Man accused of killing two in church van crash pleads not guilty to robbery

11:19 AM, Mar 19, 2013   |    comments
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The man accused of being high on bath salts during a deadly crash with a church van pleaded not guilty to unrelated burglary and weapons charges in federal court on Tuesday.

He also qualified for a court-appointed attorney.

Authorities say Tyler Schaeffer, 21, was driving an SUV that crashed head-on into a Cedar Grove Baptist Church van.  The wreck killed youth leader Jeff Trussell and 16-year-old Courteney Kaliszewski. Ten others were injured.  Schaeffer faces dozens of charges in that case, including vehicular homicide by intoxication, vehicular assault, DUI, and drug charges.

The widow and son of Trussell were present in the courtroom Tuesday, as were about a dozen other Cedar Grove Baptist Church members.

Schaeffer was arrested on burglary charges as soon as he was released from the hospital after the crash.  He's being held in the Sevier County jail.

He waived his right to a hearing Tuesday that would have the judge determine if he would have to remain in jail pending the May 14 trial date for the burglary charges.

The charges accuse Scheffer of taking part in six business robberies in the last three years. Several are in the Seymour area, including Romantic Escapades, a Subway shop, and a Dollar General store.

He's also being accused of robbing a Sevierville drug trafficker and threatening the trafficker with a gun, as well as possession of drugs with the intent to distribute.

On March 5, a federal grand jury returned a 14-count indictment against Schaeffer.

In that same indictment, Jerel Bray-Shawn Johnson, 20, of Knoxville, was charged in the conspiracies to commit Hobbs Act robbery and to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methylone, as well as two counts of Hobbs Act robbery, and two counts of brandishing a firearm during a robbery. 

In addition, Rodney James Ruffin, 21, of Sevierville, was charged in the same indictment with conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, one count of Hobbs Act robbery, and one count of brandishing a firearm during a robbery.

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