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Search for Dewayne Halfacre now enters its third day in Whitwell as police hope for peaceful surrender

UPDATE — 9:27 AM CST 1/25/18:

It’s now been four days in the search for Rutherford County robbery suspect Dewayne Halfacre, who we know for sure was last seen in the Whitwell area on Tuesday.

Marion County deputies, Whitwell Police and multiple other agencies searched the wooded areas near TN-28 and Hwy. 283 and in nearby neighborhoods throughout the week. Tennessee Highway Patrol helicopters using infrared heat-sensing technology also scanned the nearby woods and known-vacant or abandoned homes and buildings finding no trace of the man who allegedly robbed a store near Smyrna, Tenn. at gunpoint last Friday and who ran from cops now twice in Whitwell just this week…once by stealing a Marion County Corrections vehicle.

Schools in the Whitwell area resumed classes this morning after being closed on Wednesday. The schools were placed on lockdown both Monday and Tuesday while police activity was heavy in the areas near the schools where Halfacre was thought to be hiding. School officials closed the three Whitwell Schools on Wednesday as a safety precaution, however authorities felt it was safe for the schools to re-open today by operating on what Marion County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mark Griffith, has described as a “soft lockdown.” Griffith says there will be extra police presence on campus as a safety precaution.

We’ve been able to learn some new information from Marion County Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett this morning. The sheriff says he doesn’t believe that Halfacre is still in the Whitwell area. He says wherever he is he’s still believed to be armed, but says he never stole a deputies gun.

Burnett called off the search on Wednesday night in Whitwell after the third day of not finding him. He says officers are still on the lookout Thursday around the county, but it’s a scaled back effort from what we’ve seen earlier in the week. The sheriff says that Halfacre is still considered armed and dangerous, and if seen you should not try to confront him yourself but call 9-1-1 immediately.

42-year-old Dewayne Lee Halfacre remains on the TBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list with an up to $2,500 reward for information leading to his arrest. If you have any information that could help investigators and lead to an arrest, call 1-800-TBI-FIND.

Stay with MarionCountyMessenger.com for the latest updates.

UPDATE — 7:30 PM CST 1/24/18:

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett has called off the search efforts for Wednesday night. Extra patrols will remain in the area and on the lookout; however, no extensive search efforts are underway at this time after the third day returned no results. We will continue to monitor the things in Whitwell and will bring you any updates as they become available.

UPDATE — 5:10 PM CST 1/24/18:

The search for robbery suspect Dewayne Halfacre in Whitwell has been scaled back for the evening, MarionCountyMessenger.com has learned.

Whitwell Police and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department are the remaining two agencies who will continue stepped-up patrols in the area through the night and will continue to follow any leads as needed.

Marion County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mark Griffith, says schools in Whitwell WILL BE OPEN tomorrow (Thu 1/25), and the day will be treated as a “soft lockdown.” Extra police will be present and safety precautions will be taken.

If anything changes, we will update you here and on our Facebook page. Stay with MarionCountyMessenger.com for the latest updates.

UPDATE — 2:24 PM CST 1/24/18:

Marion County Sheriff’s Department deputies, police, SWAT and other agencies are still on the lookout in the Whitwell area this afternoon. A helicopter was back in action scanning the ground using infrared technology in the area where Halfacre is thought to be earlier this afternoon.

School administrators have also been keeping a close eye on the school buildings today, searching every room in all of the buildings every few hours to ensure they are vacant. We’re told Marion Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mark Griffith, will speak to law enforcement before making a decision about whether or not Whitwell schools will be in session tomorrow if the suspect isn’t found today.

Eyewitnesses that live in the Whitwell around Sequachee Drive area just south of Hwy. 283 — between Hwy. 28 and the Sequatchie River — have told us they’ve seen SWAT Team activity in the woods around their neighborhood as well as choppers overhead searching the grounds nearby. We’ll continue to update as more information becomes available. Stay with MarionCountyMessenger.com here and on our Facebook page for updates.

UPDATE — 11:24 AM CST 1/24/18:

Earlier police activity seemed to result in nothing. Police left that area after about 30 minutes. Officials told us earlier that they are not operating with an active command center today like yesterday, but instead are on active patrol and following leads from citizens and passers-by who might see suspicious activity or a sighting.

