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By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is continuing to look into the death of a Hartsville man whose body was pulled from the Cumberland River last week.

The body of 26-year-old Army veteran Donovan Crittendon was discovered near the Hartsville water plant on Saturday, June 9, six days after he had reportedly gone missing.

Crittendon’s wife, Jessica Williams, told The Vidette she was told by a friend of her husband’s that he went missing around 10 p.m. on Sunday, June 3, and was last seen getting into the personal vehicle of a Drug Task Force agent.

Photos by Chris Gregory / Hartsville Vidette
Jessica Williams, right, the wife of Donovan Crittendon, stands with her sister Emelie Hester during a vigil Tuesday evening outside Crittendon’s Hartsville home. The 26-year-old man’s body was pulled from the Cumberland River on Saturday, June 9 after he went missing the previous Sunday. The TBI is currently investigating Crittendon’s disappearance and death.

That agent was identified as Keith Holder, who is employed by Smith County. Holder formerly worked for the Carthage Police Department and also is a former deputy at the Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department, according to Sheriff Ray Russell.

According to Jason Lawson, an assistant district attorney out of the Lebanon office, Holder has been with the Drug Task Force for “a couple of years.”

The Vidette attempted to contact the Smith County Sheriff’s Department to determine Holder’s current duty status, but calls had not been returned at press time. Sources told The Vidette that Holder is currently under suspension while the investigation runs its course.

Trousdale EMS Director Matt Batey told The Vidette his agency was alerted around 7:30 p.m. on June 4 of an accident at Taylor’s Landing and that a vehicle had gone into the water. Trousdale EMS was joined by TWRA and Sumner County EMS and used sonar to locate the truck, described as a 2007 Chevy Avalanche, late that night in about 35 feet of water.

On Monday morning, Holder’s truck was pulled from the Cumberland River by a rescue crew from Rutherford County, with assistance from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, TBI, Trousdale County Sheriff’s Department and Trousdale County EMS.

The truck was to be taken to the TBI’s crime lab for further investigation.

 

What happened?

Williams, accompanied by friends and family, held a candlelight vigil Tuesday evening outside Crittendon’s home on Village Lane. The vigil was postponed a day after Williams alleged she had received threats which she would not go into detail about.

Williams told The Vidette her husband was visiting the apartment of a friend in Hartsville. Robin Moore, a Carthage attorney retained by Williams, said the information they had was that Holder resided at or near the Lock Six apartment complex and came out as “a nosy neighbor” during an unrelated domestic dispute between two women, but then quickly left the scene with Crittendon.

“They were in constant contact with one another and then she did not hear from him, so she knew something was up,” Moore said. “When her phone calls went unanswered, she started reaching out to his friends.

Crews work Monday morning to recover Keith Holder’s truck from the Cumberland River. Boats were provided by the TWRA and Rutherford County.

“An individual identified Mr. Holder and advised (Williams) that he saw Donovan get in the truck with Keith.”

Sources told The Vidette that the Trousdale County deputies that responded to the domestic dispute call said Holder was not with them and they did not see him on the scene.

“Donovan recently moved here and we were making preparations to bring our family back together,” said Williams, who resides in Fort Bragg, N.C. She has been married to Crittendon for five years and the couple has two daughters.

Williams also said she was told by authorities that Holder gave a statement saying he had been involved in a car accident at the Taylor’s Landing Boat Dock, but that the accident was not reported until 20 hours after it allegedly occurred.

The Vidette was shown a copy of an insurance report in which Holder reportedly stated that the vehicle had been parked near the ramp before rolling backward into the water.

“Nothing sat right with me,” Williams said when asked how she felt after being notified of the circumstances of her husband’s disappearance. “Knowing Donovan and how safe and secure he is, he has a routine, something seemed extremely out of order.”

Williams said she became concerned after not speaking to her husband on Sunday, something she described as unusual for him.

 

TBI investigating

The TBI issued the following statement to The Vidette on Monday afternoon:

“On June 4, TBI was requested by District Attorney General Tommy Thompson to open a missing person investigation into the circumstances involving the disappearance of Donovan Crittendon, of Hartsville. On Saturday, June 9, a body found in the Cumberland River in Hartsville was positively identified as that of Donovan Crittendon. His body was transported to the Medical Examiner’s office, where an autopsy will be performed. Our investigation remains active and ongoing. Throughout the investigation, we provide our findings to the DA, and at the conclusion of our investigation, those findings will be reviewed by that office. If anyone has information about the circumstances of the disappearance and death of Donovan Crittendon, they are asked to call 1-800-TBI-FIND to provide that information.”

Friends and family of Donovan Crittendon hold a prayer circle during a vigil in Crittendon’s memory on Tuesday.

Moore added that she and her client met with the FBI on Tuesday and would not discuss specifics of that meeting, but said she did not anticipate FBI involvement.

A prayer vigil was also scheduled for Wednesday evening at a Hartsville church by friends and family in memory of Crittendon and to urge for justice.

“It doesn’t feel like he’s gone; I guess things haven’t sunken in,” Williams said. “But the outpouring of love from the entire community and everyone showing how much love and respect they had for Donovan, it’s like he’s here with us.

“The main thing I want to know is: why is it that Keith Holder came back and my husband didn’t?”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.