SEVIERVILLE — The man who allegedly overheard the murder of Carolyn Bartles told a judge Wednesday that Jonathan Seth Stalcup killed her after a quarrel, possibly worried that she would tell authorities where to find him while he was wanted on other charges.
Dustin Justus was the first witness called to testify Wednesday afternoon during Stalcup’s preliminary hearing on first degree murder charges related to Bartles’ death.
He told Judge Jeff Rader that he’d been letting Stalcup sleep on the couch of the apartment where he’d been living, which was attached to a one-time mechanic’s garage at 3115 Old Newport Highway.
Stalcup and Bartles, who was married to another man, had been in a relationship for some time before they argued on Feb. 15, Justus said.
“It was a little rocky,” he said. “They always came together and left together but they were always arguing.”
At some point Stalcup had actually been living with Bartles, he said, but he’d returned to stay at the apartment before the killing.
Bartles came to the apartment between 3 and 4 a.m., awakening Justus when she knocked on the door and his dog started barking.
He heard Justus let her in, and heard them start to argue.
“It was something pertaining to how they didn’t go do anything on Valentine’s Day,” he said.
He heard Bartles say she was going to leave at some point, and heard Stalcup tell her she couldn’t, saying she knew too much about him.
Then he heard the sounds of a fight, lasting about a minute.
“I heard some fighting and it was very short and after it I heard a gurgling sound,” he said.
Bartles called out to him for help, he said, but he said he was too scared of Stalcup, especially knowing he was armed.
He kept a revolver around constantly, Justus said, and had two more guns around the house.
Law enforcement and bail bondsmen were searching for Stalcup, he said, and he would often use a log to bar the door and keep the windows of the apartment covered.
Stalcup would constantly say he was worried about someone snitching on him. “He had mentioned it quite a bit,” Justus said.
Justus said he knew what happened in the room based on the sounds and later saw Bartles’ body, but he refused to help Stalcup move the body beyond letting him have a blanket he used to wrap up her body.
Stalcup put her body into the car she drove to the scene and left, but returned with it still in the car, Justus said. Justus said Stalcup said he’d tried to find a place to dispose of her remains but there was a tree blocking the road to his destination.
The body would remain hidden in her car, which was placed out of sight, for several days until Stalcup found another person to help him move it, Justus said.
That man, Jonathan Cole, was the next to take the stand Wednesday.
He and Stalcup knew each other from working at a local mountain coaster and had become good friends but they hadn’t seen each other in a year.
A mutual friend got them in contact with each other, and Stalcup asked him to come and help with something. Cole told the judge Stalcup never went into specifics, but he agreed to get a ride from Greeneville, Tennessee, and come back here.
It wasn’t until he got into the car and tried to move the passenger seat back that Stalcup told him there was a body in it.
Even then, he said, he didn’t ask questions.
They drove to his home on Treebeard Way, where they shot up meth and discussed a plan to bury Bartles’ remains on the property.
“I was high and it seemed like a good idea at the time,” Cole said.
They took Bartles’ car to Gatlinburg, and he stayed a few more days before going back to Greeneville.
Eventually, detectives found the car and evidence from it led them to Cole, who said he spent two days denying any knowledge of the case before finally telling them where to find Bartles’ remains.
The testimony did not cover the specific cause of her death. The autopsy was entered into the record without much comment, although at one point special prosecutor Gene Perrin said there were injuries consistent with strangulation.
Perrin, who is from the Second Judicial District, is prosecuting the case at the request of District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn, due to a relationship between one of Dunn’s staff members and the victim.
Rader sent the case on to a grand jury with little comment, saying Perrin had provided sufficient evidence to advance the case.
Stalcup was sent back to the Sevier County Jail, where he is being held without bail. In addition to first degree murder, he is also facing charges of abuse of a corpse and especially aggravated kidnapping.
Several friends and relatives of Bartles attended the hearing, but declined to speak to The Mountain Press after the hearing concluded.
Contact Jeff at email@example.com or Twitter at @jeffmtnpress.
Members of the community who would like to help children in need this school year can drop off supplies at one of the Sevier County Public Library System’s branches.
The library system will remove overdue late fines for those who donate. The program, part of Sevier County’s Promise — The Alliance for Youth, continues through the end of July in partnership with Sevier County Family Resource Center and The Salvation Army.
“The library does this every year in July,” said Kim Loveday, director of Sevier County Family Resource Center. The program has continued annually for about 10 years.
They have a specific need for mesh or see-through backpacks, which are required by the Sevier County School System, and one-inch and two-inch three-ring binders with dividers.
“We don’t get a lot of backpacks because they’re the most costly,” Loveday said.
Other supplies on the list include three-subject or five-subject spiral notebooks, No. 2 pencils (no mechanical pencils), index cards, Elmer’s glue sticks, Fiskars blunt-tip scissors and regular scissors for kids, red pens, highlighters, Sharpies, crayons, pencil sharpeners, colored markers and pencils, basic calculators, two-pocket folders and pocket folders with brads, cap erasers and regular/jumbo erasers, loose leaf wide or college ruled notebook paper and composition notebooks.
