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Missing Social Circle man found dead

SOCIAL CIRCLE -- The search for a missing Social Circle man ended early Thursday morning when authorities found his body in a wooded area off Memorial Drive.

Social Circle Public Safety Director Tom Fox said Jim Welch, 64, was found dead around 12:20 a.m. Thursday.

"The cause of death appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Fox said, adding that a gun was found next to his body and a suicide note was found in his wallet.

Fox said that Welch was last seen around 11 a.m. Tuesday. When Welch hadn't returned home, his wife reported him missing around 3 p.m. She was concerned that he may have become disoriented and wandered off, Fox said.

Fox said the Social Circle Public Safety Department issued a Mattie's Call, an emergency missing alert for disabled or elderly persons. He said the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Walton County Sheriff's Office, Walton County Fire Department, Walton County Emergency Management Agency and the Georgia State Patrol assisted in the search. Teams used four-wheelers to search the wooded areas and GSP used a helicopter in the search.

A volunteer search and rescue organization, Alpha Team, also provided K9 units to help find Welch. Fox said a Social Circle public safety officer and a member of the Alpha Team located Welch's body.

"I want to thank all the agencies that were involved with the search. Sadly, it resulted in an unfortunate outcome," Fox said.