Michael Don Shepherd made his first appearance today in Putnam County General Sessions court charged with three counts of vehicular homicide in the deaths of a young mother and her two children.
The judge appointed the 25-year-old Shepherd a public defender. Bond was not set today for the vehicular homicide charges so Shephard will remain in custody. His next court appearance is set for February 17, 2021.
According to court documents obtained, the vehicle pursuit started on I-40 in the area of Monterey after the Tennessee Highway Patrol receiving several calls in reference to a reckless driver traveling west on I-40 near Monterey. The Toyota Tacoma driven by Shepherd was first seen by officers at the 303 mile marker. Shepherd increased his speed heading towards Cookeville after being seen by the trooper. He reportedly passed other automobiles on the shoulder at speeds of over 120 mph.
After a 13 mile chase, Shepherd exited onto Highway 70 at the 290 mile marker in Cookeville and immediately got back on I-40. He got off again at the Jefferson Avenue exit, turned north and made multiple reckless maneuvers onto Interstate Drive, traveling west toward Willow Avenue.
As the vehicle approached South Willow, it continued through a red traffic light and struck a Nissan Versa driven by 24-year-old Amanda Chatman. She along with her two sons, 4-year-old Alexton and 3-year-old Braydon, died in the t-bone impact from the truck Shepherd was driving. Chatman was driving her boys to schools at Head Start when the crash took place.
(The little girl Amanda is holding was not in her vehicle at the time of the crash)
When asked by this newsroom for further details into the incident, Bill Miller, Public Information Officer for the Tennessee Highway Patrol in Nashville issued the following statement:
“The investigation is very early in its stages and we cannot provide a comment. The crash is being investigated by the Cookeville Police Department and we are referring all inquiries to the Cookeville Police Department and District Attorney Bryant Dunaway’s Office.”
The Cookeville Police Department gave the following statement regarding the same inquiry:
“That will have to be answered by the Tennessee Highway Patrol.”
Shepherd, who is from Cheatham County, Tennessee, has a criminal history covering at least four counties including:
- Use of drug paraphernalia (guilty) – October 2015
- Assault (guilty) – September 2016
- Possession of drugs (guilty) – September 2016
- Shepherd was one of five arrested in August 2017 after authorities found one kilo of cocaine. charged with felony cocaine possession, drug possession, and possession of drug paraphernalia
- Driving on a revoked license reduce to a lesser charge of driving with no license (guilty) – March 2018
- Vandalism (guilty) – June 2018
- Shepherd was charged with starting a fire in the Cheatham County jail in January 2019. It was reduced to reckless burning. Court officials say Shepherd served 11 months and 29 days
- Shepherd has been arrested at least 17 TIMES in Cheatham County since mid-2014 on charges including aggravated kidnapping, reckless endangerment and multiple counts of driving on a revoked license.
- Charged with evading arrest in September 2020.
PUTNAM COUNTY (arrest charges only)
- Three counts of vehicular homicide and one count of evading arrest – January 2021