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Jonesboro police investigating discovery of body inside vacant building

Jonesboro police run a generator to light up the inside of a vacant building where a body was found Wednesday morning. Chief Franklin Allen said the man fell 60 feet while stealing wires from the ceiling. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

Jonesboro police run a generator to light up the inside of a vacant building where a body was found Wednesday morning. Chief Franklin Allen said the man fell 60 feet while stealing wires from the ceiling. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

JONESBORO — Jonesboro police Chief Franklin Allen said a body found inside an abandoned building Wednesday has been identified.

Allen said Thursday afternoon that the man found inside a vacant building on Tara Boulevard was Evan Pierce Gray, 43, of 2851 Kevin Lane in Jonesboro. He was not homeless as first suspected, said Allen. Gray lived about six miles from the building.

Allen said Gray fell about 60 feet from the ceiling while cutting wires inside the building. An autopsy performed by Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab confirmed Allen’s first suspicions.

“They said his death was accidental and that he did fall,” he said. “He had severe trauma to his head.”

Allen said the tip leading police to the body came from a man arrested Wednesday morning on a Newton County warrant.

“He was being locked up in the Clayton County Jail and told detectives that he was in fear for his life, that he’d been threatened,” said Allen. “He went on to say that he knew there had been a lot of break-ins at this building and someone needed to check inside.”

The building, which most recently housed Hoops and Fitness, is on Tara Boulevard across from the Family Dollar complex and a couple of businesses south of Wendy’s.

Clayton County police contacted Jonesboro police about 11:25 a.m. Wednesday. A Jonesboro police detective was dispatched to check the building and found an open door, said Allen.

“While he was checking the building, he found the guy,” he said.

Allen said the man was underneath a portion of the 60-feet high ceiling where someone had been cutting wires.

“There were gloves and other stuff, and pipes that look like he might have hit them while possibly falling,” he said. “We have no reason to suspect foul play but we need to determine if it was an accident or foul play before we say for sure.”

Police interviewed several witnesses at the scene.

Allen said the cavernous vacant building has been a draw for the homeless and thieves scavenging for copper and wire to sell to recycling centers.

“We’ve had numerous break-ins here,” he said Wednesday. “We’re going to follow up with the owners to see about getting this building better secured to keep the break-ins from happening again.”

Allen said Thursday that property management officials have been notified and are taking steps to better the secure the bulding against break-ins.

Allen said no suspicious vehicles were found near the building when the body was discovered.

“They break in, carry out armloads of wire and carry it to the recycling center,” he said. “The closest one to here is probably the one in Morrow.”

The distance to the recycling center could mean there are others involved in the break-in, even if the man’s death was accidental. Someone may have dropped off the man and planned to return to drive him to sell the wire.

However, Allen said that will likely be impossible to prove.

“I seriously doubt we’d be able to get evidence to prove anyone else was there with him,” he said.