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NEIGHBOR TERRORIZES FAMILY WITH FIREARMS WITH NO CHARGES FILED
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 10, 2011) — In January of this year, The Post & Email learned of a case in Sevier County, TN in which a minor child had received gunshot wounds to her face and leg while playing outside in her yard in late 2009. The child’s mother reported that the perpetrator was either a father or his son who were frequently seen with firearms on their nearby property and who had randomly aimed a rifle at another of her children in the past.
The mother, Ms. Catherine Gebhardt, said that contrary to state law, the detective working for the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department refused to revoke the shooter’s firearms permit unless he were convicted of the felony of which he was accused. Ms. Gebhardt described the detective as “friendly with the shooter and the shooter’s family.”
The Sevier County grand jury deliberated on the case but did not return a “true bill” of indictment of anyone. Ms. Gebhardt told us that a sheriff’s department detective had “lied to the grand jury in Amanda’s case” and “fabricated documentation” which she was finally able to obtain from the sheriff’s office. Ms. Gebhardt stated that the “content of what he (the detective) says does not match what actually transpired and the dates are all out of whack.” She reported that the documentation states that “the investigation on this matter was closed 12/15/2009.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had also failed to respond to Ms. Gebhardt’s request for an investigation until very recently, and her letter written to Governor Bill Haslam went unanswered until March 9, 2011.
The Post & Email will be presenting this story as a series as we investigate why Ms. Gebhardt has not been able to obtain justice for the crime which caused her daughter’s’s serious injuries and terrorized two other children with long-lasting effects. In order to provide context for the events that are now unfolding, we contacted Ms. Gebhardt with questions to establish who, where, how and why the crime occurred and the legal recourse she has taken and will be taking.
We asked, “When did the shooting of your daughter occur, and what provoked it, to your knowledge?” and she replied:
My daughter and her twin sister as well as their friend were playing in the yard on December 06, 2009 during the first substantial snow of the season. The three girls were playing on a steep hill with a wide incline, which is a lot of fun to slide down, making snowmen, throwing snow at each other, and rolling around in general…laughing and squealing and having fun….we have a young gentle rescue dog (part Siberian and part Great Dane) that was tied to the above-the-ground swimming pool, just below where they were while they were loudly squealing, laughing and rolling around in the snow, ….dog pulled loose from her rope (which was secured to the above-the-ground pool)—ventured up to where the girls were to be part of the fun too…girls stood up and called for her….and low and behold a shot rang out (only one shot)—-the friend of my girls ran toward the house, after seeing blood coming down Amanda’s face…Amanda was crying, screaming, dizzy, nauseous, dazed, holding her head.
I ran out of the house; however, my eldest daughter, who had been in the house upstairs ran in front of me, chasing Britney (the friend) up the hill where the girls were located.
I am not sure what exactly precipitated the shot, nor do I know the man’s motive for shooting. I do not know if he was shooting at the dog or the kids themselves. The police report states he was firing to scare “does (does is misspelled on the report) from feeders.” However, if he used a shotgun, that sort of ammo is strictly prohibited when firing in or near wildlife (deer), according to the TN Wildlife Resources Agency, which mandates hunting and game laws. I do not know who exactly fired the shot as I did not see that. I do know, though, that the son of this man (a firefighter in Sevier County) had aimed a loaded gun at my eldest daughter just four months or so before this event, of which there is a police report on file with the sheriff’s office.
However, after the child was shot, my eldest daughter slapped snow to the head wound in an effort to slow down the bleeding, telephoned 911 (her cell phone was in her jacket pocket) and walked Amanda down the hill to the front porch of the house. We covered Amanda with a blanket and we were all congregated outside (three adults and three children including Amanda). We did not let Amanda go into the house, being that the warm heat from the house would have caused her to hemorrhage even more.
Then suddenly, just within approximately 3-5 minutes of the shooting, the son of the elder man whizzed hastily down the father’s driveway to his own home (feet away)…was speeding heftily and looking like someone was after him in his red pickup truck….pulled into his drive (directly across from my property)..left his truck idling, jumped out of his red pickup and went to the passenger side of the truck, retrieved something long wrapped in bright material, took it in the house, went back to his truck, and appeared to be going to leave….looked as if he were about to flee. One can even hear my daughter talking to the 911 operator about this, as she references “red truck”….and “son”…..Megan (my eldest daughter) even trekked to the access road, where this man’s property and mine Y into separate driveways, to cut him off and prevent him from leaving.
