THOMASVILLE — A Thomasville attorney found dead at his home early Wednesday afternoon is believed to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Walter Van Heiningen, who was in the private practice of law at 508 N. Broad St. for many years, was pronounced dead at 2:32 p.m. Wednesday at his 219 Edgewood Drive residence.

A witness heard a gunshot at 1 p.m. Police and emergency medical personnel responded.

“Somebody was checking on him and found him,” said Sgt. Ricky Singletary, Thomasville Police Department public information officer.

Van Heiningen, 59, left his office about noon. His secretary found his body in the back yard, Singletary said.

The gunshot wound appears to be self-inflicted, said Thomas County Coroner Sam Brown.

An autopsy is to be performed today at the state crime lab in Moultrie.

“A firearm was found,” Brown said, although neither he nor police would say where the firearm was found. The weapon was a pistol.

“No foul play is suspected,” Singletary said.

Van Heiningen lived alone and was at home alone when he died.

“He was a fine gentleman and a fine lawyer, and we will miss him very much,” said Roy M. Lilly, longtime Thomasville lawyer and Superior Court judge, now a senior judge.

Thomas County Sheriff Carlton Powell had known Van Heiningen since he came to Thomasville to practice law more than 25 years ago.

“Walter was always cordial to me and supportive of me,” Powell said Wednesday.

Referring to Van Heiningen as a friend, the sheriff said, “We worked well together.”

David Hutchings, longtime Thomas County clerk of court, was saddened by Van Heiningen’s death.

“I’m profoundly sad,” he said.

Van Heiningen possessed many good qualities, Hutchings explained.

“I thought he was a fine lawyer,” he added.

“He was a good a lawyer, a funny guy, a smart guy,” Hutchings said.

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