Hilliard death ruled accidental drowning

Published 8:02 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office released cause of death Wednesday for a Highland Home man found in the water of Magnolia Shores Lake in August.

In an Oct. 4 media release, Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Thomas Strickland announced that the Aug. 1 death of Highland Home resident Vester Hilliard, 57, has been ruled as an accidental drowning.

On Aug. 1, emergency responders with the Sheriff’s Office, Highland Home Fire and Rescue, and Luverne Rescue arrived on the scene of a reported drowning incident at Magnolia Shores Lake around 5 p.m. Emergency personnel discovered Hilliard’s body, floating in the water and unresponsive.

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Hilliard was transported to the Alabama Department of Forensic Science in Montgomery for a thorough examination to determine cause of death. After the investigation, Hilliard’s death was officially ruled as an accidental drowning.

Circumstances surrounding Hilliard’s death as well as his identity were not immediately made available due to the pending investigation.

Witnesses at the scene on Aug. 1 reported that members of a local family had been swimming in the lake when they noticed personal items floating in the distance, which the family assumed had been accidentally left behind. Two members of the family navigated a personal watercraft into the lake to investigate and noticed what appeared to be a human body floating nearby.  The family immediately alerted local law enforcement to their discovery.

The investigation was conducted as a joint effort of the Crenshaw County Coroner’s Office and the Second Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

According to Strickland, every measure was taken to ensure a thorough and comprehensive examination of the circumstances surrounding Hilliard’s death.

“The Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office extends its condolences to the Hilliard family,” Strickland wrote. “We appreciate the cooperation and support from all involved agencies in conducting this investigation with the utmost professionalism and care.