ALBANY — Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said the death of Georgia Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss has been determined to be a suicide.
Goss' body was sent to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab, where an autopsy was performed at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning. Fowler announced the results of the autopsy in a midday news conference.
The Albany Police Department said Saturday morning that Goss died from a single gunshot wound in a wooded area on the 600 block of Greenwood Drive.
Fowler arrived on scene shortly after police, as did investigators from the GBI. Amid speculation on social media as to what happened to Goss, Fowler stated clearly that special care was taken to investigate the incident thoroughly.
"I would like for (the public) to trust the investigation," the coroner said. "We did not rush through this. We took our time and went through it. It is a suicide; it is not a homicide. I just think we need to keep the family in prayer.
"I would not put something out there that is not true."
The APD sent out a news brief just before 10 a.m. Saturday saying it had been dispatched to the scene at 8:11 a.m.
Goss, who’d served as judge in Dougherty Superior Court for 19 years after being appointed to that position in 1999, was named to the Georgia Court of Appeals by then-Gov. Nathan Deal on Aug. 1, 2018. He’d been re-elected to his post as Superior Court judge five times after being appointed to the position by Gov. Roy Barnes.
“Judge Goss was a man who brought so much dignity and compassion to the delivery of justice all across this great state," Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton said upon learning of Goss' death. "He was a national figure, known for his work on mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. His legacy is as great as our sense of loss.
"Our Court and this state's judiciary express our profound condolences to the Goss family.”
A University of Georgia Law School graduate, Goss was a partner in the Watson Spence Lowe and Chambless and Cannon, Meyer von Bremen and Goss law firms before being appointed as Dougherty Circuit Juvenile Court judge in 1995. He served in that court until being appointed to an open Dougherty Superior Court judgeship in 1999 by Barnes.
Georgia House of Representatives Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, was also among those to issue a statement on the judge's passing.
“Judge Goss exemplified the highest standards of integrity and character in a distinguished career of service," Ralston said. "He showed us all that civility and kindness still count in public service. Above all, Steve was a friend.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends.”
A native of Sale City in Mitchell County, Goss graduated from the University of Georgia in 1983 and from the UGA Law School in 1986. He was lauded nationwide as the founder of the Dougherty Superior Court Mental Health/Substance Abuse treatment program that evolved into the Mental Health Court that became a nationwide model.
Goss was married to the former Dee Collins of Mitchell County. She taught middle school in Albany for 33 years. The Gosses have two daughters, Collins and Clark, and a son, Clint.
Carlton Fletcher contributed to this report