Coro­ner fea­tured in ‘Mid­night in the Gar­den’ book dies at 88

Antelope Valley Press - - WEATHER/OBITUARIES - By RUSS BYNUM

SA­VAN­NAH, Ga. — Dr. James C. Metts Jr., a Sa­van­nah physi­cian whose four decades serv­ing as an elected coro­ner earned him a small part in the best­selling book “Mid­night in the Gar­den of Good and Evil,” has died at age 88.

Metts died Mon­day at his Sa­van­nah home, where he had been un­der hospice care, Betty Ann Bran­nen of Bran­nen-Kennedy Fu­neral Homes said Wed­nes­day.

Dur­ing his 40 years as Chatham County coro­ner, Metts jug­gled a hec­tic sched­ule. By day, he worked as a physi­cian at a clinic treat­ing poor and unin­sured pa­tients. At night, and what­ever odd hours po­lice called him, he turned up at the scenes of homicides and other sus­pi­cious deaths in his role as coro­ner.

“With his prac­tice of medicine and the coro­ner’s job, Jimmy never slept very much,” Sa­van­nah at­tor­ney Sonny Seiler, a friend of Metts’ since kinder­garten, told The Associated Press in 2013. “You could find him al­most any time of day, but you weren’t go­ing to find him home in bed.”

Metts was first elected coro­ner when the job came open in 1972. He never faced op­po­si­tion for re-elec­tion, and re­signed from of­fice in 2012 at age 81.

He was fea­tured in a chap­ter of “Mid­night in the Gar­den of Good and Evil,” John Berendt’s 1994 non­fic­tion best­seller about a 1981 slay­ing that re­sulted in a Sa­van­nah an­tiques dealer stand­ing trial for the shoot­ing death of his young lover.

In the book, Metts de­scribes the crime scene to a de­fense at­tor­ney and says he feels sym­pa­thy for the ac­cused, con­sid­er­ing the vic­tim was ill-tem­pered and vit­ri­olic.

“Hell, I’d have shot Danny Hansford too,” the book quotes Metts as say­ing.

Metts abruptly re­signed as coro­ner in De­cem­ber 2012 af­ter county au­di­tors re­ported $141,000 in ques­tion­able pay­ments to Metts. He paid back the money and never faced charges.


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