Sheriff Alfonzo Williams is offering a reward to anyone who can supply him with information that leads to the arrest of anyone connected to the death of Reese Hatcher, found dead in 1965.
Reese’s daughter, Mildred Hatcher Bates, reconnected with childhood friends as part of the Jones Avenue revitalization movement. She and local resident Rose Bell approached Williams in October 2021 about looking into the circumstances surrounding
Mildred’s dad’s death. Williams began his investigation by contacting The True Citizen.
A February 10, 1965, article stated 68-year-old Reese was found dead under a railroad trestle over McIntosh Creek. He had been missing from his home and place of employment for three days. Hatcher was employed by Dr. J. M. Byne as a gardener and office janitor. Burke CountySheriffOJCliettsaidhis department found no evidence of foul play and believed the death was a result of an accidental fall from the trestle. He said the investigation showed Reese had been drinking.
However in a 1965 interview, Byne weighed in and stated that he did not believe the death was accidental. He described Reese as “honest, reliable, faithful and not given to drunkenness.” The article states that Byne said an examination showed a broken neck and nose, a damaged liver and a ruptured spleen, injuries that he felt could not have resulted from a simple fall. The family told Williams that the area where Reese was found was not an area he frequented. It was not close to his residence and Reese did not drive.
“I never saw him drink when I was a kid,” Mildred told The True Citizen Tuesday. She was 23 years old when she attended his funeral that included a 21-gun salute since Reese was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1918.
Neighbors told the family at the time of the death that they heard tires screeching and food was left on Reese’s stove, Mildred said.
“They have always had some concern that Mr. Hatcher did not fall from a trestle during a drunken stupor,” Williams said of the Hatcher family. “They believe that he was murdered. It has plagued them all these years that they have never gotten real answers about what happened to him.”
No police reports exist and the coroner’s office has no investigative reports, Williams said. However, based on the archived article, Williams was able to contact the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and obtain a copy of the autopsy report. The Probate Court supplied the Sheriff with a copy of Reese’s death certificate.
Williams is hoping some attention will prompt someone to come forward with either first-hand knowledge or a handed-down story that will lead to an arrest and closure for the family.
“We are willing to put a $10,000 reward out there for information that leads to an arrest for the person responsible for Reese Hatcher’s death,” Williams said.
Anyone with information should contact the BCSO Criminal Investigations Division at 706-554-2133. Callers can remain anonymous.