Both of these men (father and son, who lives near the father) are very gun-happy and have displayed prior recklessness with their weapons. The younger man often holds parties in front of his home around campfires, where party-goers often become very intoxicated and have engaged in reckless instances of firing weapons in which I have had to tell them to knock it off. The older man has been seen before on his tractor with his guns…and his containers of open beer. The elder man is also an unstable diabetic.
The younger guy has been intensely angry-looking (more so than usual) since my eldest daughter reported the instance to the sheriff’s office of when he aimed the loaded gun at her person. Younger man is a volunteer firefighter here in Sevier County and is familiar with many police and sheriff offices officials. Younger man is also an electrician by trade.
We then asked Ms. Gebhardt, “Do you know who the perpetrator is?” and she replied:
I do not know with 100% accuracy of who the man is that shot my daughter. However, I personally believe the perpetrator may be the son (the firefighter)….though the father was charged as he supposedly admitted to the shooting. The detective told me on that day (Dec 06, 2009) while I was at UT Hospital in Knoxville, that the father had “admitted” to being the shooter. However, the same detective told me that he did not do any sort of resin testing or fingerprinting because of this confession. (The detective and younger man appear friendly and are acquainted.) I asked the detective then, how did he know that I did not shoot my daughter? He did not have an answer to that question. He did say, though, that resin testing is specialized and those sorts of actions must be performed by the TBI, which he did not contact.
I also told the sheriff’s officers and detective that I believed this shooting to be deliberate, as both of these men have acted very strangely since my daughter and her band mate (dark-skinned Trinidadian gentleman) came to this area from New York. The detective said that he (the older man) “accidentally” fired into a wooded area and would not be charged with aggravated assault…but a much lower felony. The detective also told my eldest daughter (after I had already left to the hospital with Amanda) that he himself could not go to the hospital in Knoxville to see Amanda or acquire her statement because it was “too far.”
My eldest daughter (the 911 caller) is a lead vocal in an up-and-coming musical group…and the Trinidadian gentleman, who is here legally, is the bandleader who occupies a separate living quarter in my basement.) Though he is not black, he is dark- skinned, as he is from the Caribbean islands….and does not look like your average redneck here. Neighbor and his son both are intensely racist, as are many here in the South, ignorantly so…we have known that since we moved here. Neighbor has made comments many times with the offensive “n” word before my daughter and her band mate ever arrived from NY. The situation has exacerbated since their arrival. I believe some of this is race-related, too.
There was another instance in approximately September 2008, after my daughter and her band leader’s arrival, when this same elder man pulled a gun on the Trinidadian gentleman, who was out running his dogs on the property…did not know and was not familiar with the property divisions and boundary line and encountered the elder man. The Trinidadian man waved a greeting of hello at the elder man….the elder man disappeared into his house and came outside again with a gun in hand aiming it wildly…dog then lunged at the man but did not hurt him significantly…scared him more than anything…dog was thinking he was going to hurt Dave (the Trinidadian gentleman) as the Stansbury man was gesturing wildly with that gun…and the elder Stansbury man pointed the gun at both the dog and Dave….Dave indicated he did not know who he was going to shoot….being him or the dog……that is not on a police report record, as Dave felt it did not need reporting, being he himself had accidentally crossed the property line and blamed himself for that…but he posed no danger to the elder man…..Dave thought that the elder man would cool down…
I thought so too, but I guess I thought wrong.
“Has an arrest been made? If not, what was the reason given?”
The older man was supposedly arrested and processed through the Sevier County sheriff’s office at 4:30 pm on the following day after the shooting, Monday, December 07, 2009.
The older man’s son posted for him a $2000.00 cash bond with no bond conditions. I have the copy of the cash bond receipt.
I also have a copy of the warrant, which states Felony E Reckless Endangerment with a deadly weapon, though the sheriff’s office report states a charge of aggravated assault.
The man was through with processing at the sheriff’s office within less than two hours and then returned home.
We then asked Ms. Gebhardt, “What type of injuries did your daughter sustain right away?” and she responded:
With the initial shot, there was intense bleeding from the head, as most all head wounds bleed like a stuck hog. She also had blood on her white pants that she was wearing at the time, which we thought initially to be from her oozing head wound. When we looked under the pants, though, we found another injury from where she had been struck in the leg. Therefore, it was determined to be a shotgun of some sort.
