Search ends with discovery of body

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By Toni Stauffer

After six months of searching and speculation, Samuel “Sammy” Berry Hewitt Jr.’s body was discovered Sunday, Nov. 18 in his vehicle by a Hewitt family friend out hunting on the family’s 100-acre property in Cottonton, Ala.

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor announced at a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 19 that the manner of death appeared to be a suicide by self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Hewitt Jr. last spoke to his father on Thursday, May 17. Surveillance showed him buying drinks at a CVS on Macon Road near Cross Country Plaza the next day, but after then he seemingly disappeared. His family filed a missing person report with the Columbus Police Department on May 22.

Rumors of what could have happened to 50-year-old Hewitt, Jr. had run wild in his absence. His father speculated that his son’s gambling had somehow caught up with him. He offered at $25,000 reward for any information leading to the whereabouts of his son.

Hewitt Jr.’s truck, a black, 2016 GMC Sierra pickup, was found “in a location I’m not sure anybody would have found other than Sam himself, or potentially his immediate family,” said Sheriff Taylor. “The vehicle was specifically put there, in my opinion, by him, and that is where he liked to hunt.”

The preliminary investigation conducted at the scene revealed that the truck had been left running until it ran out of gas and the battery died, the latter which prevented location by pinging from Onstar Emergency Services.

Hewitt Jr. was found wearing the same clothes he’d been wearing on the surveillance footage from May 18. The doors to the truck were locked and his wallet with all of his identification were with the body.

The gun, purchased by Hewitt Jr. on Jan. 29 in 2016, was found in his lap and no suicide note has been found.  His body is now at the Alabama Forensic Crime Lab for an autopsy where toxicology reports will be generated.

After six long months of searching and wondering, the Hewitt family can finally rest.

“Today is about closure for this family,” said Sheriff Taylor. “Certainly, we wished we could have found him alive, but at least there is closure so that this family can move forward and have some peace that they know where their loved one is and they know what happened and they can move on.”