Heinze trial update - Oct. 23, 2013
By Michael Hall
Two contrasting portraits of Guy Heinze Jr. were painted by defense attorneys and the prosecutors this morning during closing arguments in Glynn County Superior Court in the trial that will ultimately decide whether Heinze is executed for allegedly beating to death his father and seven close family friends in 2009.
The jury was to be charged by Brunswick Judicial Circuit Judge Stephen Scarlett after lunch before deliberating.
Heinze is accused of allegedly bludgeoning to death his father, Guy Heinze Sr., 46, his father’s friend, Russell Toler Sr., 44, and Toler’s children — Chrissy Toler, 22, Russell Toler Jr., 20, Michael Toler, 19, and Michelle Toler, 15. He also is charged in the deaths of family friends Brenda Falagan, 48, and Joseph West, 30. He is also accused of attempting to kill Byron Jimmerson, Chrissy Toler’s son, who was a preschooler at the time.
The district attorney is seeking the death penalty.
Heinze has maintained his innocence.
In closing arguments in the eighth day of the trial, defense attorney Newell Hamilton spoke to the jury first and portrayed Heinze, 26, as a peaceful man who loved his father and treated the friends he lived with in a trailer in a mobile home park at New Hope Plantation like family.
Hamilton contended the prosecution’s evidence was purely circumstantial and that once the police investigation of the case focused on Heinze, investigators ignored any other possibilities.
“We will submit that the state has not come close to meeting the burden (of proof). The state has not come close to proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Guy killed his family and his loved ones,” Hamilton said.
Much of the defense’s case was built on what it called during the trial a “reckless indifference” to evidence collection and investigation of the crime scene that led to a lack of direct evidence against Heinze. Hamilton said as many as four or five people would have been necessary to carry out the attack.
Hamilton also asserted that the blood on Heinze’s clothes and the items found in his car the day of the murders, two of the prosecution’s most significant pieces of evidence, can be explained by Heinze discovering the crime scene the morning of Aug. 29, 2009.
“The state has not proven one significant allegation against Mr. Heinze,” Hamilton said. “The state’s theory not only doesn’t make sense from a practical standpoint, (but) the evidence doesn’t support it.”
In his closing argument, Special District Attorney John B. Johnson said the evidence collected in the case suggests the only conclusion is that Heinze was the murderer.
He cited the blood on Heinze’s clothes, the cell phone and shotgun with the Heinze’s hand prints in blood found in his car and his hand print on a paper document found in one of the bedrooms as proof Heinze was there when the murders occurred.
Johnson painted Heinze as a man who was high on crack cocaine who wanted more drugs and money and went back to the trailer where he lived with all eight victims.
Johnson said Heinze got into a confrontation with Russell Toler Sr., the man Heinze knew as his uncle. After beating Toler Sr. to death, Johnson said Heinze worked his way room by room, killing everybody there, taking any drugs and money he could find.
Heinze was the only person who knew the living situation and layout of the trailer well enough to commit the murders alone, Johnson said.
No other evidence collected leads anywhere else, he added.
“The only person is that man right there,” he said, pointing at Heinze. “That’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s not suspicion. The only person any of this evidence points to is that man right there.”