Tennessee Coffin – Chapter one.

In the year 2001, Brookes and Dunne’s “Only in America” hit number one on the country music charts, then horror rocked the nation as we watched the World Trade Towers implode before our eyes. Still, Tennessee’s Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh had his annual coon dinner, perhaps as reminder this second-generation Lebanese-American was every bit as American as any one. And by God, Lebanese was not Muslimese, in case anyone couldn’t tell the difference. Have a bite of coon.

Also that year, Naifeh signed-in a piece of legislation that would alter the fabric of rural Tennessee. The Intractable Pain Act. Which during an interview by now Senator Janice Bowling, I learned had been “jawed on” a whole fifteen minutes before folks got their pens out and signed it into law. In between critter bites that is.
Which I find insulting as I had to look up the word itself, Intractable, let alone the time it took pondering the meaning of the phrase, and unwinding the convolutions of legislative wording, this for me added up to at least seventeen minutes.

But let’s call it an Act, and after which it was a few short months before the coonery oozed down into the rural fabric and up to the mountain Town of Monteagle, a place where Capone hid out I’ll just add. When nurse practitioner Krista Garner set up shop, opening the Community Health Center on main, next to the hair salon and a small newspaper. For Krista to prescribe pain medication, the only rules now being an offsite MD on payroll to look over things now and again. For this she found Dr. David Florence of Manchester, twenty miles away. Florence was a man some thought looked like Ozzy, from Black Sabath, who fancied himself a reality TV hopeful, mugged in videos surrounded by bimbo looking nurses while drinking urine from bedside bottles, which hopefully does not remind one of the Meth users drinking the urine of other users to get high.

Monteagle and the even more infamous Tracy City have strange black round holes strewn on the hill sides that peer out like giant rodent holes, evoking an image of moles and lobbyist racing back and forth from vents on the Senate floor to the heart of Appalachia, where by long greedy arms, the fat cats reach down into one man’s pocket and out the other, grabbing for Medicare money while disguised as the poverty of others.
From one of a few remaining documents from the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office circa 2005 to 2014, most others being “burned up” according to present Sheriff Shrum, it is revealed by then Sheriff Myers that Krista Garner had a silent partner, Malcolm Burrows, who funded the clinic in cash transactions to the tune of sixty thousand dollars. And more silent now.

On a dark chilly Saturday night, January 7th, 2006, the bludgeoned body of Malcom Burrows was found face down in a bed of red leaves on the edge of dead-end Mellissa Rock, the road leading to his Tracy City home. Meanwhile, a young man was visiting nearby Coalmont that weekend, but soon, he was in the sights of Sheriff Myers and put on the murder of Malcolm by an anonymous tip, of sorts, then convicted of First Degree Murder in a three-day trial. His name is Adam Braseel.

The State’s case against the small red haired young man, Malcom stood 6’2”, was the testimony of Malcom’s sister Becky, his nephew Kirk, and various law enforcement officers; from the appeal record, one being a Sergeant Troy Brown, who by such claims was the officer who found Burrow’s body, handled key evidence and interviewed witnesses Becky and Kirk the night of the murder.

But before winding into a knotted yarn of mountain entanglement, I will tell you upfront there is another Sergeant Brown. Or should be. Sergeant Mike Brown, who I found in St Augustine in 2015 after a coincidental trip to see Castillo de San Marcos, whose Bastion I snapped for my blog page, and thereby making the escaped ex investigator Brown quake in his boots at my super telepathic powers and surrender. Mike Brown, yes it was he who was the Grundy County Investigator that found the body and handled the evidence, not Troy, though it was Troy Brown who testified, not Mike. Truly, though, it was the oddest of coincidences. There are two Sergeant Brown’s and the right one did not testify. Troy Brown isn’t even from the same County.

Becky Hill testified a man came to the door and lured her brother down the road and then came back and assaulted her, this being the reason she could identify the defendant, and thus, the circumstantial evidence to convict — that whoever the person was that assaulted her, must be the person who killed her brother. Yet evidence that this assault took place was not presented in court by any officer at the crime scene. A deputy who testified said he arrived after the ambulance left. The TBI agent who arrived hours later never saw her. No interview was made at the hospital, nor any medical record, photograph, testimony of ambulance driver or 911 dispatcher was presented.
The person who did testify to his mother’s injuries was her son Kirk Braden, who said he woke up during the assault and chased the man away.

Becky testified she was struck by a silver metal rod, while prosecutor Steve Strain offered a black souvenir ball bat as the weapon, a weapon TBI agent Davis testified he found at the crime scene — though in a preliminary hearing Davis said when he arrived there was no ball bat, saying Sergeant Brown told him there was, so he told Brown to put the ball bat back where he found it. Now as we all know, a black ball bat is not exactly a silver metal rod, so prosecutor Strain got his own witness Becky to admit the weapon she was struck by was “some weapon, twelve to twenty-four inches long.” Police reports from the crime scene have the weapon as a hammer. Eh.

