DECATUR COUNTY, Tenn. — The war on drugs has recently become a hot topic across the nation, including in West Tennessee.

“If they’re addicted to drugs, that’s one thing, but when the drugs are causing death, that’s a whole other matter,” said Sheriff Keith Byrd of Decatur County.

Sheriff Byrd of says they have had one man and two women die from overdoses over the past weekend.

The Sheriff says these three untimely drug related deaths are extremely uncommon for Decatur County, who usually sees one or zero over the course of a year.

And investigators say other parts of the state have also experienced suspicious drug related deaths.

“There’s been a couple in Maury County, Columbia, Tennessee, and we got information a little while ago that there might have been one in Lexington,” said Sheriff Byrd.

The Sheriff says he believes the source to be not far from the Columbia area. He says he believes the killer to be heroin laced with fentanyl.

“When fentanyl hit the scene, it threw everybody into a panic,” said Byrd, “because officers were getting sick if they handled it, and people were dying because drugs were laced with it.”

Officials say they want to track down the source before it’s too late.

“If you got a family member that’s on drugs of any kind, especially this stuff, you need to get with them and intervene,” Byrd said.

Investigators say they plans on working with local law enforcement from other areas who have had similar deaths. They say they are also awaiting the results of the victims autopsies.

Investigators say if you know anything that could help law enforcement in this case, call the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department at 731-852-3703.

If you or anyone you know has a drug problem and need someone to talk to, call the 24 hour, completely confidential, drug abuse hotline at 888-654-2904.

JACKSON, Tenn.–Two women are suffering minor injuries after a wreck on I-40.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol says at 4:15 Friday afternoon, a car flipped over into a ditch near mile marker 99. Officials do not know the cause of the crash.
The two women were transported to a hospital in Henderson.

JACKSON, Tenn.–Lawmakers weigh in on hot issues over breakfast Friday. State and national lawmakers talked legislation at the Jackson Country Club this morning. One of the biggest issues: allowing educators to carry guns at school and another hot topic is medical marijuana.
State lawmakers delayed a vote this week on the proposal.

“There are people that would maybe be able to get it that don’t need it would use it for recreational purposes,” Republican Senator Ed Jackson of Jackson.

“I’m not there for conventional marijuana yet, but medical marijuana yes,” said Democratic Representative Johnny Shaw of Bolivar.

U.S. representative David Kustoff also talked about a $1.3 trillion spending bill that passed overnight. It increases military and domestic spending.

JACKSON, Tenn.–Hundreds of people enjoyed some music for a good cause. Two-hundred guests enjoyed the concert raising money for a local non-profit.
The Faith Health Center is a non-profit group in Jackson, treating depression, diabetes and hyper-tension.
The Fincher Family gospel group from Frog Jump performed. One-hundred-percent of the proceeds go to the health center.

“Most of the patients we serve are uninsured living at poverty level or below so for them to obtain medical care so they can not obtain the cost that it would have,” said David Larsen, medical director.

They hope to have more concerts in the future.

HENRY COUNTY, Tenn. — Dozens of arrests are made early Friday morning in Henry County in what the sheriff says is “an effort to take poison off the street.”

WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News reporter Hannah King was on scene as officers from multiple agencies performed the drug enforcement roundup.

For a year and a half, investigators have been building a case against accused drug dealers across Henry County.

Friday morning, “Operation Blind Justice” began, resulting from the ongoing investigation of more than 50 people.

“This has been a joint investigation between our Metro Crime Unit, Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Paris Police Department and TBI really helping us out in this investigation,” Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew said. “The investigation has gone on for about 18 months, and we are looking at 62 defendants on approximately 113 charges.”

Sheriff Belew says the investigation targeted drug dealers with search warrants served at homes across the county.

Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew

“We have been able to utilize everything from drones to THP’s helicopter to TBI’s airplane to multiple K-9 units from the sheriff’s office and Paris PD as well,” Sheriff Belew said. “Everything has gone really smooth, uneventful. Thoughts and prayers to the officers that are still out there working on Operation Blind Justice.”

At least 25 people were arrested without incident, most of them now facing felony drug charges.

This was just phase one of Operation Blind Justice. Phase two will include additional indictments from state and federal courts.

Agents from the DEA, TBI, Tennessee Department of Correction, along with investigators with the THP, Henry County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies teamed up to search several homes before sunrise.

“They are walking easy and they are looking over their shoulder so they know Metro Crime Unit and TBI and Operation Blind Justice is hopefully going to put a dent in some of this in Henry County,” Sheriff Belew said.

Sheriff Belew says more indictments could come as a result of the ongoing investigation.

CARROLL COUNTY, Tenn. — A 17-year-old Washington girl who went missing more than a month ago was found safe in West Tennessee.

“We basically became close. She thought of me like a mom instead of a friend or neighbor,” a neighbor who does not want to be identified said.

