Eye On Innocence
Author Daniel Alden
The Guy Heinze Jr. prosecution and conviction marked what the DA, Jackie Johnson and her team had hoped would be the finale of a small town tragedy. Their hopes without a doubt that the conviction would go unquestioned, and Guy Heinze Jr. would spend the rest of his natural life behind prison bars. That however conviction however, quickly being unraveled due to the diligence and perseverance of Jodie Sturt, Guy’s family and a host of others who have stood up for justice. The following is a case summary of the trial of Guy Heinze jr. put together an innocence organization who made it a point to speak in laymen’s terms, removing the pain of reading legalese.
The State’s prosecutor, John Johnson, under the direction of DA Jackie Johnson would begin the trial with the words, “ this case is circumstantial. Meaning we don’t have any evidence putting Guy Heinze Jr. at the scene of the crime as it was being committed “
That was a huge understatement.
In reality, even his circumstantial evidence was far less than adequate.
It boiled down to 1) Guy Heinze Jr knew the victims. 2) Guy Heinze Jr used drugs and 3) Guy Heinze lived there and claimed to have found the victims.
I’d like to at least be able to say that confirmation bias swayed the investigators of the Glynn County Police Department. That sheer and utter incompetence could explain the ensuing catastrophe of that investigation.
Ultimately though, I cannot.
This wasn’t a case of investigators, perhaps subconsciously forcing the evidence to conform to their belief that guy Heinze Jr. was the killer. It wasn’t so simple.
This became a case of hanging their proverbial hat literally on the lack of evidence.
Destroying or disposing of any evidence that may have proven exculpatory.
From the beginning, they focused on one suspect, Guy Heinze Jr.
In a case where they already knew they had no solid evidence of the young man’s involvement, in a matter of a few days, Police Chief Mathew Doering publicly announced Guy Heinze Jr. as the lone suspect in a mass murder like no other seen before or since.
What made this crime unique, was that 8 people had been killed by bludgeoning with a blunt object, a 9th would barely survive. The survivor, a toddler of 3 years old would suffer severe brain trauma and undergo years of therapy, and was unable of course to aid in naming the killers.
However, a 15 year old had also survived, although he passed away in the hospital the following day.
That person was 19 year old Michael Toler. Guy Heinze found Michael alive, but badly beaten in his bed and frantically screamed for police and emergency services to hurry getting to the scene to save the young man’s life. I can’t recall a case in which a person who’d intentionally murdered multiple people a large number of people then pleaded for help in saving the one survivor who could Identify him or her as the murderer.
The investigation began immediately. Guy Heinze Jr. was cooperative from the very beginning.
Although he admitted using illegal drugs prior to coming home and discovering his family had been massacred, and being entirely forthcoming with information during a time when he was visibly distraught and shaken, the investigating officers had already begun to believe the killer was none other than Guy Jr., and that against all logic, he had been able to, for all intents and purposes, bludgeon 8 people to death without suffering any injury to himself, without anyone escaping, and without being covered in mass amounts of blood, in fact, without any blood noticeable on him at all. Although after making numerous trips back into the home, he did accumulate small amounts of transfer blood on his shorts, both neighbors who had reacted to his pleas for help testified that upon his arrival home that morning, he was barefoot, and without any blood visible at that time.
Below I’ve outlined the errors of the Glynn County police department investigators.
Among the strongest of their evidence against Guy Heinze Jr was the blood stains on the inner and outer shorts Mr Heinze Jr had been wearing on the day of the murders.
Guy Heinze was observed by his neighbors, Ms Orlinski and Mr Nixon after his arrival home at roughly 8am, and right after frenetically entering the home screaming that his whole family was dead, and both testified that their was no blood on the clothes he was wearing,
which supports Mr Heinze’s claim that his clothing had become stained with the blood of the victims on his 3 trips into the home in which he searched for a phone to dial 911, as well as to check and to see if anyone in the home might still be alive, of which there were 2, Michael Toler and Byron Jimerson.
On one of those trips, Mr Heinze Jr even sat or laid on a bed next to Michael Toler to comfort him and screamed for his neighbor Ms Orlinski to tell the police and paramedics to hurry, as Michael was still alive.
Had Mr Heinze committed these murders, certainly he would not have wanted the only person who could ID him to survive. As it was, Michael Toler was taken to the hospital alive, but succumbed to his injuries while there 2 days later.
Knowing this, we can surmise that the blood being transferred from the bodies of the victims while Guy was checking them for signs of life, while he sat and or laid next to Michael Toler, or simply brushing up against bloody items ( chairs, walls, door frames ) inside the home, which the police themselves testified would be impossible to enter and walk through without stepping in, or walking through blood, as it was “ everywhere “.
These are each, and all reasonable hypothesis contrary to the prosecution’s theory.
Not only are they reasonable, but with the two eye witnesses who saw and spoke with Guy that morning, they are even more reasonable than the states theory.
It will be found in testimony that the Glynn County PD worked vigorously to implicate Guy Heinze Jr as the culprit responsible for the Murders.
