Grand jury finds Wilkes County deer hunter's fatal wounds were 'self-inflicted'

A deer hunter whose death last year was first ruled a homicide actually died of self-inflicted wounds, a grand jury concluded after a 10-month investigation.

The body of Jeffrey Sean Gebhardt, 35, of Blairsville, Ga., was found by a Georgia State Patrol helicopter Sept. 22 after he had called authorities to say he was lost in a remote part of the Clarks Hill Wildlife Management Area in Wilkes County.

Two days later, police announced the cause of death as homicide, based on autopsy results. No arrests were ever made.

A statement released Wednesday by the Toombs Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office, however, said the case was being closed after results of the investigation were presented to a grand jury.

The conclusions and decision to close the case were “based upon the opinion of State Medical Examiner Daniel Brown, MD, that all wounds, including the fatal ones, on Mr. Gebhardt were self-inflicted,” the statement said, adding that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation found no evidence of criminal conduct.

Gebhardt, an employee of a north Georgia slaughterhouse, was among 286 hunters who turned out for a Sept. 21-23 early firearms hunt at the 12,700-acre parcel of public land.

On the third night of the hunt, a companion with whom Gebhardt was camping reported him missing about 10 p.m., spawning a search that included Georgia Department of Natural Resources rangers and sheriff’s deputies.

His body was found five hours later.

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