crimesider

Mystery Deepens in Family Massacre That Killed 8

(AP PHOTO)
Photo: Crime scene tape surrounds crime scene in Glynn County of Brunswick, Ga., Aug. 29, 2009.

BRUNSWICK, Georgia (CBS/AP) - When Rusty Toler Sr.'s brother, nephew, daughter and her boyfriend lost their jobs, they still had a roof over their heads at his home in southeast Georgia.

It was in that crowded 980-square-foot mobile home where Toler, his four children, two siblings and the boyfriend were found slain Saturday, just a week or so before the park manager says they planned to move out.

Police have no suspects and have not said how the family died.

"He had a big heart," said Gail Montgomery, who manages the New Hope Plantation mobile home park. "And you just don't tell your family no."

Police released the names and ages of the dead Tuesday, three days after the carnage was reported in a frantic emergency call by a relative who said he had returned from a night out to find his whole family dead.

The victims included the 44-year-old Toler and his four children: Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell D. Toler Jr., 20; Michael Toler, 19; and Michelle Toler, 15.

Also killed were two of Toler's siblings: Guy Heinze Sr., 45, and Brenda Gail Falagan, 49, as well as 30-year-old Joseph L. West, Chrissy Toler's boyfriend. A ninth victim, whom police did not identify, remained in critical condition Tuesday. Montgomery said Toler Sr.'s daughter had a young child who also lived with them, and was the lone survivor.

"It's just a shock," said Montgomery. "They were just what I'd call good country folks. I don't think any of them would hurt a fly."

Toler Sr. had worked for 20 years at a plant that dries chemicals and food products located behind the mobile home park, but was laid off several months ago, said Kathy Clock, administrative assistant to the owner of the plant and New Hope Plantation.

(AP PHOTO)
Glynn County Police Department's Capt. Jay Wiggins speaks on the phone near the entrance of the New Hope Plantation mobile home park after a press conference Monday, Aug. 31, 2009.

Montgomery said Toler Sr. also did odd jobs for her, including groundskeeping and hauling trailers.

But he had too many people living in the home. Toler Sr. received notice of eviction proceedings Aug. 13 and was to have been in court with the landlord Monday, two days after he was killed. Montgomery said they had come to an agreement - the family had found a new place and promised to move out by Sept. 8.

"Rusty took care of family," Clock said. "If you needed a place to sleep, there was a place to sleep."

Police have released little information about the case that has rocked this port city between Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla., saying they don't want to jeopardize their investigation.

It was Toler Sr.'s nephew, Guy Heinze Jr., 22, who told police he found the bodies after returning home Saturday morning.

A recording of a 12-minute emergency call has provided some of the only details about the crime.

Heinze Jr. could be heard on the call screaming, "My whole family's dead!" and struggled to describe what he saw, at one point returning to the mobile home to find his cousin Michael, whom he said had Down syndrome, barely breathing.

(AP PHOTO)
Photo: Murder victim Russell Toler Jr. Toler, 20, in an undated image provided by Glynn County Sheriff's Office, Sept. 1, 2009.

"Michael's alive, tell them to hurry!," Heinze Jr. yelled in the background as a maintenance man at the mobile home park spoke with a dispatcher. "He's beat up! His face is smashed in!"

Michael Toler died Sunday at a hospital in Savannah.

Several hours after Heinze Jr. said he found the bodies, police arrested him on charges of drug possession, tampering with evidence and lying to a police officer. Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said he isn't calling Heinze Jr. a suspect in the killings but isn't ruling him out. Heinze's attorney said his client is distraught over the slayings and was not involved.

On Wednesday, Heinze made a brief court appearance wearing a blue jail uniform, his hands folded behind his back. He looked straight ahead during the hearing. The judge granted him bond and Heinze nodded slightly as the judge explained the terms of his $20,000 bond.

Under the judge's order, Heinze will be placed under house arrest with an ankle monitor once he makes bond. It was uncertain where Heinze would serve his house arrest since he was living at the mobile home where his relatives died.

"My client believes the killer is still on the loose," said the lawyer, Ron Harrison, who said Heinze Jr. is co-operating with police.

The Toler family has set up a fund to help pay for burial costs, according to Clint Rowe, an uncle to the Toler children. The family planned to allow photos of the seven caskets in an effort to compel the killer or killers to come forward.

"We want the culprit to know what kind of massive impact it's had on the family, the community," said Rowe, adding the family was still struggling to cope with the slayings. "What can you imagine it would be like to lose seven members of your family in one night?"

A graveside service was tentatively set for the Tolers, Heinze and Falagan on Saturday, according to the Howard-Jones-Nobles Funeral Home. Details of Joseph West's funeral were not immediately available.

"They were very good people," said Laura Davis, an aunt to Toler's children. "They struggled but they had what they needed. They had a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs."
  • Ryan Smith

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