GRIFFIN, Ga. — Spalding County Sheriff Dee Stewart died early Sunday, likely from complications from injuries suffered in a car crash last month, the county coroner said.
Coroner Sonny Foster said Stewart was pronounced dead at 4:09 a.m. Sunday. He was 63. Stewart had been in the hospital since the wreck on June 23 and likely died of "complications that he couldn't overcome," Foster said.
Authorities have said the sheriff pulled onto Highway 1941 in Griffin the day the wreck happened. His grandson, Deputy Chad Gasaway, was heading north on the highway in his personal vehicle when they collided. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation later determined the sheriff failed to yield while attempting to cross the roadway, WSB-TV reported.
Authorities said Gasaway suffered minor injuries. He has returned to duty after a brief absence to recuperate, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Foster said he and Stewart both entered office in 2000, and he was greatly saddened by Stewart's death.
"It's like losing a brother," he said.
Bill Taylor, who owns and runs WKEU, grew up with Stewart and told WSB-TV it broke his heart to take to the airwaves to share the news of his friend's death.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever done. It was the hardest thing they've done because it was such a dear friend plus a cornerstone of our community," Taylor said.
The sheriff had served his community for nearly four decades. He was re-elected to a third four-year term in 2008. Before being elected sheriff, he was a member of the Griffin police force.
"The story is, if you've been in Spalding County more than 15 minutes, you've got a Dee Stewart story," friend Dave Phillips said.
Taylor said Stewart always tried to help members of the community.
"Seen him in the courthouse one day and a little girl was crying. He asked her what was wrong and she said her mother and father were getting a divorce and she had lost her dog. And the next day, she had a dog. Dee was that kind of guy," Taylor said
Foster said funeral arrangements likely wouldn't be made until later in the week.