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Missing judge found dead in his car

A Georgia municipal court judge who also maintained a private law practice was discovered dead in his car Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Griffin Municipal Court Judge William G. Johnston, 53, told family members he was leaving home early Monday evening to meet with a client. The married father of two was reportedly planning to travel to nearby Lamar County southeast of Griffin, the town where he worked. Relatives reported Johnston missing to the Griffin Police Department when he had not returned home by Tuesday morning.

WXIA reports that utility workers within Griffin city limits found Johnston’s body in his own car later that day. Authorities have not released the cause of death, but the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case.

Johnston was a partner at the Johnston & Owen law firm in Griffin, and he personally focused on state and federal litigation for clients with a range of legal concerns. In addition to serving private clients as an attorney and sitting on a municipal court as a judge—a role commonly held part-time—Johnston provided legal services to the Spalding County Board of Health and the Butts County Board of Tax Assessors, as well as the Peace Officers Annuity and Benefit Fund.

Several local, county, and state law enforcement agencies collaborated on the search effort. The Griffin Police Department initially reached out to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday for assistance in finding the judge, and the Spalding County Sheriff’s Office relayed the information of the tragic discovery back to Griffin law enforcement after it was made.