Body found in Appalachia; police looking for links to threatening phone calls

Mike Still • Sep 8, 2019 at 6:45 PM

APPALACHIA — Wise County, state and federal investigators are still looking for links between a string of threatening phone calls after midnight Sunday and the discovery of a dead man in Appalachia later that morning.

County deputies and Appalachia police responded around 10 a.m. after a family member reported a man in his early-to-mid 20s dead in his apartment bedroom in the Inman Village complex, according to Wise County Sheriff’s Department Col. Grant Kilgore.

Kilgore said that discovery followed more than five hours of searching around Inman Village and East Stone Gap for the source of at least eight phone calls a county dispatcher received starting around 12:30 a.m., in which an unidentified man said he was going to kill his girlfriend.

“During the first or second call, he gave a 20-minute countdown before he said he was going to kill her,” Kilgore said.

Deputies and police went to the complex, approaching on foot when they heard a single gunshot, Kilgore said. After at least three searches of the complex and another search in the East Stone Gap area near Big Stone Gap lasting until 6 a.m., the officers left after finding no signs of the caller or any victims, he said.

About four hours later, dispatchers got the report of the dead man.

A small-caliber pistol was recovered at the man’s apartment and appeared to have been fired at least once, Kilgore said. No signs of anyone else being shot or injured were found at the scene. Appalachia Fire and Rescue workers removed the body by 1 p.m. so it could be sent to the state medical examiner’s office in Roanoke for an autopsy.

Kilgore said it was possible that the man was connected with the calls, but investigators are still looking for a definite link.

“We recovered several electronic devices, but we’re still in the process of getting warrants to examine them,” Kilgore said, declining to specify what the devices were.

The victim’s name is being withheld as the investigation continues, Kilgore said. Officers from the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Conservation Police; Virginia State Police; Appalachia, Big Stone Gap and Norton police departments and the U.S. Marshal Service are assisting with the investigation.