A man who beat eight family members to death in a cramped mobile home in Brunswick, Georgia, was convicted of murder yesterday.
Guy Heinze Jr, killed his father and seven others, aged between 15 and 45, in a fight over prescription pills in August 2009.
Defense attorneys had tried to argue that it would have been impossible for the 26-year-old to have beaten to death so many people without someone getting away, but the jury ruled he was guilty.
When the verdict was read out, Heinze’s younger brother Tyler ran cursing from the courtroom, saying: ‘This ain’t right! This ain’t justice!. You know Guy can’t have done this [expletive].’
Heinze was spared the death penalty in a deal to avoid a hung jury, meaning he will be sentenced to life in prison. A judge will decide at a later date whether he will be eligible for parole.
‘We knew the biggest challenge we were going to have was to convince them one person did this,’ Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering, whose officers investigated the killings, said.
He added that four years later he was still convinced that Heinze had acted alone.
Prosecutors said Heinze had been smoking crack on the night of the murders.
Each of the victims died from multiple crushing blows to the head from what police believe was a shotgun barrel, though the murder weapon was never found.
Although the attack happened in the middle of the night, and most of the victims were found in bed, defense attorneys argued a single assailant couldn’t possibly have inflicted such carnage.
They insisted that police ignored evidence and alternate suspects in a rush to accuse him.
During three days of deliberations, it looked like the jury could go either way in the case, or possibly be unable to reach a unanimous verdict.
The jury foreman reported on Thursday afternoon, during the second day of deliberations, that jurors were deadlocked nine to three.
Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett asked them to keep trying.
On Friday morning, the judge announced one of the 12 jurors had been excused and would be replaced with one of three alternates who had also sat through the full week of testimony.
They came back with a verdict within four hours. After it was read, Judge Scarlett informed the jury that the death penalty had been taken off the table and therefore their service was done.
Prosecutor John B. Johnson told reporters dropping the death penalty had been necessary to get Heinze’s defense team to agree to let the judge dismiss a particular juror because of ‘a situation’ that contributed to the deadlock.
He said neither side wanted a mistrial, which would have meant trying Heinze again with a new jury within a few months.
‘It was done to get a verdict. That was the biggest hang-up both sides had,’ he said.
Mr Johnson declined to say which juror was dismissed or why. The jury had been sequestered at a hotel, with no access to TVs, computers or cellphones and under constant watch by deputies, since the trial began on October 15.
During the trial last week, Deputy Rocky Mortoriet reported to the judge that one juror had been talking about the case against the judge’s orders.
Mr Mortoriet said he overheard the juror say while escorting him to the gym: ‘There is no way I can convict this gentleman.’
Mr Heinze’s lead defense attorney, Newell Hamilton Jr, declined to comment as he left the courthouse on Friday.
Four years ago, Heinze told police he found the victims’ bodies after returning from a night out.
Victims: Heinze’s victims included his father, Guy Sr, left, and 15-year-old Michelle Toler, right
Beaten: Joseph West and girlfriend Chrissy Toler were also killed. Chrissy’s three-year-old son survived
Attack: Russell Toler Jr, 20, and Brenda Falagan, 49, were also among the victims killed by Heinze
During the frantic 911 call, Heinze cried: ‘My whole family is dead!’ Six days later, investigators charged him with murder.
The victims included Heinze’s father, Guy Heinze Sr, 45; Rusty Toler Sr, 44; Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell D. Toler Jr, 20; Michael Toler, 19; and Michelle Toler, 15.
Brenda Gail Falagan, 49, and Joseph L. West, the 30-year-old boyfriend of Chrissy Toler, were also killed. Miss Toler’s three-year-old son, Byron Jimerson Jr, was the sole survivor but suffered severe head injuries.
Heinze told police his father moved in with Toler’s family when they were teenagers. The suspect said he considered Rusty Toler Sr. to be his uncle, and his children cousins.
Read more: Daily Mail