Cookeville community grieves loss of young family killed in crash following pursuit

Local News

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Cookeville community is mourning the loss of a young mother and her two toddler sons, who were killed in a crash just off Interstate 40 Tuesday.

Cookeville police reported 24-year old Amanda Chatman and her two sons, 4-year-old Alexton and 3-year-old Braydon were killed in the crash at the intersection of Interstate Drive and South Willow Avenue.. 

24-year-old Amanda Chatman and her two sons, 4-year-old Alexton and 3-year-old Braydon

The pursuit began as troopers with Tennessee Highway Patrol pursued a 2020 Toyota Tacoma truck near the Monterey area on I-40, according to Cookeville police. During the pursuit, Cookeville police said the driver, 25-year-old Michael Don Shepherd, led troopers in the fleeing truck at a high rate of speed to an exit in Cookeville.

Courtesy: Putnam County Sheriff’s Office

The speeding truck hit Chatman’s vehicle around 8 a.m. near the intersection of Willow Avenue and Interstate Drive.

Cookeville police reported Shepherd was traveling westbound on Interstate Drive at a high rate of speed while approaching the intersection with South Willow Avenue. Chatman was simultaneously traveling northbound on South Willow Avenue in a 2012 Nissan Versa.

Authorities said Shepherd’s truck entered the intersection and struck the passenger side of Chatman’s sedan.

Chatman’s car was completely crushed and thrown into a grass area on the other side of the road, killing Chatman and her two sons, according to investigators.

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Shepherd was arrested and charged with three counts of vehicular homicide and evading arrest. He was transported to the Putnam County Jail where he was booked and will be brought before the General Sessions Court to address a bond for the vehicular homicide charges on Wednesday.

Chatman was driving the boys to schools at Head Start, according to the kids’ father Brandon Henley who was at home with their baby girl.

On Wednesday morning, the school released a statement about the loss.

Our hearts are heavy with the recent loss of two Head Start children and their mother which has deeply affected us. In an effort to support Head Start children, families, and staff, we have implemented our Emergency Response Plan. Our mental health provider is available to our children, families, and staff as they express their feelings related to this event.

Penny Meadows, Head Start Director

Folks in the Cookeville community have already placed a memorial including flowers, teddy bears, notes and balloons at the intersection of the crash in honor of Chatman and her sons.

Chatman’s sister, Kelly Likens, started a GoFundMe to assist the family during this time. She posted the following message on the page:

“I lost my beloved sister/best friend and 2 handsome nephews earlier today in a terrible car accident due to a high speed chase. Any help is appreciated! Amanda was a beloved mother, sister and friend. Alexton and Braydon were some of the sweetest boys you’ll ever meet. If you want you can send donations to Hopper, Huddleston and Horner-Dyer Chapel on S Willow Avenue.”

Tennessee Highway Patrol also issued a statement Wednesday:

Police say Shepherd has a lengthy criminal history in multiple Tennessee counties including Davidson and Cheatham.

The crash remains under investigation by the Cookeville Police Department with the assistance of the Office of the District Attorney General. They ask if anyone witnessed the crash and has not yet spoken with police, to please call the Criminal Investigation Division of the Cookeville Police Department at 931-520-5372 or the main station at 931-526-2125.

This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and for updates.

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