US man guilty of killing 8 in mobile home

October 25, 2013
Jerry Word of the Office of the Georgia Capital Defender, left, talks to Guy Heinze, Jr. when the jury came out to watch a video of the crime scene walk through earlier today, Thursday, October 24, 2013, in Glynn County Superior Court in Brunswick, Ga. Heinze is accused of killing his father and seven other people in a mobile home park in Glynn County in August, 2009. (AP Photo/The Brunswick News/Michael Hall, POOL)

BRUNSWICK, Georgia (AP) — A man was convicted Friday of killing his father and seven extended family members in a mobile home they all shared, though prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Guy Heinze Jr., 26, was found guilty of eight counts of malice murder. But the judge in the case said shortly after the verdict was announced that prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty after a juror was dismissed earlier Friday.

Police charged Heinze with the killings six days after he reported finding the bodies to police. In a frantic call to police he cried: “My whole family is dead!”

Heinze’s younger brother, Tyler Heinze, started crying and was escorted from the courtroom after the verdict was read, yelling expletives as he left.

Prosecutors said Heinze had been smoking crack cocaine when he attacked his father and the others as they slept. Police found the victims scattered between five rooms of the cramped mobile home. Autopsies showed they suffered more than 220 wounds combined and each died from skull and brain injuries. No murder weapon was found, but police suspect they were beaten with a shotgun barrel.

Heinze’s defense team argued one person couldn’t have slain so many people without anyone escaping. They worked to persuade the jury that police ignored alternate suspects and evidence as they rushed to build a case against Heinze based entirely on circumstantial evidence.

Prosecutor John B. Johnson told the jury in his closing argument Wednesday that a fight over drugs probably sparked the killings, which happened sometime between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Police believe Heinze killed Rusty Toler Sr. with the barrel of a shotgun in the closet of the bedroom they shared because Heinze wanted to take a bottle of painkillers prescribed to one of Toler’s sons.

Afraid of being caught, Johnson said, Heinze then “goes through the house — angry, mad or whatever — and kills them all.”

Heinze’s lead defense attorney, Newell Hamilton Jr., told the jury it was hard to believe Heinze would kill eight people he loved over a bottle of “weak painkillers.” Two defense experts testified there must have been more than one killer in the house. A former police detective estimated three to five attackers committed the killings. Heinze told police he was out all night and found the bodies when he returned home after dawn.

Police said Heinze also left a clue in his telephone call, in which he said of the victims: “It looks like they’ve all been beaten to death!” Investigators testified the victims’ wounds were so grievous that police initially thought they had all been shot.

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