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UPDATE: Pedestrian killed on Interstate 26

Interstate 26 westbound lanes were eerily empty for hours Tuesday between the Okolona Road and University Parkway exits while Johnson City police investigated the death of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle.

Police have yet to identify the pedestrian.

Johnson City Police Department Lt. Scotty Carrier said 911 received a call just before 7 a.m. from a motorist who reported a hazard at the edge of the road just west of Okolona Road.

When an officer arrived, he saw it was a dead person lying in the road. The traffic fatality investigation team as well as the criminal investigation division responded to take control of the scene.

The discovery led police to shut down the westbound lanes, divert traffic to the Okolona exit and onto South Roan Street and then University Parkway to get back onto the interstate.

Investigators walked the scene placing evidence markers at vehicle pieces that could belong to the vehicle that hit the pedestrian. They also used digital equipment to take multiple measurements to help determine more about the incident.

Investigators also took molds of tire tracks in the grass just off the shoulder just in case it could be related to the collision. They were also gathering potential evidence along the area that could later help determine the type of vehicle that hit the person.

Officers cleared the scene around 1:30 p.m.

Anyone who could have information about the fatality is asked to call the police department at 423-434-6166.

For anyone who wants to remain anonymous, information can be sent by calling Crimestoppers at (423) 434-6158. Anonymous tips can also be submitted by texting 423JCPD and your tip to 847411 (TIP411) or submit via the internet at

Reported previously ...

Both westbound lanes of Interstate 26 were shut down Tuesday morning after a car struck and killed a pedestrian near the exit 27 onramp.

A spokesperson for the Johnson City Police Department confirmed a fatality in the incident in the westbound lanes near mile marker 27 and asked drivers to avoid the area.

Police on the scene said emergency responders were dispatched at 6:56 to the area near the interstate onramp from Okolona Road.

Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesperson Mark Nagi tweeted about the crash at 8:16 and said traffic was being diverted off the interstate via exit 27 to Okolona Road.

For the latest breaking news and updates, download the Johnson City Press app.

"Little Women" onstage at the JRT

The beloved classic “Little Women,” based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott, opens at the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre on Thursday.

Set in 1865, this story about the March sisters and their family and friends is an inspirational way to start the new year.

“‘Little Women’ is a very wholesome tale,” said Miranda Laurio (who plays Jo), “but it deals with real problems and struggles too—it embodies what it takes for a family to stay together and love each other no matter what, be it through anger and disagreement, through poverty and want, through success and joy, or separation, even loss.”

The show revolves around the sisters and their relationship to each other during what is a tumultuous year while their father is serving in the Civil War. Though the sisters are close, they still deal with disappointment, frustration, and bitterness as any siblings typically do. But their love is powerful and helps them overcome these relational obstacles.

“This story is about the power of love, perseverance, generosity, and forgiveness,” said Krista Wharton (who plays Marmee). “My character Marmee loves her daughters fiercely and has taught them the importance of giving to those who are less fortunate, to be forgiving and show grace, and to be true to themselves.”

Laurio also believes one of the show’s central themes is forgiveness.

“It’s not natural for humans to forgive; but when we do, beautiful things happen, and that’s what real love is all about: doing the kind thing even when it is hard. That type of love can change the world, and I think we all need to see examples of that love; we all need to be re-inspired.”

“Little Women is a special story because it is filled with so much hope and growth,” said Margaret Siglin (who plays Meg). “We get an opportunity to see all the sisters grow in one way or another and watch as the family bonds together in the toughest of times. We’ve all experienced tough times recently, so this show’s themes feel especially relevant right now.”

Little Women is adapted for the stage by Marisha Chamberlain. The show is directed by Pam Johnson, assisted by Jessica Shelton, and stage managed by Sabra Hayden.

Rounding out the cast are Dave Bernhardt, Becky Edmisten, Michael Ellis, Ryan Gray, Tristan Matthews, Caroline Peccia, Abby Raper, and Kari Tuthill. Alternates are Kaitlyn Dorr, Nathan Marooney, and Joel VanEaton. This production is sponsored by Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home and Sonia King.

Shows run Thursdays through Sundays, Jan. 13-30. Tickets are $17 general admission, $15 for students and seniors. There is also a special group rate for parties of 15 or more.