“It’s a great program,” said Rhonda Tippitt, library director. “Bring donations in lieu of fines, or just bring donations, just because. If you have the means to make a difference in a child’s life whose family doesn’t, do so.”
Families in need of help who would like to sign up to receive supplies through the program can call The Salvation Army at 865-908-4010.
“All of it will go for a good cause to help families go back to school,” Loveday said.
Donors can bring any four of the suggested supplies or one backpack or one good calculator and get any amount of fines waived per library card. The amount of the fine is irrelevant and only fines will be waived. Lost or damaged items will still require payment for the loss and processing of materials.
Drop-off locations include King Family Library, 408 High St., Sevierville; Williams Family Seymour Branch Library, 212 N. Pitner Road (temporarily located behind the Seymour Boys & Girls Club); or Kodak Branch Library, 319 W. Dumplin Valley Road.
For more information about the project email Loveday at sevierfamily
GATLINBURG — City officials may consider an ordinance that would limit how much local businesses have in storefront displays.
Building and Planning Director David W. Ball did a cursory review of storefronts in the downtown business district to determine the impact of an ordinance to regulate the display of merchandise within store front window areas.
In a memo to City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle, Ball said most businesses in the downtown area have some sort of merchandise display in the storefront window areas.
“Further, if a limitation of 30% or less were placed on window display areas, it is my opinion that approximately 45% to 55% of the existing store fronts would be in violation,” Ball wrote.
Ogle handed out the memo to the City Commissioners during their budget workshop Monday.
“You wisely asked we kind of get a better handle on the impact. Tell me what you want to do over the next few days,” Ogle said.
“It would be in the form of an ordinance that would go in the municipal code.”
It would be later this year before the City Commission considers an ordinance that would limit storefront displays.
GATLINBURG — After spending all day Monday going through the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021-2022, which includes $15 million in proposed capital projects, City Commission didn’t have much to say before passing the budget on first reading Tuesday.
“Thankfully we have had a great recovery, a great year,” Mayor Mike Werner said.
Commissioners noted it is one of the best budgets the city has had.
“We’re talking about total revenue and fund balance being appropriated of $126 million this year, and that is fabulous,” Vice Mayor Mark McCown said.
The City Commission unanimously approved first reading of the budget. A second budget workshop is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 27, at City Hall.
A second reading of the budget and public hearing is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3, at the City Commission meeting with a third budget workshop scheduled for 4 p.m Tuesday, Aug. 10 if needed. Third and final reading is planned for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17 at the City Commission meeting.
City leaders were pleased with how the city bounced back after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, and Werner credited the city’s location as well as how they let people know they were open but being cautious as reasons for that success.
The $15 million in projects would normally require a bond issue, but city leaders are hopefully projected revenues and the unexpected budget surplus from the previous year will cover all the expected expenditures.
Some of the projects proposed under the budget include a public works complex, $5.8 million; a Bishop Lane parking facility, estimated at $3.8 million; a golf course irrigation system estimated at $1.2 million; a number of recreation projects, including the ongoing work at Mynatt Park, $808,000; replacing a fire engine, estimated at $425,000; a traffic signal management system estimated at $350,000; downtown Dark Fiber connections at $75,000; and a bicycle house remodel, estimated at $50,000.
The city is also planning to do around $1 million in paving this year on city streets and also address stormwater issues in the system.
The budget includes a 4% cost of living adjustment for employees, as well as a 4% increase in the pay scale, which Ogle explained allowed for a new employee to start at a lower pay rate than existing employees who have gained additional skills while employed.
The budget includes 18 new positions, including four new patrolman for the police department, three firefighter/paramedics as well as a training officer/EMS coordinator for the fire department; four sanitation workers; a mechanic and mechanic apprentice; a compliance inspector for the utility department; an assistant city planner and building inspector; and a full time IT person.
Most residents should see their tax burden stay about the same. The proposed budget includes a certified tax rate of 12.56 cents per $100 valuation, which should make the city collect the same tax revenue as prior to the recent property reappraisals in Sevier County.
In most cases, unless someone’s property value went up significantly, that means their tax bill should stay at or near the same as the previous year.
SEVIERVILLE — The Sevierville Police Department made several promotions within the department recently.
Lt. Ray Brown has been promoted to the rank of captain and will command the Operations Bureau, transferring from the Criminal Investigations Division.
Sgt. T.C Faulconer has been promoted to the rank of lieutenant and is assigned to the Operations Bureau as a Patrol Division commander. Lt. Faulconer was previously a School Resource Officer supervisor.
Sgt. Robbie Nelms has been promoted to the rank of lieutenant and is assigned to the Operations Bureau as a Patrol Division commander.
“I’m extremely proud of the leadership these officers have demonstrated,” said SPD Chief Joseph Manning. “I know that they each will continue their dedication to serving our community and department in the years ahead.”