Update: Missing Meigs Co. Sheriff's Deputy search continues | Local News – Local 3 News

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Tabitha Smith has been identified as the arrested woman who died Wednesday.
Tabitha Smith has been identified as the arrested woman who died Wednesday.
A deeper look into the road the missing deputy was last seen on and its history of issues.

UPDATE: The Tennessee Highway Patrol’s preliminary crash report of Deputy Leonard’s patrol car has been released.
They say Deputy Leonard’s vehicle was traveling west on Blythe Ferry Lane while transporting 35-year-old Tabitha Smith to the Meigs County jail.
The report says that his vehicle traveled into the Tennessee River where the roadway ended and the boat ramp begun.
This is just the preliminary report. The full report will be released when the investigation is complete.
PREVIOUS STORY: Meigs County Deputy Robert ‘R.J.’ Leonard will be laid to rest Tuesday afternoon at the Decatur Cemetery. There will not be a visitation before the graveside service.
A funeral procession will depart from Decatur Funeral Home at 12:15 pm Tuesday. Due to limited parking at the cemetery, community members and first responders are asked to line the processional route to honor Deputy Leonard.
The funeral procession will take the following route:
There will only be parking available for family and friends at the cemetery.
Anybody else attending the graveside service will need to park outside of the cemetery and walk in.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Knox County Regional Forensics Center has identified the arrestee as Tabitha Smith. 
The Meigs County Sheriff’s Office says Smith was being transported to the jail just after 10:00 pm Wednesday night by Deputy Robert “RJ” Leonard. They say he accidentally drove the patrol car off the ramp and into the water. 
DA Johnson says Smith’s body was found hand-cuffed in the backseat compartment area of the deputy’s vehicle, covered in a deep layer of mud and silt.
READ MORE: | Drowned female detainee identified after Meigs County patrol car went off boat ramp
READ MORE | Friend of Tabitha Smith says they spoke hours before incident in Meigs County
PREVIOUS STORY: It has been confirmed the body of missing Meigs County Deputy Robert ‘R.J.’ Leonard was found in the Tennessee River around 6:30pm.
Leonard’s body will be transported to Knoxville Regional Medical Examiner’s Department by motor units this evening, Meigs County Chief Deputy Brian Malone says.
The body of the female arrestee in the patrol car was also taken to Knoxville for identification.
DA Russell Johnson tells Local 3 news that the woman’s body was found in the backseat compartment area of deputy’s vehicle, and was covered in a deep layer of mud and silt.
She was also handcuffed, Johnson said.
Johnson’s office is working with the Meigs County Sheriff’s Department to obtain booking information, photos, fingerprint cards, etc. that may be available to provide the medical examiner.
Malone says this is an ongoing investigation as of now.
A timeline from the time the deputy went missing until now.
PREVIOUS STORY: District Attorney Russell Johnson has confirmed that the vehicle pulled out of Blythe Ferry belonged to the missing Meigs County Deputy, Robert ‘R.J.’ Leonard.
DA Johnson explained that the body of the female arrestee was located in the back seat of the car. There was no body found in the front seat, and the missing deputy has still not been located. 
He also explained that they believe the drivers window was down when the vehicle hit the water. He said he believes this was just an accident, but in that area, it’s impossible to have backup in a short amount of time. 
“We still don’t think the outcome will be good for Deputy Leonard.” said DA Johnson. 
Most agencies will remain on the scene until the missing deputy is located. 
“We always hope it’s a rescue. We always hold out that hope, but we also have to face the facts that are in front of us.” said Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett. “We won’t lose hope for the fact that we could still recover him. It’s plain to see that he made it out of the car.” 
It is not confirmed whether this vehicle belonged to the missing Meigs County Deputy, Robert ‘R.J.’ Leonard.
PREVIOUS STORY: The Hamilton County Dive Team has pulled a patrol car out of the waters near Blythe Ferry, where the deputy was last located.
It is not confirmed whether this vehicle belonged to the missing Meigs County Deputy, Robert ‘R.J.’ Leonard.
If the vehicle removed from the waters was the deputy’s vehicle, the Tennessee Highway Patrol will be taking on the investigation.