Huntingdon Department of Public Safety Director Walter Smothers says a tip came in just after 8 o’clock Friday morning.

A concerned citizen said there might be people missing from Tacoma, Washington, staying in the area.

“We did have some BOLOs through the police department. They gave a description of the vehicle and license plate,” Smothers said.

When officers, along with deputies from the Carroll County Sheriff’s Department, rushed to the mobile home park where the car was located, they found the girl and the 47-year-old man she was traveling with outside.

“She dyed her hair a lot darker and cut it shorter, but it was her,” Smothers said.

Neighbors say the two posed as a married couple, and the girl claimed she was 20 years old and went by a different name.

“It came as a big surprise,” the neighbor said. “I thought something was going on, but I didn’t know for sure.”

Investigators say the man she was traveling with was also taken into custody, but the Tacoma Police Department says no charges will be filed against him.

Because the girl is a juvenile, WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News is not publishing her name.

Investigators say she is being held in the Carroll County Jail awaiting an interview with the Department of Children’s Services before arrangements are made for her to return home.

JACKSON, Tenn. — State and national lawmakers updated constituents on controversial legislation Friday at the Jackson Country Club.

They discussed allowing educators to carry guns at schools. Rep. Johnny Shaw, D-Bolivar, said he is against it. “Teachers were called and prepared themselves to teach and not to police,” he said.

Sen. Ed Jackson, R-Jackson, feels differently. “If a person qualifies, if they have a background in military or a background in law enforcement and they go through a training program, then they’re right on the front lines, and I would not have a problem with it,” he said.

U.S. Rep. David Kustoff, R-Tennessee, also talked about school safety. WBBJ 7 Eyewitness News asked his opinion on gun laws. “Right now I think we have enough laws on the books to protect people from violence,” he said.

Medical marijuana also came up during Friday’s discussion. State lawmakers delayed a vote this week on the legislation.

“I’m not against it, but I want to hear the rest of the debate,” Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, said.

“I’m not there for conventional marijuana yet, but medical marijuana, yes,” Shaw said.

“There are people that would maybe be able to get it that don’t need it and would use it for recreational purposes,” Jackson said.

Kustoff also brought up a $1.3 trillion spending bill that passed overnight, increasing military and domestic spending. “I wanted to make sure that our military was funded,” he said. “They will be funded.”

The bill keeps the government funded through September.

JACKSON, Tenn. — Six people were killed and nine others injured after a walkway bridge under construction in Miami collapsed.

“The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s No. 1 priority is safety,” TDOT Assistant Bridge Manager Jennifer Blankenship said.

Blankenship and her team of crews say they are constantly checking the bridges in the area to make sure nothing like that happens in West Tennessee.

“We have about 6,000 bridges in West Tennessee, and they are on a federally mandated 23-month cycle, so we inspect them every 23 months,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship says if there are concerns, her crews will place the bridge on a special list to be rechecked.

“We have some really old bridges, but majority of the bridges are around 40 years old. We have a lot of brand new bridges here lately,” Blankenship said.

Ranging as short as 24 feet all the way to 3,400 feet, the four crews consisting of four to six crew members are on the lookout for everything.

“Any type of defects in the bridges — whether that’s concrete, steel or timber. We look for cracks in the concrete, corrosion in the steel and decay in the timber,” Blankenship said.

A big problem comes from those looking to take a bite out of their work.

“We look for damage from traffic and damage from animals. We have a lot of beaver troubles in West Tennessee,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship says the older bridges are usually the ones for trains.

Blankenship says major flooding can damage bridges, and crews check after major weather events.

JACKSON, Tenn. — Students hunted for Easter eggs Friday on a local farm.

Former Jackson-Madison County Schools superintendent Buddy White hosted kindergartners at his home Friday morning.

They each got their pictures taken, then grabbed their baskets and had to find the eggs with their names on them.

“And they have to be able to recognize their name to find the eggs they get to keep. They have to know how to read their name if they’re going to be successful today,” White said.

Each student had 12 eggs with their names on them to find.

HAYWOOD COUNTY, Tenn. — This week’s Educator of the Week presented by the Tennessee Education Lottery is second grade teacher Chrissy Carl from Haywood Elementary School.

Since the age of 15, Carl has been working for the Haywood County School System.

“My first paycheck was actually from teaching as assistant for my mom, because my mom is a teacher here in the education system,” Carl said.

With her 10 years of experience, she’s seen her students grow and loves it when they keep in touch with her.

“There’s several kids that I’ve had in the past that they still see me,” Carl said. “Being a teacher is like being a local celebrity. You can’t go to Walmart without somebody running up and hugging you, so I love that part of the job too.”

Carl will now be eligible for the statewide Tennessee Education Lottery Educator of the Month award. Starting in April, to vote for her or any of the other nominees, visit

To nominate a teacher for our weekly award, email us at

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