BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) After three weeks of questioning hundreds of people, attorneys were close Friday to being ready to select a jury for the death penalty trial of a Brunswick man charged with beating his father and seven others to death in the mobile home they shared.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys for Guy Heinze Jr. have been questioning potential jurors one at a time since Sept. 17 about their views on the death penalty and what they already know about the high-profile slayings.
Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett, who had 1,500 jury summonses mailed out for the case, wants to have a pool of 70 qualified panelists from which a final jury will be chosen. By Friday afternoon, the judge and attorneys had found 65 people qualified to serve as jurors, said Lola Jamsky, Superior Court clerk for Glynn County.
The judge plans to wait until Heinze's trial begins Oct. 15 for selection of the final 12 jurors, plus alternates. Scarlett has said he plans to sequester the jury during the trial, which could last several weeks.
Heinze, 25, is charged with committing all eight killings on Aug. 29, 2009. Hours later, Heinze called 911 from outside the mobile home where he and the victims lived. He cried to an operator, ``My whole family is dead!''
Autopsies showed each victim had been beaten to death with some type of blunt weapon. Authorities say they believe Heinze alone killed them all. Heinze has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors and police have never given a motive for the slayings. A court filing by Heinze's defense attorneys says they anticipate prosecutors will tell jurors an argument over drugs sent Heinze into a violent rage.
Those slain included the suspect's father, Guy Heinze Sr. Also killed were 44-year-old Rusty Toler Sr. and his four children Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell D. Toler Jr., 20; Michael Toler, 19; and Michelle Toler, 15. The other victims were Rusty Toler's sister, Brenda Gail Falagan, 49, and Chrissy Toler's boyfriend, Joseph L. West, 30.
Defense attorneys for Heinze opted to keep the trial in Glynn County despite years of unceasing news coverage. The judge set aside an entire month to narrow down the jury pool.