Defendant found dead first day of trial

Jamey Lynn Wolford

CAIRO — Jamey Lynn Wolford was scheduled to stand trial this week on 2015 Thomas County charges of felony murder, aggravated assault and voluntary manslaughter. Jury selection was to begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Thomas County Superior Court.

Instead, court officials received information about a suicide in Grady County.

Grady County Sheriff Harry Young said Wolford's body was found behind a building at his 495 Rich Rd. residence in northeast rural Grady County, the victim of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"It was an outside scene," said Jamy Steinberg, special agent in charge of the Thomasville regional office of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. "He was located by a family member."

The GBI was notified by the Grady County Sheriff's Office at 9:45 a.m. Monday.

An autopsy will be performed at a state crime lab.

Wolford, 34, out of jail on a $200,000 bond, was charged with the April 2015 shooting death of James Eric Poppell, 31, at Azalea Mobile Home Park, 1388 North Pinetree Blvd., in Thomasville.

Wolford and Poppell argued on the front steps of the residence. At the time of the shooting, a GBI agent said Poppell charged at Wolford.

Wolford told authorities he shot Poppell with a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Poppell, who was not armed, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The shooting scene was the residence of Poppell's ex-wife and the couple's children, The confrontation was about the children, the GBI agent said in 2015.

Jim Prine, Southern Judicial Circuit senior assistant district attorney, said he stepped from the courtroom Monday morning to inform the Poppell family about Wolford's absence. Soon thereafter, Prine learned about the death in Grady County.

Prine said Wolford's family was not present in the courtroom Monday morning.

Gil Murrah, a Bainbridge lawyer and Wolford's legal counsel, was in the Thomas County Judicial Center courtroom when information about the death was received. Murrah could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

A man who lives across the road from the death scene told the Times-Enterprise he was Wolford's brother, but had no information. Another man at the residence said the family had no comment.

The jury pool from which jurors would have been picked for the Wolford trial remained at the Judicial Center. Those chosen from the pool will serve on another jury this week.

Prine said a defendant's suicide on the day a trial was to begin is unprecedented in his career.

"It's a tragedy all the way around for everybody," he said.

Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820 

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