A March 2 tornado left portions of Tellico Plains and the surrounding area in rubble. The Tellico
Plains tornado and how it brought the community together in the face of a disaster was one of
the biggest stories in 2012 in Monroe County.
January opened on a sad note with the
death of a Vonore man on Jan. 4, when his house caught fire. Paul
Thompson, 65, was killed in the blaze.
Within a few days, one of the larger
ongoing stories of the year hit the stands when Eddie Ledford of
Sweetwater was arrested on child sex charges. The shocking story
played out through December of this year when Ledford allegedly tried
to commit suicided just before he received a lengthy prison sentence.
If he lives, Ledford will be more than 100 years old when he gets out
On a much more positive note, Tellico
Plains Lady Bears basketball coach Gary Tucker notched his 600th win
at the end of the month.
Just hours before Valentine's Day,
Beck's Florist burned down in Madisonville on what should have been
one of the busiest days of the year for the flower shop.
But once again, there was good news
around the corner on the basketball court for Monroe County when the
Rural Vale Lady Panthers brought up a state junior high basketball
title and enjoyed a big reception from the community.
For the second year in a row, a major
severe weather event struck the county. On a balmy Friday, March 2,
an EF-2 tornado slammed into Tellico Plains with 130 mph winds early
in the afternoon.
The terrifying twister hit about the
time school was letting out early trying to beat the stormy weather.
The relatively large tornado tore into the TDS garage and many other
buildings with fury. Some people were too busy trying to protect
themselves to describe the tornado.
"If you've got your head down between
your knees praying there's not much more you can see," said TDS worker
Bob Dockery just moments after the tornado struck.
Fortunately, there were no major
injuries, however, the damage to the town and outlying area was
The community rallied around Tellico
Plains, raising money for those who lost everything during the storm.
A couple of large fundraising events were held and many people
brought food, clothing and other supplies to The Advocate & Democrat to take to Tellico Plains.
Just days after the tornado, a
reoccurring theme of killings in Monroe County in 2012 took center
stage again when a Vonore man, Luther Vineyard, was murdered at his
home. Four suspects were charged in connection with the killing.
On March 13, a popular Tennessee
Highway Patrol officer from Monroe County was nearly killed when his
patrol car was struck by a tractor-trailer on the interstate in
Knoxville. But the story of Sgt. Lowell Russell's courageous survival
soon became an inspiration to everyone not only in Monroe County, but
the state of Tennessee as well.
Later in the month, the death of an
elderly woman who was allegedly badly abused became a murder case
with the death of Mary Shaw, 79. Two people were charged in
connection with her death.
March 2012 ended up being the warmest
March on record with the average temperature some 10 degrees above
Controversy exploded when the County
Commission's resolution calling for four Monroe County Board of
Education districts instead of three did not make it to the Tennessee
General Assembly in time for a vote on the House floor. Much finger
pointing and many conspiracy theories floated about as to why the
measure did not make it in time.
By late April, Monroe County was
adorned in purple as purple bows became the theme for the annual
Relay for Life walk to raise money for the fight against cancer.