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GBI probe of July 11 shooting is ongoing
John had severe headaches, mood swings
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Apart from a state probe of two deputies' actions in a July 11 suspect shooting, Charlie Pearce knows for certain how he feels about the Hall County Sheriff's Office.

"I think they ought to get the vote for the best sheriff's department in the country," he said. "These guys — they are good."

In a letter to The Times and an interview later, Pearce had nothing but "high praise" for the department's handling of the tragic events that unfolded that day at Harbour Point subdivision involving several members of his family, including his wife, Gretchan Pearce.

Gretchan Pearce was stabbed several times and her sister, Mary Pearce, was killed, both at the hands of Mary's son, John Pearce, who was then shot by deputies.

"His deranged and unpredictable actions and demeanor, combined with his advanced skills in martial arts, made him a lethal threat to the deputies engaging him," Pearce said in the letter.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation plans to wrap up its investigation next week of the incident involving deputies Charles F. Greenwell and Rainey N. Wood.

"We hope to turn that over to the district attorney sometime in the latter part of next week," John Bankhead, spokesman for the GBI, said on Thursday. "We're trying to finish up the report now."

Col. Jeff Strickland, spokesman for the Hall County Sheriff's Office, said the district attorney then will review the case and "make a determination" concerning the deputies involved.

The deputies have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation, which Strickland has said is standard procedure in all officer-involved shootings.

The July 12 incident began with an 8:23 p.m. 911 call from neighbors who lived across the street from 64-year-old Mary Pearce.

They reported that the woman's sister-in-law, Gretchan Pearce, had fled to their home bleeding from stab wounds.

The neighbors then locked their doors and waited for deputies to arrive, according to dispatch records.

The first two deputies arrived 11 minutes later, records show.

Witnesses pointed deputies toward a driveway next door to Mary Pearce's home, where deputies found her son, 29-year-old John Pearce, "walking up the driveway nude and heavily covered in blood," according to a news release from the sheriff's office.

What happened next remains under investigation by the GBI. Dispatch records say shots were fired at 8:35 p.m. and John Pearce was killed.

Gretchan Pearce was drawn into the incident when she got a phone call from Mary Pearce, who said her son was having "an episode" and she needed help at her home, according to the sheriff's office.

By the time Gretchan Pearce arrived at her sister-in-law's home less than a mile away, Mary Pearce was dead.

John Pearce met Gretchan in the foyer naked, covered in blood and wielding a knife, according to the sheriff's office.

As she was stabbed, she ran to the neighbors' house.

Gretchan Pearce, 66, was treated for multiple stab wounds at Atlanta Medical Center, where, at one point, she was in critical condition.

She returned home from the hospital last Friday evening, said the Rev. Terry Walton, senior pastor of Gainesville First United Methodist Church.

"Her physical wounds are healing well, and (her family) is making great strides to deal with the emotional trauma that comes from something like this," said Walton, who went to Atlanta Medical Center the night of the attack.

Charlie Pearce confirmed that.

"She is recovering physically. It's the mental aspect that kind of bothers me," he said. "We have an appointment (today) with a psychologist in Gainesville ... and we'll go from there."

Those who knew John Pearce also were reeling this week from his death, saying they were surprised by his actions.

"John was like that kid in high school and college that everyone wanted to be around," said Jessen Noviello, a long-time friend who now lives in California.

He also remembered changes in Pearce's life after a serious accident.

"He couldn't remember big chunks of his life and he would have these ... mood swings and was always having severe headaches," Noviello said.

Still, "he wasn't the kind of person to flip out and go nuts," he added.