Former WSMV Channel 4 News anchor, Merrill Lynch financial advisor and Franklin resident Aaron Solomon is currently at the center of a bevy of accusations, including child abuse and being involved in the death of his then 18-year-old son.
While civil matters related to the accusations are currently being litigated in Williamson County Circuit Court, Solomon is not facing any criminal charges and has denied all allegations.
The Solomon family
A morning news anchor for WSMV Channel 4 News since 1996, Solomon willingly resigned from that role in 2011, according to fellow news anchor Holly Thompson. In 2014, he became a financial advisor for the investment management firm Merrill Lynch, where he still works.
Solomon had also served as a volunteer board member from 2006 to at least 2019 for Our Kids Center, a Nashville-based nonprofit organization that provides expert medical evaluations and crisis counseling for victims of child sexual abuse.
Solomon had two children with his ex-wife Angelia Solomon — Grant Solomon in 2002 and Gracie Solomon in 2006 — before the two divorced in 2014. Grant Solomon would later die in July of 2020, roughly one month after his 18th birthday, in what Gallatin Police reported to be a single-vehicle accident.
Social media takes allegations to new heights
While Angelia Solomon has levied accusations of abuse against Aaron Solomon in court since at least 2013, it wouldn’t be until May of this year that the accusations were brought into the public eye.
On May 12, a YouTube channel named “Freedom For Gracie” launched, as did an identically-named Instagram account. That same day, both pages uploaded two videos; one a video testimony from Gracie, Aaron Solomon’s now 14-year-old daughter, and the other a video testimony from Anna Smith, a former student and fellow classmate of Grant’s at Grace Christian Academy in Franklin.
In her video testimony, Gracie made a number of allegations against her father, calling him “a rapist, a molester, a liar and a killer,” and recounted a number of specific incidents in which she believes her father had sexually abused her.
Regarding Grant, Gracie said that he was “scared” of their father due to his “terrifying behavior,” and that she “strongly believes [Aaron Solomon] killed Grant.” According to Gracie, Grant had also opened up to Grace Chapel Church Pastor Steve Berger about the allegations of abuse in 2018.
Grant’s alleged turbulent relationship with his father was echoed in Smith’s video testimony, in which the now 18-year-old recounted numerous times in which Grant had told her of his father’s alleged abuse. Smith said she had tried to testify against Aaron Solomon on behalf of Gracie and Grant during continued Child Protective Service hearings, only to be denied by the presiding judge on two separate occasions.
Smith also said she had told a counselor at Grace Christian Academy about Solomon’s alleged abuse, as had Gracie, but to no avail.
Smith further suggested that it was Grant’s entry into adulthood, which with it came a “more respected” voice in the judicial system, that potentially led to his death just a month after turning 18.
On July 20, 2020, Grant was killed after being “struck by his own vehicle” in the parking lot of Ward Performance Institute, a baseball training club in Gallatin. Aaron Solomon was the only witness.
Ultimately, the joint video testimonies argue that the Williamson County Courts, as well as Grace Christian Academy, had failed to take the allegations made by Angelia Solomon, Gracie and their friends seriously. As of June 8, the two videos have been viewed collectively more than 40,000 times.
Recent claims spark litigation
On May 21 of this year, Aaron Solomon filed a lawsuit against Smith, his ex-wife and 28 others alleged to have taken part in making the accusations against him online.
In the lawsuit, Solomon alleges that his ex-wife, “along with her friends and associates,” brought a “smear campaign against Mr. Solomon through social media,” and that the allegations were made “recklessly.”
The lawsuit requests that the Williamson County Circuit impose what is known as a temporary injunction, a court order that allows for a judge to prohibit certain actions by certain parties early on in the litigation process.
The first action Solomon sought to be halted by the court was the sharing of any more statements that implied Solomon had “physically or sexually abused his ex-wife or children or that he caused Grant Solomon’s death.”
The lawsuit also requests of the court that the defendants be required to remove all their allegations from the internet, and that the image of Gracie not be used to sell products or solicit donations without Aaron Solomon’s consent.
