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Investigation of preacher's death continues

By By William F. West / community editor
Aug. 15, 2002
BUTLER, Ala. Details remain sketchy in the case of a 46-year-old Choctaw County minister found shot to death Friday night at his church.
The Rev. John Mark Hartzog was found in his study at Stafford Full Gospel Church on Pleasant Hill Road. The county's emergency dispatch received a call shortly before 9:30 p.m.; Hartzog was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after midnight.
Repeated attempts Wednesday to reach Choctaw County Sheriff Donald Lolley were unsuccessful. Coroner Rocky Bumpers also could not be reached.
Dorris Teague, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety in Montgomery, said Lolley has asked the state's Bureau of Investigation to help investigate the death.
Lolley was quoted in today's Choctaw Advocate newspaper as saying that work continues "around the clock" and that the shooting was "definitely" not a suicide.
According to the newspaper, Hartzog was at the church late Friday evening mowing the lawn and his wife, Theda, found him dead. A private, family members-only funeral was conducted on Monday afternoon at Pleasant Hill Cemetery, followed later that night by a community service at the church.
Hartzog, who was born in Panama City, Fla., had lived in Alabama for most of his life and had owned a Christian bookstore in Butler at one time. He had also worked in the oil field and served as a volunteer fire chief at the Pleasant Hill community.