“We were out here Tuesday and we came back out (Wednesday) morning,” said Capt. Tony Ranieri, public information officer for the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office, who also leads the UERT. “This morning became a boat operation. It took us a while, but we finally found the victim - they found him at the bottom of the lake. We recovered the body and turned it over to the Henry County Police Department and the Henry County coroner. I’m obviously proud of the team - they did a great job.”
Capt. Jason Bolton, public information officer for the Henry County Police Department, also was at the lake at the time the victim’s body was recovered.
“We can’t thank the Pike/Spalding Underwater Evidence Recovery Team enough for all their hard work this week. Divers from the UERT recovered the body of Stephen Early Edwards around 3:15 p.m.,” Bolton said. “Mr. Edwards was wearing clothes that matched the description provided by his family when he disappeared Thursday.”
Bolton went on to say that the investigation into a possible cause of death is ongoing.
“There is still no evidence to suggest foul play. We will wait for the results of the autopsy to provide the exact cause of death and hopefully we’ll get that scheduled for (today),” Bolton said. “Hopefully we can get that set up with the medical examiner’s office (Wednesday night).”
Johnny Shuburte, the UERT member who located Edwards’ body, described the events which led to locating the victim.
“We were dragging behind the boat and I saw something I thought might be him - it really wasn’t easy to see. I thought at first that I saw his pants,” Shuburte said. “I reached out and grabbed it and it was a body. I came up and notified the dive boat that I had located him. We marked the spot and then worked to recover the body.”
Dr. Andrew Hartpence, the trainer for the UERT, said, “I’m really proud of the team. I’m glad they learned something that they were able to use in the operation this week.”
Family members and friends of the victim, who gathered along the shore periodically throughout the day, were told of the UERT discovery by Henry County police officials at approximately 3:30 p.m.
“The family has been notified,” Bolton said. “Detectives stayed with the family throughout the recovery this afternoon. The family is obviously upset and that’s all I know at this time.”
Ranieri is hopeful that the UERT efforts will offer some measure of comfort to the victim’s loved ones.
“We would like to send our condolences to the family and friends,” he said. “Maybe this will put some closure to what has happened.”