Got back from Alabama today

Friday, November 27th, 2009 by Rachel

Dentist’s death probed


By Adam Prestridge


Published: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 7:58 AM CST


Investigators with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office are treating the death of longtime Atmore dentist Thomas Alvin Rice Jr., DMD, who was found shot inside his home in Nokomis, as a homicide until evidence proves otherwise.


According to Sheriff Grover Smith, all deaths are treated as homicide until forensic evidence disproves that foul play was involved. He added that initial evidence indicates that no one else was involved in the shooting.


“All the evidence we have is consistent with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but it is way too early,” Smith said Tuesday afternoon. “We investigate every death as a homicide. We haven’t even got the report back from the pathologist.”


Deputies with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office were called to Rice’s home off Hwy. 31 in Nokomis just before 6 p.m. Saturday night where he was discovered dead from a single gunshot wound to the head.


“Right now we don’t have any evidence that indicates anything other than what it appears,” Smith said. “It’s still early in the investigation; there’s a lot people to talk to and we still need to get all of our reports in from the lab.”


Smith said investigators are primarily focused on people who had contact with Rice within 24 hours of his death. He also confirmed that there was a note found inside the home.


“There is a note,” Smith said. “We are going to compare handwriting samples to make sure it is his note and have it fingerprinted.”


Smith would not disclose the details of the note.


As for how long the investigation will continue, Smith did not indicate a timeframe.


“We will follow this case to its natural conclusion,” he said. “We will meet with the district attorney to review the evidence.”


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


“They will decide if anything goes further than that based on what evidence we have uncovered,” Smith said.


Smith added that there is no statute of limitations in cases involving death or homicide.


“So if something came up later, the case would be reopened,” he said.


Investigators are waiting on autopsy results from the Alabama Department of Forensic Science in Mobile.


Rice was a 1982 graduate of the University of Alabama and has practiced dentistry at 111 E. Ridgeley St. in Atmore for several years. He has held an active dental license in Alabama since June of 1982.


A memorial service for Dr. Rice, a celebration of his life, will be held for family and friends at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28 at Johnson-Quimby Funeral Home.

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