Heinze trial update - Oct. 22, 2013
By: Michael Hall
A forensic pathologist testified for defense attorneys in the death penalty case of Guy Heinze Jr. today that the murder of eight individuals in a trailer in a mobile home park in New Hope Plantation was likely carried out by multiple people with multiple weapons that could have included a hammer.
Prosecutors contended, however, that the opinion of Dr. Jonathan Arden, a physician and forensic pathologist hired by the defense to evaluate the autopsies of the eight victims who were brutally beaten to death Aug. 29, 2009, was based only on speculation and not from actually having examined the bodies.
Heinze is accused of allegedly killing 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.
Heinze has maintained his innocence.
Arden said the thousands of photographs and numerous reports he evaluated suggest the attack was most likely not perpetrated by one person acting alone.
“We know that there has to be multiple weapons...because we have numerous blunt impact type injuries,” Arden said.
During direct examination, defense attorney Newell Hamilton asked Arden if several round wounds on the forehead of Russell Toler Jr. could have been made by a hammer.
Hamilton has contended previously in the trial that a hammer found under the steps of the trailer when it was moved a year after the murders was never pursued by police as a potential weapon used in the murders.
“It could be consistent with something like a hammer,” Arden answered.
During cross examination, Special Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson pointed out that Arden relied on nondefinitive terms like “appeared to be” and “consistent with” in his answers to questions during his testimony.
Johnson also pointed out that the round wounds on Toler Jr.’s forehead and the other bruises were consistent with a long and narrow object that could easily have been the barrel of a shotgun. Prosecutors have contended since the outset that Heinze may have used the missing barrel of a 20-gauge shotgun in the attacks.
Arden agreed a shotgun barrel could have been used, but he disagreed that the round wounds and some others were caused postmortem by insects.
The trial was to continue after the lunch break.