Woman gets second chance; probation extended in arson case

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Chapel Hill woman pleaded guilty to violation of probation in Circuit Court last week, and was granted a second chance to comply with Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler's orders.

Tawyna Eady, 43, violated her probation by failing to pay the agreed restitution of $450 per month. She still owes $9,453.50.

"Have you made the best effort you could to pay this back?" her attorney, Bill Haywood, asked.

"Yes sir," Eady answered.

"The restitution is part of the punishment," Crigler said. "But Tennessee Farmers (the insurance company) would rather have the money than have you in jail."

On the witness stand, Eady testified that she was a victim of the poor economy: she lost her business - a restaurant she opened with her brother - and her sister had been unable to get a home equity loan to help her out.

Eady said she was now working as a massage therapist at $13 per hour, and also trying to get a second job. Haywood took Eady through a list of her monthly bills, and they agreed that $300 per month was a realistic amount for her to pay in restitution.

She had made a big payment before coming to court Wednesday, but testified that she'd had to sell restaurant equipment, scrap metal, furniture and jewelry to raise the money.

In the end, Crigler extended the length of Eady's probation from six years to eight, and ordered her to pay court costs and restitution of $300 per month.

"Three hundred dollars means $300," warned Crigler, telling Eady to notify the court immediately if she got in difficulties again.

Eady set fire to her home and 2006 Cadillac on June 2, 2009. Eady admitted the arson to Marshall County Sheriff's Detective Bob Johnson, but said. "I was so mad at God for taking my own true love. I have not been the same since Matt died." Her husband, Matt Eady, 42, died of a heart attack on Feb. 26 that year. The couple had been high school sweethearts, and the day of his funeral, March 1, would have been their 23rd wedding anniversary. The couple ran Eady's Dinner Bell Restaurant in Lewisburg from 2000 to 2005.

"I did not mean to do this. I am so sorry. If I could change things I would," Eady told Johnson.

In a motion to consider mitigating factors at the time of her guilty plea, Haywood, wrote, "The defendant was suffering from a mental condition that significantly reduced the defendant's culpability for the offense," and also, "The defendant, although guilty of the crime, committed the offense under such unusual circumstances that it is unlikely that a sustained intent to violate the law motivated the criminal conduct."