On Friday, June 4, attorney Alex Little filed a response to Aaron Solomon’s lawsuit on behalf of Angelia Solomon and the 29 others, requesting the Williamson County Circuit Court to dismiss the aforementioned lawsuit.
The response litigation argues that Gracie’s video testimony is “a clear exercise of her First Amendment rights,” and that Aaron Solomon’s lawsuit constitutes a strategic lawsuit against public participation, also known as a SLAPP suit or intimidation lawsuit.
The litigation further notes that Tennessee had passed an anti-SLAPP suit bill in 2019, which allows for parties to petition for the dismissal of lawsuits that are “filed in response to a party’s exercise of the right of free speech.”
Aaron Solomon’s lawsuit is now scheduled to be heard by Judge James Martin on Tuesday, June 22, in Franklin.
Timeline of abuse accusations, custody disputes
While the story of Angelia and Aaron Solomon goes back decades, perhaps the first notable event that kicked off the years’ worth of allegations was something that occurred on May 9, 2013, when they both lived in Nashville.
On that night, Angelia Solomon alleged that Aaron Solomon had tried to hang her with a blow dryer cord in the bathroom of their home.
Angelia Solomon further alleged that her husband “hit [her] on the right side of [her] head and knocked [her] on to the bed” in plain view of her parents. Her father, according to Angelia Solomon, said that “a husband can do to his wife what he wants.”
Aaron Solomon instead alleges that Angelia Solomon attempted to hang herself with the blow dryer cord. Aaron Solomon said he called 911 following the incident, after which he says his wife was admitted to the TriStar Centennial psychiatric hospital.
Admitted in the early hours of May 10, Angelia Solomon was released the next day. Her discharge summary written by Dr. Michael James Murphy reads as follows:
Because of the confusing nature of the findings, we decided to commit her to the hospital for a night so that we could evaluate the situation and determine her level of safety.
I evaluated her extensively the next day. It was my impression that the patient was telling the truth about the situation that she was in a risky situation with her husband who appeared to possibly be volatile and violent, although this was uncertain. The patient’s parents also appeared to be unreliable sources of information.
The patient was not started on any medications as it did not appear that she was in any kind of depressed state or in need of any acute psychiatric treatment.
The same day after being released from the hospital, Angelia Solomon filed for and was granted a temporary order of protection against her husband, which was delivered to Aaron Solomon on the morning of May 12.
The next day on May 13, Aaron Solomon filed for divorce in Davidson County Circuit Court. On May 14, he filed for and was granted a temporary restraining order against his wife, with the presiding judge — Judge Philip Smith — also prohibiting Angelia Solomon from being in possession of their children.
On June 7, Aaron Solomon sought a continuance of that restraining order, a request that was ultimately granted by Judge Smith on July 13. In the ruling, Smith found that the court did “not believe Ms. Solomon’s testimony,” and that the court “does believe that Ms. Solomon attempted to commit suicide.”
Regarding the two children, Judge Smith further found that the court “is quite concerned about the safety of the minor children, even in a supervised setting with the mother.”
The ruling prohibited Angelia Solomon from receiving any parenting time with her children until she submitted to a psychological evaluation. On Oct. 7, Doctor Bradley Freeman released his full psychiatric report on Angelia Solomon.
“After reviewing the information collected, there is ample evidence to suggest that Dr. Solomon is a fully capable parent,” reads Freeman’s report.
“There is no data to indicate that Dr. Solomon is at risk of harming her children. The collateral sources, her self-report, and the report of her husband contain no information that suggests she might be abusive, neglectful, or harmful to the children.”
Soon after, Angelia Solomon was granted two hours of supervised visitation a week. Court proceedings would continue throughout the duration of 2013 and into early 2014, with a social worker and two medical experts testifying as to Angelia Solomon’s mental state during a hearing on May 30, 2014.
Social worker and Centennial Medical Center employee Mary Duff, who had also been supervising Angelia Solomon’s visits with Gracie and Grant, testified that she had “not observed any specific problems that would raise concern with Ms. Solomon’s ability to care for the children.”
Duff also said she believed Angelia Solomon’s visitation time could be extended to at least four hours once a week.
