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.



Get Emailed Headlines From Chattanoogan.com; Like Us On Facebook, Twitter For Instant News

We send out headlines each day of the latest Chattanooga news.  Our news headlines have links that take you to the stories with a click. We also send out special emails if there is a highly significant local news story breaking so you will be aware of it quickly. To be added to the email headline list, just email us at news@chattanoogan.com In addition, like us ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ADKINS, KENNETH WAYNE  REFUSED CHATTANOOGA, 37416  Age at Arrest: 42 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County FAILURE TO COMPLY --- ANDREWS, JEFFREY NATHAN  209 ISBELL ROAD CHATTANOOGA, 37419  Age at Arrest: 42 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga VIOLATION OF PROBATION ... (click for more)

Vote No On The Rezoning For A New Landfill In Harrison - And Response (3)

County Commissioners, please consider the following facts when voting on the rezoning request for a new privately-owned C&D landfill in Harrison.  Use of this property for a landfill has been rejected by the county three times in the past (1971, 1984 and 2007).  In 1971 and 2007 the County Commissioners unanimously rejected the proposal.  In 1984 the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘Mom Don’t Have…I Do’

It’s hard to know what goes through the mind of a five-year-old, particularly one who watches her mom go in and out of jail due to drug addiction. But little Sunshine Oelfke is obviously being raised right by her grandmother because the other morning, the five-year-old came into the kitchen before leaving for kindergarten with a baggie full of coins from her piggy bank. “I asked ... (click for more)

Lady Canes Knocked To State Volleyball Loser's Bracket By Portland

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – East Hamilton, a relative green horn when it comes to volleyball’s biggest stage, saved its best effort of the season for Tuesday’s opening match of the 2017 state tournament against Sullivan South. Facing a five-time and defending champion from Kingsport, Tennessee, East Hamilton notched an impressive 3-0 sweep by scores of 25-22, 25-14 and 25-17. ... (click for more)

Baylor Beats Father Ryan Again To Advance At State

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The third time was not the charm for Father Ryan here at MTSU’s Murphy Center Tuesday afternoon. Facing the Baylor Lady Red Raiders in the opening round of the TSSAA D-II Class AA state volleyball tournament, the defending state runner-up Baylor squad defeated their Nashville rivals in three straight sets, winning by scores of 25-19, 25-12 and 25-23. ... (click for more)