Marine patrol

An Alabama Marine Police boat patrols Smith Lake. 

A Cullman attorney representing a Decatur couple charged in connection with a July 4 boating death on Smith Lake said in a statement Thursday the man and woman are looking forward to being vindicated in the case, while offering their thoughts and prayers to the families affected in the crash.

Nick Bowling Suggs, 50, and Jodi Wallace Suggs, 50, both of Decatur, were charged with criminally negligent homicide, a misdemeanor, according to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.

Kelsey Starling, 26, a Birmingham educator originally of Troy, died in the crash in Rock Creek at around 10 p.m. She was a passenger on a boat driven by William Jackson Fite, who was charged that night with boating under the influence. The Suggs were in the other boat, but authorities have not released who was operating that vessel.

Starling's body has not been recovered after a month of searching with divers, sonar equipment and cadaver dogs. The water in that area is 150-200 feet deep with trees as tall as 50 to 60 feet beneath the surface. The search resumed Monday.

Cullman attorney Jason Knight released the following statement Thursday:

"It was widely reported yesterday that Mr. and Ms. Nick Suggs were arrested, jailed and behind bars in connection with new charges stemming from the tragic boating accident that occurred on the evening of July 4th on Rock Creek at Smith Lake. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

We were informed that there were two misdemeanor warrants against the Suggs in Winston County, Alabama. Through the cooperation of the Winston County Sheriff’s office, the Suggs turned themselves in at a designated time. They were booked in on the misdemeanor warrants, immediately bonded out and were released. They were treated with the utmost respect and professionalism by the Winston County Sheriff’s Office and jail personnel.

Mr. and Ms. Suggs are as fine a class of people as you would ever meet. They are universally loved and respected in their personal and business communities. They have both cooperated with the investigation of this boating accident since day one. It is confounding to us that the Alabama Marine Police Officer has now filed charges against the driver of BOTH the vessels involved in this wreck. It makes zero sense. At any rate, the Suggs vehemently deny the misdemeanor charges against them and look forward to being vindicated and put an end to this nightmare. They also want to extend their heartfelt thoughts and prayers to all the families affected by this tragic accident and in particular to Kelsey and the Starling family."

David Palmer may be contacted at 256-734-2131, ext. 116.

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