When a team of Oneida Police Department officers responded to Room 36 at the Oneida Family Motel Thursday afternoon, they expected to arrest a couple living at the motel on charges of educational neglect.
Instead, what was intended to be the execution of a routine arrest warrant turned into a more serious investigation after officers discovered drugs inside the motel room, where three young children were living in what officers described as “very poor living conditions.”
Records show that Thursday’s investigation was far from an isolated incident at the motel, which is located on Alberta Street in the heart of Oneida’s retail district.
Once considered a local landmark, Tobe’s Motel and Restaurant was even featured on postcards that tourists mailed back home as they passed through Oneida. After a series of ownership changes over the course of a decade, the motel has slowly become noteworthy for different reasons.
According to an Independent Herald review of police logs from the 2016 calendar year, Oneida Police Department officers were on scene at 169 separate incidents at the motel over the 365-day period. The logs, provided upon request by Oneida Police Department, show that some of the calls involved routine traffic stops in which the vehicle pulled into the parking lot or to the shoulder of Alberta Street at the motel. Many of the incidents, though, involved officers being summoned to the motel for various reasons, or initiating contact with residents at the motel as part of an investigation.
“The calls we get from the motel range from domestics, sale and use of illegal drugs, theft and harbor for fugitives from justice, child services investigations and child abuse,” Oneida chief of police Darryl Laxton told the Independent Herald.
[s2If !current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]To continue reading, please subscribe to the Independent Herald. If you are already a subscriber, email email@example.com with the name and address to which your newspaper is mailed to receive login credentials. If you are a subscriber who is logged in and believe you are seeing this message in error, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 423-569-6343.
The complete story can be found in the Feb. 16, 2017 print edition of the Independent Herald.[/s2If]
[s2If current_user_can(access_s2member_level1)]Records of the 2016 police calls to the motel detail a variety of incidents. On several occasions, management phoned authorities to have a tenant removed for non-payment. Other incidents often involved domestic disturbances or drug-related activity.
On Feb. 9, 2016, authorities were phoned after a former manager of the motel and his girlfriend attempted to break into a room.
On April 17, authorities were summoned because a man outside the motel was “hallucinating,” records show. Less than an hour later, cops were called back to the motel because a man believed to be high on methamphetamine was causing problems.
One day later, officers were once again called to the motel after a tenant was stuck by a needle.
The call logs provided notations on the arrests of 13 different suspects at the motel over an 11-month period. However, those records do not always indicate when an arrest was made.
In general, the police response logs paint a picture of a scene where illegal drugs are frequently an issue. In all, the logs indicated that police officers responded to dozens of calls that either involved drugs or involved erratic behavior, including one call where officers and EMS personnel responded to an overdose, another on New Year’s Eve where they responded to a report of an unresponsive man, and another involving reports of a possible meth lab inside one of the motel rooms.
A tenant from Williamsburg left a review of the motel on Trip Advisor in September, complaining that there were “lots of people around at all times just hanging out.”
Most of the problems at the motel are not due to overnight travelers. Laxton said most of the issues involve long-term tenants. The motel’s website advertises weekly and monthly rates of $200 and $650, respectively.
The Gordons, who were arrested by police on Thursday, are among the motel’s long-term tenants.
Greg Gordon, 35, and Chasity Gordon, 31, were arrested on several charges after officers attempted to serve warrants for educational neglect because the couple’s three children — ranging in age from seven to 11 — had missed excessive amounts of school.
According to warrants filed by OPD investigator Dustin Burke, the investigation was spearheaded by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services due to poor school attendance. After being contacted by the Scott County Sheriff’s Department, the Gordons allegedly agreed to comply with requirements for school attendance. However, the warrant alleged, they had failed to comply, resulting in approximately 180 absences for the three children.
As officers entered the Gordons’ motel room, they allegedly discovered a “loaded” syringe and spoon with a substance assumed to be an unidentified drug located on an entertainment center. Allegedly, Suboxone was also discovered inside the room.
The warrant alleged that the couple’s 11-year-old boy told authorities he had not been to school “since he was, he thought, in fourth grade.” The other two children — ages eight and seven — told authorities they had never been to school, according to the warrant.
The warrant further alleged that the 11-year-old told investigators that he had peed in a cup for his father, so that the man could pass a drug screen.
Both Gordons were placed under arrest. Allegedly, Greg Gordon admitted to officers that the syringe, spoon and Suboxone were his, and informed them that “he would definitely fail a drug test for Suboxone and Oxycontins.”
The couple were charged with four counts of child abuse, neglect and endangerment, possession of a Schedule III controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia, in addition to the original charge of educational neglect.
Laxton said Monday that last week’s investigation was not the first time his department had assisted the Department of Children’s Services with a probe into crimes involving children at the motel.
“For the past couple of years it has been a haven for illegal activity,” Laxton said. “It’s not always the same thing, but it’s always something — drugs and everything else. We just do what we can do to try to keep it cleaned up.”
The motel has not been locally-owned in a number of years. According to records from the Scott County Assessor of Property’s office, the motel was sold in 2002, 2005 and again in 2012. It is currently owned by Chris Yousif and Nada Yousif, of Knoxville.
The motel has a rating of D+ through the Better Business Bureau. According to the BBB, the low rating is because the motel failed to respond to a complaint that was filed against the business. That complaint, filed in May 2016, alleged that there were “more than 10 rooms” infested with bedbugs, an outbreak of lice in seven rooms and “mold all over the place.” The unidentified complainant claimed to have photos of the bedbugs, as well as photos of bites on multiple tenants.
Laxton told the Independent Herald Monday that his department keeps a close surveillance on the motel for illegal activity. He added that he has requested the district attorney general’s office to look into the motel to see if further action might be warranted.
According to TCA 29-3-110, a business can be ordered closed if it can be established in a trial court that it is a nuisance. Tennessee law defines such a nuisance as being “any place in or upon which lewdness, assignation, prostitution, unlawful sale of intoxicating liquors, unlawful sale of any regulated legend drug, narcotic or other controlled substance, unlawful gambling, any sale, exhibition or possession of any material determined to be obscene or pornographic with intent to exhibit or sell…quarreling, drunkenness, fighting or beaches of the peace are carried on or permitted…”
Just two days after Thursday’s investigation, police officers were back at the motel again. This time, it was for an alleged drug transaction that took place at the motel. According to a warrant filed by OPD investigator Bill Miller, a 44-year-old man identified as Terry Morrow met with a confidential informant inside a room at the motel and sold Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance. Upon his arrest, Morrow was allegedly found to be in possession of five Oxycodone pills.[/s2If]