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“RECKLESS AGGRAVATED ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Mar. 13, 2011) — The neighbor of a woman whose 15-year-old daughter was shot in the face and leg has been arrested on two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of reckless endangerment. Ronnie Chris Stansbury was arrested on or about March 11, 2011 after the Sevier County grand jury issued a true bill indicting him for the charges on March 8, 2011. He was released on a $15,000 bond.
The shooting occurred on December 6, 2009 when three young girls were outdoors in the snow on the property of the girl who was injured.
On December 9, 2009, Stansbury was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment, but District Attorney General James B. Dunn declared the case closed after the grand jury did not produce a true bill of indictment. However, the mother of the victim, Ms. Catherine Gebhardt, stated that she had not been allowed to testify at the grand jury hearing and that the detective involved had falsified the record. Gebhardt cited cronyism as the reason for Dunn’s “selective” prosecution of wrongdoing in Sevier County.
Since that time, Ms. Gebhardt has been attempting to obtain justice for her daughter’s physical and emotional trauma as well as the emotional trauma of her twin sister and friend, whose parents Ms. Gebhardt reported were never contacted by the sheriff’s department.
Gebhardt has written to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessee Department of Safety, and Governor Bill Haslam. She attempted to obtain a restraining order against Stansbury for brandishing his rifles after the shooting of her daughter but was told it could not be accomplished without the assistance of an attorney. The attorney to whom the court referred her was hostile and unwilling to become involved for unknown reasons.
Ms. Gebhardt made the following statement in response to Stansbury’s indictment and arrest:
My reaction to the indictment and arrest is favorable. I feel that with this, there is a chance for Amanda to get some justice, being that it is ludicrous to shoot a kid, intentionally or recklessly, and then walk away unscathed and without consequence, being that she still bears the fragments of the shot within her body, not to mention her emotional upheaval and its aftermath due to the incident. However, I am still plagued as to why this private attorney was successful at obtaining this indictment, and why this did not occur the first time? What did Mr. Moncier do that was so different? Just exactly how many cases like this occur in Sevier County which do deserve attention and never receive it? Why is stuff brushed under the rug, never to see the light of day? There is much wrong here in this county; that I can surely attest to firsthand.
In early 2010, Ms. Gebhardt had written to various state agencies, among them the Tennessee Department of Safety, in order to have the shooter’s firearms permit revoked as stated in Tennessee law but which had not been carried out by the Sevier County Sheriff’s Department. Her letter to the Department of Safety reads as follows:
February 09, 2010
Tennessee Department of Safety
Handgun Carry Permit Division
I appreciate your time and attention on the telephone when we last spoke on Thursday February 03, 2010, when I told you that my minor daughter had been shot in the head and the leg, and that the defendant (who has a carry permit issued from your office) has been charged with a Class E Felony, being Reckless Endangerment with a Deadly Weapon. I was asking initially for a means to file a complaint with your department as I know this mans carry permit has not been suspended.
You told me to send the documentation substantiating this claim and that you would forward it to the appropriate authority. I do wish to know that you have received this material and I am requesting that someone from your office contact me to ensure receipt, and to fully explain where the breakdown in communication lay, being that your office is not aware of this arrest. Obviously not, as the defendant is continuing to openly brandish his firearms, even at the expense of scaring and harassing my family.
I am very concerned for many reasons. First and foremost I believe this act to be intentional and am rather disturbed that per the Sevier County sheriff’s report, the reporting officer initially wrote the charge to be aggravated assault. However, the detective here, whom is over the reporting officer, has downgraded the charge to a lower felony, being the detective is acquainted and friendly with the shooters son and is trying to make this appear or portray it as an accident. The defendant’s son is a volunteer fire fighter and firefighters in this community often work and play with those working for either the sheriff’s office or the police department.
Furthermore, I have an eyewitness that spotted the detective and the defendant’s son “cutting up” and shaking hands after I had already left to take my child to the trauma center in Knoxville on the day this occurred. This eyewitness can describe what everyone was wearing as well as what was said. Witness found this conduct to be very bizarre being that a minor was shot and almost killed, not to mention the endangerment and victimization of the other two minors present and within feet of the child actually shot, and the strange conversing between the two, which the witness heard.