Police advise residents to keep their car doors locked and homes secured. If something feels unusual, call 9-1-1...plenty of cops are in the area and will respond very fast! Details have been somewhat limited to the media today, we will update as often as possible when information is made available to us.

UPDATE — 9:21 AM CST 1/24/18:

A heavy police presence once again on Hwy 283 in Whitwell near Burnett Rd area — just across the Sequatchie River on the Powells Crossroads side of the river — a dozen or more sheriff’s deputies were just seen racing through the area.

UPDATE — 7:01 AM CST 1/24/18:

Local authorities say they are ready to resume the search for Dewayne Halfacre this morning in Whitwell. More agencies will be on hand to assist again today and the U.S. Marshals will also be assisting and ready to use deadly force if neede but hope for the likely cold, tired and hungry suspect to make a peaceful surrender. Officials say Halfacre is still armed.

Halfacre remains on the TBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list this morning with a $2,500 reward offered for his capture (see information in earlier posts below)… Whitwell schools are also closed today as a result of the ongoing manhunt.  Stay with MarionCountyMessenger.com for the latest updates here and on Facebook.

UPDATE — 5:58 AM CST 1/24/18:

Roads remain open at this time while deputies and police continue to monitor the areas where Halfacre is suspected to be located. His wife, who made the drive down to Whitwell from her home in Lynchburg, Tenn. yesterday, has been reported to be very cooperative with local authorities and is hoping for him to peacefully turn himself in to authorities. We will continue to update with any new information. Be sure to follow our page for updated details.

 

UPDATE — 12:14 AM CST 1/24/18:

Authorities have re-opened the roads again. No word yet whether or not the search has ended for a second time tonight or of any capture. It was reported that someone was seen around the old shirt factory earlier this evening, which is located atop the hill behind the dump next to Smith’s Ace Hardware. We are closely monitoring the story and will update as needed…

UPDATE — 11:33 pm CST 1/23/18:

Halfacre’s wife drove down from Lynchburg this evening. She just spoke to deputies and has confirmed to several media outlets that he has not been detained yet. Police activity is ongoing. More updates as they become available…

UPDATE — 9:45 pm CST 1/23/18:

Authorities in Whitwell have closed Hwy 283 again and have surrounded the Smith’s Ace Hardware and area near the old shirt factory. We’ve been able to confirm with officials the current police activity is to continue the search for Dewayne Halfacre. Stay with us for updates…

UPDATE — 8:33 pm CST 1/23/18:

Marion County authorities have suspended their search for Dewayne Halfacre tonight after multiple agencies assisted with search efforts on Tuesday.

Halfacre and Tim Howell are both suspects in an armed robbery that occurred in Rutherford County recently before the pair were found in Marion County. Howell was apprehended on Monday, while Halfacre is still on the run.

Officials from agencies all around the area launched an extensive search Tuesday after Halfacre stole a patrol car and crashed it on Hwy 283 before escaping into the woods on the south side of the highway.

Whitwell area schools (Whitwell Elementary, Whitwell Middle and Whitwell High School) will be CLOSED on Wednesday 1/24/18 as a safety precaution for students and staff. The schools, located adjacent to the search area, were placed on lockdown Monday and Tuesday as a result. Marion Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mark Griffith, says safety is their first priority in this situation.

Authorities followed several leads from citizens who believed they saw Halfacre or heard noises on their property believed to be the suspect, but had no results in finding the fugitive.

Heavy police patrols in the Whitwell and Powell’s Crossroads area will continue throughout the night.

Halfacre has been added to the TBI’s Top 10 fugitive list. A reward is now being offered for his capture.

The Sheriff’s Department asks if you see Halfacre, don’t try to approach him — call 9-1-1 immediately! He is still believed to be armed and dangerous.

We will continue to update as new information becomes available…

UPDATE — 8:03 pm CST 1/23/18:

We confirmed just a while ago that Whitwell schools ONLY will be CLOSED on Wednesday 1/24/18 due to the ongoing manhunt in the Whitwell area as a safety precaution for the students and staff.

Dr. Mark Griffith, Superintendent of Marion County Schools, says safety is their first priority in this situation.