Dr. Michael Reed, a physician who specializes in psychiatry who had been treating Angelia Solomon, testified that Angelia Solomon’s “prognosis is excellent.” Regarding Aaron Solomon, Reed further testified that he had “done a masterful job in confusing the court about his wife’s actual mental health.”
Reed also noted that “multiple comments made by both children” had led him to believe they had “suffered severe emotional repercussions” and that they “were fearful [of Mr. Solomon] and remain so still.”
Ruth Smith, a licensed clinical psychologist who had treated Angelia Solomon since March of 2014, testified that she diagnosed Angelia Solomon with PTSD, “caused by the abusive marriage she has been in since 2001.” Smith further testified that she believes “there is no reason why [Ms. Solomon] should not be allowed to take care of her children without supervision.”
Nevertheless, Judge Smith ruled that the children would be placed in the custody of Aaron Solomon on June 30, 2014, though extended Angelia Solomon’s visitation time to six hours once a week to be supervised for one hour by Duff.
While continuing to pursue greater custody of her children, Angelia Solomon also levied a series of allegations against Aaron Solomon that he was abusing their two children.
On Nov. 21, 2014, Angelia Solomon filed a petition in Coffee County Juvenile Court to declare her children neglected and to request temporary emergency custody.
In the petition, Angelia Solomon alleged that her daughter Gracie — then 8 years old — told her that Aaron Solomon would penetrate her with a bar of soap while bathing her, that he would require Gracie “to sleep in his bed against her wishes,” and that Aaron Solomon would insist on “accompanying [Gracie] to the bathroom, wiping her, and giving her a bath.”
In the petition, Angelia Solomon also recounts an Oct. 27 visit to family practice physician Jay Trussler’s office in Manchester.
During the visit, Angelia Solomon alleges that Trussler found excessive ketones in Grant’s urine sample, a “sign that he suffers from malnutrition and is not receiving enough food on a daily basis.” Angelia Solomon also alleged that Trussler found Grant to show early signs of muscle atrophy.
Angelia Solomon, however, would voluntarily withdraw this petition on May 13, 2015.
For the next four years, Aaron Solomon retained custody of the children until the proceedings moved to Williamson County Circuit Court and Williamson County Juvenile Court.
It was during these proceedings that Angelia Solomon, who had filed numerous civil actions against Aaron Solomon over the years with both the court systems and with Child Protective Services, was handed her harshest penalty yet.
Williamson County Circuit Court Judge Deanna Johnson, wife of Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, found Angelia Solomon’s continued claims to be without merit, and ruled on Jan. 19, 2019, that Angelia Solomon could not file any future civil actions against her ex-husband for a period of six years.
Johnson made her ruling in part on the precedent set by previous case rulings, as well as the multiple Child Protection Services investigations, all of which concluded Angelia Solomon’s claims were unfounded.
According to Aaron Solomon’s lawsuit, Angelia Solomon and others have alleged Aaron Solomon “controlled the courts,” and that Judge Johnson demonstrated bias towards Aaron Solomon in her ruling given that they both attend Grace Chapel Church.
According to the Freedom For Gracie Instagram page, as of May 29 Gracie was placed in the custody of Children Protective Services, but is now under the care of a family friend of the Solomons.
Accusers levy accusations in countersuit
The aforementioned countersuit filed last Friday on behalf of Angelia Solomon includes affidavits of multiple of Aaron Solomon’s accusers. Gracie’s is as follows.
Gracie alleged her father was the only person to bathe her, and that between the ages of 6 and 8, she believed he penetrated her with his fingers routinely, thinking at a younger age that it was with a bar of soap. Gracie also said she believed her father would take photos of her while coming out of the shower.
Gracie then went on to recount an incident she alleged to have happened during the summer of 2018 when she was 11 years old.
Gracie, Grant and their father had traveled to North Carolina for a baseball event, Grant being a pitcher for the Grace Christian Academy baseball team known as the Lions. Gracie said that just her father and her had to return to Tennessee for a court hearing, and stopped at a hotel in Asheville, N.C.
“When we got to the hotel, I was already scared about spending the night with him, and I remember a conversation about whether the room had two beds or only one; I wanted two beds because I was worried about what he would do to me,” Gracie’s affidavit reads.