And so on, there was no physical evidence or motive offered for Adam Braseel to have committed the crime.
When talking to a juror she said the prosecutor made Adam’s alibi Josh Seagroves look guilty, that was about it, she didn’t trust the witnesses. She wanted to vote not guilty, but felt bullied by the jury foreman (the father of a local doctor). She also questioned why her and others were picked for the jury, as it seemed to her that many next to her had pending charges, she felt a threat that if they didn’t do what they were told, there would be repercussions by the DA. Jury selection, voir dire, was not recorded by the court reporter, so there is no record of how the jury were picked.

A man in prison sent me a letter that was so dense I won’t bore you, but he had a name for the jury pool around those parts. “informants.” — people that had charges or family members that did. People who could be controlled. Just what he said, maybe he knows. His name being James Lovell, like the astronaut.

This is Tennessee, and there would be few shocked of this story in rural America and it’s feudal like authority by crooked Sheriffs and District Attorneys. Nothing new there. If that were the story.

Surprise, on Christmas day of 2015, a newly elected circuit Judge Justin Angel, amidst a good deal of outside pressure and new information being published ex-parte, granted Adam Braseel a new trial. Citing ineffective council of Adam’s trial attorney’s Flossy Davis and Bob Peters. Adam bonded out and awaited a new trial. Note though, that during the formal Post Conviction Relief hearings before Angel, nothing was mentioned of Malcolm’s involvement with nurse Garner and doctor Florence in the pill business. To the court, Malcolm Burrows remained a sickly Shade Tree Mechanic attacked wantonly in the night. Adam’s appeal attorney was perhaps reluctant to rock the boat too much and claim actual corruption, if all could be done with a wink and nod and without shaking too much up.

Yet it’s hard to ignore that Sheriff Myers happened to be the nephew of the locally influential Mike Yarworth who owned Mikes Pharmacy, and also owned the local TV station GCTV. And they just happened to be filming Adams trial, a first and only occurrence in the Grundy County Courtroom. A scenario in which it would be unlikely and embarrassing to the entire county to bring up Malcolm’s business interests. To admit that not only had Myers never made any moves against Burrows, Garner and Florence’s operation of pill trafficking, neither had District Attorney Michael Taylor, his assistant Steve Strain or Bud Perry the trial Judge.

Garner was arrested in 2011, four years after Adam was convicted. Florence is being sued by the Feds for Medicare fraud in conjunction with operating a pill mill. But what about Adam? Present Sheriff Shrum told me that he was told the corruptions of the past were taken care of by the election.
Perhaps it was too much to talk about, let sleeping dogs lie; Judge Perry’s son died from prescription pain pills, though this was not revealed at trial. A friend of Perry’s told me his story.

“Talking to Bud one day, he told me he kept the bottom left hand drawer of his desk locked, it had been locked since his son’s death. Inside was a file he never opened either – Bud told me – ‘if I opened it, it would kill my wife.”
Though this story appears mysterious, the ex-Mayor of Montealge simply told me Perry’s son died of an overdose in his basement. The obituary’s claim he died at school in Alabama? This is just not true. Perry, now retired, put’s his time into drug court, helping addicts.

At the time of the murder, Adam Braseel worked a job at UPS. There is no evidence he was involved in drug dealing. He lived with his mother Imojean in Estill springs, a county away. No record of violence or hard drugs. From countless interviews, there is no indication of violent behavior on Adam Braseel’s part, which is not the case for many on the mountain, including Malcolm and his nephew Kirk.

Remarkable are the amount of dead in the case. Adam’s alibi Josh, he’s dead. Dana Frederick, of which Phillip Clay said: “we all got fucked up one night on Xanax and beer while riding around, Dana started telling Dwayne to stop it or he’d have her daddy Eck kill him. “just like Malcolm, Just like Malcolm.” She’s dead. Wayne Myers is dead for being on the wittiness list, and no one knows why he was on it. Lots of dead, “hit woman” April Cordova’s dead to, her sister Bonnie said she might have killed Wayne, her niece Rocha said she probably killed Malcolm. Rocha’s brother was killed in what she was told was a game of Russian roulette.

Adams mother Imojean said Becky didn’t know it was her son when he came in the court room, that Wanda had to tell her before she could point at him. Wanda’s dead too. So is Becky. Some think her son must have killed her after he got arrested for beating her, the very crime Adam was accused of.

Lots of dead. So many it made me worry about the Google driver who travelled down the little back roads in 2007, just months after the murder, allowing me to get a poke around where one usually wouldn’t be welcome. And looking at these pictures from shortly after the murder, there was no house where Malcolm’s was supposed to be.

Adam was out on bond enjoying his freedom after nine years in prison for a crime it’s near impossible to say he committed — that he was anything other than a fall guy for a clandestine group of criminals both in office, in practice or of the street, hiding their tracks. He took a job as a carpenter, worked hard, played hard, spent time with his momma and went to church — and all looked good. Until the Attorney General in Nashville appealed Angel’s decision.

And so it was, one day while waiting, I heard from a mole of my own, one I had lodged in the circuit, he had heard something, the Criminal Court of appeals was going to hand Judge Angel his ass.

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