Jury finds Heinze guilty of 8 counts of murder

Verdict comes 5 hours after judge replaces juror

Author: Tim Pulliam, General assignment reporter, tpulliam@wjxt.com
Published On: Oct 25 2013 06:50:07 AM EDT   Updated On: Oct 25 2013 08:48:59 PM EDT
BRUNSWICK, Ga. -

A few hours after one juror was replaced and prosecutors agreed to take the death penalty off the table, a Glynn County jury on Friday convicted Guy Heinze Jr. of eight counts of murder, one count of aggravated assault and two drug charges.

Heinze, 26, showed little reaction as the jury found him guilty in the brutal beating deaths of his father, aunt, uncle, three nephews, a niece and a family friend inside their mobile home four years ago. A 3-year-old boy was the only survivor of the attack.

Prosecutors said they believe Heinze beat each of the victims with a shotgun barrel late at night after trying to take prescription painkillers from one of them.

Defense attorneys argued police ignored evidence and alternate suspects to build a case against Heinze.

After the verdict was announced, Judge Stephen Scarlett said Heinze will not face the death penalty -- that the maximum sentence he could face will be life in prison without possibility of parole.

Assistant District Attorney John Johnson told reporters that "a situation" with one juror had the jury deadlocked. Heinze's lawyers agreed to excuse that juror if prosecutors took the death penalty off the table.

Victims of Aug. 29, 2009 murders

Glynn County mobile home murder victims (strip)
Guy Heinze Sr.45
Russell D. Toler Sr.44
Russell D. Toler Jr.20
Chrissy Toler22
Michael Toler19
Michelle Toler15
Brenda Gail Falagan   49
Joseph L. West30

View photos, details of victims

Johnson says neither side wanted a mistrial, which would have meant trying Heinze again.

"I think it's fair," Johnson said. "The jury spoke. They rendered guilty verdicts on all counts. All 12 had to agree, so I think it's a fair verdict all circumstances."

The previous jury configuration of eight women and four men had deliberated for 17 hours over two days and been stuck at 9-3 impasse on the eight counts of murder since midday Thursday.

"I've tried a lot of death penalty cases. It's not unusual for a jury to take a lot of time," said Johnson. "It depends on the number of counts and they have to deal with each one individually."

Prosecutors had tried since Monday to have a juror removed after a bailiff testified that that man was overheard saying early in the trial he could not find Heinze guilty.

As court began Friday morning, Scarlett dismissed one man from the jury and put in a woman who had sat through the eight-day trial as an alternate.

"Your deliberations must start anew and cover all 11 counts,'' Scarlett told the newly empaneled jury about 9:30 a.m. Friday.  Less than five hours later, they reached a unanimous decision -- guilty on all counts.

"Our community (has) been waiting," said Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering after hearing the verdict. "The patience we have endured for this day speaks for itself."

Defense attorney Newell Hamilton declined to speak to reporters after the verdict -- he was visibly upset -- but Heinze's brother, Tyler, was angry.

"You seen the pictures, man. Guy couldn't have done that (expletive)," he said. "This ain't right. Y'all sat through that trial and saw the same stuff I saw. The smirks on [John B. Johnson's] face as he's getting his jabs in."