published Friday, September 6th, 2013

Gilmer County commissioner Randy Bell dies of gunshot

VIDEO

This story is featured in today's TimesFreePress newscast.

  • photo
    Gilmer County Commissioner Randy Bell, 54, died Tuesday, 9-3-2013 of a gunshot wound to the head. Law enforcement does not suspect foul play.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Last November, Randy Bell prepared to start an exciting new chapter in his life.

He long had been active in Gilmer County, Ga., serving on the board of assessors and often holding officials accountable for how they spent taxpayers' money. And now he would become one of the county's two commissioners. He had just been elected.

"It wasn't a real tight race," said JC Sanford, chairman of the county's board of commissioners.

But just as he assumed his new role, Bell, 54, suffered a setback. A stroke hospitalized him at the beginning of the year. His vision faded. His finances crumbled. On Tuesday, he wrote in a Facebook post, a bank was going to sell his house.

"So I will be blind and homeless," he wrote. "Its [sic] not worth living this way."

Soon after Bell put this message on Facebook, Sanford said, a co-worker alerted him. They worried about what Bell would do. Then, Sanford got a call that Gilmer County sheriff's deputies were on the way to Bell's home at 2662 Camp Branch Road.

The deputies found Bell dead in the shower from a gunshot wound to the head.

Suicide is complicated. It can't be traced to one event, one breakup or one moment of anger, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.

Sanford said Thursday that he didn't suspect anything like this from Bell. He worried about the commissioner's health, but he said Bell was popular in the community, personable.

"Randy was a fine young man," Sanford said. "He was dedicated to what he did. He really fought hard for the things he believed."

When the deputies arrived Tuesday morning, according to an incident report, Bell still was breathing. He was airlifted to the Atlanta Medical Center, but he was pronounced dead at 12:40 p.m.

Sanford said he last saw Bell at a commission workshop meeting on Aug. 29, and the panel's next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 12. The two remaining officials will try to continue work without Bell until the county can hold another election, either in November or next March. Bell's term was supposed to last four years.

"We're going to carry on," Sanford said.

In his Facebook post Tuesday morning, Bell asked for those in his community to look out for his children and pets. And, about two hours before a doctor would pronounce him dead, Bell expressed gratitude.

"Thanks for being my friend."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at tjett@timesfreepress.com.

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

advertisement
advertisement
400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.