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Lawyer raises new questions about detective in Union County murder case; detective says he's being maligned

Shannon Smith was convicted in 2019 of murdering her husband. She's seeking a new trial or to have the case thrown out.

MAYNARDVILLE, Tenn. — The lawyer for a Union County woman convicted of murdering her husband said he's uncovered new information that undermines the credibility of one of the lead police investigators in the case.

T. Scott Jones of Knoxville is seeking to get a new trial or to toss the murder case against Shannon L. Smith, convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Tim Smith in July 2017.

Smith, who just turned 48, is serving a 17-year sentence at the West Tennessee State Penitentiary in Henning.

Jones last year filed documents asserting that Randy Summers, a Union County detective and one of the lead investigators in the murder case, improperly had sex several times in 2018 with Shannon Smith's niece as the case was being investigated.

The niece, Amanda Atchley, took the stand in Smith's trial in March 2019, testifying she had heard her aunt make damning comments about not wanting to let her husband leave her in July 2017. A jury found Smith guilty of second-degree murder.

Now Jones has obtained a copy of Summers' termination letter from his former job with the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission. The ABC fired him in January 2015 after an internal investigation into his conduct with another agent and a restaurant hostess they met in Cleveland, Tenn. Jones also has obtained a summary of the ABC's findings of the investigation.

The attorney has filed the documents with the court in Union County as part of the Smith appeal. He has subpoenaed Summers and Atchley to testify as part of his effort to throw out Smith's murder conviction.

Summers told WBIR on Monday that Jones is falsely accusing him and falsely portraying him in the Smith appeal. He said he hasn't had sex with Atchley, didn't influence her statements in the case and is only trying to do his job as a career law enforcement officer.

"They put me on trial with this thing and I’m not the defendant," Summers said.

RELATED: Secrets come to light: Revelations of alleged affair in Union Co. murder case spur lawyer to seek retrial

On Monday, Union County Circuit Court Judge Shayne Sexton set an April 15 date for the retrial hearing in Maynardville. It was supposed to go forward this Thursday.

Jones is asking for extra security in the courtroom because of what he says is the volatile nature of the information he's seeking to present to Sexton.

Smith is expected to be transported from prison to attend the hearing.

JOB PERFORMANCE UNDER SCRUTINY

Summers and fellow ABC agent Dennis Ley were investigated by the ABC in late 2014 over allegations that they had sex with the restaurant hostess in Ley's motel room, according to Jones.

Summers, a probationary employee at the time, and Ley took part in a marijuana eradication operation in southeast Tennessee in July 2014. They stayed at a Cleveland motel several days during the operation.

Credit: TBI
Shannon Smith, after her arrest in 2017 on charges she killed her husband outside their Andersonville, Tenn., home.

They met a hostess who worked at a Longhorn Steakhouse near the motel, records state. The trio became friendly and ultimately ended up meeting in Ley's motel room.

The ABC learned of allegations about the encounter and started its own investigation.

The woman told investigators she smoked marijuana in front of the agents, which both said was untrue.

In his first interview with internal investigators, Summers denied anything had happened, according to Jones. He took a polygraph test and it indicated "no deception." 

But Jones' newly filed documents show Summers ended up having more to say.

In a follow-up interview, Summers said he hadn't been completely truthful about what happened in the motel room, records state.

"SA Summers stated in the follow-up interview that SA Ley had sexual intercourse and that she had a great body," the ABC's investigation summary states.

Ley also provided details about what he said happened in the room.

"SA Ley did admit to sexual acts between himself and (the hostess) in his room in the presence of SA Summers but no penetration occurred just fondling and oral," the summary states.

Jones argues the records show Summers' lost credibility as a law officer with his own employer.

The ABC's internal investigation states the agency's reputation had been tainted.

"It is obvious that (the hostess's) allegations regarding TABC SA Ley and TABC SA Summers has impaired and stained the reputation of the Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission as well as the individual reputations of SA Ley and SA Summers. But it is also obvious the failure of these two TABC special agents to provide the complete and truthful facts surrounding these allegations has caused their credibility to be in question, and as such, their credibility if called to testify in a criminal case is hampered if not destroyed.