The fragment penetrated the temple and lodged itself in the zygomatic process of the face, very near the right eye. The fragment that penetrated the left thigh remains embedded within the leg.
Surgeons (maxillofacial specialist) have decided not to remove the particles from the head, as it could affect the muscles in that region (a complex region being the zygomatic process) and she could risk never being able to open or close that eye again. Further, it could pose a dramatic cosmetic problem due to scarring. Even if the surgeons were to go the route through the hairline, the scar from that procedure would inhibit subsequent hair growth.
Emotionally, she is very scarred, as she suffers from elements of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, which she is receiving treatment for. After this incident, for weeks, she slept with a butcher knife under her bed. This is a well-adjusted 15-year-old honor student kid with a huge heart who feels that she was nearly peeled off the earth while innocently playing with her sister and friend in the yard.
Child must too wear a medic alert bracelet that she did not formerly have to wear signifying NO MRI should she ever be in a position where that is warranted. MRI is magnetic-based and can pull fragments or pellets to a place that they should not be which could be extremely adverse to her health.
Amanda also suffers from nightmares that she did not formerly have. For weeks after the shooting, she feared going to sleep. Amanda now equates snowfall to being shot.
We then asked, “What happened to the other children who witnessed the shooting?”
The other children have been affected, too. Amanda’s twin, Monica, has also felt that she is not safe. Their friend Britney was very traumatized, and in fact shortly after the shooting, had to suddenly leave a class in school, when they were showing some movie to the kids in which a gun was literally held in someone’s face. She said that it scared her greatly and she had never felt like that until witnessing the shooting of Amanda. Furthermore, Britney’s parents were never notified by the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department, that their child was the witness to a felony shooting nor the fact that she herself was greatly endangered. The father of this child had to contact the sheriff’s department himself. That was an audio recorded conversation that was most bizarre.
They have all been emotionally impacted as well, just in different ways. The two men (father and son) were seen less than 48 hours following the shooting driving their four-wheeler, trespassing on the property, brandishing their weapons in front of my children, which really freaked the entire family out as well as Amanda. I would logically think that if this had been truly accidental and this were another child, I would not be seen within 100 miles of that child’s property, especially in the presence of my weapons. I would also voice or act remorseful which neither of these gentleman has ever done. The elder man, too, was witnessed talking outside with a neighbor, pointing at my house, which my children witnessed, which increased their anxiety all the more, as they all have felt threatened and helpless. Firing of their weapons seemed to increase when we were outside, such as when we were walking the animals on the long driveway to the county road. The kids felt that they would be peeled off in the woods at any second. This all occurred after Amanda’s shooting.
All of those events were reported to both the Sevier County Sheriff’s office and the Sevier County District Attorney’s office; however they did nothing. I had officers out at the house, responding to my calls, as I was directed to report these instances. Those events are audio-recorded.
The DA’s office, who could have obtained a civil restraining order, did not act despite being called repeatedly and allowed this conduct to continue. I have audio recordings of the Assistant DA telling me he is sorry, but he can do nothing “because I live in the county and it is not illegal to fire weapons in the county”….OK,…I understand that…. but when one has just shot my child and the man has been charged feloniously but still has his weapons, as there were no bond conditions whatsoever….how exactly does that help me?
When questioned by WATE TV in Knoxville by reporter Ms. Jill McNeal, this same Assistant DA denied ever knowing about these events of trespassing, harassment, or intimidation, yet I have him on audio recording telling me how sorry he is and what I should do.
This went on for a least two months and did not cease until the TN Department of Safety suspended the defendant’s carry permit.
How am I supposed to feel? How are the other kids involved supposed to feel? The other children remain impacted by this entire ordeal. Further, they are impacted not just by the shooting of Amanda, but of the refusal of authorities to abide by the law in efforts to protect my family. The kids, for the most part, perceive Sevier County law officers to be corrupt.
You see, in their minds, there is TN law and statute. Then, separately, there is Sevier County law, and the two are not the same.
The Post & Email then asked, “What were the first steps you took to obtain justice for your daughter?”
I have done many things in efforts to protect my family….not only from the perpetrator, but also from the bizarre things I was to yet learn involving the sheriff’s office and the district attorney’s office.
