News Briefs:

By Lance Coleman

Gina’s Country Kitchen manager’s double life exposed
When Gina’s Country Kitchen manager Regina Eden turns 45 on June 22, she’ll be spending her birthday in a place she hasn’t seen in 13 years, along with a name she hasn’t used in that same amount of time.

Sandra Jean Wooten, better known as Regina Eden or Jerita Ragina Westbrook, of McTeer Road in Greenback, was arrested June 14 in a Blount County General Sessions Courtroom. While she was there regarding an order of protection against the father of her two children, deputies were tipped regarding her true identity. They had a warrant for her arrest for felony violation of parole out of Austin, Texas.

Blount County Sheriff’s Office Assistant Chief Deputy Jeff French said officials here didn’t know what the original charge in Austin was. "They had a warrant on her for a parole violation," he said. "It was issued on March 28, 1994."

French said someone tipped off authorities in Texas, those officials contacted the Blount County Sheriff’s office and explained what day and time Wooten would be in court.

When court officer Tom Neal approached and asked her what her name was, Wooten initially said she was Jarita Ragina Westbrook. When Neal checked and confirmed a surgery scar on her right thigh, Wooten began to break down. "She began to cry and stated she was Sandra Jean Wooten," he said.

The incident occurred about 10:20 a.m. on June 14. Wooten was in Blount County General Sessions Court in front of Judge Mike Gallegos.

French said Texas authorities would extradite Wooten. "She stated she had been on the run," he said. "She stated she was glad it was finally over, and she was tired of running.".

James Eden, owner of Gina’s Country Kitchen, said he and Wooten have been together almost 12 years, and they have two sons together, a 10-year-old and an 11-year-old. Because Gina’s now in jail, Eden said he has arranged for someone else to manage an automotive garage he owns nearby, and he will assume management duties at the restaurant.

Eden said he and Wooten had been having problems, and she went to court to get an order of protection involving him. Regardless of her reason for being in court, Wooten spoke highly of the mother of his sons.

"She’s a sweetheart," said Eden, "she really is. She’s not a great big monster. The reason she changed her name was her husband was in prison, and he wrote her a letter and told her if he ever got out, and she wasn’t waiting, he’d kill her. I read the letter," Eden said. "She just said ‘I can’t go under my real name,’ because he would finish her. That’s the reason she changed her name. She left the state. She was afraid he would find her."

Eden said Wooten was scared for her life. "It looks bad, but she hasn’t done anything," he said. "Seven yeas we’ve been here, and she’s built a heck of a business and put her heart and soul in this business. She’s got a heart as big as Dallas."
Eden said he and Wooten moved here from Texas. Wooten told her Legal Aid attorney about her problems in Texas and that’s what got her in trouble, he said.

Eden said he was preparing to help Wooten. "I’ve already got a parole violation attorney out of Houston, but she can’t do anything until she gets back to Texas," Eden said. "I think she had about a year left on her parole."

London paper reports Alcoa, Inc., targeted for take over
The world’s largest mining company is making a $40 billion bid to take over Alcoa, Inc.

This is the second such attempt BHP Billiton Ltd. has made since February. The first attempted stalled when BHP Chief Executive Chip Goodyear chose to instead return cash to shareholders, according to the Times newspaper in London.
Goodyear is scheduled to step down this fall and Marius Kloppers will replace him. The newspaper said a potential offer is once again being considered.

Melissa Copelan, community affairs manager for ALCOA, Tennessee Operations, deferred comment to the corporate office. Kevin Lowery, ALCOA, Inc., spokesman, declined comment.

MPD officers cleared in shooting death investigation
Two Maryville police officers were cleared June 15 of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of an 18-year-old Maryville man who lunged at them with a knife during a botched robbery attempt.

Chief Tony Crisp said detectives completed their investigation and the two officers, Ronnie Pryor and D.J. Porter, returned to active duty. The incident occurred in the evening of May 31 when Daniel E. Pfeffer, Calderwood Highway, Maryville, attempted to rob the CVS Pharmacy on Foothills Mall Drive, Maryville.

Police said that when Pryor and Porter arrived at the pharmacy, they chased the suspect and just as he ran out of the front door, he turned, pulled a knife on them and that’s when he was shot.

Pfeffer was taken by Rural/Metro Ambulance Service to Blount Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Following the shooting, Pryor and Porter were placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of the investigation.

Non-profits can apply to legislators for grants
Tennessee experienced record revenues during this past fiscal year, and lawmakers now have an opportunity to help non-profit organizations benefit from these revenues.

According to a press release from Sen. Raymond Finney, although details of the community enhancement grant program are still being settled, each state senator will be allocated approximately $300,000 and each state representative will be allocated about $100,000 for distribution to non-profit organizations in his or her community.

The grant program will be administered through the Office of the Tennessee Secretary of State. This grant method will permit even and fair distribution of funds throughout the entire state for the benefit of non-profit organizations which commonly have trouble raising necessary operating funds, according to Finney’s press information.

To be eligible for a grant, a non-profit organization must fall within one of four categories:

  • Public safety, including but not limited to local law enforcement, fire and life safety programs, local drug programs, programs providing advocacy for children or vulnerable populations, and criminal justice programs.
  • Educational initiatives, including but not limited to local schools, school support organizations, and programs which address significant local educational issues.
  • Cultural activities, including but not limited to activities which enhance opportunities provided by museums, libraries, and historic sites, and activities in support of cultural activities.
  • Community development activities, including but not limited to activities related to serving the unique needs of various segments of the population (such as the elderly and youth through recreational and community facilities, senior citizens centers, and boys and girls clubs).

    A grant application is required, and the application must be received by the secretary of state by the close of business on August 15, 2007.

An application will be mailed to any interested organization by contacting Sen. Finney. Because of the short deadline and uncertain vacation scheduling of the senator’s staff, the senator says interested non-profits should call him at home at 865-984-1424, or contact him by email--, --to arrange for mailing of an application.

Former UT coach Wade Houston to speak in Alcoa
Former University of Tennessee coach Wade Houston will speak during services at the Saint Paul A.M.E church in Alcoa during Men’s Day at 11 a.m. on June 24.

Houston was born in Alcoa, attended Charles M. Hill, graduated there in 1962 and earned a degree from the University of Louisville. He played and coached for professional basketball clubs in Europe. He was the first African-American head coach in the Southeastern Conference before he left in 1994 to pursue business.

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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