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Superintendent, sheriff answer questions on Ooltewah rape case

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Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith

Standing in front of reporters and community leaders, Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith reflected upon his regrets surrounding how he handled the Ooltewah rape case.

READ MORE | TIMELINE: The sequence of events surrounding the Ooltewah basketball player rape case 

"There were things that needed to be said, I wanted to be very careful at what I said, but I think things needed to be said in the position that I hold in this school system and the community. I regret that. I wish I would have said what I'm saying to you today a week ago," Smith said, "I wish I had stopped the season the moment I heard about it or soon after the fact."

Smith also revealed more details surrounding the investigation including his decision to transfer Ooltewah basketball coach Andre Montgomery to a non-teaching position. Smith says Montgomery is also not allowed to step foot on any school campus. 

"I don't want anybody to think he's being punished or penalized at this point. He's being transferred at this point and if we find other reasons to address the coach, we will," Smith added. 

More than 1,000 people in Hamilton County have signed a petition calling for his resignation but Smith says he's not going anywhere.

READ MORE | UPDATE: Online petitions gathering momentum after Ooltewah rape 

"Resignation has no crossed my mind. I have no had board members talk to me about that. I feel very much supported by the school board," he said. 

Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond explained the investigation is a complicated one that involves a number of agencies but promised every angle would be investigated to its fullest. 

"My detectives are not missing any stone. We will overturn every question or comment or information that comes to us," Hammond added. 

Hammond says his office is looking into any connections in Hamilton County that may be connected or led up to the rape investigation and says they are looking at both adults and juveniles. 

He also spoke about the process of  how a case moves from the juvenile court to criminal court saying the juvenile judge makes that decision after looking at a number of factors including the charge, age and mental health of the juvenile charged. 

That process is started after someone petitions the court, which is typically the prosecutor. 

"This charge, if there is a charge that comes out, and of course there already has been, could very well be remanded to the adult system. But that is a call for the juvenile judge to make," Hammond said. 

Two of the three teens charged in the case are being held in the juvenile detention center without bond. The other is out on bond. Hammond says if their cases are moved to the criminal court, the teens being held without bond will be moved to the Hamilton County Jail where they would be held separately from the general population. 

Hamilton County School Board members will move forward later this week with work sessions to see how they can prevent an incident like this one from happening again. 

On Thursday at 5:00 pm members will review their bullying and hazing policies and will hold a public forum after to hear comments from the public.

READ MORE | Want to speak at the next Hamilton Co. School Board meeting? Here's how...

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