The law enforcement fraternity and the community as a whole mourned Sunday as news spread of the death of retired Glynn County Police Officer Walter “Ray” Starling, whose body was found Saturday in Academy Creek in Brunswick.
The cause of death had not been released as of Sunday night.
His body was found at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, about 12 hours after he was reported missing after not returning home Friday night from a fishing trip on Academy Creek off the shore near Homer Wilson Way. Starling, 67, retired from the Glynn County Police Department as a captain. He served also as a deputy in the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office.
Throughout his career in law enforcement Mr. Starling’s conduct set an example of honesty and integrity, both for his peers and for newcomers entering the profession, said Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering. Starling served as the first captain of the Glynn-Brunswick Narcotics Enforcement Team, when the drug enforcement arm of county and city police formed in 2001, according to archives of The Brunswick News. Starling served with Glynn County Police for more than 30 years before retiring in 2004. He also served as commander of the department’s patrol and detective divisions, Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said.
“Capt. Starling served with distinction as an honorable man,” Doering said. “He was a mentor with a strong sense of ethics and noble character. He demonstrated selfless service to the safety of our community.
“He was a beloved friend,” Doering added.
Starling went fishing off of Homer Wilson Way on Friday. He was reported missing to Brunswick Police about 9:37 p.m. when he did not return home. Brunswick police were assisted in the search by Glynn County Police, the Glynn County Emergency Management Agency and the state Department of Natural Resources.
Starling also will be missed by those in the community he served, said longtime Brunswick resident Frank Owens, owner of City Market Seafood. Starling was an avid outdoorsman, who enjoyed hunting and fishing. At Christmas, he would make preserves and jams from his garden to present to friends and family.
“He took figs from our fig tree and made us jam one year,” Owens recalled. “He would grow a garden just to give it away. He was an awesome, awesome guy. Just the salt of the earth.”
There was an antique-era tractor at the hunting club where Owens and Startling both were members. Owens recalled with a chuckle that Starling was the only one who could coax it to turn over and start.
“I was thinking, who’s going to start that tractor now,” Owens said. “Ray knew how to crank it — give it a tap, wiggle a wire, tap it again ... He was the kind guy who would do anything for you. Just a really good person.”