Local News

10/4/2012

Surprise witness emerges in Heinze mass-murder case

By LOUIE BROGDON The Brunswick News

111Heinze is accused of killing his father and seven friends or family members Aug. 29, 2009, in a trailer where they all lived in northern Glynn County. He has been jailed since September 2009 as the sole suspect.

At the start of the hearing Wednesday in Glynn County Superior Court, prosecutors gave a stack of documents to Heinze's lawyers in response to a defense motion filed June 7.

The motion asked Judge Stephen Scarlett to order the state to share specific discovery files. According to the motion -- which included requests for phone records, police evidence logs and other information -- some police documents the state previously gave to defense attorneys were incomplete, missing or illegible.

One of the documents given to Heinze's lawyers Wednesday contained notes a Glynn County police officer allegedly made during a conversation with someone not identified in court, who claimed to have overheard an argument the day of the murders between a man identified only as "Dwayne" and Russell Toler Jr., one of the victims.

Reading a portion of the notes in court, Heinze's attorney Joe Vigneri said the person who could be a potential witness told police that "Dwayne" said to Toler, "Hey, (expletive), you white S.O.B., I'll come back and kill your whole family."

Prior to receiving the documents Wednesday, Vigneri said in court he and his defense team of Newell Hamilton and Jason Clark had only a portion of the document, which did not include the comments.

Other items of evidence that caused much consternation and frustration Wednesday from attorneys and Scarlett alike were pieces of DNA evidence that still needed to be tested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

"The case is three years old. I've been dealing with these issues from the get-go. It's time to move on," Scarlett said after hearing that defense attorneys may seek to have other items tested at the crime laboratory, depending on the results of previous tests, which they have not yet received.

Some of the evidence to be tested for DNA Vigneri cited in court were nail scrapings from some of the victims, a hair that was found in Toler's right hand and another hair found elsewhere at the crime scene.

Special Assistant District Attorney John B. Johnson said in court the district attorney's office is ready for trial and the defense is stalling by requesting more documents, more tests and other information he said his office doesn't even have.

"They haven't reviewed the things they've already got. We're ready in this case. They are asking for additional stuff that they've known about for two years," Johnson said.

Vigneri said in court the case has been delayed, but not by the defense.

"There was a period of a year where we were not in court at all, under a previous judge," Vigneri said. Former Judge Amanda Williams previously presided over the case until it was transferred to Scarlett in January.

Despite what was argued Wednesday, Scarlett told Vigneri he would grant a defense motion for interim appeal with the Georgia Supreme Court on some or all of the issues the defense has raised in the case.

Scarlett will next file a report to the Glynn County Superior Court Clerk. Defense and prosecuting attorneys will then have 10 days in which to add additional issues to Scarlett's report.

The Supreme Court will look at the combined reports and decide whether it will hear arguments on all, some or none of the issues raised.

In addition to allegedly killing his father, Guy Heinze Sr., 46, Heinze is accused of killing his father's friend, Russell Toler Sr., 44, and Toler's children - Michael Toler, 19; Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell Toler Jr., 20; and Michelle Toler, 15. He also is charged in the deaths of family friends Brenda Falagan, 48, and Joseph West, 30.

Heinze is also accused of attempting to kill Chrissy Toler's son, Byron Jimmerson, who is now 6 years old.

Heinze faces eight counts of murder, one count of aggravated assault with intent to murder, one count of possessing a Schedule IV narcotic - considered to have a low potential for abuse, but illegal without a prescription - and one count of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana.