published Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Signal Mountain man charged with murder after running three people off the road

An 18-year-old from Signal Mountain faces three counts of felony murder after authorities say he used a stolen pickup truck to run three people off the road and to their deaths.

James T. Meeks III is being held in Sequatchie County on related felony charges of theft over $10,000, tampering with evidence and burning personal property in connection with the theft of a Ford F-150 pickup truck.

Meeks is accused of ramming the victims’ Jeep from behind on Suck Creek Mountain’s Big Fork Road in Marion County. He was arraigned Friday in Marion County Circuit Court on grand jury indictments charging him with three counts of felony murder and attempted murder, 12th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney David McGovern said.

Nicholas Scott Clayton, 20, and Emily F. Clayton, 21, both of Sale Creek, and Chattanooga resident Annie E. Blevins, 24, died about 4:20 a.m. June 4. Driver Eric D. Blevins, 37, was injured in the incident, according to investigators.

“We believe it was intentional,” McGovern said, but declined to elaborate.

Meeks has a $75,000 bond set in Marion County, but no bond has been set on the charges in Sequatchie County, where he is being held, officials said.

Public defender Jeff Harmon, whose office is representing Meeks in Sequatchie and Marion counties, said his client pleaded not guilty Friday during the arraignment hearing in Marion. No plea has been entered in the Sequatchie side of case, Harmon said.

McGovern said Meeks will appear for a bond hearing sometime in the next week or so in Marion County Circuit Court.

According to Clayton family members, the four victims had been out late, gathered around a campfire to watch people ride four-wheelers before heading home and encountering Meeks.

Tennessee Highway Patrol officers initially investigating the crash said the Jeep left the road in a curve and overturned. Troopers said from the beginning they believed another vehicle was involved.

Sequatchie County Sheriff Ronnie Hitchcock said the damage on the stolen truck connected the vehicle to the crash on Big Fork Road.

The truck was found burned on Miller Cove Road, just inside Sequatchie County and not far the Jeep’s crash site, said Sequatchie County Detective Jody Lockhart. The Ford truck was taken from a home on U.S. Highway 127 a few hours before the fatal crash, he said.

Information gathered during the investigation led to Meeks, Lockhart said.

“Once we got the ball rolling, it just all came together in a nice little package,” he said.

Once Meeks was identified as a suspect, investigators went to Gordon County, Ga., to interview him, where he was being held on unrelated theft charges. He later was released to Sequatchie County authorities.

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about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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terrybham said...

Seems like a really nice fellow. I hope they lock him up for a long time.

August 13, 2011 at 1:03 p.m.
NoMyth said...

We should send his punk butt to to a labor camp in Somalia in exchange for a few of those poor people that would appreciate what a privilege it is to live in the United States.

August 13, 2011 at 1:51 p.m.
amnestiUSAF84 said...

The prison inmates will think he is cute and they will make him their woman

indian, wishing harm on someone who has committed harm somehow makes you a better person than he? How so?

August 14, 2011 at 9:56 p.m.
tash3179 said...

I happen 2 knw thys young mans family and and we all up here have grown-up 2gether..my prayers go out 2 all families involved..its a shame..in sayin tht ..he comes frm a great family,hes a good little fella and to wish on anothers family whats been done 2 another is really sad..again prayers and love go out to all involved.

August 16, 2011 at 9:53 p.m.
ash1794 said...

to the womans comment above mine. scott and emmy were amazing people, they did not deserve this at all. the only thing that keeps my family together is knowing that they are with their beloved son. this man above deserves to rot and i hope he is haunted everyday for what he did;(

November 13, 2011 at 3:20 a.m.
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