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'Everybody's hearts just sank:' Monroe County man dies by suicide after suspicious bar fire

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is investigating the fire as possible arson due to evidence found, but wouldn't give details.

MONROE COUNTY, Ga. — Charred, burnt pieces are scattered, with smoke-filled air. Kelly Dunn takes in the remains of one of her favorite places in High Falls. 

"I can't explain the devastation of everybody's hearts just sank," says Dunn. 

Dunn owns a thrift shop next door to the Backwoods Bar and Grill. 

Good music, good food, and even better people -- that's how Dunn describes the bar before a Tuesday night fire turned it into ash. 

"You felt at home. You were greeted by name," says Dunn. 

Throughout the day on Wednesday, people stopped at Backwoods to take photos and just look at what's left of a bar that they say brought the High Falls community together.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office is investigating the fire as possible arson due to evidence found, but wouldn't give details. 

They say witnesses saw the co-owner Gary Lawrence leaving the closed bar just before the 911 call about the fire. What happened next shocked Dunn.

"The other owners, of course, are devastated, but keep them in your prayers, and all the families," says Dunn. 

The sheriff's office says after leaving the bar, he swapped cars at his sister's house, then drove to his ex-wife's house in Macon, where he shot and killed himself. 

Larry Hill's name is melted off the sign in front of the bar. He puts on karaoke at the bar on Friday nights. 

When he looks at the blackened building, he remembers the music.

"We had a lot of good talent here. On Friday nights, we had anywhere from 25 to 28, to 40 singers here," says Hill. 

It was a place where he has family memories.

"Always nice to see your mom and dad out dancing while you're singing. It was always a great feeling," says Hill. 

Although firefighters describe the building as a complete loss, Dunn hopes it will rise again.

"We need that gathering fellowship," says Dunn, of the place that the people of High Falls call home

RELATED: Monroe County man dies by suicide after suspicious bar fire

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