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EPD: Suspect killed himself

The search for a man wanted in connection with the death of his mother ended with the discovery of his body in a remote area of Unicoi County.
Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson told The Erwin Record that the body of James H. Peery, III, was found along the Nolichucky River, more than a mile from Unaka Springs, on Sunday, March 29. The body had been spotted by a kayaker who notified local law enforcement agencies.
When officers arrived at the scene, they found that Peery had died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Tilson said. Both EPD and Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department officers responded to the scene, which Tilson described as “very secluded.”
Tilson said Peery was identified using identification he had in his possession and items he had brought with him from the Laurel Avenue home in Erwin he shared with his mother, 73-year-old Helen Peery.
Tilson said James Peery had been camping at the location for an unknown span of time. He had camping gear with him as well as a police scanner.
His body has been sent for an autopsy, which should reveal his approximate time of death, Tilson also said.
After finding Peery’s body, officers continued to search for his 2001 Ford Expedition. Tilson said the vehicle was found by EPD officer Bill Rogers in an area known as No Business, approximately three-fourths of a mile from James Peery’s body on National Forest property. It had been driven over an embankment and hidden from view.
The vehicle was searched, during which a note written by Peery was discovered.
“The note detailed his role in the death of his mother and his intent to take his own life,” Tilson said.
Because of this, no one else is considered a suspect in the case.
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The search for James Peery began on Saturday, March 28, after the discovery of his mother’s body at their home. The time of death could not be determined. Peery’s body has been sent for an autopsy. Tilson said the results of both autopsies would not be available for several weeks.
Tilson said family members of the Peerys contacted local law enforcement and requested a welfare check on Helen and James because they had been unable to contact them.
A family member arrived at the residence with EPD officer Daryl Price at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning. When they arrived, they found the front door open and only Helen’s vehicle at the residence.
Tilson said Price and the family member found the living room of the home “in disarray” and made their way through the house to Helen’s bedroom. It was there where they found Helen’s body. She had been shot and officers were also certain it was a homicide, according to Tilson.
“There was evidence of a violent interaction in the room,” he also said.
Emergency medical personnel were called to the scene to verify the death. Another officer arrived and helped Price clear the house before investigative units, including two agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, arrived at the scene.
A search warrant for the residence was secured and officers began collecting “a lot of evidence,” Tilson said. This evidence was processed and sent to the TBI crime lab.
Evidence inside the Laurel Avenue residence led officers to want to speak to James, Tilson said.
“We felt like we needed to talk to him,” he added. “However, we were unable to locate him. We put out a ‘be on the lookout’ for him as a person of interest. We felt like he would have information material to the homicide.”
The search for James Peery continued throughout Saturday and into the evening. Officers attempted to contact him on his mobile phone on numerous occasions, but he never responded.
“We attempted to locate him by his phone, but it was turned off,” Tilson said.
On Sunday morning, before Peery’s body was found by the river, officers followed tips from citizens and continued the search.