to come and look at all of the work we have put into the building over the last few years.”

McMinn officials planning for broadband expansion

High-speed internet throughout McMinn County appears to be inching closer to reality.

During his report at Monday’s McMinn County Commission meeting, County Mayor John Gentry reported that the county has received its first installment of just over $5 million from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) COVID relief package.

“It will be a minimum of six more months before we’ll be eligible to do the second round of draw downs,” said Gentry, referring to the remaining $5 million-plus of the county total share of ARP funds. “The (Tennessee) comptroller has recommended all counties not to touch that money after they draw it down, awaiting the final rules from the (U.S.) Department of Treasury.”

Gentry said those rules were expected this month, but have not yet been released.

“What we have been doing in the meantime is meeting with broadband (internet) providers,” he said.

Gentry said he is engaged in discussions with Volunteer Energy Cooperative (VEC), Athens Utilities Board (AUB), Spectrum, Comcast and AT&T. Next month, he expects to present at least one program grant opportunity on behalf of VEC pending clarity on some program rules.

“There’s some early projections of as much as 25% of the county being covered by Volunteer (Energy) through their service area,” said Gentry.

The commission has identified the availability of high-speed internet service throughout the county as among its highest priorities.

“It looks like we’re going to be able to move towards your goal of getting broadband — real fiber — throughout the county,” said Gentry.

Gentry added that over the next two months the county budget committee will be working to develop a criteria for funding requests from utility providers.

McMinn rescue squad taking donations for Christmas fundraiser at football games

The McMinn County Rescue Squad is currently gathering donations for their annual Rescue Christmas event.

Rescue Christmas is an event where the McMinn County Rescue Squad collects donations of toys or money in order to supply children in need around the county with Christmas gifts.

“People can donate year round, money wise, because we have a second account for it called the McMinn County Rescue Christmas Fund,” said Rescue Christmas Overseer Rod Walker. “Toys have to be new and unwrapped and we will accept them until December 10 because the party we will hold for the children will be on Dec. 18 this year.”

Much like with the monetary donations, toys will need to be donated to the McMinn County Rescue Squad Building on Congress Parkway.

Those with questions about what is allowed to be donated can call the rescue squad at 745-6666.

“One of the things we do not need donated this year is stuffed animals because they are able to easily transfer the (COVID-19) virus,” he noted. “If you want to donate a stuffed animal it will need to be completely wrapped and sealed up because we will need to run them through an industrial dryer.”

He believes this year will be a special year for the children who are able to participate.

“Each child will be given a coat and a pair of shoes as well this year,” he expressed. “I think this is very important to host because there are several kids in this community that are not as fortunate as others ... We don’t want to see a kid go without something on Christmas morning.”

The rescue squad will also be accepting donations during the remaining home football games for McMinn County High School.

“They will have a table set up along with a box and there will be people there in their squad uniforms during the game,” Walker said. “They started this two weeks ago and I believe they did well on the first night. People are in a giving mood this year and we are way ahead of schedule than we normally are this year.”

Walker would also prefer being cautious on donating toys that require batteries.

“You will spend twice as much on batteries than you would the toy so be careful of that,” he noted. “I really thank the community for being so giving this year. In Athens we really are the friendly city and people at this time of year show their gratitude. We truly are a blessed community.”