There is a huge element of cronyism and nepotism in this community and politically it is explosive here at this point and time. The Sevier County commission has been sued due to the fact that the mayor and the chairman of the county commission are the same person, and there is no division or adequate dispersement of powers. This is relevant all through the county in all areas of government here. Furthermore, there are no civil service programs in Sevier County, which in relation to law enforcement would allow one to air grievances to an unbiased objective entity about law enforcement officers for alleged malfeasance.
Civil service programs up to this point, have been strongly rejected by the chairman of the commission, as it would involve many other things as well, such as centralized budgeting and an accounting of where monies are exactly spent in this billion dollar tourist community.
Many citizenries here rumor that State officials in Nashville often turn a blind eye to the level of malfeasance here involving local governmental officials, due to amount of revenue that this county brings into the state. I do not know if this is true or untrue, however that is really not my concern. I will climb as far as necessary within the state or outside of the state to find the answers I need and get appropriate action on this matter concerning my minor daughters.
Nonetheless, I am concerned as the alleged shooter (who confessed to firing the shot per the detective) continues to terrorize my family by recurrently trespassing on my property while brandishing his weapons, which is occurring well after the felony arrest. I have enlightened both the Sevier County Sheriffs office as well as the District Attorneys office of this factor on numerous occasions and in writing, however the conduct by the defendant continues with both of the sheriff’s office and the district attorneys office full knowledge. To date, the DA has refused to grant me a restraining order, for reasons unknown. Credible legal counsel has advised me that the District Attorney’s office should have obtained an Ex Parte restraining order when I first reported the defendant to be harassing my family with his weapons only days after his arrest. However, they have failed to do that for some unknown reason. I have been encountering barrier after barrier in obtaining some sort of protection and this is a very volatile situation and my children and I are in fear. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to research what exactly is wrong and what exactly can be done about it.
I understand per the publication of the Rules of Tennessee Department of Safety Handgun Carry Permit Procedures, that a permit tee is subject to immediate suspension and/or revocation of the carry permit if they have been arrested for a felony involving the use or the attempted use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon, or a felony drug offense. (Subsection d under #1340-2-4 .15), last revised in 2007.
If this is true, why does this individual still have his carry permit? Whose responsibility is it exactly to notify the Department of Safety in Nashville? Just exactly how many crimes in Sevier County, involving firearms of those with carry permits, are not reported to this department, which I understand is the entity responsible for issuance?
I am also sending you some additional enclosures, being a copy of the sheriff’s report, the warrant, the cash bond issued without conditions, another sheriffs report which is relevant to the defendants son (whom resides only approximately 300 feet from the defendant…he aimed a gun at my adult daughter this past May however charges have not yet been pressed but most likely will be soon), pictures of my daughters wounds, her medical records, a letter sent certified and return receipt requested to both the assistant district attorney and to the district attorney which validates what I am telling you, and copies of audio tapes substantiating much of what I have said above.
Additionally, I would appreciate help and assistance from the State level of the TN Department of Safety in accessing other pertinent information I believe will help me prove intent in this case. I have requested 911 tapes over the past year and one half from the Sevier County Sheriffs office of which I have been denied. Why? Is this not public record? I find this odd, as if we all truly are on the same side, why would they present barriers in me having this information? I can actually prove recurrent and reckless conduct with weapons with this particular family of this man who shot my daughter, with this documentation.
Please hear the audiotape enclosed which in essence is the sheriff’s office attempt to block me from having this information. The lady indicates I need to get this information from the “detective”
Oh, would this be the same detective that has changed and downgraded the initial charge placed by the officer, is friendly with the defendant and or the defendants son, and the one who refuses to return my many telephone calls? Would that be the same detective that I am supposed to get this information from?
This information (911 Transcripts over past one and one half years) will help me immensely, as again, there has been an ongoing pattern of recklessness with weapons with this man and his son over the past year and one half and can perhaps prove intent. Thus if intent is proven, one has full leeway to amend the charge. I have asked the Sevier County DA, Assistant DA, as well as the designated prosecutor to this case recurrently to amend the present charge on my daughter and asked that additional charges be placed on the defendant for seriously jeopardizing the two other minors which were only within feet of the girl actually shot, while playing on my property in December of 2009. Thus far, the charge has not been amended, nor have additional charges been placed.
