Jennings Jones

Jennings Jones, District Attorney General for the 16th Judicial District serving Cannon and Rutherford counties, has been appointed to review the findings of a TBI investigation into the Tullahoma Police Department (TPD) launched in December.

Coffee County District Attorney General Craig Northcott asked to recuse himself from the matter in late January, citing the need to avoid any appearance of impropriety due to his “close professional relationship with the individuals involved as well as the TPD as a whole.”

Jones was appointed by the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference to serve as a pro tem prosecutor, assigned to review the findings and decide what appropriate action should be taken.

In December, at Northcott’s request, TBI agents began investigating a complaint of official misconduct against Tullahoma Police Chief Paul Blackwell. The complaint stemmed from the police department’s handling of the investigation of a November motor vehicle crash involving the chief’s son, Jonathan Paul Blackwell. 

The TBI completed its investigation in early January. No details about the findings in that report have been released. Tennessee state law dictates that all TBI investigative records are confidential.

At roughly the same time the TBI completed its report, the City of Tullahoma launched an internal investigation into police department management and the possible breach of internal protocols. Both Blackwell and Capt. George Marsh were placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 7 pending the outcome of that investigation.

Northcott and city officials have said the city’s investigation is unrelated to the TBI investigation and until the city’s investigation is complete, actions related to the internal investigation are considered a personnel matter and cannot be discussed.

“The investigation is not considered complete until any potential disciplinary actions and appeal processes have been exhausted,” Tullahoma Public Information Officer Winston Brooks said at the time. 

The News has reached out City Administrator Jennifer Moody and City of Tullahoma Human Resources Director Casta Brice for updates on that investigation and the officers’ current employment status, but had received no response by press time.

Brooks confirmed Thursday afternoon that both Blackwell and Marsh are still employed by the department and remain on paid administrative leave.

Including today (Sunday, Feb. 17), the two have been on leave for 42 days.

While the investigation continues, Lt. Jason Ferrell is serving as acting police chief.

Kelly Lapczynski can be reached at klapczynski@tullahomanews.com.