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.


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ALEXANDER, MELANIE SYDNEY 816 ASTERWOOD DRIVE ROSSVILLE, 30741 25 Chattanooga POSSESSION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE - MARIJUANA BAXTER, TRAVIS MATTHEW 1330 GREENSLAKE ROAD EAST RIDGE, 37412 22 East Ridge AGGRAVATED DOMESTIC ASSAULT W/VEHICLE POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA BELL, CHARLIE ... (click for more)

Deputy Beaten After Vehicle Crashes In His Yard Sues Officers

A man who was mistakenly beaten by officers who had been pursuing a pickup truck that crashed into his home has sued Hamilton County and the officers for $700,000. Aaron Lucas Shelton and his wife, Heather Nicole Shelton, filed the suit in Circuit Court. Aaron Shelton is himself a deputy sheriff. It names Curtis Brian Killingsworth and unknown officers who allegedly took part ... (click for more)

We Ought To Pay Our Own Way

The government is too big. It has never been bigger - by any measure. It spends more money than any other single actor in our society. From Blue Rhinos to providing telecommunications services, our government knows no bounds. We’ve gone from a free enterprise system to a public enterprise system.  I'm not an artist. I'm not terribly tech savvy. The part of government that ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Secret Train Ride

It was during Christmas of 2003 when Bennett Levin and his wife found themselves talking and worrying about the wounded soldiers at the Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda, Md., and at the nearby Bethesda Naval Hospital. Their wish was that they could do something meaningful, something really grand, for the soldiers who had lost limbs, their eyesight, and far worse. As ... (click for more)

Central Boys Prevail Over Loudon By 12, Despite Redskins' Late Rally

Central coach Rick Rogers said that all he wanted to do was win and advance. His District 6-AA champion Purple Pounders played host to District 5-AA fourth-place finisher Loudon on Saturday evening and it probably shouldn't have been close. But someone forgot to tell the visiting Redskins. Central had a 13-point lead at halftime and the difference was 52-30 when the third ... (click for more)

Baylor Wrestlers Murphy, Seagraves in National Prep Semis

On the strength of placing two wrestlers in Saturday morning's championship semis, Baylor School is in 11th place (46 pts) at the National Prep Wrestling Championship held this weekend in Lehigh, Pa. Saturday Semis: Baylor junior and three-time state champ Michael Murphy has won three matches (two falls, one sudden death) and meets top seeded Matthew Colodzik (Blair Academy) ... (click for more)