Athens Review, Athens, Texas

June 16, 2010

Coach phones newspaper editor before death

LOU ANTONELL
Mount Pleasant Daily Tribune

Mount Pleasant (Tx.) —

John Qualls, a math and science teacher at Mount Pleasant High School, was found dead late Sunday afternoon after Mount Pleasant Police officers responded to a welfare concern report.

Mount Pleasant ISD Supt. Terry Myers said that Qualls, who had coached girls softball at the high school for the past two years, had already signed his teaching contract for the next school year, but was not going to continue as softball coach.

“That was a decision that was made some time ago,” said Myers, adding that it was a “mutual decision”.

Myers said the decision to relieve Qualls of his coaching duties was the result of “differing philosophies”, but he had been expected to return to the classroom. “As far as we knew he was coming back,” he said.

According to Detective Sergeant Sharon Cary of the Mount Pleasant Police Department, a concerned citizen called at 4:24 p.m. Sunday regarding Qualls.

The caller did not have an address for Qualls, and it took a few minutes to locate an address, after which officers responded to a home in the 200 block of W. 18th St.

Upon arriving, there was no answer at the front door, but officers found an open access and entered to find Qualls deceased.

The officers recovered a small caliber handgun; there were no signs of foul play, reports Cary, and the wound appears to be self-inflicted.

Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Paula Dyke was called to the scene, and Qualls was officially pronounced dead at 4:47 p.m.

Dr Judith Saxton, MPISD Public Information Officer, said Monday morning the “Mount Pleasant ISD is saddened by the loss of John Qualls. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We offer our sincere condolences to them and we are praying for them at this time of their loss.”

“John was a teacher at Mount Pleasant High School and had signed his contract for next year,” Saxton said. “We were not aware that he was having serious problems.”

“Our MPHS counselors are available to talk with any student, graduate or staff member who feels the need to discuss this,” added Saxton.

“We had no idea he was having problems,’ added Myers. “It was a great shock to all of us. Our prayers go out to his family.”

Cary noted that Qualls’ death is being classified as an “unattended death” pending a final determination. His body has been sent to the Southwest Forensics Institute in Dallas for a formal autopsy.

(Tribune staff members Casey Buechel and Amber Cullen contributed to this report.)

Coach phones newspaper editor before death

By BOB PALMER

Tribune Editor

Former Mount Pleasant High School girls’ softball coach John Qualls telephoned Daily Tribune Sports Editor Nick Counts Sunday afternoon saying, “I’m going to kill myself.”

According to Counts the call came at around 3:30 p.m.

“He (Qualls) said, ‘Nick, I have something rather strange to talk with you about, do you happen to be in Mount Pleasant?’” Counts recalled Monday.

After Counts explained that he was in Mount Vernon, Qualls said, “Oh well, I didn’t know if you had heard, but I was let go as a coach at the high school.”

Counts admitted that he had heard about it.

“Well on top of that my girlfriend just left me,” Qualls added, according to Counts.

“I said, aww man I’m so sorry to hear that,” Counts said.

Qualls told Counts that he had written a goodbye note.

“Here in about 30 minutes I am going to kill myself,” Qualls said. “I wondered if you wanted to hear my story.”

“No, don’t do that,” Counts plead.

Qualls just said ok

“You don’t need to tell me,” Counts argued, “because you aren’t doing that.”

Counts heard the sound of a bottle pop, like flipping the lid off.

“No, you don’t have to do that,” Counts begged. “You don’t.”

Qualls said, “I’m doing that. Goodbye,” Then Qualls hung up the phone.

Counts told his wife what had just happened then looked up the number for the Mount Pleasant Police Department.

“I had no idea where he (Qualls) lived, only that it was in Mount Pleasant,” Counts said.

Counts gave officers Qualls’ cell phone number and his name to see if they could find them. Counts made several calls attempting to get an address for Qualls, but by the time he found someone who knew where Qualls lived, officers were already there.

“An officer on the scene called me,” Counts said, “and asked if I thought he (Qualls) had a weapon. I told him I was unsure, but it sounded as if he was taking pills and not shooting himself.”

The next day, Counts remembered Qualls as someone who was easy to talk with.

“He (Qualls) was friendly and seemed to love the game of softball and his team,” Counts said. “You could count on Coach Qualls quotes, and he always helpful if I was unable to make a game and had to write up a story from stats.

“Everything he (Qualls) did was to make sure the girls got recognition for their accomplishments.”

Counts was left pondering what might have been.

“I wonder if I could have done more,” Counts said. “I wonder why he called me. The only thing I can think of is he wanted somebody to find him before his sister did.

“I did what I thought was best, I am sure other people would know better how to handle that situation, but it’s not something that has ever happened to me before. I really just didn’t know how to handle it in the first place, so I tried my best to get him found before it happened.”

The bottle popping sound made Counts think Qualls planned to take pills, and perhaps the police would find him before he died.

“Come to find out that was not the case,” a somber Counts concluded.