As a reminder, all other schools in the county — Jasper, South Pittsburg, and Monteagle Elementary — WILL be OPEN and on regular schedule.

Authorities have re-opened Highway 28 and 283 in Whitwell for the time being; however, police activity is still very active in the area as multiple agencies continue to search and patrol the areas where they believe 43-year-old Dewayne Halfacre could be hiding from police.

Stay with us for the latest updates.

UPDATE — 5:33 pm CST 1/23/18:

Schools were able to dismiss safely this afternoon using the rear entrance at Whitwell Middle School after Marion County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Mark Griffith, was given the clearance by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.

Marion County Sheriff Ronnie “Bo” Burnett said that extra patrols were in place to assure the safety of parents and students during the dismissal. Eyewitnesses said the process went smoothly and the campuses of the three schools were cleared safely and in a timely manner.

Multiple agencies continue to search the areas between Whitwell and Powell’s Crossroads along Highway 283 in an attempt to find the suspect.

Dewayne Halfacre was last seen after crashing a patrol vehicle he stole into a tree near the Dollar General on Highway 283 earlier on Tuesday. He then escaped again on foot, heading up a bluff and into the woods on the south side of 283.

Local authorities have since blocked off Hwy. 283 between Osceola Drive and Magnolia Ave., where the police and other agencies have setup a makeshift command center for the search.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Department along with Whitwell Police, Sequatchie County Sheriff’s Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Hamilton County Special Response Team, SWAT team, K-9 teams, Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency and others assist with the search.

The SWAT team and other agencies have been going door-to-door in Powell’s Crossroads and surrounding areas to check on residents and look around properties. They encourage locals to call and check on relatives and friends that live in or around the area to ensure they’re safe.

The TBI has added Halfacre to their Top 10 most wanted list as of late Tuesday afternoon. Authorities say he is to be considered armed and dangerous and to call 9-1-1 immediately if you see him.

Sheriff Burnett has said that teams will stay on the scene and on the search all night until Halfacre is found.

No decision has been made yet whether schools will be cancelled for students at Whitwell yet for Wednesday. Superintendent Griffith is expected to make that decision based on whether or not Halfacre is captured by morning.

Stay with us for the latest updates…

PREVIOUS UPDATE — 2:43 pm CST 1/23/18:

We have just learned that schools will be dismissing this afternoon, despite earlier reports. Stay with MarionCountyMessenger.com for the latest updates

Previous Story — 2:15 pm CST 1/23/18:

The robbery suspect who escaped after a crash on Monday morning in Whitwell is still on the run on Tuesday now after stealing a corrections patrol car and crashing it near the Dollar General in Whitwell on Tuesday morning. The suspect also reportedly stole a deputy’s weapon at this time and fired at a deputy, but we’ve been unable to confirm this.

(Editor’s note: sources originally said the suspect had stolen a van, we were since able to confirm it was a car instead and have corrected that information…)

Halfacre then escaped into the woods by climbing up a bluff along Highway 283.

Dewayne Halfacre (Photo: Rutherford Co. Sheriff’s Dept)

The suspect, DeWayne Halfacre, also reportedly attempted to break into a home on Porter McCurry Road in Whitwell on Tuesday morning, but ran away.

Whitwell Elementary, Middle, and High schools are on lockdown again today and their entrances are blocked while SWAT teams search for a robbery suspect.Officials say they will remain on lockdown until law enforcement tells Superintendent Dr. Mark Griffith it is safe to lift it. Parents are not allowed to pick up their students during the lockdown.

Officials with the school system say that meals are being prepared to accommodate students. The superintendent says the schools are the safest places for the students to be. Griffith says he doesn’t know if there will be school at all tomorrow. He’s waiting for law enforcement to let him know what’s safe for everyone.

Multiple agencies are assisting with the search. THP helicopters have also been brought in to assist along with the Hamilton County K-9 team that have tracked the suspect’s scent.

According to Whitwell Police, the suspect was spotted around Highway 283 and Highway 28 area. Highway 283 is shut down. Suck Creek Road is open for anyone traveling through the area.

Businesses around the area where the suspect was seen say they have closed while police and deputies search.

Stay with MarionCountyMessenger.com for the latest.

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