"Had TABC SA Ley and TABC SA Summers been cooperative in the beginning of this investigation by providing a complete and truthful account of their activities and the facts, the expenditure of man hours and budgetary funds on an investigation of this nature could have been avoided."

Summers' dismissal letter stated he violated several ABC rules.

Credit: Union County Circuit Court
Portion of Randy Summers' dismissal letter from TABC in 2015.

Shannon Smith's trial attorney, Robert L. Jolley, states in an affidavit that if he'd known about Summers' conduct during his time with the ABC, he could have used that to call the investigator's veracity into question on his client's behalf. But, he said, the information was never disclosed.

Credit: WBIR
T. Scott Jones, who represents Shannon Smith in her pursuit of a new trial.

Jolley also has said he didn't know Atchley, the state's witness, had had sex with Summers. If he'd known that at trial he could have used it to cross-examine Atchley and challenge the state's case.

SUMMERS RESPONDS

After he left the ABC, Summers, 40, ended up back on the Union County force, where he'd previously worked as a law enforcement officer.

The detective told WBIR he's only had two instances when his 20 years in law enforcement have been called into question -- the 2014 incident in Bradley County and the allegations that Jones is now raising about him having sex with Atchley.

Atchley disclosed to the TBI in May 2020 that she'd had sex with Summers in the summer of 2018, records show. TBI Special Agent Michael O'Keefe interviewed her, Summers and Union County Deputy Eddie Simpson, Summers' friend.

When asked by WBIR about Ley having sexual contact with the woman in the Cleveland motel room while he watched, the detective said, "I don’t think that that is anything that’s in any way relevant to this situation that’s going on with Shannon Smith."

He added that what happened occurred "on everybody's personal time."

Summers also said he had tried to provide ABC administrators with evidence of wrongdoing in the field by a team leader but that they declined to look into it. In his opinion, the ABC didn't want to know what he tried to share with them about improper activities by the team leader.

Credit: Union County
The Union County Courthouse in Maynardville.

"There's a whole lot more to this story other than her (the hostess) saying what all went on with us," he said.

He also questioned the qualifications of Keith Bell, the ABC executive director at the time who signed his termination letter.

Bell was a "real estate lawyer" hardly qualified to oversee the ABC at the time who knew nothing about supervising law enforcement, Summers said.

He said Jones' allegations against him -- and WBIR's reporting about them -- have hurt his family and subjected him to ridicule and embarrassment.

He said the murder case against Shannon Smith was solid, including a recording she made that lasted almost an hour leading up to the moment she shot and killed Tim Smith.

Summers said he has a reputation as a straight arrow who would never jeopardize any case he's working.

"To jeopardize this case that was this good is absolutely ridiculous," he said.

The detective said he met Atchley by chance in 2018 while visiting her father, who is an old friend of his.

She never mentioned any knowledge she had about the case or Smith when they were together, he said.  He didn't interview her when she came forward several months later to share what Shannon Smith had said to her about not letting her husband leave her. Atchley testified Smith made the comments at Tim Smith's funeral in 2017.

Summers last saw Atchley, he said, when a Union County jury convicted Smith in March 2019.

The detective also said there's more going on with some of the people Jones wants to call to the stand to testify in Smith's retrial bid.

"This picture is not as straight as one might believe it to be," he said.

The TBI interviewed Summers, Atchley and Simpson after Jones raised questions about the detective's contacts with Atchley in June and July 2018 -- about nine months before she took the stand against Shannon Smith.

Summers told O'Keefe he never had sex with Atchley in the summer of 2018. He recalled a few times when they were together but said nothing happened.

Deputy Simpson told O'Keefe that Atchley called and texted him frequently in June and July 2018 because she was trying to communicate with Summers. Atchley said Summers could disguise his communication with her by using Simpson's phone.

Simpson recalled several instances when the three people were together that summer, often at Simpson's own home.

He said he didn't have sex with Atchley and didn't think Summers ever had sex with Atchley.