(Updated) Body found in Smith Lake confirmed as Kelsey Starling, who disappeared July 4

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Kelsey Starling (Courtesy of Facebook)

Updated 10-5-19 at 11:48 p.m.

Statement from ALEA Marine Patrol Division/Northern District:

The body of Kelsey Starling, the missing passenger from a two-vessel crash July 4 at Smith Lake, was recovered today, Oct.5.

Search efforts had resumed on Thursday, Oct. 3. Divers from Houston County Rescue Squad located what they believed to be Ms. Starling today in approximately 140 feet of water.  She was located in the approximate location that the accident occurred in Rock Creek.  

Houston County Rescue Squad, Crane Hill Fire Department,  Logan Fire Department, Trimble Fire Department, Smith Lake Task Force, Winston County Sheriff’s Office, Winston County Coroner’s Office, Winston County EMA, Cullman County Coroner’s Office and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Marine Patrol Division were involved in recovery efforts.  

Updated 10-5-19 at 10:19 p.m.

A body was recovered from the water a little after 9 p.m. Saturday night.

WINSTON COUNTY, Ala. – Multiple sources have confirmed to The Tribune that what is believed to be a body has been located in Smith Lake very near the area were Kelsey Starling, 26, of Troy disappeared July 4, 2019. The body has not yet been recovered from the water.

Starling was a passenger in a 2012 Mastercraft wakeboard boat involved in a two-vessel crash in the Rock Creek area of Smith Lake at approximately 10 p.m. July 4.

The Tribune is awaiting an official statement from Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Marine Patrol Division Northern District Assistant Commander Sgt. Chad Pate.

Three people faced criminal charges following the incident.

William Jackson Fite, 23, of Decatur, the driver of the boat from which Starling disappeared, in August pleaded guilty to boating under the influence.

At the time of his arrest following the two-boat collision, Fite was accused of being under the influence of a “substance which impairs the mental or physical faculties of the person to a degree which renders the person incapable of safely driving.”

The incident was the defendant’s first offense. Under the terms of his plea deal, Fite received two years of unsupervised probation and agreed to attend a court referral program and pay $2,100 in fines plus a $70 bail bond fee.

Nick Bowling Suggs, 50, and Jodi Wallace Suggs, 50, both of Decatur, who were in the other boat involved in the collision, in August were each indicted in Winston County on one charge of criminally negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor that could carry a sentence of up to one year in prison. Each surrendered and was released the same day on a $3,000 surety bond from a Birmingham bail bond service.

Both indictments read: “….did with criminal negligence cause the death of another person, Kelsey Starling by striking the vessel she was aboard causing her to be thrown there from…”

ALEA, which is handling the investigation into the fatal crash, said officials from the 25th Circuit District Attorney’s Office in Winston County will prosecute the cases.

Cullman attorney Jason Knight is representing the couple.

Starling was a speech language pathologist at Tuggle Elementary School in Birmingham.

This is a developing story.

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Wendy Sack



W.C. Mann