EATONTON, Ga. — A man whose body was found in the bed of a pickup truck in Putnam County Thursday afternoon has been identified by authorities.
Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills identified the man as 48-year-old John Martin of Buckhead in Morgan County.
Martin, who was a U.S. Army veteran of Desert Storm, had a history of mental health issues, Sills told The Union-Recorder.
“We’re investigating this death, like we do all other deaths, as if it were a homicide until we can determine for sure the cause of death,” Sills said. “We treat all death investigations objectively as if it were a homicide. Given the history of everything we’ve learned about this individual in the last (several hours), there’s certainly more than a propensity that this was a suicide.”
The sheriff said Martin’s body has been sent to the Georgia Bureau Investigation Crime Laboratory in Decatur to determine the exact cause of his death.
Putnam County Coroner Gary McElhaney and Deputy Coroner Brian Hicks, along with assistance from detectives with the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, removed the body from the pickup truck and into a coroner’s vehicle shortly after 6:30 p.m.
An autopsy was expected to be performed Friday morning.
Sills said Martin’s body was found in the bed of his charcoal colored Dodge Ram pickup truck Thursday shortly before 2:30 p.m. The body had a stab wound to the chest.
The sheriff said the body was found about a tenth of a mile off Ga. Route 212.
“We know the pickup truck had been there since around 11 a.m. Wednesday,” Sills said. “It’s a very rural area of Putnam County near the Jasper County line.”
It was found in a wooded area off a dirt road known as Checking Station Road.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has an old house along the road that is used for hunters to check in when they go hunting in the wildlife management area.
“There were some UGA grad students down there doing some sort of research, and that’s how we know how long the truck had been there,” Sills said. “They saw it (Wednesday) and they saw it (Thursday).”
The truck had been left partially in the roadway, the sheriff said, noting no one lives on the road leading into the state wildlife management area.
A DNR wildlife management technician learned of the truck and found Martin’s body in the bed of the truck, Sills said. The technician notified a state ranger with the law enforcement division before the sheriff’s office was called.
Sills said the pickup truck was taken to the sheriff’s office where it was thoroughly processed for evidence.
Martin had not been reported as missing, Sills said.
“We know he left home in a disturbed state of mind several days ago,” Sills said. “It appears he had been camping somewhere in the Oconee National Forest, which is a very large place.”
DNR rangers, along with rangers with the U.S. Forestry Service Law Enforcement Division, are checking campsites to see if they can find any evidence of the victim having camped in the area, Sills said.
Martin had a trailer full of camping equipment and his truck was full of it, too, the sheriff said.