Be a Parent. Not a Peer
BULLS GAP — There’s a difference between being the cool mom, and being the criminally reckless mom.
According to the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office, Linda Dawn Rhea crossed the line into criminally reckless on Sept. 27-28 when she allegedly allowed juveniles to drink beer and vodka during her daughter’s “Sweet 16” party.
On Wednesday, Rhea, 35, 137 Murphy Road, Bulls Gap, was formally charged with 17 counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
HCSO Chief Deputy Tony Allen said 911 received two anonymous tips about a “teenage drinking party” at Rhea’s residence on the evening of Friday, Sept. 27.
Deputies responded to the first tip by going to the Rhea residence as the party was beginning, but no one was drinking.
A second anonymous tip was received by 911 several hours later, shortly before 1:45 a.m.
When Deputies Ken Ferguson and Wesley Seals responded to Rhea’s residence at that time, it was a different story.
Ferguson stated in the arrest warrant affidavit that when he arrived at the scene several juveniles were outside the residence sitting around a fire.
Several beer cans and an empty half gallon bottle of vodka were also lying in the yard, Ferguson added.
“I observed one male laying in the yard sick from drinking the alcoholic beverages,” Ferguson said. “The male was transported to the Hawkins County Memorial Hospital for treatment.”
There were also several juveniles inside the residence, and Ferguson said he found one open Bud Light beer can on the kitchen table.
A total of 17 high school age juveniles were cited for underage consumption of alcohol at the Rhea party.
Allen said juveniles who were drinking were supposed to spend the night, or were going to leave with a sober driver. Allen said it’s not alleged that Rhea intended to allow an intoxicated teenager to drive home.
But, the parents who were called to the residence to pick up their intoxicated teen weren’t very happy with their child or Rhea, Allen added.
“Linda Rhea stated she hosted this party for her juvenile daughter’s ‘Sweet 16’ birthday,” Ferguson said. “I have obtained several statements that Linda Rhea had knowledge of juveniles drinking, and allowed them to drink at her residence while she was hosting the birthday party.”
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told the Times-News Thursday that the cooperation of the parents of the juveniles in this case was crucial to the prosecution of Rhea.
“There were a lot of concerned parents, and I can say that every parent involved in this has been absolutely wonderful about working with us,” Lawson said. “They have bent over backwards to help us with this case. They went to court, and all the parents helped us to prosecute Mrs. Rhea.”
Following her arrest, Rhea spent about 10 hours in jail before being released Wednesday afternoon on $5,000 bond.
She was scheduled to appear in Hawkins County Juvenile Court for arraignment Thursday.
The Times-News contacted Rhea Thursday afternoon and asked her to comment about the charges. Rhea declined to comment until she had an opportunity to speak with her attorney.