With the recent murder of my friend Shannon Hercutt, I have had the opportunity to witness first hand the investigative process that has taken place. Because of gross negligence and malfeasance by the investigators, a murderer is loose in Sevier County. The Sheriff is blaming the highway patrol and the highway patrol apparently answers to no one. The investigation has been so compromised it may be impossible to prosecute anyone even if there is an arrest. I do not know the highway patrol's protocol for investigating an accident with a death. I can relate to the fact the Sheriff is the high official in the county and has a responsibility to investigate all suspicious and unwitnessed deaths that occur in the county. I agree the Highway patrol should investigate motor vehicle accidents. However, throughout the country, there is an epidemic of staged or fabricated accidents, not only with motor vehicle accidents, but drownings, fires, drugs and many other scenarios. Any trained or experienced officer should know this and investigate all incidents fully. The Sheriff should be on scene personally and have a qualified officer on scene to help determine the cause of any suspicious or unwitnessed deaths. In Shannon's case, there was no Sheriff representative on the scene except a rookie officer that directed traffic. No Sheriff or Supervisor was on scene. No law enforcement officer went to the vehicle and looked in it and viewed Shannon's body to determine if this was in fact a motor vehicle accident. Medics at the scene determined this was a homicide but it was still ruled a "traffic accident" although this was a homicide.
This was a crime scene and not a vehicle crash, and should have been left in tact until an investigation was complete. Qualified investigators should have been called immediately, but instead her body was left in the vehicle as it was pulled 125 feet up a ravine and once it was back on the road it was ruled a vehicle accident. Her body was sent directly to a funeral home where her body was bathed and funeral home officials were seeking permission from the family to embalm her and bury her without any investigation. Because of her father's repeated attempts to get an autopsy performed rather than give permission for burial, it was learned she had been severely beaten to death. Three to four days passed before any criminal investigation was begun and now, at least 10 months later, there is still a murderer loose in Sevier County. There are many other murders that have gone cold with no arrest and have gone by the wayside probably like Shannon's with no investigation and little hope of identifying the murderer.
I am well qualified to question the investigation. I have investigated hundreds of serious vehicle accidents with many resulting in fatalities. I have had to go to vehicles that were down ravines, in the river and on fire, resulting in fatalities. I have had to go into the river and down embankments to determine whether the crash scene was, in fact, a vehicle crash and not related to a serious crime including murder and intoxication. Because of vehicle crash investigations I have identified and prosecuted many crimes of murder and intoxication in Federal District Court.
My position on unwitnessed deaths in Sevier County is clear. As Sheriff, if there is an unwitnessed death or serious criminal incident that has occurred, I will personally be on scene to make sure proper investigation occurs. If I am unavailable, there will be a competent supervisor and detective on scene and they will not be directing traffic. Appropriate Cooperative Agreements will be made with each city in Sevier County, all surrounding counties and agencies, respective of their protocols and procedures, to outline and establish back-up procedures and assistance for officer safety and quick response for citizen protection anytime.
There will be a Pro-Active and aggressive response to control and monitor the criminal elements that now plagues Sevier County. At best, there is minimal Re-Active response. When an officer arrives to a call now, a report number is given, no investigation is conducted and the call is ended, with only a statistic to report. Deputies should be knowledgeable of investigative techniques, conduct field interviews and gather information and evidence of all complaints and attempt to mediate all complaints that makes each complainant feel they got their money's worth when the officer leaves. I concede the Sheriff's office cannot solve all the murders and crimes that are occurring, but professional investigation will be conducted regardless. I have personally been a victim of this administration's response.
The attached Sheriff department report identifies a serious call for assistance and the officer's written report. Forty minutes lapsed before an officer responded to a criminal assault with a gun. The report speaks for itself. The sentence structure, spelling and content to describe this event is irrational and illiterate. This is the information the prosecution is going to use to put people in jail. This is a report that has been written by a sheriff deputy identifying the complaint and is on file in the Sheriff's office. These reports could have been better written by a 2nd grader. The definition of a "Narrative" is, "an orderly, continuous account of an event or a series of events." The following report is real and only the names have been blacked out to protect the innocent. This illiteracy will not be tolerated when I am elected to the job of Sheriff!