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Warrants: Holly Drive shooter had 'AR-15 style gun'

SEVIERVILLE — The fatal shooting on Holly Drive Friday started when police found a suspect armed with an AR-15 style rifle in the home, according to arrest warrants.

Sixty-six-year-old Daryl Lynn Higdon is now charged with six counts of attempted murder for firing at officers from the Sevierville Police Department and Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.

The warrants indicate that SCSO Sgt. Bart Tyner had knocked on the door of the home with other officers outside.

‘When the door was opened by another occupant of the residence, Sgt. Tyner could see Higdon in (the) residence armed with a AR-15 style rifle,” the warrants said.

“Sgt. Tyner did draw his service handgun and proceeded to give Higdon commands to drop the weapon. Higdon refused to comply with commands and an exchange of gunfire did take place.”

The warrants don’t say who fired the first shot and don’t identify the other occupant of the home who opened the door, but the address — also listed as Higdon’s place of residence — is owned by David and Vickie Wright, according to county records. Sources have indicated to The Mountain Press that Higdon is Vickie Wright’s brother.

TBI has indicated David Wright died in the home during the shootout, but has not released his cause of death.

Higdon isn’t charged with taking Wright’s life, and the warrants don’t mention David or Vickie Wright at all.

A gofundme page raising money for the Wright family said David Wright was killed while shielding his wife.

The warrants indicate four SPD officers and two SCSO officers were in the line of fire when Higdon fired from inside the house.

In addition to Tyner, Deputy Mark Hunter was named in the warrants. SPD Officer Nestor Verez, Sgt. Jacob Rademacher and K-9 officers Jacob Reece and Jordan Paul were also named.

SPD has indicated that Paul suffered minor injuries in the incident, not related to a gunshot wound. His K-9 companion Hank, was shot but was taken to a local veterinary clinic. SPD indicated both were recovering at home this week.

The two SCSO deputies suffered minor injuries but weren’t struck by gunfire.

TBI indicated the officers went to Holly Drive to follow up on a felony evading incident, and the warrants indicate that earlier in the day Reece had seen Higdon leaving the Hobby Lobby parking lot on Winfield Dunn Parkway “at a high rate of speed.”

After running the tag on the car, he learned that Higdon was the registered owner of the vehicle and that his license was suspended for failing to pay court costs and fines from Washington County last year.

When Reece activated his emergency lights and tried to get Higdon to stop, Higdon turned down Dolly Parton Parkway and sped away, swerving through traffic, according to the warrant.

TBI is investigating the incident and has not released any of its findings since confirming that Wright died in the home.

Their release indicated one other person inside the house was injured, and Higdon’s booking photo shows his arm was in a sling when he was processed at the Sevier County Jail.

Higdon was being held there Wednesday in lieu of $1 million bond.

He’s currently facing six counts of attempted murder, as well as felony evading arrest and driving on a suspended license. Officials have said he has an extensive criminal history with charges in several states as well as counties in Tennessee.

New video series, 'Smoky Mountain Stories' launches Friday
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A new docuseries featuring stories about staying and having fun in Sevier County launches on Friday., the tourism site owned by Sevier County, will unveil the first two episodes of the series on May 19, with six total episodes produced to show viewers what vacationing is like in Sevier County.

“Two or three years ago we came up with this idea of doing a Netflix-style series to give people a sampling of what a day is, in the Smokies,” said Angela Atchley, Sevier County tourism director.

Each of the 20-25 minute episodes feature a different group of people vacationing here, such as a family reunion, a large group, a small family, a girls’ weekend or a mother-daughter trip.

“We promote the cabins that are outside the city limits. We really want to show off our cabins that we have to offer here in the county, so each episode will feature a different cabin,” Atchley said. “They all have their own storyline, and they’ll come to the cabin and do things that are kind of appropriate for their size group.”

The episodes were filmed in the fall of 2022, and each story depicts different seasons in the Smokies from the summer through Christmas. The videos were produced and directed by Jeff “Dock” Dockweiler from Los Angeles, a veteran in the film industry who has been involved in hundreds of popular shows and movies. Smoky Mountain Stories is a scripted show, hosted by Juliana DeStefano with a professional cast including Gonzalo Menendez, James Shelley, Jillian Steele, Casie Chegwidden, Kevin Whitted, Sydney Ruddock, Nia Asanza and Dee Casserly.

“We are so excited to release the new Smoky Mountain Stories docuseries. The stories are unique because they provide a sampling of what a day in the Smoky Mountains looks like,” Atchley said. “The stories take an inside look into the unbelievably beautiful cabins Sevier County has to offer, while also featuring the incredible attractions and dining options that continue to draw millions of visitors to our county each year.”