Many times recently my family and I have witnessed the shooter and his son to be inebriated and still carrying firearms and shooting recklessly upon their property with all sorts of bullets going over the property line. This conduct sometimes occurs in the day, at night, or at 3:00 AM. Now considering the shooter has small grandchildren that often visit, this seems unsafe. All of this seems insane, as anyone with common horse sense knows that alcohol and firearms are a deadly combination. Mr. Ron Stansbury (the defendant) is also a brittle unstable diabetic and I am confident that his drinking exacerbates his condition. I worry about the safety of not only my family members but for the defendant’s own family members (being those small grandchildren that often visit him.)
Additionally, please hear the audio recording enclosed regarding the Detectives conversation with the other child’s parent (Mr. Travis McGaha) on December 28, 2009, as when my daughter was shot, two other minor girls were also jeopardized and victimized, however the sheriffs office report does not list them as victims or witnesses. I really would like to see the original handwritten report. One of those children jeopardized was also my daughter, as the child shot is a fraternal twin, and the other child involved is an unrelated friend of both of my girls. (There were three girls total, only one of which was struck with the one shot fired.)
After this incident occurred, Mr. Travis McGaha or his wife (parents of the other minor girl involved) were never contacted by police and enlightened to the fact that their daughter was the witness to a shooting and was seriously endangered herself on December 06, 2009. Does that sound odd? Nor does the police report show the other two girls to be victims, and there are no statements from Juvenile A, or Juvenile B in the report. Mr. McGaha, therefore, had to contact the police himself and request that a charge be formulated, and Mr. McGaha found the detective’s entire demeanor and content to be questionable at best. This tape describes exactly that. Moreover, the detective did not ever return Mr. McGaha’s call as the detective states on tape, nor has the detective returned my calls either. Odd indeed as we are all the victims’ parents and legal guardians. (Personally, I believe the detective will not return my many telephone calls, as he is fully aware I am on to the fact that something is entirely amiss in this situation.)
The Detective repeatedly states in this particular audiotape that he “cannot do anything” about the defendant brandishing his firearms as he trespasses and intimidates my family as “he has a valid carry permit.” Says this repeatedly. Also states to Mr. McGaha that the man has been charged with a felony involving a deadly weapon. Detective also strongly downplays my need for a restraining order, as he says it is “only a piece of paper” and sometimes gives people a “false sense of security”. In reality, the detective does not nor has he ever believed this ordeal to be intentional due to his partiality to the defendant’s son. He admits this on the audio recording when speaking with Mr. McGaha, which is also out of line being this is an active investigation that has not even been to court. Should not the role of an investigator be one in which who brings only facts to the table? Not his own conjecture, which obviously shows partiality to the shooter? My entire family will attest and believes most emphatically, that this act was indeed intentional and that the detective is in fact covering for this man, and is motive for doing so is due to his friendship with the defendant’s son. I seriously believe this detective should have immediately recused himself, being there was a conflict of interest due to this friendship and acquaintance with the shooters family.
Obviously the detective is also very objectionable in helping me acquire any sort of restraining order, due to the fact that its issuance also jeopardizes the carry permit of the defendant as I have learned in studying these Rules formulated by state officials by your office.
Per the detective in his audio, he indicates to Mr. McGaha that one can see a Sevier County Magistrate about getting additional charges formulated for the other children involved, however all one will walk away only with a “misdemeanor if anything”. Are we to think that the Magistrates in Sevier County only issue what the sheriff’s office wants them or directs them to issue? As if that is true, we have another problem indeed.
Are we to think that this does not warrant three counts of aggravated assault, either being a Class C or even a Class D felony, which is RECKLESS aggravated assault? I believe it fits and fits well, even if it is a stretch to try the defendant on Class C Aggravated Assault intent. That would obviously explain why the detective is so defensive in this audio when Mr. McGaha tells him there are other leads that could prove intent such as the neighbor boy attesting to his own daughter that the defendant was shooting at my child, as well as talking about the girls’ location of where they were (being on my property) at the time they were shot at.
It is sad to think that a detective in this county, who is supposed to protect and serve is more interested in protecting the rights of the shooter than in assisting the victim who is an innocent kid, who has incurred permanent damage and health repercussions not yet known. Right now the pellets remain critically embedded in her body and cannot be removed, as they pose vast surgical dangers. My teenage daughter is inhibited from having certain medical procedures ever, due to this factor and will have to wear a Medic Alert bracelet for the rest of her days. Additionally, she is experiencing jolts of pain that she did not experience before this ordeal, which is probably nerve related per the medical opinions rendered to date. Pleas see initial medical records from University of TN Hospital in Knoxville dated Dec 06.
