Panola County Sheriff Dead Of Apparent Suicide

AP – Panola County Sheriff Hugh Bright died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Sunday while at his girlfriend's Batesville home, officials said.

Neither Batesville police nor the Panola County Sheriff's Department returned calls.

About 2 p.m. Sunday, authorities were called to a home on College Street, Coroner Gracie Guledge said. She wouldn't comment further.

Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey said Bright killed himself while at the home of his girlfriend, shortly after spending the morning with his wife.

"He went to church with his wife, then they had Sunday dinner at the country club and they say he seemed normal," Autrey said. "It's kind of a mystery how and why this happened. I don't know what all was going on in his head."

Autrey said it was common knowledge in the community that Bright had a girlfriend. He said authorities have questioned the woman.

"I don't know if this is domestic or stress from the job," the mayor said.

The Panola County district attorney's office and the Sheriff's Department have scheduled a news conference at 11 a.m. today to discuss Bright's death.

Bright was elected to serve the final two years of the tem of former Sheriff David Bryan, who died of cancer in 2005. Bright was elected in 2007.

Prior to becoming sheriff, Bright served more that 20 years with the Sheriff's Department and was the jail administrator for a number of years.

"He did a good job. He used inmate labor to build things in the county, clean up our streets and for road projects. He came up with a lot of good programs," Autrey said.

Panola County Supervisor William Waldrup said Bryan groomed Bright to lead the department.

He said Bright's death is a shock for the county because he was such a well-liked person.

"I can never wrap my mind around something this tragic. This goes beyond my realm of thinking," Waldrup said.

Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Jon Kalahar said local authorities have not asked for state officials to assist in the investigation.

Holmes County Sheriff Willie March, president of the Mississippi Sheriff's Association, said he plans to meet with a chaplain so they can pray with Bright's family.

"When something like this happens, you can't lean on your own understanding," March said.