Inmate death investigated; charge upgraded in Hampton man's death

By Kathy Helms-Hughes


   Members of Carter County Sheriff's Department and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation are investigating the death of a female inmate found dead in her cell Sunday.
   According to Sheriff John Henson, the body of Melinda R. Heaton, 37, 1635 Siam Road, was found by jailers around 5:45 a.m.
   "An autopsy has been ordered and at this point in time the investigation is continuing until we determine the cause of death," Sheriff Henson said Monday.
   "There were no open wounds or bruises, or any sign of a scuffle or fight or anything of that nature occurring inside the cell," Heaton shared with several other inmates.
   Once the cause of death is determined, he said, "If there is something that leads us back to some of the other inmates being responsible, they will be charged. Everything is depending on the autopsy."
   According to the sheriff, Heaton's only known medical condition was high blood pressure.
   Also Monday, charges against a Pennsylvania man were upgraded to second-degree murder following the Election Day drive-by shooting of Billy Joe Street, 63, 117 Street Lane, Hampton. Street died Saturday at Johnson City Medical Center.
   "It's a sad, tragic situation," the sheriff said. "The Streets are taking it pretty good under the circumstances, in my opinion."
   According to Henson, Loy Dale Linaweaver, 42, of Somerset, Pa., has been in jail since the shooting incident with a hold placed on him for Pennsylvania authorities. He also is wanted for violation of parole in Maryland stemming from previous assault charges.
   "Once he made bond here, he would have had to went to Pennsylvania," the sheriff said.
   Linaweaver, who also is charged with DUI, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, public intoxication, evading arrest, possession of a handgun under the influence, and unlawful possession of a weapon, is being held on $75,000 corporate bond.
   A passenger in Linaweaver's vehicle, Carl Irick, no address listed, has not been charged. "From our investigation so far, he was more or less a victim. He got shot himself," Sheriff Henson said. "He will be testifying for the state. There have been no charges placed against him yet."
   Sheriff's department deputies were called to Streets Trailer Park off Rittertown Road around 8:57 p.m., Aug. 1, to investigate a drive-by shooting involving a light brown van. Linaweaver allegedly drove the van into the trailer park and threatened Street's son, Randall, with a handgun, firing a shot at him. Randall Street reportedly jumped off the porch and tried to take cover when his father came outside and was shot in the lower abdomen.
   Irick also was shot in the arm during the incident.
   The two men were apprehended later in a wooded area in the Tiger Creek community following a pursuit. A .38 caliber handgun believed thrown from Linaweaver's vehicle during the pursuit was recovered along U.S. Highway 19E.