Also see pictures enclosed taken after the shooting on my cell phone, as the officer did not have “batteries” for his camera, and had me looking for those for him, while my adult daughter took the photos on my phone. Oddly enough, this particular officer (there were many present on the scene that day) also told my adult daughter to ensure that she got an email from the sheriff’s office and directed her to send those photos to the Sheriffs office. Is that my daughter’s job? I think not. Obviously there are many problems here, as you must know that our sheriff’s office is not accredited by any source, which is a factor, which vastly affects and relates to enforcement quality as well as competence.
I am also enclosing an audio between an officer with the Sevier County sheriffs department and myself, after the officer responded to my call recently on January 16, 2010 when kids and I again felt very uncomfortable and threatened at our home after hearing close gunfire when I was out walking the dog. I had not heard gunfire the entire day until this time. I was advised to contact the Sheriffs office by both the District Attorney and the Assistant District Attorney in situations such as these when we feel uncomfortable, however it does not seem to do any good. Audio depicts that the sheriff’s office (Officer Long) is fully aware that the man has a carry permit and is periodically terrorizing my family and I. He does however conduct himself appropriately, however all seem to be missing the same critical message. Children do not feel safe in their own home or in their own yard. Can you imagine how that feels for a kid? Not to mention, their family?
Is the Sevier County sheriff’s office and district attorneys office not aware of the Rules of Tennessee Department of Safety’s Handgun Permit stipulations? Please explain to me what exactly has gone wrong here? Are we conducting law enforcement business here in this county how we see fit and not caring about following protocols or regulations set down by the state level? Is there no uniformity and standard protocol to be followed? Is law enforcement competent and aware of protocol and rules? Is the District Attorneys office here aware of TN law? Please explain this to me like a third grader!
I have recurrently conveyed to all powers to be what the defendant is doing in relation to intimidation, terrorization, and harassment, which all has occurred well after his felony arrest, and my pleas seem to be falling upon deaf ears!
Again, I am certainly appalled at this entire ordeal. I believe the police report to contain many errors, omissions, and falsities, as does the warrant, as shooter was firing from the front side of his porch, not the back of the residence as the detective documents in his warrant. The defendants address and the defendant’s son’s address is not even listed correctly on the police report. I am cognizant the police report is not admissible in a court of law, however there are many errors.
I do however believe the original charge placed on the initial report placed by the officer is appropriate and I believe that the detective has deliberately downgraded the charge in an attempt to cover for the shooter and is hoping the DA’s office will accept a plea bargain to lower the charge even further to a misdemeanor in an effort to help the shooter keep his gun privileges. Sevier County DA typically plea-bargains the majority of their cases. However, a prosecutor in the DA’s office that this case has been assigned to has enlightened me that a plea bargain does not occur, if he does not agree to it. I am hopeful that he will see this picture with clarity. I am really interested in seeing a copy of the investigative report, which is completed by the detective as I wonder if that has been deliberately downplayed too. I am confident that it has, but am unsure of that factor at this point, as I have not literally seen it.
I have talked with the TN Wildlife Commission Regional office in Morristown too, after being referred this way from the central Nashville office, and learned from Mr. Alan Ricks that his office was not and has not been notified on this date or anytime after, that a possible hunting violation had occurred as the police report indicates that the defendant was firing to “scare doe’s from feeders.” (Doe’s is misspelled on the report.) Mr. Ricks has enlightened me that if there is some sort of “accident” that occurs during hunting season, law enforcement is obligated to contact the appropriate TWRA entity and he has received no documentation about this shooting. That is very strange as the detective also says in his audio with the other parent involved that it may be deer season and “firing goes on in the woods”. However should any event associated with hunting occur that involves the injury or death of another person, there is clearly defined protocol to be followed. Mr. Ricks indicates he has no documentation whatsoever on this matter and was unaware of this incident until talking with me. I spoke with Mr. Alan Ricks on the telephone yesterday. Indeed another oddity!