Initially (within the first two days after the shooting), I called the sheriff’s office repeatedly to speak with the detective, to report to him and let him know that I did not find it appropriate for the older or younger man to be trekking down my land very near my front door on their four-wheeler while brandishing their weapons most vividly and pointing at my children with their finger. This was scaring my family and me to a point of complete terrorization, especially affecting Amanda most adversely. The detective told me that he would speak with the district attorney’s office and get back to me. He did not ever call me back.
Then within four-five days after the shooting, after experiencing this non-stop activity, I took it upon myself to resolve this problem. I again called for the detective and was told that he had the day off. I headed to the General Sessions Court window, asking how to proceed with obtaining a civil restraining order. I did not know then, nor did they tell me in General Sessions, that one cannot obtain a civil restraining order without a lawyer. The man at the General Sessions window wrote down four names on a piece of paper (magistrates) and enlightened me to to trek to the jail to speak with one of them. That was a nightmare.
I encountered a magistrate by the name of Craig McCarter. I tried to explain my situation to him and ask him for guidance. I told him I had been referred to him by the General Sessions office. He abruptly told me that “he did not care if Obama and four little green men sent me to him;” he could not and would not help me. He saw the battery of paperwork that I had in my hand and abruptly took it from me to read it. He stated to me that it seemed I had problems with my neighbor and I should get rid of my dog. I enlightened him that I had a gun-toting neighbor who had just shot my daughter in the head and leg days before. He continued to be insulting and demeaning…of which I was just flabbergasted, being I had never met this gentleman in my life. He then finally said, “Let me put this in little tiny words for you….” By that time, I was angry, and I got up and leaned over his desk…taking his hand in mine…with my face very near his, and I stated, “this is one conversation I will never forget….and now this conversation is over….you have a great day!”….I then walked out….and he followed me outside. When I was very near his face, I found his pupils to be very distorted and dilated and his face very flushed…..I believe this man was stoned.
(Later I found out from some local people here that this man who functions as one of the magistrates has a known drug problem, but he is the mayor’s brother in law (brother of the mayor’s wife, Terri Waters), so he has not ever been admonished for this sort of activity.
Additionally, I wrote a letter to Assistant District Attorney Steve Hawkins asking that the charges on this matter be increased to at least Felony C or D, as Amanda was truly assaulted and not merely endangered. The other two kids too, were grossly endangered.
As the shooting events continued in the days following the man’s felony arrest, I did extensive research on the statutes. The father of the other child also called the sheriff’s office to speak with the detective involved, as neither he nor his wife were ever contacted by police and enlightened to the fact that their child, too, was a witness to a felony shooting and had been endangered herself. That conversation was so bizarre that the father of that child opted to record it. The detective talks about many things and one can hear the bias in his voice and demeanor….the detective also states to this man that he can do nothing about the family that is terrorizing us, as he (the perpetrator) “has a valid carry permit.” That verbiage did not sit well with me.
In my research, I found that the perpetrator’s “valid carry permit” is no longer valid after the felony arrest of a crime involving a firearm. I wrote to the TN Department of Safety and included many materials, including audios, about this matter. They immediately wrote me back and told me that state statute was violated when they were not notified, either by the courts or by law enforcement. They also immediately suspended the perpetrator’s gun “carry” permit….the shooting instances did not stop until this permit was suspended.
The TN Department of Safety also referred this matter to the TBI.
Additionally, in early January 2010, I met with the district attorney, James B. Dunn, in Newport on two occasions to discuss this matter, who enlightened me that I was permitted to go to the grand jury proceedings. But that did not happen…this saga gets weirder as it goes.
Ms. Gebhardt’s communications with the TBI, the Department of Safety, and the governor will be the subject of our next report on this case as well as new developments with the Sevier County grand jury despite the fact that the sheriff’s department detective declared the investigation “closed” as of December 15, 2009.
Editor’s Notes: When The Post & Email reported on the case of Derek Lewis Pitts, who died shortly after being arrested by the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department, we were referred to a Capt. Jeff McCarter for information. He never returned our call. We do not know if he is related to the magistrate, Craig McCarter, whom Ms. Gebhardt mentioned in her narrative. The original report on Mr. Pitts’s death from station WATE is here.
The headline story today at WATE is that of a Knox County, TN judge who will be in court on a charge of misconduct this morning and is expected to resign from the bench. There have been other claims of misconduct on the part of judges in Tennessee.