The jury of eight women and four men weighing murder charges against Guy Heinze Jr. was scheduled to return to the Glynn County courthouse at 9 a.m. today. They’re trying to work through a deadlock after more than 17 hours spent deliberating over the past two days.
After dinner Thursday, the jurors opted to return to the hotel rooms where they’ve been sequestered without TVs, computers or cellphones since Oct. 15. The jury recessed hours after telling the judge they were deadlocked 9-to-3.
Prosecutors say Heinze clubbed to death all eight victims Aug. 29, 2009. Defense attorneys say he’s innocent.
Heinze, 26, could face a death sentence if convicted of clubbing the eight victims to death. The jury heard a full week of testimony before beginning deliberations Wednesday afternoon.
Glynn County Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett recessed court Thursday evening after telling attorneys the jury would return Friday at 9 a.m.
The outcome could depend on how long the judge is willing to push the jury to keep working.
Heinze was charged with the Aug. 29, 2009, slayings just outside the port city of Brunswick six days after he reported finding the bodies to police. In a frantic 911 call he cried: “My whole family is dead!”
The foreman said jurors had agreed unanimously only on two drug possession charges against Heinze, who tested positive for marijuana, cocaine and a prescription painkiller in his system after the killings. He said jurors were divided on all eight murder counts plus one count of aggravated assault related to the beating of a small child who survived the attack.
After reporting the deadlock, the jury returned to the courtroom Thursday to view for a second time police video of the crime scene, a walkthrough of the mobile home that included the bodies as they were found. Electric fans can be heard humming in the background. Attorneys have argued over whether the fans were loud enough to mask noise from someone moving room to room to attack the victims.
The jurors’ names have not been given in open court since the trial began. The judge has occasionally referred to individual jurors in court by first name or number.
Prosecutors said Heinze had been smoking crack cocaine when he attacked his father and the others in the dead of night 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 that one person couldn’t have slain so many people without anyone escaping. Attorneys worked to convince the jury that police ignored alternate suspects and evidence as they rushed to build a case against Heinze based entirely on circumstantial evidence.
Heinze’s lawyers also said there was no compelling motive for him to kill his father, 45-year-old Guy Heinze Sr., and the others. Rusty Toler Jr., 44, was slain along with his four children: Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell D. Toler Jr., 20; Michael Toler, 19; and Michelle Toler, 15. Also killed was the elder Toler’s sister, Brenda Gail Falagan, 49, and Joseph L. West, the 30-year-old boyfriend of Chrissy Toler. Her 3-year-old son, Byron Jimerson Jr., ended up the sole survivor but suffered severe head injuries.