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.


Many Waldens Ridge Scenes Featured In Stokes Picture Book

A number of early views of Waldens Ridge are among the rarities found in the Stokes Photo Collection. There are many photos of the roads up the mountain showing streetcars, wagons and early autos. There are scenes at Rainbow Lake, Falling Water Falls, Signal Point and other scenic spots. Several photos are included of the Signal Mountain Hotel. The more than 700 photos ... (click for more)

2 Maryville Residents Arrested On Drug And Weapons Charges In Bradley County

Two Maryville, Tn., residents were arrested on several charges on Thursday in Bradley County. The arrests of Melissa Bonzer, 31, and Dareius Clinton, 35, were the result of a traffic stop by members of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Department’s Criminal Investigation Division at the 27-mile marker on I-75.  The vehicle driven by Ms. Bonzer made an improper turn onto ... (click for more)

Chairs Cost How Much?

Many times while growing up, I would go to the store with my parents. More often than not, I would see something I wanted, and ask my parents to buy it for me. More often than not, they said no. “Why?” I asked. “Son, money doesn’t grow on trees.” That’s a phrase I’m sure many of us have heard more than once over the course of our lives. However, I have since learned that they were ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Pete Carroll’s Philosophy

Pete Carroll, the head football coach of the Seattle Seahawks, has a deep belief that he can change people by simply listening to them and then making suggestions on how they can get what they really want. If the people Carroll who can influence win, Carroll wins, and remember his team won last year’s Super Bowl with his methods.   When asked for example, here is what ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Claims Region 4A/AA Soccer Title

Junior Sofia Olenchek scored twice, including the winning goal in the second overtime (95th minute) period as host Notre Dame defeated crosstown rival Chattanooga Christian 2-1, for the Region 4 A-AA championship Thursday night. In a well-played, physical match, CCS led at halftime, 1-0,  after senior Hannah Henry scored in the 14th minute, but Olenchek's first goal ... (click for more)

Baylor Beats Briarcrest For Shot At Father Ryan, DII-AA State Volleyball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – OK, Father Ryan.  Baylor’s still hanging around. The Lady Red Raiders stormed past Briarcrest, 3-1, Thursday in the loser’s bracket final at Siegel Middle School and advanced to Friday’s Division II-AA volleyball tournament championship match. The set scores were 26-24, 25-15, 24-26, 25-15. The Lady Red Raiders lost to Father Ryan, ... (click for more)