When experienced hunter Jeff Gebhardt went missing from the Clarks Hill Wildlife Management Area on September 22, 2012, officials and his loved ones hoped for his safe return. However, officials sent in to locate Jeff the following day found him violently murdered inside a clearing. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Still a Mystery: What the Trees Know’ chronicles the gruesome murder and follows the investigation that tried its best to get to the bottom of the incident. Let’s delve into the details surrounding the crime and find out more, shall we?
How Did Jeff Gebhardt Die?
A native of Winter Haven, Florida, Jeffrey “Jeff” Gebhardt was just 35 at the time of his death. He lived in Blairsville, Georgia, and loved leading an active and outdoorsy life. While people who knew Jeff described him as a devout Catholic who attended the St. Francis Catholic Church regularly, he earned a living by working as a butcher at the Chambers Slaughter House. Yet, since he loved the outdoors, he enjoyed going out on long runs and camping outside for days. Besides, Jeff was a pretty experienced hunter and was well aware of the woods’ dangers.
Hence, it was rather strange when Jeff went missing during an early-season deer hunt in September 2012, and his well-wishers hoped for his safe return. By the evening of September 22, authorities in and around Blairsville were aware of his disappearance. They began organizing search parties to comb through every inch of the Clarks Hill Wildlife Management Area. Subsequently, the police were joined by local volunteers, and they began making headway into the wooded area in the early hours of September 23.
Although the search was tough initially, authorities sent out a helicopter equipped with GPS and heat-seeking technology, eventually locating the victim’s body. Still, it was apparent that Jeff was not alive as he lay in a pool of blood in the middle of a clearing, with several prominent bruises all over his body. Incidentally, the police chose not to disclose the autopsy’s findings but soon announced that his death was being treated as a homicide. Nevertheless, only about a year into the investigation, the police revealed how Jeff was stabbed upwards of 17 times all over his body, which led to his death.
Who Killed Jeff Gebhardt?
The investigation into Jeff Gebhardt’s murder was highly challenging as the police did not have any witnesses or lead to work with. Although they canvassed the location where the body was found and thoroughly searched the crime scene, they found no evidence that could lead to an immediate suspect. On top of it, since the area was extremely remote, the police knew they could not depend on witnesses, as there were likely to be none. Nevertheless, once law enforcement officials questioned several of the victim’s acquaintances, they learned about his expert hunting skills and knowledge of the local woods.
Moreover, the acquaintances insisted that it was pretty uncharacteristic of Jeff to get lost on his own, as he was too experienced to lose his way and die suddenly. As a result, the investigators initially suspected that the victim was ambushed and killed by a separate attacker. Throughout the investigation, the police revealed next to no information to the media, and the public had no idea if the homicide was being worked on. As a result, people began panicking about a killer roaming free in the woods, and terror gripped the small town of Blairsville for quite a while.
In the meantime, the police managed to recover a knife they believed was the murder weapon and even revealed that they found two hunting rifles beside Jeff’s body on the day he was located. On top of it, the show mentioned that he had been allegedly living with depression for quite some time, and once the authorities got wind of it, they also explored if the incident could have been a death by suicide. Eventually, in November of 2012, the then-Georgia State Medical Examiner went through every bit of the information collected by authorities before determining that Jeff had died by suicide.
This finding and the rest of the information were brought in front of a grand jury, which officially ruled the incident as death by suicide in August 2023. Since then, the case hasn’t witnessed much progress, even though most of Jeff’s loved ones still insist that the hunter did not take his own life. Furthermore, they mentioned that even if he was in trouble, he knew how and where to cut to set himself free and would never stab himself more than seventeen times in any situation. Nevertheless, the official record claims that Jeff Gebhardt died by suicide, and the homicide investigation has been called off.
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