BRUNSWICK — A Glynn County commissioner was found dead Tuesday floating beside a docked boat on St. Simons Island, where police suspect someone killed the local official as he was returning home from an evening out with friends.
Police discovered the body of 52-year-old Commissioner Tom Sublett at a marina on the Frederica River less than half a mile from his island home. His car was parked nearby. Investigators found his wallet, with some unspecified items missing.
"I can't tell you any more than we're treating it as a homicide," Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering told reporters at a news conference Tuesday. "We're searching for some physical evidence. That's all I can say."
A former food company executive who started selling real estate about five years ago, Sublett was finishing up his first term on the seven-member county commission. He planned to leave office at the end of the year, having decided not to seek re-election.
Doering said the commissioner had spent Monday evening out with friends on the mainland and left them at about 10:30 p.m. Sublett's wife became worried when he hadn't returned home by about 2:30 a.m. and called his friends, who started searching for him and contacted police.
At about 4 a.m. a friend found Sublett's car at a county park on a bluff overlooking the river near the causeway connecting St. Simons Island to the mainland city of Brunswick. Another friend found the commissioner's body in the water, between a boat and the dock, at a nearby marina.
Police scoured the marina and park for clues Tuesday. Doering said he found the commissioner's wallet, which had some items missing. He declined to discuss how Sublett died, a possible motive or what other evidence police had found. An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.
Sublett's fellow county commissioners appeared upset as they listened to the police chief's news conference. Commission Chairman Richard Strickland, who took office just two years ago, said Sublett had been a mentor to him.
"He was very outgoing, very jovial, always cutting the fool. He would always be cracking jokes with me and about me," said Strickland, who visited Sublett's family Tuesday afternoon. "We're just all shocked and finding it hard to believe that anything like this could happen to Tom."
Woody Woodside, president of the Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce, recalled Sublett as a dedicated civic leader who held positions with several local organizations from the Rotary Club to the United Way. Sublett served as board chairman of the chamber in 2006 and 2007.
"He was a dear friend and very active in the community," Woodside said. "There's a dark cloud over the community right now."