To buy tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423-753-1010 or go online to The theater is at 125.5 W. Main St., Jonesborough.

From the Town of Jonesborough: In accordance with current CDC guidance, masks are kindly requested for all patrons attending the performances.

Crowe pushes bill to expand access during health emergencies

The chairman of the Tennessee Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee is pushing passage of legislation to allow family members to visit loved ones in certain medical facilities during a pandemic.

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, said the bill is a result of stories he has heard from constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic of family members not being granted access to their relatives being treated in specialized care facilities.

“Way too many elderly have had to die alone not being able to be with their caregiver children or other family members,” Crowe said. “And so I am planning legislation to require skilled nursing facilities, nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities for the intellectually disabled, assisted living facilities and inpatient rehabilitation facilities to permit essential family caregivers access to their loved ones during any public health emergency.”

Crowe said it is one of many health-related issues he and other members of his Senate committee will address this year. That includes mental health issues for people who have seen those services impacted by the pandemic.

“We will look for ways to continue to better support health care systems, lower costs, increase access and improve quality of care for all Tennesseans,” said Crowe, who along with 131 other members of the state General Assembly returned to work in Nashville on Tuesday.

Crowe said he will also continue to sponsor a bill to fix the “balance billing” problem with unexpected medical charges. Also known as “surprise billing,” the legislation was deferred last year as Tennessee officials assessed how rules promulgated under a new federal law addressing the issue will impact state-regulated insurance plans.

“Balance billing occurs when providers bill a patient for the difference between the amount they charge and the amount that the patient’s insurance pays,” Crowe said. “The amount that insurers pay providers is almost always less than the providers’ retail price. Some providers will bill the patient for the difference, or balance. Thus, it’s called balance billing.”

In a non-health related matter, Crowe said he plans to sponsor a change to state law that would allow electrical utilities to provide broadband services outside what has been determined their traditional service base.

“There are many areas needing broadband in my Senate district that don’t currently have access, but we have found that although we have the money to provide it, the current law only allows a utility like BrightRidge or Erwin Utilities to only serve communities within what is called their service areas.” Crowe said. “I am planning legislation to amend that old law to facilitate the growth of broadband in our Northeast Tennessee communities.”

Hometown Cottage to open second location in downtown Johnson City

When Melody Howard’s husband temporarily lost his job in 2017, the couple needed a way to support their five kids, so Melody got creative.

A longtime professional photographer who also describes herself as a “crafty” person, Melody started making decorative signs and selling them from home and on social media — a project that gradually started taking over the house.

One of Melody’s friends allowed her to share a storefront in Kingsport, and the business, which she co-owns with her husband Brian, began to grow. It’s now called Hometown Cottage.

“Since 2017, we’ve had a lot of other friends who sell things that have joined in with us and that’s how it started,” Howard said. “It grew from 12 vendors to 44 the last time I counted.”

Hometown Cottage, Howard said, features sophisticated items made by creators and artists in Northeast Tennessee and other parts of the state. That includes boutique clothing, candles, pottery and gourmet treats.

“We’re just like a boutique and gift store all in one,” Howard said.

The boutique has a store in downtown Kingsport and is getting ready to open a second location at 117 Spring St. in Johnson City. Although construction delays have set back initial plans to open in November, Howard expects to open the new location before the beginning of spring.

It’s something Melody said she couldn’t have achieved without the help of her family.

The Johnson City Development Authority is also supporting the expansion through a grant the agency received from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which is helping entrepreneurs move into spacious, first-floor storefronts in the downtown district.

Hometown Cottage applied and received $16,000.

“I wasn’t really familiar with Johnson City, but the more I started looking I realized Johnson City is really growing and thriving,” Howard said.

The city felt large and bustling, she said, without sacrificing any of its small town charm.

“Johnson City just has a lot of talent to be showcased, and I felt like we are a good place for that because we have so many local people who create and make things,” she said.

Arts, crafts and photography have always been among Howard’s passions.

“I think that’s why I have such a heart for the people that are local artists because I have also been a local artist,” she said.

Along with serving as a tentpole for local makers hoping to sell their goods, Howard said Hometown Cottage will also host two other businesses at its new location on Spring Street: Element Nutrition, which sells shakes and tea, and Sugar High, a gourmet treat store.