In summary, I am appalled at the conduct of the Sheriff and the District Attorney and am abhorred to know that a child has been seriously injured, is still running around with the bullets in her head and leg, and is experiencing ill effects from such. Furthermore, the projectiles to date cannot be removed from her head or her leg, and in the head is located in a very critical area in the zygomatic arch of the face. Two other kids were endangered, and it seems that authorities are trying to sweep this matter under the rug. They obviously wish this matter to “go away.”…. And the defendant continues to have his guns (he owns many) because the detective says the guy “has a valid carry permit?” Do I understand this correctly?
Please forward this material to the appropriate entity regarding immediate suspension/ revocation, and I wish for someone to follow up with me to ensure corrective action has been taken upon this matter from your office.
I believed you to be very courteous as well as very helpful when I spoke with you initially and I do not mean to be harsh or offensive in any sense of the word, however, I am really cautious and frankly tired, of being jacked or shuffled around and I am wishing for this department to be fully accountable as well as responsive. To date, I have received a real snow job at the local level and I find this intolerable and unacceptable. That may suffice with some citizens, however I am not originally from this region, and I am very cognizant that something is dangerously wrong and will continue to engage in action to ensure that this does not ever occur with any other child in this community.
Again, I will take this as high as needed in climbing the hierarchical chain to obtain justice for both of my minor innocent daughters and their friend. I have also sent this material to many other entities outside of Sevier County to many places as I intend to have this resolved.
Again, to illustrate, these are my children as well as their playmate that we are speaking of and their safety and welfare is my utmost concern. I do not wish this to happen to my family members again, nor do I wish this to happen to anyone else’s child here in Sevier County. The medical ordeal for my child who was struck and literally assaulted is far from over.
The Knox county media is also becoming involved and many outside entities are very aware of this ordeal right now. Funny, the local paper here would not print this incident. That is another huge oddity as this ordeal is indeed community news. However the local newspaper did print the offense of the defendant, on December 09, 2009 in the arrest report. Ironically, they at the newspaper (The Mountain Press) list the charge only as “reckless endangerment” which in TN is only a misdemeanor. However the actual warrant states “Reckless Endangerment with a deadly weapon” which in TN is felonious. Now why would the newspaper do this? Well I asked the newspaper just that on December 09, 2009 and was told by a reporter named Jeff Farrell on the telephone that he printed only “reckless endangerment, as he prints for the newspaper directly from the intake report, which comes from the Sevier County jail, which again involves the Sevier County Sheriffs department. I would love to see the intake report myself, as again to print for the public to read only the charge of “ reckless endangerment”, certainly minimizes the truth to this entire ordeal. Please see copy of newspaper arrest report showing what I indicate above which is also enclosed.
This entire matter and it’s mishandling, is very odd and possesses many inconsistencies and blatancies in concealing the truth. However, this matter literally affects the safety and welfare of not only my family but also all who reside in Sevier County. We certainly cannot shoot children and cover it up or minimize the intent and then allow the shooter to keep his firearms despite deadly weapon felony arrest because he “has a valid carry permit” and because he is friendly with the supervising entity (which also happens to be the detective) of the sheriffs office.
Small wonder, there have been recent unsolved murders over here in Sevier County of which the TN governor himself has recently issued a 10K reward. (Refers to recent murder of Shannon Hercutt initially thought to be an accident but changed to a homicide.) There are other unsolved crimes as well. This does not however negate the fact that if God forbid, my daughter had died on that hill on December 06, I would be facing the same types of problems that the Hercutt family is facing with the many authorities involved in bringing their daughters killer to justice, only it would be compounded one hundred fold, by grief.
Corruption cannot become so commonplace that it becomes normal, as that is a very dangerous place to be in any society.
After all, a community is judged by how well they treat others especially their children.
I appreciate your time, attention, and assistance and look forward to a timely response. I extend my thanks to you in advance.
Ms. Gebhardt also recently wrote to Tennessee’s new governor, Bill Haslam, and received the following reply on March 9, 2011:
The text of the letter reads:
Thank you for writing to me and sharing your concerns. I appreciate hearing from you.
After careful review of your letter, I have determined that the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is the appropriate agency to address this type of inquiry, and therefore have forwarded your letter to their office for consideration.
My administration is committed to providing effective and efficient service. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact my office at 615-253-6913.
Again, thank you for taking the time to write. I hope to hear from you again on other matters of importance to you.