“He did not respond, but when we got to the room, there was only one bed.”
Gracie said that she slept on the side of the bed, but was soon awoken to find Aaron Solomon “rubbing [her] feet.”
“I was facing away from him, but he had one hand on my shoulder, and it felt like he was holding me still,” the affidavit reads.
“The next thing I remember feeling was his penis on my lower back near my bottom. It was erect. I was scared and kept scooting to the edge of the bed until there was no room. I then felt his body moving slowly in a thrusting motion.”
Gracie alleged that the next day, she felt “a pain and itchiness” in and around her groin area, and compared it to what she had felt in the past when being bathed by Aaron Solomon.
Wynn Hicks, another defendant in Aaron Solomon’s lawsuit and friend to the Solomon children, alleged in her affidavit that the counselor at Grace Christian Academy “refused to help Gracie,” and that the two Solomon children expressed fear of their father routinely.
Hicks went on to corroborate Gracie’s alleged abuse, saying that Grant had “told [her] everything.”
Smith, the 18-year-old Grace Christian Academy graduate who shared a video testimony on the Freedom For Gracie pages, was also included in the countersuit.
In her affidavit, Smith alleged that Grant told her his father would “hit him frequently,” and also that Gracie had told her about the alleged incident in North Carolina “a few weeks after it happened.”
Early Monday morning on July 20, 2020, Grant and his father planned to meet at the Ward Performance Institute baseball training facility in Gallatin. According to Aaron Solomon, they had both pulled up next to each other separately in the facility’s parking lot. Aaron Solomon noticed his son had gotten out of his truck to grab his baseball gear out of the bed.
Aaron Solomon said that shortly after he looked down “to check a work email,” he saw Grant’s truck rolling backwards.
According to Aaron Solomon, he then exited his vehicle only to find the truck had rolled into a ditch, his son trapped underneath it. It was then when he called 911.
“My son’s truck backed over him, it’s rolled over him and drug him into the ditch and it’s on top of him,” Aaron Solomon said on the phone with first responders. “He’s not alert, he’s out and he’s trapped. I got three guys here and he’s trapped under the truck.”
Among the three Gallatin Police officers dispatched to the scene was Kurtis McKelvey, who wrote in his report that he was unable to locate any other witnesses to the crash. Furthermore, facility staff told the officer they did not have any cameras on the outside that would have captured the incident.
The owner of the facility, Tucker Ward, told the Home Pages that he arrived at the facility 30 minutes after the incident occurred, but declined to comment further based on the advice of his attorney. Ward did, however, call the incident a “tragedy” and remembered Grant as “a really good kid.”
Grant’s celebration of life was held not long after at the Grace Chapel Church, where Pastor Steve Berger recounted a moment he shared with Grant.
“You just never get a ninth grader making an appointment with you to talk about Jesus as a crusty old grey-haired preacher, [but] Grant did and he sat in my office for well over an hour,” Berger said. “[He] just wanted to know how he could draw closer to Christ. It stands out to me.”
Gracie’s video testimony, as well as the Freedom for Gracie pages, argued that Grant’s meeting with Berger was not to discuss faith, but rather to seek council regarding the alleged abuse at the hands of Aaron Solomon.
Due to the Solomons being entangled in ongoing litigation, Berger’s office declined to comment on the matter, however, Grace Chapel Church did issue a statement that said they were made aware of the abuse allegations on April 30, 2018. The statement further reads that a staff member at the church accompanied “one of the parents” of Gracie to a meeting at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office.
Williamson County Sheriff Public Information Administrator Sharon Puckett, who was also a News 4 anchor in the ’90s, said that records related to the meeting could not be disclosed due to Tennessee law regarding information on victims of child sexual abuse. Puckett did say, however, that the “matter was investigated” and subsequently closed.
Grace Christian Academy Communications Director Kristie Vandrunen declined to comment on the allegations.
Judge Johnson’s office relayed that she could not comment on the allegations given the ongoing litigation.
Judge James Martin will preside over the Solomon’s next hearing in Williamson County Circuit Court, scheduled to commence on the afternoon of June 22.