John G. Wilbanks Jr., former assistant district attorney for Dawson County, was found dead at his vacation home in Fernandina Beach, Fla., from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was 57.
The news came following a rapid timeline of events, from Wilbanks being fired from his job on Monday, Dec. 10, to the confirmation of a state investigation on Thursday, Dec. 13.
Wilbanks had been escorted off the premises of the Government Center on Monday of last week. District Attorney Lee Darragh had then confirmed that Wilbanks would not be returning to work. Wilbanks had been with the office for several years, Darragh said.
Before the news of Wilbanks death on Thursday, John Bankhead, spokesperson for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, confirmed that the GBI had been requested to conduct an investigation on an assistant DA in Dawson County. I cant mention any names, Bankhead had said at the time, but yes, we were requested by a superior court judge to investigate certain allegations.
Hours later, Wilbanks was confirmed dead by the Fernandina Beach Police Department.
According to the incident report, shortly after 7 a.m. Dec. 13, the Nassau County Sheriffs Office in Florida received a 911 call from a male advising that he was about to commit suicide, and said, Do not resuscitate. He then hung up.
Shortly after that phone call, another call was placed from Col. Wayne Mock with the Gainesville Police Department, who advised the department that he believed his friend, John Wilbanks, was in our city and was contemplating suicide and that he had learned this from Johns wife Deborah, the report states.
Deborah Wilbanks was then called by the Fernandina police. She confirmed that she, along with their two sons, had received text messages from Wilbanks.
The Florida police investigated the Wilbanks vacation home, but he was not located. The search led the police to the beach, where Wilbanks body was found.
An investigation is ongoing, but a press release from the Fernandina Beach Police Department states that the preliminary investigation indicates that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted and there is no indication of foul play.
Bankhead said that Wilbanks death effectively closed out the GBIs investigation.
Mr. Wilbanks was a dedicated public servant with a decadeslong history of effective prosecution and the administration of justice, and his life should be honored without regard to the investigation being reported, Darragh said in a released statement.
Details of the GBI investigation and of Wilbanks dismissal from his job have not been confirmed by either the GBI or the district attorneys office. He was involved in a Nov. 19 incident that led to the arrest of William Lee Evans of Jasper on a charge of disorderly conduct.
The arrest warrant reads: William Lee Evans did act in a violent manner toward the person of John Wilbanks, by swinging his fists toward John Wilbanks and placing John Wilbanks in reasonable fear of the safety of his life, limb, or health.
It is not known whether or not this particular incident had anything to do with the end of Wilbanks tenure with the DAs office.
Evans son, Cody Evans, of Jasper, also was arrested in the incident for driving with an expired license.
Bankhead said that no further information could be provided, but that more information is expected to be released soon.
As far as the circumstances surrounding Wilbanks dismissal, Darragh said it would be inappropriate for him to comment at this time. Darragh did confirm that the cases Wilbanks was in charge of had been redistributed.
Adjustments have already been made to ensure that the work of the DAs office will continue in a timely and efficient manner, he said.
Darragh did confirm that the district attorneys office will not handle the case. I have decided that I would recuse myself from all matters concerning Mr. Wilbanks as a victim or otherwise, he said.
Dawson News & Advertiser Publisher/Editor Kimberly Boim contributed to this article.