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Eppler death a suicide, DA says

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- The case concerning the death of 23-year-old Natalie Eppler is being closed after law enforcement officials say evidence determined her death was a suicide.

Her husband, James Eppler, a Marine, had been charged with murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in connection with her Feb. 20 death. The charges have now been dropped.

"There will be no further prosecution," said Dougherty Judicial Circuit District Attorney Greg Edwards. "The cause of death was likely a suicide."

Forensic analysis was done at the scene the night of the incident.

Prior to the fatal shooting, the couple had been engaged in heated arguments, which led authorities to initially treat the incident as a homicide investigation.

"Our position was that we had reasonable cause to make an arrest," Edwards said. "It is our job as prosecutors to investigate.

"There was reasonable doubt that Natalie had shot herself."

At the scene, detailed measurements were taken and an overall analysis completed by local officials, with the assistance of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Investigators also found gunshot residue on the victim, which indicated that she had been in close contact with the gun.

Natalie Eppler was also found to have had a "very high" blood-alcohol level, although Edwards would not give a specific number.

"(James Eppler) did give some indication that this might have been a suicide, but that itself is not a sole determinant," Edwards said. "We looked at the totality of circumstances, which show this was likely a suicide."

Natalie Eppler shot herself in the upper right side of her head with a .40 caliber handgun. Following the dismissal of the case, her husband was released from the Dougherty County Jail at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

On the night of the incident, the Albany Police Department responded to a domestic disturbance call at 1:38 a.m. at 2205 W. Gordon Ave. Natalie Eppler was pronounced dead at 2:44 a.m., and James Eppler was taken to the Dougherty County Jail.