Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 29, 2013

Rusk man dies in front of local church

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

RUSK — 12:38 p.m. -

 A 42-year-old man with a troubled past was found dead Friday morning directly in front of Memorial Missionary Baptist Church in the 900 block of Crockett Street.

Rusk authorities declined to speculate about the cause of the man's death after they recovered his body at the church about 6:30 a.m. They immediately sent it for autopsy to to the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.

In a news release, Rusk Police Lt. Brad George said an investigation into the death is ongoing and no other information was being released as of Friday, including whether there was a weapon recovered at the scene.  Members of the Rusk Police Department were unavailable for additional comment because their office was closed for Good Friday. Calls to dispatchers were bounced to the Rusk Fire Department.

Apparently standing directly underneath a severely-frayed American flag when he died, the Rusk resident is believed to have been suffering from some sort of hallucinatory episode — seeing “demons” — at the time of his death, according to relatives who live next door to the church.

Because of the nature of his death, the man is not being identified by the Jacksonville Daily Progress. He was apparently standing right next to the sign directly in front of the church when he is believed to have killed himself.

“We're pretty sure it was a gunshot because our family has a .22 missing,” said a male relative who lives next door to the church. “We think he was detoxing from alcohol or something because he kept praying to God and hallucinating.”

Members of the family awoke Friday to find the entire church surrounded with yellow crime scene tape. That tape had been removed  as of late Friday morning., The man had apparently been having the episodes for awhile because he was shuffled around to at least two family members, they said.

The church's listed pastor, Odis Bryan,  said he did not know the man, although he spoke with a relative of his. The relative also indicated the man was having problems dealing with hallucinations. He said the man had been hopeful he could be admitted into a drug or alcohol treatment program.

Bryan said when he came upon the taped-off scene, he noticed there was blood pooling on the man's chest in front of his shirt, which he didn't believe would have been consistent with a gunshot wound.

Bryan said he came by his church later in the day with some sand and dirt to cover up the blood left on the ground.