Crime across Northeast Tennessee in 2013 proved to be just as deadly as in years past, including murders, murder/suicides, shootings, stabbings, neglected children and more.
Three people were charged with murder in Johnson City, a teenager was charged in the shooting death of his 4-year-old cousin with a BB gun and there were four murder/suicide cases that resulted in 10 deaths.
The first of those cases happened Feb. 2 in Unicoi County. Investigators said Herbert Clyde Hughes Jr., 47, killed his wife, Bridget N. Hughes, 39, their two children, 12-year-old Whitney and 11-year-old Austin, and then himself.
Erwin police officers were dispatched to 750 Carolina Ave., Apt. 124B, at around that day on the report of a wounded person calling 911. When officers entered the apartment, they found the bodies.
The first alleged murder of the year in Johnson City occurred April 3 when Timothy Peregoy Sr. died from a gunshot wound he suffered in the parking lot of his son’s apartment building.
The shooting allegedly took place after the gunman demanded money and drugs from Peregoy.
By year’s end, three people — Marcus Gergish, Josh Gergish and Chavez Hunter — were jailed and charged with Peregoy’s murder. Their cases are pending in court.
Two homicides happened in July. The first to be killed was a 4-year-old Coty Stines in Carter County by a BB gun after the child was left in the care of his 13-year-old cousin. The teen is now charged with reckless homicide. The toddler was reportedly jumping on a bed and the gun accidently went off, but investigators have not substantiated that information.
In Johnson City, Elizabeth Archer was arrested for the July 9 stabbing death of her boyfriend, Jeremy Mounts, at the home they shared on East Chestnut Street. Police investigators said the stabbing happened after the two had been drinking and got into an argument over politics. The case is still pending in court.
In August, Washington County deputies discovered the bodies of James Dennis, 39, and Amy Dennis, 28, inside their Smith Lane home in Jonesborough. Investigators determined the deaths were the result of a murder/suicide in which James Dennis killed his wife and then himself.
Another murder/suicide occurred in September in Johnson County. Officials discovered the bodies of Heather Buchanan, 31, and her 6-year-old daughter, Alexis Buchanan, following a incident in which Heather Buchanan shot at an officer. Police say Heather Buchanan killed her daughter, then herself.
It happened Sept. 21 at a home Buchanan shared with her boyfriend, Mark Johnson. Authorities said Johnson also suffered a gunshot wound in the incident.
In October, Jonathan Cravens was arrested in Johnson City for the Aug. 19 death of his girlfriend’s son, 16-month-old Alexander Kian Paul. Cravens told police he found the boy unresponsive and called 911. The investigation later revealed he had walked to the mall from the couple’s Knob Creek Road apartment and left the child alone at the residence.
The boy’s cause of death has not been released. Cravens’ court case is still pending.
In another case that Washington County sheriff’s investigators believe may have been a murder/suicide, BounLeua Bet Sonekeo, 38, and his wife, Misty Dawn Sonekeo, 36, died in a fiery car crash on Knob Creek Dock Road.
The crash investigation led authorities to a residence at 106 Copper Court. There, they found blood outside the residence as well as a large amount of blood inside on a bed.
A preliminary examination of Misty Dawn Sonekeo’s body revealed at least two stab wounds to the chest.
Authorities remain unclear on what caused BounLeua Bet Sonekeo, who deputies say was driving, to go off the road, but there were no skid marks of any kind to indicate he tried to stop.
There were also several sexual assault, sexual exploitation and rape cases this year in the region.
In February, Hampton school teacher Kelly Smith, 31, was arrested on charges of solicitation of a minor and rape and pleaded guilty Dec. 12 to statutory rape of a 16-year-old girl. Smith resigned from his position at Hampton Elementary School after his arrest. The victim had been Smith’s student at one time, authorities said.
In May, a Johnson City man was arrested on federal child sexual solicitation charges as well. Rickie Lee Hoyle Jr. was charged after a joint investigation by Erwin police and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. Hoyle is accused of contacting the teenage alleged victim on Facebook, beginning in 2012, which led to a meeting in January. At that encounter, Hoyle was accused of touching the teen inappropriately and offered him $200 to pay for car repairs in exchange for letting Hoyle perform oral sex on him.
Hoyle is scheduled for a trial in federal court on Jan. 28.
And in Johnson City, Ronnie McCall, 61, and Connie McCall, 40, were indicted in October by a federal grand jury on charges of selling of a child by parents, coercion and enticement of a minor and two counts of production of child pornography.
The victims in the case are three of the McCalls’ four daughters — ages 5, 11, 14 and 16 at the time. The youngest child was not involved in the pornography incidents but was a victim in another child neglect case against the McCalls. All four girls are now in state custody.
The couple will be tried in federal court in 2014.
Child abuse and neglect arrests in 2013:
On Feb. 10, Gordon Lyon, Tammy Lyon and Jill Wheeler were arrested in Unicoi County after four children between the ages of 4 and 10 were found playing unattended near a county road. The adults were charged with four counts of child neglect and and one count of aggravated child endangerment. The three were also charged with possession of schedule VI drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Unicoi County investigators said the adults were found in a nearby home passed out and under the influence of drugs. In September, Gordon Lyon was convicted on one count of attempted child abuse, Tammy Lyon pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted child neglect and Wheeler also pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted child neglect. Remaining charges against the trio were dismissed, and each was sentenced to 11 months, 29 days probation.
In May, Johnson City police charged Mark Vincent Kendall and Melissa Gail Hyatt-Kendall with child abuse and neglect of their 17-day-old daughter. The couple took their daughter to the hospital for a rash, but hospital staff contacted the Department of Children’s Services after noticing the infant had bruising all over her body. While treating the infant, nurses also discovered a torn frenulum — the webbing under the tongue — and a small puncture wound on the palm of each hand.
Investigators said Mark Kendall told them he had bathed the baby in a tub where they had been washing clothes and believed the washing powder may have caused a rash and possibly burned the baby’s skin.
But investigators determined the child had been injured in some way that caused the numerous bruises.
Also in May, Amanda Percell, 22, and her boyfriend, Andrew Lorenze Allen, 29, 533 Browning Road, were charged with aggravated child abuse after authorities discovered Percell’s 2-year-old son had extensive bruising all over his body — some that appeared to be in various stages of healing.
In September, Joe Whitaker, 41, and Charlotte Whitaker, 32, were indicted on charges of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect. Prosecutors said the couple’s son, Jaden, was taken to a local hospital in mid-August because Joe Whitaker said the infant wasn’t acting right.
At the emergency room, physicians discovered signs of child abuse and determined Jaden had severe head injuries and required specialized care at the Children’s Hospital in Knoxville.
A more in-depth examination revealed a broken bone in Jaden’s leg that had already started to heal, officials said. The head injuries occurred within the 48 hours prior to Jaden initially being taken to the hospital, and the leg break was about a week old.
The Whitakers’ case is pending in Washington County Criminal Court, and they are each free on $100,000 bond.
Press Erwin Bureau Chief Brad Hicks and Press Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson contributed to this report.