ABI joins Rice death investigation

Published 1:14 am Wednesday, December 9, 2009

By By Adam Prestridge
The investigation into the death of Atmore dentist Thomas Alvin Rice Jr. took a turn Monday as agents with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation joined forces with county investigators.
Sheriff Grover Smith said he decided to call the ABI in for assistance after members of Rice’s family were troubled by the case.
An agent with the ABI was sent to Escambia County Monday morning to go over the case with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office after Smith contacted them last week.
Smith believes having an agency outside the local law enforcement agency is beneficial.
Deputies with the ECSO discovered the 53-year-old dentist dead from a single gunshot wound to the head at his home on Maple Wood Drive off U.S. 31 in Nokomis the evening of Nov. 21. Although evidence from the scene points to a self-inflicted wound, Smith said all deaths are treated as homicide until forensic evidence disproves that foul play was involved. He said initial evidence indicates that no one else was involved in the shooting.
That evidence may take several months to be processed and examined, Smith said.
Smith added that the sheriff’s office has also not received the autopsy results from the Alabama Department of Forensic Science in Mobile.
As for how long the investigation will continue, Smith did not indicate a timeframe.
After the case is reviewed by the district attorney and he is satisfied with the evidence presented, the case would then be turned over to the grand jury.

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