Dr. Edmund Donoghue testified that slaying victim Guy Heinze Sr. had 22 external wounds and numerous internal injuries. The victim was struck so hard that pressure from the blows caused the base of his skull to fracture, he said.
"That is significant because it takes a tremendous amount of force," said Donoghue, a Savannah-based medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
He took the witness stand Wednesday on the second day of the trial of 26-year-old Guy Heinze Jr., who is charged with killing his father and seven other family members who shared a cramped mobile home just outside Brunswick. Heinze faces the death penalty if he's convicted of murder in the Aug. 29, 2009, slayings.
Prosecutors and police described a gruesome scene when the trial opened Tuesday. The eight victims were found scattered from the front door to the kitchen and three bedrooms inside the single-wide mobile home. Each had been beaten in the head with what investigators suspect was a shotgun barrel, though the murder weapon wasn't recovered.
The suspect and his 45-year-old father lived with the other seven victims. They included Rusty Toler, 44, and his four children: Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell D. Toler Jr., 20; Michael Toler, 19; and Michelle Toler, 15. Also slain 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. Prosecutors said he suffered severe brain damage and could not help them as a witness.
On Tuesday, jurors heard the frantic 911 call in which Heinze said he had come home from a late night out and discovered the bodies. On the call he cried: "My whole family is dead! It looks like they've been beaten to death."
Prosecutors have told the jury it's significant that Heinze knew immediately how the victims had been killed. Glynn County police Lt. Keith Stalvey, who was the first officer on the scene, testified that the victims' head injuries were so grievous that he at first thought they had been shot.
Heinze's defense attorneys say police rushed to build a case against Heinze and ignored other possible suspects. Defense attorney Newell Hamilton also told jurors that police were ill-equipped to deal with such an overwhelming crime scene, with blood spattered on the floors and walls of a home already covered with trash and discarded clothing.
Hamilton pressed Stalvey on why he persisted in questioning Heinze at the scene when he was shaken after seeing the bodies and was under the influence of drugs. Heinze told police he had been smoking marijuana. Drug tests later showed crack cocaine and a prescription painkiller in his system.
"You have walked into the crime scene and seen blood covering the walls," Hamilton said to the police officer. "You wouldn't assume he was traumatized by that?"
"He may have been traumatized, but I was at a murder scene," replied Stalvey, who said Heinze was not a suspect at the time and wouldn't have been questioned if he had been because he was intoxicated. "And I was trying to the best I could and find out who did it."
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