The show can be found at or through Visit My Smokies’ website, social media and YouTube channel. Most of the cast members for the show were in the area for the first time while filming their episodes.

“What we want to do is expose people that have never been here to what we have here. It’s hard to believe, but there’s a lot of people who have never been here and so we’re trying to tap into a new audience,” Atchley said. “The beauty, the mountains — we have everything here. We have commercial attractions — Dollywood, Anakeesta — but we also have these off-the-beaten-path little hidden gems that people don’t know about. I think our demographic is changing a little bit. We’re getting more of the younger crowd that are more interested in the outdoor activities as well.”

The next two episodes will release on June 2 followed by the final two episodes on June 16.

Bloomin' BBQ Music & Food Festival this weekend
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SEVIERVILLE — The sounds of bluegrass music and the smell of smoked meats are returning to downtown this weekend.

The 19th annual Bloomin’ BBQ Music & Food Festival takes place Friday and Saturday with some of the best barbecue experts competing for the top spot in the Bush’s Best TN State Championship Cook-Off.

“We’re looking forward to another great weekend,” said Amanda Marr, director of marketing and communications for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce.

The festival has more than just food and music. About 70 crafters are participating and there’s new activities for kids including arts and crafts hosted by the Sevier County Fair.

“We’ve got 33 cook teams from all across the United States that will be here to compete for the Tennessee State Championship title,” Marr said.

In addition to barbecue vendors, there will be many other food vendor options giving visitors plenty to choose from. There will also be two days of music featuring some of the top names in country and bluegrass music.

“We have three stages of live entertainment. I think it’s one of the best musical lineups we’ve ever had,” Marr said. “We’re really excited about Yonder Mountain String Band on Friday night and Sawyer Brown on Saturday.”

Admission to the festival and concerts is free. Other acts include Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier, The Barefoot Movement, Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley, and several others.

“We encourage everybody to bring your lawn chair and come out and have a great time with us,” Marr said.

A map of the event and the schedule of performers can be found at Many sponsors of the event and more than 100 volunteers help make the festival happen.

“This is Sevierville’s signature event. When this whole thing began it was really a focus on ‘What can we create for Sevierville that really highlights our community and highlights our downtown.’ It’s grown so much over the years and it’s been because it’s so supported by the community,” Marr said. “I think everybody’s just looking to connect with the community and be part of something that’s fun and encourages people to get together and have a good time.”

Gatlinburg voters choose Horner as new commissioner
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GATLINBURG — The city’s voters overwhelmingly supported James L. “Jay” Horner II to fill Commissioner Seat A, the seat once held by Ryan DeSear.

Horner won by an unofficial tally of 232 votes compared to 78 votes for contender Brian Papworth.

“I still felt like I had something to give back and wanted to run for that reason,” said Horner, who worked for the city 30 years before his retirement about six years ago. “I feel I owed it back to the citizens of Gatlinburg and the city.”

A Gatlinburg native who graduated from Gatlinburg-Pittman High School in 1984 and attended Pi Beta Phi Elementary School, Horner said he would try to make good decisions that would help keep the tourism industry vital to his hometown and see the community continue to thrive.

“I just want to get out and do the best I can and help people,” he said.

Horner started at the Gatlinburg Police Department, where he worked 15 years before moving to the building department, where he started as a residential inspector, wearing several hats until he worked his way up to building official.

That time with the city helped him understand the way the city works.

“I didn’t and don’t have any kind of hidden agenda. I just want to work for the citizens of Gatlinburg and do good,” Horner said.

He said at only 57, he still felt like he had a lot of energy and could still give back.

Papworth said he considers all the commissioners good friends. He’s been a Gatlinburg businessman for nearly 30 years, owning the Fox & Parrot Tavern in the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community.

“I want to thank all the people who came out,” Papworth said. “I wish Jay Horner all the best. I will 100% support his being a city commissioner. They are all great guys.”

Papworth said he decided to run after learning from DeSear that he wasn’t running. DeSear, who is vice president of operations for Ripley Entertainment, moved to Orlando for the company.

Papworth said one of the issues that inspired him to run is a need to focus on promoting the mom-and-pop businesses in a community that once was centered around them.

“I think it is very important to promote all the businesses in the city, especially the mom and pop shops who grind it out every day,” he said.

He also said there needs to be more done for permanent housing to address workforce, as it is a struggle for business people to get a consistent flow of employees.

Gatlinburg voters gave Chad Reagan 273 votes in his unopposed bid to return to Commissioner Seat B, and Mike Werner received 264 votes for Commissioner Seat C, which was also unopposed.

Officials are discussing having a swearing-in on June 5. A time has not been announced.