Meeks Sentenced To 27 Years In Marion County Crash That Killed 3 People

Avoiding Trial, 20-Year-Old Enters Surprise Guilty Pleas To Reckless Aggravated Assault, 3 Counts Of Vehicular Homicide

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - by Judy Frank
James Timothy Meeks
James Timothy Meeks

One day before a 20-year-old Signal Mountain man was scheduled to go on trial in Jasper for killing three people by repeatedly ramming the vehicle in which they were passengers, he entered surprise guilty pleas to four of the 16 charges he was facing.

James Timothy “JT” Meeks III was taken from the Sequatchie County Jail, where he has been held since August 2011, to the Marion County Jail during the wee morning hours on Monday.

Approximately nine hours later he appeared before Circuit Judge Thomas Graham, who sentenced him to 15 years in prison for causing the deaths of Chattanooga resident Annie E. Blevins, 24, and Nicholas Scott Clayton, 20, and Emily F. Clayton, 21, both of Sale Creek.

Further, the judge ruled, Meeks must serve another 12 years for reckless aggravated assault on the driver of Meeks’ targeted vehicle, 37-year-old Eric D. Blevins, who survived the crash and had been among the witnesses subpoenaed to testify in this week’s scheduled trial.

Meeks will receive credit for the time he has already been incarcerated on charges related to the fatal wreck, Judge Graham said.

The charges against Meeks grew out of a road-rage-related crash on remote Big Fork Road on Suck Creek Mountain around 4 a.m. on June 4, 2011.

Three months later, in August 2011, grand jurors returned 16 indictments against Meeks, including three that charged him with “unlawfully and recklessly (killing the three victims) during the perpetration of the attempted first-degree murder of Eric Blevins.”

Meeks fled the scene but was located days later in jail in Gordon County, Ga., where he signed a voluntary waiver of his rights before being interrogated by Georgia officers concerning a theft in that county.

Shortly afterward, he was questioned at length by two different groups of officers from Tennessee – neither of which read him his rights, prosecutors admitted, because he had already waived them prior to the earlier interrogation by Georgia officers.

Further, according to court documents, despite Meeks’ objections the officers pressured him to talk to them by saying that the three dead victims were to be buried the next day and that it would comfort their families to know what had happened to their loved ones before they “put them in the ground.”

“While it may be true that a confession from Mr. Meeks may have eased the minds of the victims’ families on the evening before the three funerals, and while it may have been convenient for the officers to extract an immediate confession rather that waiting . . . (the law) specifically provides that a suspect has the right to cut off questioning in order to control the time at which the questioning occurs, the subjects being discussed and the duration of the interrogation,” defense attorneys Keith Davis and Bob Morgan argued in a motion filed with the court.

The judge agreed, prohibiting prosecutors from using much of their evidence – including his confession – against Meeks in court.

Judge Graham also ruled that incriminating telephone calls Meeks made from the Georgia jail to girlfriend Amber Bankston, father Tim Meeks and friend Josh Johnson after confessing were “fruit of the poisonous tree” and also could not be introduced as evidence during the trial.

In addition to his time in prison, Judge Graham ordered Meeks to pay restitution for stolen vehicles to Teresa Staples of Signal Mountain, who is owed $2,861.53; and to Robert Vernon Greeson of Gordon County, Ga., who is owed $2,350.

Woman In Critical Condition After Being Shot In The Face Near O'Rear Street Identified As Entwadina Phillips, 20

A woman who is in critical condition after she was shot while driving in Chattanooga on Saturday night has been identified as 20-year-old Entwadina Phillips . Just after  9 p.m. , the Chattanooga Police Department responded to reports of a person shot. Once on the scene, police located a female victim near the 2500 block of O'Rear Street suffering from a life-threatening ... (click for more)

Large Pothole On Holtzclaw Causes Damage To Multiple Vehicles Tuesday Morning

A large pothole at 600 N. Holtzclaw Ave. caused problems for multiple drivers on Tuesday morning. It appeared that a water main leak caused the damage. Officials quickly barricaded one lane against the curb. One motorist caught up in the quagmire said, "The damage was not light to vehicles which hit the pothole on Holtzclaw today during the morning 8 a.m. rush ... (click for more)

City Council, Please Reconsider On The 7-Story Apartment Variance - And Response

I would like to thank the Regional Planning Commission and the Regional Planning Agency   for denying the recent application for a variance from the current zoning requirements in place for the 1200 block of Cowart Street. The developers want to build a 7-story parking deck with 141 efficiency and one-bedroom apartments wrapped around three sides in an area with a 48' height ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Garden In December

As the fallen leaves confirm today is the first of December, my monthly walk in life’s garden is more foggy than fun. In much-older times, good children would get a piece of candy on Christmas Day while bad ones would receive a lump of coal. So here are some things that deserve a helping of both: A PIECE OF CANDY to the amazingly few who can spy a nest of mistletoe high in area ... (click for more)

Vol AD Hart Says Bowl Talks Have "Accelerated"

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart, football coach Butch Jones and men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes took part in a press conference on Tuesday. Athletic director Dave Hart, football coach Butch Jones and men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes took part in the question and answer session. Here are the edited highlights involving Hart and Jones. ... (click for more)

No 1 Connecticut Overwhelms Lady Mocs, 79-31

At least 6,104 basketball enthusiasts got to see what the best women’s college basketball team in the country looks like Monday night at McKenzie Arena. The three-time defending national champion Connecticut Huskies won for the fourth time this season and 41 st game in a row with an impressive 79-31 victory over the Chattanooga Lady Mocs before the seventh-largest crowd in ... (click for more)