PREVIOUS STORY: The search continues for a missing Meigs County Sheriff’s Department deputy who went missing overnight.
At a Thursday morning news conference, District Attorney Russell Johnson identified the deputy as MCSD Deputy Robert ‘R.J.’ Leonard, who was with the agency for about two months.
He reported that Leonard was at home when he took the call of an incident near the bridge; either a man jumping in and out of traffic, or a man and woman fighting. 
Leonard arrived at the scene about 9:48 pm, and at 10:15 pm indicated that he was taking a person to the County Jail.
DA Johnson explained that the cellular and radio signals in the area are typically not very good.
More details on the search process that is being conducted by Hamilton County’s Dive Team.
About 12 minutes later, in a radio communication, dispatchers said they heard something that could not be understood. They used analytics to determine a short time later that he may have said “water.”
DA Johnson said “Dispatch couldn’t tell what he was saying… it took some analysts, some analytics, to go into play for us to… understand what was being said, and we think he was saying ‘water.’ At the very same time he was also texting his wife. It’s my understanding that he sent a one word text that said ‘arrest.’”
After the radio transmission, dispatcher performed a status check among all of the offciers on duty.
“The Last position of his phone and the life 360 that his wife has attached to his phone… it appears that they’re almost in the same location,” DA Johnson said, referring to the Blythe ferry Road boat ramp on the southern shore.
Agencies from the region have joined in the search efforts. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department Dive Team and the TWRA are assisting in the search near the Blythe Ferry landing.
HCSO Sheriff Austin Garret said that a vehicle was located in the water near the boat ramp at the end of Blythe Ferry Road.
Garrett said “We began last night assisting Meigs County and the other agencies with a ground search, utilizing drones- anything that we have within our Sheriff’s Department that we could provide to assist in locating this deputy and this arrestee.”
Several officials explained the area is known to be dangerous.
“There’s skid marks and some scratch marks so there’s some indication that he was hitting on the brakes at least trying to stop, ” Johnson explained.
However, there was an accident in the same location last month where someone went into water, so they aren’t sure if the marks are from a recent incident.
Judge Casey Stokes said the Old Ferry Landing hasn’t been used since 1994, and can be especially dangerous for people who aren’t familiar with it.
Meigs County Sheriff Jackie Melton was emotional as he talked about Deputy R.J. Leonard, saying he had been on the force for two months, just getting out of the academy. Leonard was on the night shift, and was “doing a pretty good job, a real good job.”
READ MORE: Road safety in Meigs County questioned after patrol car with deputy and arrestee went off boat ramp
Several agencies and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will be holding a press conference Thursday morning to provide additional details.
PREVIOUS STORY: A search is underway for a Meigs County Sheriff’s deputy who was reported missing overnight.
District Attorney Russell Johnson with Tennessee’s 9th Judicial District says that multiple agencies and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will be holding a press conference at 6:00am to provide additional details.
We are working to gather more details and have a crew in Meigs County.

Deputy Leonard was driving back to the jail with the woman he was arresting when they went missing.

“Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve had cars come and go off there,” said Meigs County resident David Johnson.

Members of the Meigs County Sheriff’s Department are working closely with Deputy Robert “RJ” Leonard’s family to figure out how they will honor his life.

Tabitha Smith has been identified as the arrested woman who died Wednesday.

Deputy Leonard will be laid to rest Tuesday afternoon at the Decatur Cemetery.

Sherrie Waters says Tabitha Smith was like a daughter to her and didn’t realize it would be the last time she saw her.

Attorney Robin Flores is a criminal defense attorney and also a former police officer.

Smith is organizing a car show called the “Leonard Family Car Show” at Decatur Park Saturday, April 6 from 11:00AM to 5:00PM.
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