Four Jackson County residents, including a former law enforcement officer, have been arrested on criminal charges in connection with an Oct. 25 Halloween party at Dillard Excavating in Sylva.
Cody Jenkins and Austin Davis, both of Sylva, are facing statutory rape charges; former deputy Jimmy Henry and Michelle Dillard have been charged with felony obstruction of justice.
A Jackson County Grand Jury indicted all four on Monday (March 2) Here’s a breakdown on the accused and the charges against them:
• Jenkins, 24, of 31 Astro Drive in Sylva, statutory rape of person 13, 14 or 15 years old; two counts of statutory sex offense with 13, 14 or 15 year old. If convicted, Jenkins faces active prison time under the structured sentencing law; without a prior criminal record he could receive 192 to 240 months for each charge.
• Davis, 19, of 40 Royal Fern Drive in Dillsboro, statutory sex offense with defendant older than victim by four years and less than six years. If convicted, Davis also faces active prison time; without a prior criminal record he could receive 58 to 73 months.
• Dillard, 40, of 45 Hilltop Drive in Sylva, felony obstruction of justice. If convicted, Dillard faces the possibility of five to six months in prison, but she could also receive a lighter sentence, including probation or community service.
• Henry, 41, of 2 Astro Drive in Sylva, two counts of felony obstruction of justice. If convicted, Henry faces the same sentencing possibilities as Dillard.
The rape charges against Jenkins and Davis involve two different females.
According to court documents, a 14-year-old girl told state investigators Jenkins raped her at his house after she attended the Halloween party at Dillard Excavating, and that “numerous” underage students from Smoky Mountain High School were consuming alcoholic beverages.
The party was on a Saturday. On the following Monday, students talked to a Smoky Mountain High School teacher, who reported the rape allegations against Jenkins to the school resource officer. He contacted his supervisors. After students alleged a deputy – Henry – and a jail nurse – Dillard -- had been present, the Sheriff’s Office called in state investigators.
The county terminated Dillard’s contract five days after the party at her husband Keith Dillard’s Asheville Highway business. Michelle Dillard is a former health occupations teacher at SMHS and volleyball coach at both the high school and Fairview Elementary.
Henry was fired by the Sheriff’s Office last month. The indictment states Henry failed to act on reports of rape and instructed witnesses not to tell anyone about the allegations. Henry was at the Halloween party, as was his wife, Maria Henry, a county dispatcher. She has not been criminally charged. The county reassigned Maria Henry in December to an administrative assistant position.
“At the time, (Jimmy Henry) was a law enforcement officer … and the reporting witnesses knew of the defendant’s employment,” the indictment states. “The defendant knew the alleged victim was 14 years of age and that the alleged perpetrator was more than four years older than the victim at the time the report was made, but the defendant did not contact law enforcement as requested and told witnesses not to tell anyone about the allegations.”
Additionally, the indictment states, Henry directed “underage persons, who the defendant knew had consumed alcoholic beverages, to hide from law enforcement investigating allegations of illegal activity.”
A mother whose child attended the party told The Herald that a Halloween get-together was an annual tradition for her daughter and a dozen or so school friends. All about age 14, the girls were SMHS freshmen who forged friendships during elementary grades. Her daughter reported that at this year’s party she and other students consumed alcohol-laden chilled Jell-O, called Jell-O Shots.
On social media sites, Jenkins used the moniker “Jello Master,” switching more recently to “Cody ‘Spoon-man’ Jenkins.” In January 2013, a photo of boxes of Jell-O and a bottle of vodka was posted on his Facebook page with the caption: “37 shots ready to go for Friday night.”
Jenkins was born in Mecklenburg County. His family moved to Bryson City. He attended Swain County High School and later enlisted in the Marine Corps. In Jackson and Swain counties, Jenkins’ criminal record includes several speeding tickets, plus dismissals on charges that include trespassing, defacing a public building and reckless driving to endanger.
Michelle Dillard is accused of calling a 17-year-old girl investigators planned to interview and instructing her “to make statements to law enforcement that the defendant knew to be false,” according to the indictment. Dillard repeatedly asked the witness where she was being interviewed, the indictment states, where her vehicle was located, who was with her and exactly where she was at the time.
“Minutes later, another call was placed during which (Dillard), once again, asked the witness her current location,” the indictment states. “When the witness told her, (Dillard) said that she did not see her. This statement was intended to frighten and intimidate the witness and did in fact frighten the witness.”
The defendants’ first court appearance is scheduled for April 15.
Henry and Dillard each posted a $10,000 unsecured bond. Jenkins and Davis remained in jail as of Tuesday afternoon.