Whitley County authorities have officially ruled that an Ohio man, who was found shot in the Laurel River Lake spillway this past July, took his own life.
“It has officially been ruled as a self-inflicted gunshot wound following an intense investigation by the Whitley County Major Crimes Task Force,” said Whitley County Coroner Andy Croley. “The medical examiner concluded that it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound based upon other certain tests that were done.”
Randall L. Newport, 46, was found dead about 8:15 a.m. on July 27, near the spillway by an elderly couple, who were out for a morning walk.
Authorities said he had probably been in the water for eight to 10 hours.
Croley said several factors went into the ruling, including previous suicide attempts by Newport and the fact that he had recently purchased a gun.
“His wife died within a year of his death. Laurel Lake was a place that they had traveled together,” Croley said. “I can’t tell you why he came to Laurel Lake or Whitley County. There was definitely a reason why he stopped at Laurel Lake and there at the dam.”
Croley said law enforcement officers had been working under the theory that Newport killed himself for some time now, but waited until everything else had been eliminated before making the official ruling.
Robbery or some type of drug transaction was ruled out early in the investigation.
Croley said that it’s not necessarily unusual for someone to kill himself or herself in a public place.
Newport’s July 27 death marked the second suicide to take place at Laurel Lake within 13 months.
On July 4, 2003, Croley pronounced Timothy B. Rapp, 36, of Toledo, Ohio, dead at 6:45 a.m. at the High Top Boat Ramp parking lot.
Rapp died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and the exhaust pipe of his minivan had been clogged up with a pipe running from it into the back window of the minivan.
At the time of his death, Rapp was supposed to be under house arrest.
“He had cut his ankle bracelet off. He was facing a sex charge up there the following week. We called the people, who were working the case,” said Sheriff Lawrence Hodge. “Evidently, he had taken off, and gone to Gatlinburg. He just came back by, and didn’t want to face whatever it was up there I guess.”
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