Census taker's assailant pleads to lesser charges

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Chapel Hill man who was charged with aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault and destruction of, or tampering with, government records pled guilty to much lesser charges in Circuit Court on Wednesday.

James T. "Tommy" Brewer, 62, of 3026 Hwy 270, pled guilty to simple assault and destruction of government records.

"That was quite a movement by the state," said District Attorney Chuck Crawford. "He got a break, but maybe he's one of the few who deserves a break."

Furthermore, the reduction in charges was done with the full agreement of the victim, who encouraged it, Crawford added.

"The victim is very forgiving," the prosecutor said. The victim was former census worker Travis Ryder, who visited Brewer's farm on June 9, attempting to get a census form completed.

Brewer became "very aggressive" with Ryder, tearing up the census form and taking the keys to Ryder's vehicle, according to the report by Marshall County Sheriff's Detective Bart Fagan.

Brewer told Ryder to follow him to his shop, adding, that Ryder "better not run," according to Fagan's report.

Once in the shop, Brewer took a propane torch and melted a Coke can with it, asking Ryder if he knew what this would do to his hand, Fagan's report shows.

The two men talked for about an hour, Fagan's report states. Then Brewer let Ryder go, "after telling him no more census workers should come to his house, as they might not leave."

Later, when Brewer had been taken into custody, he told Fagan "he was just trying to scare [Ryder] because there had already been four other census workers there and he was tired of it."

Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler sentenced Brewer to 11 months and 29 days on probation, and ordered him to attend anger management classes. Brewer was represented by Lewisburg attorney David McKenzie.

Pleading alongside Brewer Wednesday was a man who was also arrested in Chapel Hill: Cody Dale Barker, 32, of Blanchard, Okla.

Represented by Shelbyville attorney John Norton, Barker pled guilty to three counts of aggravated assault, burglary, possession of a Schedule I drug (Ecstasy) with intent to sell and deliver, as well as the misdemeanor crimes of unlawful possession of a weapon, resisting arrest, driving under the influence, and two counts of reckless endangerment.

Crigler gave Barker an effective sentence of 35 years, of which he must serve at least 35 percent before being eligible for a parole board hearing, and stipulated this must be served after any other sentences Barker already has.

Norton made sure to clarify that this referred only to sentences that Barker has currently, not to any he may receive in the future, admitting, "He does have some issues in Oklahoma."

Barker was shot in the old Durango Boot factory in September, after threatening officers with a knife. According to an account published in the Tribune, Barker was involved in an accident on Crutcher Road, Chapel Hill, about 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, and fled the scene.

Police found his truck behind the factory, and entered the building looking for Barker.

"When officers confronted him, he pulled out a knife, threatening the officers. Officers opened fire, striking the suspect (who) fell down and ... sliced his throat in an apparent suicide attempt," the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report states.

Sheriff Norman Dalton told the Tribune that Barker was shot once "in the hip area," but refused to speculate on Barker's motive, noting that officers told him Barker appeared "wired."

"The subject kept asking the officers to kill him, and to shoot him in the head," Sheriff's Detective Bob Johnson wrote in his report. A scar was visible on Barker's throat when he was in court Wednesday.