Students, teachers and friends of a beloved Tyler ISD coach and teacher are mourning his death after the 54-year-old was found dead after being reported missing.
Henderson County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dan Parker said his agency was called by Texas game wardens on Monday after a deceased male was found on an island in the upper part of Lake Palestine near the Neches River area.
Parker was hesitant to confirm the man’s name as Moore MST Magnet School’s Jay Powell early Tuesday, but a preliminary autopsy report confirmed his identity and listed a cause of death as a gunshot wound to the chest.
Parker said the case was under investigation, but he was able to give some details surrounding the death.
He said Tyler police were contacted about a missing person who had not been seen by his family for several days.
Records show that Powell’s family reported him missing on Monday morning, and the report states he had not reported to work on Friday and had not been seen since leaving home Friday.
Parker said the missing man’s pickup and boat trailer were found at a marina at Lake Palestine on the Smith County side of the lake on Monday, and game wardens were dispatched to see if the man possibly capsized his boat or had some other type of trouble.
“We’re just devastated and cannot believe this has happened,” said one friend of Powell’s who did not want to be identified.
Henderson County Justice of the Peace Sue Starnes was called to the location for an inquest and she sent the body to Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences.
According to Moore’s school website, Powell had been at Moore for 13 years and taught at Boulter and Dogan middle schools as well as in Louisiana.
TISD sent an automated message to Moore parents Monday night informing them that 54-year-old Powell died over the weekend and worked Tuesday to help students and faculty deal with the news.
TISD Director of Guidance and Counseling Marty Barbieri said counselors were on campus at Moore all day to help students and staff deal with the death.
Ms. Barbieri said Powell’s students were allowed to gather in the gym and talk about his death.
“We told them to grieve the loss and not to focus on the questions about how he died,” she said.
Ms. Barbieri said the students were allowed to put posters on the walls of the school as a memorial to Powell.
“I can tell you that it is a difficult day at Moore,” she said.