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Athens social worker's shooting death remains a mystery two years later

Natania Sallah Jarrad

By Joe Johnson

Two years after an Athens social worker was killed by a gunshot wound to the head, authorities have yet to determine if the death of 30-year-old Natania Salah Jarrad was a homicide, suicide or accidental.

Jarrad was employed by Athens-based Advantage Behavioral Health Systems and she headed the agency’s Assertive Community Treatment Team. She was reportedly was found dead by her fiancé inside their home on Airport Road early the morning of June 17, 2018, according to Athens-Clarke County police.

“The manner of death has not been established. It is currently considered undetermined,” said Capt. Christopher Nichols, commanding officer of the Criminal Investigations Division. “We have not ruled out the three remaining manners of death: accident, homicide, or suicide.”

The manner of death was deemed to be undetermined by medical examiners at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s State Crime Lab, where an autopsy was conducted, and nothing investigators have since learned has changed that.

The shooting was reported at 3:02 a.m. by 36-year-old James Morris Anthony III, the victim’s fiancé with whom Jarrad lived at 330 Airport Road, according to a police incident report.

Anthony told a police communications officer that Jarrad had shot herself, according to the report.

The first responding officer noted in the report that upon arrival, Anthony ran out of the house asking the officer for help. 

“He pointed toward the house and when I entered I saw Natania Jarrad slouched in a white high back chair with (remainder of sentence redacted from the report). I noticed the gun laying between the chair and a small landing...” the officer wrote in the report.

He noted that he gave the gun to another officer to secure it “due to Mr. Anthony moving around the living room frantically.”

The officer then spoke to neighbors about what they saw.

One man said he was with his girlfriend in her car in the street when Anthony came out yelling to his other roommates, according to the report, which did not indicate what the Anthony had yelled.

Another witness said she was standing outside when she saw Anthony talking with (word or words omitted) in their yard “then go back to 330 and then return to 330 for a second time which is when he came back out yelling about Ms. Jarrad,” according to the report. “(The witness) stated she heard a pop that sounded like distant fireworks but could not remember if it was during the first time Mr. Anthony went back to 330 or after he had come back over.”

Anthony was questioned by police about Jarrad’s death and he told them it was a suicide, according to Anthony’s attorney, Adam Cain.

“He gave a recorded statement, with me present, that it was a suicide,” the attorney told Classic City News. “My client has cooperated with the investigation and provided a statement he had nothing to do with her death. We stand by the fact it was a suicide.”

Nichols would not say if the scene inside Jarrad’s home suggested the woman’s fatal wound had been self-inflicted, nor would he say whether gunshot residue was found on either of her hands and if the wound was located in an area of her head that would be consistent with Jarrad’s dominant-usage hand. The police official also would not say if anyone interviewed as part of the investigation indicated that Jarrad had been depressed or suicidal.

Two years later, “These questions remain under investigation,” Nichols said.

According to Jarrad’s LinkedIn profile, the University of Georgia graduate began working with people who with serious mental illness in 2012, when she interned with the Western Judicial Circuit’s Treatment and Accountability Court.

The Advantage ACT team that Jarrad headed at the time of her death provided community-based mental health care for individuals experiencing serious mental illness that interferes with their ability to live in the community. ACT team members make home visits to make sure clients are taking care of themselves, accompany them to appointments with professionals in clinics and hospitals, and help manage mental health symptoms.

When asked if Jarrad could have been killed by a current or former client, Nichols responded, “While we have not completely ruled out any possibilities, we do not believe it was likely that a client was involved in Ms. Jarrad’s death.”

According to Cain, Anthony’s attorney, his client suffers from mental illness but was never one of Jarrad’s clients.

“It was a romantic relationship,” Cain said.

Cain has raised the issue of Anthony’s mental competency in relation to a pending court case that is an offshoot of the Jarrad death investigation.

James Morris Anthony III

During the preliminary stages of investigating the woman's death, police said they found evidence that resulted in warrants charging Anthony with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Anthony in 2004 was convicted of felony fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer in Marion County.

Anthony was arrested for those alleged offenses on Aug. 26, 2018 and he was released from jail the following day when his father posted a property bond, according to court records.

Cain said that the marijuana, as well as a .38-caliber revolver and a .45-caliber pistol that police found in the house on Airport Road did not belong to his client.

After being indicted, Anthony pleaded not guilty to all charges, according to court records.

Cain in August of last year filed a notice of intent to raise the issue of mental incompetency in his client’s pending criminal case, and in November Western Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Eric Norris ordered Anthony to undergo an evaluation administered by the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.

Cain said the evaluation was recently conducted in Columbus, where Anthony is currently living with his father.

No further court proceedings in the pending court case are currently scheduled.

After being contacted last week about the status of the Jarrad investigation, Nichols said, “We were recently discussing this case, and it still under investigation.”

He said that anyone with information concerning the case should contact Detective Scott Black at (762) 400-7058.

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