MILLINGTON, TN - Mayor Richard Hodges’ neighbors say the search warrants and investigators that flooded their street on Wednesday, July 27, 2011, were an eye-opener.
They describe the mayor as a nice guy and watched in stunned silence as undercover cops, agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and members of the Shelby County District Attorneys Office descended on the mayor's house.
At first, neighbors thought all the attention was brought on by the death of the mayor's wife, Rita. Cops believe her death was suicide.
"I see her sitting on the porch a lot and I wave at her," says neighbor Corbet Stanley. "Her taking her life didn't make any sense to me."
Stanley has lived in the neighborhood since 1974. He lives across the street from the mayor. Stanley couldn't believe less than 24 hours after Mrs. Hodges' body was discovered in her home, undercover cops and unmarked cars surrounded the mayor's house.
"There were about half a dozen cars that had that unmistakable look," he says, "and a lot of guys were going in and out of the home with sunshades."
Stanley, like many other neighbors, is wondering why the mayor is being investigated. The TBI tells abc24.com it's part of a widespread criminal investigation that started in December 2010.
"Mayor Hodges is just an old country boy," says Stanley. "What in the world could he have done?"
Hodges was a city alderman for 18 years before running for mayor. Hodges was asked if he thought the death of his wife and the execution of the search warrants was connected.
"That is an absolute lie," he tells abc24.com. "It (her death) had nothing to do with what happened today. I'll have a comment Monday, after I bury my wife."
The mayor's son, Daniel Hodges, says his mother was a happy person and they are a close-knit family. He describes her as an angel.
"We have family and friends at our home," he says, "and I just thank God for every bit of it. They've been uplifting. The First Baptist Church has been awesome and the community has been awesome. That's all we're focusing on right now, my momma and her life."
Hodges says his mother didn't have any health problems. He says she was always smiling, but something was obviously wrong the last few days.
"She was down and wanted to be with Jesus,” he says. “But I'm not worried about all that investigation stuff right now. I could care less about it. We're not worried about that, we're worried about my mom. Family is always first."
Other family members refused to talk about the investigation and insist they support Mayor Hodges, no matter what comes of this.
"We don't know anything about all that stuff," says Daniel Hodges. "All we know is that we're going to stick by my dad 100 percent."
Rita Hodges leaves behind 5 children and 7 grandchildren.