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by Sharon Rondeau

Ron "Hoss" Seals has worked in the sheriff's department for almost 40 years

(Feb. 10, 2011) — This morning The Post & Email contacted the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department to obtain information from its media representative regarding a man taken into their custody last Thursday evening, February 3, 2011, who reportedly died the following day.

Mr. Derek Lewis Pitts was reportedly arrested for a fourth instance of driving under the influence (DUI) as well as other charges.  The Mountain Press, a local newspaper, has reported that Pitts experienced “some sort of medical distress” after he was taken into custody, and the Associated Press has stated that “he was found unconscious in his jail cell” and taken to a hospital in Knoxville.  However, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Pitts died while in police custody.

A report from a Knoxville television station on Pitts’s arrest written by the Associated Press has been removed.

The Mountain Press reported that Pitts was transported to Fort Sanders Medical Center and “doctors pronounced him dead” but also claimed that Pitts had been on life support but removed from it before family members were notified of his condition.  The paper had first said that Pitts “fell ill at the detention center” and that “jailers quickly realized he was ill.”

How can that be determined unless one was an eyewitness of the events which unfolded?  What proof exists that “jailers quickly realized that he was ill”?

Was Pitts placed on life support and removed without the consent or knowledge of his family, or was he pronounced dead upon arrival?  Did he die during transport or while in the Sevier County jail?

When we first called the sheriff’s department, we were passed to a deputy who then passed us to Captain Jeff McCarter, identified as the  media contact at the sheriff’s department.  After stating the reason for our call on McCarter’s voice mail system, which was to obtain a statement from the sheriff’s department on the death of Mr. Pitts,  we left two phone numbers and an email address where we could be reached.  McCarter did not respond today.

An inmate at the Sevier County jail stated that he had heard but not seen indications that Pitts had been physically assaulted before his death.  The inmate, Ronnie Gresham, said, “When they brought him in, this man was already beaten very badly, and when they brought him in they roughed him up some more.”

There have been reports from victims alleging severe police brutality in nearby Monroe County, TN.

Sevier County Sheriff Ronald Seals was appointed to the office after the death of his predecessor and then reportedly elected by the voters in 2008.  Regarding the arrest of Mr. Pitts, Seals is reported to have said, “He was uncooperative…We couldn’t even complete his mug shot or fingerprints. There were no threats, no fights, no nothing.”

Does that make sense?

In June 2009, Seals was reportedly investigated and cleared of wrongdoing by the TBI for interfering in a traffic stop incident, and he has been accused of assaulting a Sevier County resident during a meeting.

Sheriff Seals can be contacted here.

The Mountain Press has reported that the autopsy performed on Pitts by a forensic pathologist revealed “several signs of heart disease, including dilated cardiomyopathy and coronary atherosclerosis, as well as hepatic cirrhosis, splenic and pancreatic fibrosis and pulmonary emphysema.”  According to the publication, District Attorney General James Dunn and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have been called upon to investigate Pitts’s death.

The mother of a child shooting victim has stated that Dunn and others “are tied together” and have failed to prosecute the perpetrator of her daughter’s injuries to the face and leg.

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  1. Another sad story out of Sevier County that will be ruled either as a “suicide” or “natural causes”. These hypocrites make me physically sick. I have no other words to describe it.

  2. This is not the first death that has occurred in the Sevier County sheriff’s office. There have been many. Does it not seem odd that the coroner, who is appointed by the Sevier County Commission, stated that this Pitts man died from emphysema and cirrhosis? Now any seasoned health care provider will tell you that people with this sort of history, have a tendency to linger, as the body will tolerate much abuse beyond what one would think. However, a fragile medical condition accompanied by aggravating factors (physical abuse?) would cause a person’s premature demise.
    Additionally, The Mountain Press, also reported in an earlier addition that before the guy literally died, he fell ill while in custody and an autopsy had been ordered by Sheriff Seals, in the event that he should die. Ordering an autopsy before death is most questionable and signifies the covering of something else. Furthermore, the family of this man was treated terribly by personnel in the sheriff’s office trying to find his location, as the man was placed on life support unbeknownst to the family…and was removed from life support without the family’s consent. Dead men tell no tales.
    This one reeks of misconduct as do so many others, including the child shot.
    Sevier County authorities operate like they have seceded from the rest of the United States, and they believe they are invincible. Many are being harmed, maimed, and killed in this county due to the malfeasance present.
    Thank you for this article, Sharon, as without exposure this conduct will continue and will exacerbate to something much more eerie and horrific. The media is tainted here in Sevier County and many here are apathetic and/or oppressed. The ones who are not are labeled as crazy and radical. Amazingly and ironically, this picture resembles Hitler’s rise to power and the atrocities that occurred thereafter, and people then, with their thumb up their nose, wondering how this could have occurred?

    1. This county is in Tennessee. It is on the Eastern border about half way between the top and bottom of the map.


  3. Just a hunch, Mr Pitts was in medical distress at the time of his stop but instead of summoning an ambulance he was arrested, treated as criminal and placed in a cell to die rather than a hospital ER.