The shooting death of a Georgia Court of Appeals judge has been ruled a suicide, authorities said.
Stephen Goss, 60, was found shot once in a wooded area behind his Albany home Saturday morning. He was dead when Albany police arrived just after 8 a.m.
Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler on Monday said Goss died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Goss was appointed to the Court of Appeals in August 2018 by then Gov. Nathan Deal. Before that appointment, he had served as a Superior Court judge in Albany for nearly 20 years.
Following the news of his death, Gov. Brian Kemp offered his support to the Goss family.
“A native Georgian, trusted counsel, and man of integrity, Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Goss will be sorely missed by countless people across our state and nation,” Kemp said in a tweet. “The Kemp family asks God to give comfort to his loved ones, friends, and colleagues in this difficult time.”
Court of Appeals Chief Judge Christopher J. McFadden said the court and its staff were deeply saddened by the sudden death of their friend and colleague.
“He was a soft spoken, unassuming man,” McFadden said in a statement. “The more one got to know him, the more one grew to like and respect him. He was a judge to whom other judges turned for guidance, a nationally recognized expert on accountability courts. On a personal level, I had looked forward to a long and deepening friendship.”
Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold D. Melton also issued a statement of condolences.
“Judge Goss was a man who brought so much dignity and compassion to the delivery of justice all across this great state,” he said. “He was a national figure, known for his work on mental health and substance abuse treatment programs. His legacy is as great as our sense of loss. Our court and this state's judiciary express our profound condolences to the Goss family.”
In 2002, Goss founded the state’s first felony mental health court and substance abuse treatment program in Dougherty County. It was one of the early programs of its kind in the country, according to the Court of Appeals.
The program assists those with felony probation or pending felony charges, many of whom have a long history with substance abuse or diagnosed mental illness. For the past decade, the Dougherty County program has been a designated learning site for mental health courts, one of only four in the nation.
Goss is a former chairman of the Council of Accountability Court Judges of Georgia and has served on multiple state and national criminal justice committees.
A longtime friend, Judge Amanda Mercier served with Goss during his time on the Superior Court and later on the Court of Appeals.
“He was someone I considered a mentor for many years,” she said. “He exemplified everything an outstanding judge should be. But more importantly, he was one of the kindest, most thoughtful people I know. He quietly gave so much, and asked for nothing in return. He will be missed.”
Goss is survived by his wife, Dee Goss, a middle school humanities teacher. The couple has two daughters, Collins and Clark, and a son, Clint.
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