Police today publicly identified the eight people killed in a mobile home in Brunswick, Georgia, on Saturday, August 29, 2009. The dead were listed as Russell D. “Rusty” Toler Sr., 44 and his four children, Chrissy, 22, Russell, 20, Michael, 19, and Michelle, 15; Guy Heinze, Sr., 45, the half-brother of Rusty Toler, and father of the man who reported the slayings; Brenda Gail Falagan, 49, Rusty Toler’s sister; and family friend Joseph L. West, 30.
A ninth victim survived and, according to the Brunswick News, has been reported to be three-year-old Byron Jimmerson, son of Chrissy Toler. The boy’s Identification was confirmed by Diane Isenhour, Rusty Toler’s ex-wife and mother of the four Toler children. The boy’s condition is said to be improving, according to Alva Cross, Rusty Toler’s sister.
Initially, it was reported that all nine victims lived in the mobile home at the New Hope Plantation mobile home park. However, Kathy Clock, a spokesperson for the mobile home park said not all the victims lived in Rusty Toler’s small trailer, but all did stay there at times. She added that they were planning to move because they needed more space. (The Brunswick News reported that Rusty Toler had a hearing scheduled in Court for August 31, 2009, regarding eviction proceedings.)
The shocking scene was reported by Guy Heinze, Jr., 22. When Heinze returned home after a night out, he ran to a neighbor, who called 911. A maintenance man at the trailer park named Mike talked to the dispatchers as Heinze returned to the mobile home and reported that his cousin Michael, who Mike described as “young man with Down syndrome,” is still breathing but “his face is smashed in.”
During the 911 call, Heinze, Jr. stated he came home to find “my whole family dead.” “I was out last night. I got home just now, and everybody’s dead. … My whole family’s dead. It looks like they’ve been beaten to death. I don’t know what to do, man.” Heinze told the dispatcher, “My dad, my mom, my uncle, my cousin. …. My dad, he’s laying there dead. That was my dad.”
Authorities have released very little information, but autopsies have been completed. Heinze has not been arrested for the murders, but was arrested the next day on charges of having a controlled substance, evidence tampering and making false statements to a police officer. According to Heinze’s arrest report, he admitted to removing a shotgun from the mobile home and putting it in the trunk of his car to hide it from investigators because he believed it to be stolen. Heinze was charged with being in possession of Darvocet and marijuana, which were found in his vehicle.
Heinze’s arrest report for Obstruction of Law Enforcement states that he “knowingly and willfully obstructed and hindered Inv. Mike 0wens and Marissa Tindale by providing investigators with false and misleading information about his whereabouts and involvement in the circumstances leading up to him calling 9l l to report the deaths of his family members.” He is in custody and due to appear in court on Wednesday, September 2, 2009. Ron Harrison, Heinze, Jr.’s attorney, said Heinze, Jr. was “deeply saddened, very distraught,” and denied any involvement in the killings.
Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said that Heinze has been cooperative and stopped short of calling him a suspect; he said police are still looking for “anybody and everybody” that may be connected to this tragedy.
WSB News Radio in Atlanta spoke to Mark Hill, once married to Rusty Toler’s ex-wife. He said of the four Toler children, “They were good kids, well mannered, well behaved. Every one of them were good kids.” He hadn’t seen them for several years after he divorced their mother eight years ago.
WSB also reports that Sam Davis, an employee of a convenience store frequented by the Tolers when they lived in Townsend, told them Rusty “…was just a nice guy. Quiet, humble. He’d do anything for anybody in the world. … He looked like he loved his kids. I’d see him stop by with them going on fishing trips.”
Kathy Clock said Rusty Toler was loyal and loved his children. “Rusty took care of family,” Clock said. “If you needed a place to sleep, there was a place to sleep.” Rusty Toler did maintenance and odd jobs at the mobile home park, and also worked at a nearby chemical plant.
Chief Doering said police believe at least one person, not in custody, may have information in the case. Doering has released almost no information about the case or any information about how the victims died. However, Memorial University Medical Center disclosed that that Michael Toller died from brain injuries from gunshot wounds. It is reported that some of the victims were so badly disfigured, visual identification was not possible.
Police had been called to the home in the past, but Doering would not say why. Doering would only say that police are making progress and have narrowed down the timeline for the times of death.
The murders and lack of information about them or any suspects have put the community on edge. Long-time resident Thomas Joiner told WSB Radio that while he didn’t fault authorities for withholding information, he the “uncertainty over whether a violent killer was on the loose is tough to take and he’s not taking chances.” He said he is being very vigilant, has a pit bull, and keeps his shotgun handy. He also said he has started locking his doors at all times, something he never did before.
The police have offered a $25,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in the case, and the New Hope Plantation mobile home park has added an additional $10,000.
CNN News; WSBRadio; Brunswick News – Eviction Loomed for Slain Family; Brunswick News – Child is Lone Survivor; News Four Georgia