Slain hunter 'homicide' case remains open after 10 weeks

Local hunters are still wondering what happened in the case of a Blairsville, Ga., man murdered more than 10 weeks ago during a deer hunt at Clarks Hill Wildlife Management Area in Wilkes County.


There have been plenty of police interviews and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab has been carefully examining evidence.

So far, however, no one has been charged in the mysterious – and, I was told, quite violent – death of Jeffrey Sean Gebhardt, 35.

“It’s still under investigation, and that’s about all I can tell you,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Ayers of the GBI’s Thomson field office.

Some of the most basic details, including the manner in which the north Georgia slaughterhouse employee was killed, are being kept under wraps.

Gebhardt was among 286 hunters who turned out for a Sept. 21-23 early firearms hunt at the 12,700-acre parcel, killing 24 bucks, 14 does and three feral hogs.

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

According to newspaper reports, his body was located five hours later by officers aboard a Georgia State Patrol helicopter equipped with thermal imaging gear. An autopsy the next day confirmed the death was a homicide.


SANTA’S LIL HUNTERS: Price Sewell and a couple dozen of his hunting and fishing friends wanted to do something different this holiday season – and came up with a plan to provide gifts for needy children referred by a local church.

“Instead of Santa’s Little Helpers, we’re Santa’s Lil Hunters,” he said. “We’re all just outdoors people who live to hunt and fish.”

The nonprofit group’s members plan to dress out in camo and Santa hats Christmas Eve and deliver the collected gifts to recipients identified through local churches, including Redeemer Presbyterian.

Members of the group have held fundraising drives at local sponsoring businesses, and have located drop boxes for donated gifts or money at sites including Augusta ATV, Ace Hardware in Evans, Carter Christmas Tree Farm, Harry’s Saw Shop.

Anyone interested in the program can contact Sewell at (706) 955-5586.


SALUDA FLYING TROUT: The S.C. Department of Natural Resources stocked thousands of rainbow and brown trout into the lower Saluda River near Columbia last week using a helicopter and a specialized lift bucket.

The annual aerial ritual is part of a management program that has helped the river become one of the most popular trout waters in the region, and one of the closest places to Augusta where trophy fish can be caught.

The trout came from Walhalla State Fish Hatchery in Oconee County. The cold waters released from the bottom of Lake Murray provide suitable habitat for the trout in the Saluda River, creating a unique and very popular fishery in the midlands of South Carolina.

The DNR stocks approximately 30,000 trout each year in the Saluda from December through February in what it calls a “put, grow and take” fishery that relies on stocking to maintain populations and the cooperation of anglers for success.

For young, stocked trout to reach their potential, they must not be removed from the river immediately after stocking. If given time to grow, they can exceed 20 inches, considered trophy size for this type of fishery.

This year’s stocking is unique in that 5,000 of the trout to be stocked will be tagged as part of a study to collect information on the river’s trout population such as survival rates and the number of fish that succumb to natural and angler mortality.

Anglers can assist DNR biologist by reporting their catches of tagged trout. Details on this procedure can be found on the DNR web page and as well as kiosk located at several public access points along the river.