Three men indicted in robbery spree
From Staff Reports
KNOXVILLE — A federal grand jury returned a 14-count indictment Tuesday against three men, including the Seymour man involved in a church van accident last year that killed two people and severely injured several others.
Tyler James Schaeffer, 21, was indicted seven counts of robbery, one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, four counts of brandishing a firearm during a robbery, one count of conspiracy to distribute methylone and one count of possessing a firearm in a drug-trafficking crime.
Also charged in the same indictment were Jerel Bray-Shawn Johnson, 20, Knoxville, and Rodney James Ruffin, 21, Sevierville.
Johnson was charged with the robbery and intent to distribute methylone conspiracies, two counts of robbery and two counts of brandishing a firearm during a robbery.
Ruffin was charged with the same robbery and methylone distribution conspiracies, as well as one count of brandishing a firearm.
All the robbery charges were listed as Hobbs Act robbery, which includes both robbery and extortion charges.
According to the indictment, between July 26, 2010, and Sept. 14, 2012, Schaeffer allegedly robbed two Subway restaurants in Knoxville and Seymour, the Mayra Moreno Insurance on Alcoa Highway, a Dollar General Store in Seymour, the Romantic Escapades business in Knoxville and a Kenjo Market in Knoxville.
Schaeffer faces no less than 107 years in prison, while Johnson will get no less than 32 years and Ruffin no less than seven years if convicted. They will face additional prison time if convicted of the robberies and drug-trafficking crimes, which must be served consecutively.
Fatal van wreck
On Sept. 16, 2012, Schaeffer’s vehicle allegedly crossed over Chapman Highway from the southbound lane and struck a church van. The impact sent the van rolling off the highway and into a ditch, where it burst into flames.
The van driver, Jeffrey Trussell, 45, of Maryville, and church member and Seymour High School student Courteney Kaliszewski, 16, died in the accident. The church van was returning from a trip attended by numerous church youth group members.
Schaeffer was allegedly high on bath salts when the accident occurred. He had reportedly been released from a previous conviction and was on probation at the time of the accident, and the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office had an active warrant for his arrest.
A blood sample from Schaeffer indicated he had methylone in his system at the time of the crash, and investigators found the substance inside his car. Methylone is a substance used in bath salts that mimics the effects of the drug ecstasy.
Schaeffer suffered injuries as well, and remained in a Knoxville hospital for weeks. Sevier County Sheriff’s deputies arrested him on the burglary warrant as soon as he was released from the hospital.
Schaeffer was arraigned in December in Sevier County Circuit Court on two counts of vehicular homicide, reckless aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, driving under the influence and drug possession.
Schaeffer had been previously convicted on separate charges of attempted robbery and burglary in Blount County. On Jan. 18, 2011, Schaeffer was arrested by Blount County Sheriff’s deputies and charged with the June 22, 2010, aggravated burglary of a Louisville residence.
On March 4, 2011, Alcoa police detectives arrested Schaeffer on a charge of aggravated robbery in connection with the Feb. 19, 2011, robbery of Mayra Moreno Insurance, 4512 Alcoa Highway.
Schaeffer pleaded guilty to the two charges and was sentenced by Blount County Circuit Court Judge David Duggan to serve two years for the attempted robbery and four years for the residential burglary, to be served consecutively.
At the time of sentencing, Schaeffer had already served three months in the Blount County Detention Facility and was placed on supervised probation with the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He was released on May 3, 2011, and was placed on probation for six years.