Ga. man to be tried for beating deaths of 8 - Mid-South News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | FOX13

Ga. man to be tried for beating deaths of 8

Posted: Updated:
Police arrested Guy Heinze six days after the Aug. 29 discovery of the bloodied bodies of his father, Guy Heinze Sr., and several members of an extended family beaten with a blunt weapon inside the mobile home they all shared. Police arrested Guy Heinze six days after the Aug. 29 discovery of the bloodied bodies of his father, Guy Heinze Sr., and several members of an extended family beaten with a blunt weapon inside the mobile home they all shared.

By RUSS BYNUM
Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - Police found the eight victims inside the cramped mobile home they shared, each beaten bloody with some type of blunt weapon. Now prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for a 25-year-old man charged with single-handedly killing them all.

"My whole family is dead!" a frantic Guy Heinze Jr. cried in the 911 call that alerted police to the crime in the port city of Brunswick. Six days later, investigators charged him with murder.

Heinze is scheduled to stand trial more than four years after the Aug. 29, 2009, slayings stunned the coastal community 60 miles south of Savannah and made headlines across the nation. Attorneys plan to seat a jury Tuesday after spending three weeks questioning potential jurors in the highly publicized case. Opening statements from lawyers on both sides will follow. The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

Testimony in the case should answer questions police and prosecutors have refused to discuss for years. How could one person kill so many people with no one managing to escape? And why would Heinze so violently slay some of the people considered closest to him?

One victim was the suspect's father, 45-year-old Guy Heinze Sr. The father and son were among 10 people living in a single-wide trailer Rusty Toler rented, paying $405 a month at the New Hope Plantation Mobile Home Park. Managers of the park said Toler had taken in the Heinzes as well as several family members who had fallen on hard times.

Toler, 44, was killed along with his four children: Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell D. Toler Jr., 20; Michael Toler, 19; and Michelle Toler, 15. Also slain was the elder Toler's sister, Brenda Gail Falagan, 49, and Joseph L. West, the 30-year-old boyfriend of Chrissy Toler. Her 3-year-old son, Byron Jimerson Jr., was seriously injured in the attack but ended up the sole survivor.

Heinze has pleaded not guilty. Both his grandfather and younger brother have questioned how Heinze alone could have clubbed eight people to death. Clint Rowe, an uncle by marriage to the four slain Toler children, said after their funeral that Heinze "was part of the family," even if he wasn't related to the Tolers by blood.

A neighbor called 911 the morning after the slayings and handed the phone to Heinze, who sounds distraught as he says he found the battered bodies after returning home from a night out.

"It looks like they've been beaten to death. I don't know what to do, man," Heinze says on the recording. His voice becomes frantic when he discovers Michael Toler, who has Down syndrome, badly injured but clinging to life.

"Michael's alive, tell them to hurry!" Heinze can be heard yelling on the 911 recording. "He's beat up! His face is smashed in!"

Michael Toler died from his injuries at a hospital the next day.

Pretrial hearings revealed that police found blood all over the home. Blood-stain samples tested for DNA were collected from a living room chair, the kitchen floor and a bedroom window. There was blood on part of the ceiling and a trash basket behind a TV. Investigators found blood spattered on a cellphone, a kitchen knife, a pair of underwear and a pair of khaki shorts. They found more blood on the broken stock of a shotgun.

Authorities have never given a motive for the killings. But Heinze's defense lawyers said in a June court filing they suspect prosecutors may argue that a dispute over drugs triggered the carnage.

"There are witnesses who may testify that there was extensive drug use among members of the household and that Joe West was involved in the sale of illegal drugs," Heinze's lawyers wrote. "Evidence will likely be offered that on the night of the murders, Guy Heinze bought drugs from Joe West."

The court filing by Heinze's defense team goes on to say prosecutors might argue "that Mr. Heinze was in a drug-fueled rage and once started on the killings of his family could not be stopped until all were violently beaten to death."

Heinze is charged with eight counts of murder, once count of aggravated assault related to the toddler who survived the attack, plus two counts of drug possession. If he's convicted of murder, prosecutors will ask the jury to sentence Heinze to death.

Heinze's lead defense attorney, Newell Hamilton Jr., did not immediately respond to a phone call and email message Friday. He has previously declined to comment on specifics of the case.

The trial judge and attorneys plan to select a final dozen jurors plus alternates Tuesday from a pool of more than 70 who were qualified after being questioned about their views on the death penalty and prior knowledge of the case.

Superior Court Judge Steven Scarlett plans to sequester jurors until the trial ends. Heinze's attorneys asked the judge not to do that and argued that allowing jurors to go home at night would make them less inclined to rush to a verdict. But the judge agreed with prosecutors that jurors should be sequestered to keep them from exposure to news coverage and chatter about the trial outside the courthouse.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • More Local NewsMore>>

  • Tyrone Police search for missing 13-year-old girl

    Tyrone Police search for missing 13-year-old girl

    Thursday, April 24 2014 10:44 AM EDT2014-04-24 14:44:07 GMT
    Police in one South Metro city are searching for a missing 13-year-old girl.
    Police in one South Metro city are searching for a missing 13-year-old girl.
  • Man shot dead outside South DeKalb Mall

    Man shot dead outside South DeKalb Mall

    Thursday, April 24 2014 10:39 AM EDT2014-04-24 14:39:41 GMT
    A man has been charged with murder after a shooting outside South DeKalb Mall on Wednesday evening.
    A man has been charged with murder after a shooting outside South DeKalb Mall on Wednesday evening.
  • Authorities investigate threat at Paulding Co. High

    Authorities investigate threat at Paulding Co. High

    Thursday, April 24 2014 8:32 AM EDT2014-04-24 12:32:55 GMT
    Paulding County authorities are investigating a threat that came into Paulding County High School on Thursday morning.
    Paulding County authorities are investigating a threat that came into Paulding County High School on Thursday morning.
Powered by WorldNow

WHBQ-TV | Fox 13
485 S. Highland St.
Memphis, TN 38111

Main Station: (901) 320-1313
Newsroom: (901) 320-1340

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices