Murder charges dropped against Albany Marine - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Murder charges dropped against Albany Marine

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Sgt. James Eppler was released from the Dougherty County jail Tuesday afternoon after a murder charge against him was dropped.

Evidence shows Natalie Eppler shot herself.

Now her husband is exonerated.  This all goes back to the night of February 20th.

The night investigators now say Natalie Eppler pulled the trigger and took her own life.

There was gunpowder residue on her hands, but none on the hands of her husband, who was standing nearby when the shot was fired.

Sgt. Eppler maintained silence throughout this ordeal, perhaps comforted by the knowledge that the truth would set him free.

Surprisingly this truth was known last week, and yet Sgt. Eppler was left to sit in jail until today.

Coroner Emma Quimbley told me Tuesday afternoon that she received the GBI Forensic report and declared Natalie Eppler's death a suicide last week. District Attorney Greg Edwards waited until today to go public with the news that Eppler was falsely accused and should be released from jail.

February 20th Albany Police found 23 year old Natalie Eppler shot in the head at their home on West Gordon Avenue. Sgt. James Eppler was the only other person in the home, and he said his wife shot herself, but he was arrested. Tuesday District Attorney Greg Edwards did not apologize.

 Edwards said "This is not a matter where anybody was wrongfully accused. Our position is there was probable cause to make an arrest as based on the circumstances."

Investigators say the Epplers had been arguing and drinking at a club shortly before her death. She was shot once in the top of her head with a 40 caliber pistol.

Edwards today said he weighed all the evidence, including investigative reports from the GBI, NCIS, and the Forensic autopsy.

Edwards said "Mrs. Eppler was in a particular position. Other things found by the forensic pathologist, included the gunshot residue evidence, which indicated that she may have been in contact with the firearm. Also her blood alcohol level was very high, indicating she was intoxicated."

Sgt. James Eppler walked out of the Dougherty County jail just after 2:30, after close to three months behind bars charged with murder. The District Attorney said that the investigation is complete, but if needed he could be re-charged.

Edwards said "If there is anything else beyond what we have that is developed, there would be no prohibition about revisiting the situation."

Sgt. Eppler was picked up by Marine Base officials, and refused any comment.

Sgt. Eppler was returned to active duty status immediately by the Marine Corps, with no holds. As a Base official said, Eppler was presumed innocent unless he was convicted, so the Marine Corps will not make this an issue on his career.

District Attorney Greg Edwards said his office talked with Natalie Eppler's family in Ohio, to inform them about the investigation and that the murder charges were being dropped.

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