It is proven in testimony that officers collecting evidence agreed that there was, in the south bathroom of the home, blood evidence that gave them reason to believe their was a possibility that the murderer(s) had been injured and bleeding caused by that injury during the course of the crime, had been left on items of clothing in that bathroom.They subsequently photographed that evidence, but failed to preserve it for testing.
They believed Guy Heinze Jr had committed these murders and washed an enormous amount of blood from his body, hair, ears and nostrils, and so the sink and bathtub drain taps were removed from all drains in the home.
They too, like the aforementioned bloody clothing were then discarded and disposed of.
As if that wasn’t egregious enough, admitted to in transcripts the police then began storing over 600 items of bloody evidence in the bathtubs according to officer Strohl, ( over 1000 pieces according to DA Jackie Johnson in a press interview ) and were removed from the tubs just prior to releasing the home from police custody. However, BEFORE it was released, but AFTER the removed the blood evidence from those bathtubs and bathrooms, they decided to test the tub for blood. ( transcript pages 5139, line 11 through page 5144, lines 21)
This is too obvious an indiscretion to have been simple error.
This would be the equivalent of someone putting laundry in their washing machine, then feigning the shock of a great discovery when they go back and find their laundry in the washing machine. All in all, there was between 600 and 1000 pieces of evidence collected, but only 200 tested and/or analyzed, and that was done with extreme bias favoring the state as you will see.
More issues with the evidence occurred when Guy Heinze Jr surrendered the clothing he had worn the day he discovered his family murdered.
Officer Mike Owens of the Glynn County PD collected those clothes and kept that evidence with him overnight. Not logging it into the evidence room until 18-24 hours later.
This is obviously an egregious and highly suspicious chain of custody error.
Officer Owens was a seasoned police officer who’d handled evidence many times and knew the procedures well. His performance in doing so, had caught the radar of internal affairs as will be pointed out soon.
One would be remiss if his removal and possession of that evidence did not cause them to ask, why? Where did he take it? And what else might he have done with it?
The officers of Glynn County PD failed to test Mr Heinze Jr for blood at any point after his discovery of his family in the home in New Hope trailer park.
Why? If they believed he might possibly be the culprit, even if they didn’t believe that, it would be a standard procedure used to rule someone out of being a suspect.
It would, and does seem at this point that they took every measure they could to PREVENT Guy Heinze from being ruled out! It didn’t stop there either.
There was a question of evidence regarding a document which had supposedly had a bloody palm print of Guy Heinze Jr on it along with a small number of blood droplets, that was supposedly placed in a drawer by Mr Heinze Jr during, or immediately after the murders.
The ADA, Mr John Johnson, in opening statements made a very powerful statement regarding that document and where it was found along with the palm print of Guy Heinze.
Unfortunately, despite a court order not to do anything to evidence which might consume that piece of evidence, that is apparently what happened.
The evidence was destroyed during testing.
This left the defense without the ability to scientifically test that evidence themselves and build their counter defense to it.
For that fact alone, that piece of evidence should have been disallowed by Judge Stephen Scarlett. It was not.
Entered into evidence by the State was a photograph of the document in which none of the claims by the state could be seen by the naked eye. However, it was published to the jury anyways.
Furthermore, during proffer with officer Strohl, without the jury present, it was discovered that in spite of ADA Johnson’s claim in opening arguments that it was found in a drawer, the location of where it was found was actually unknown. Also unknown, was the DNA profile of one of the droplets of blood according to the biological fluids expert from the Georgia bureau of investigation.
The statement in testimony of it being found in a drawer was disallowed when the jury returned however, they could not un-hear what they had heard in opening statements from Mr Johnson.
To further aggravate the situation, the assistant district attorney made the claim that it had been retrieved from the drawer once again during closing arguments anyway.
Police chief at the time, Matt Doering had conducted fingerprint comparisons of prints found on evidence from the home, yet the results of those comparisons were not turned in during discovery. To this day, no one knows where those results are.
In addition, there were bloody prints found on a bed frame as well as a head board that did not belong to Mr Heinze Jr, or anyone else in the household.
One of those prints was sent to the Georgia bureau of investigation with explicit instructions for it NOT to be compared to anyone else’s hand print EXCEPT that of Guy Heinze Jr. why?
It was determined that it was not in fact the hand print of Guy Heinze Jr.
It was also not entered into that National Automated Fingerprint Identification System because Lt Daras stated “ it wasn’t of good enough quality.
I submit to you that if it was good enough quality to determine who’s it wasn’t to the naked eye, it would have been good enough quality to determine who it DID belong to through the use of the FBI’s automatic inspection computers. If it was even questionable in 2009-2013, I’ll guarantee because I work with automated inspection cameras, that it would be identifiable today.
The Glynn County PD testified that they had 70 pages of lead sheets on this case with between 20 and 30 leads per sheet that had been called in to the tip hotline managed by Glynn County PD.
They claimed they followed up on every lead, yet they had no records of those follow ups. According to Lt Daras, lead investigator in the Guy Heinze case, they simply don’t annotate or record any follow ups, visits or interviews or even save notes from those visits if they don’t feel as though the follow up was useful.
One has to ask, after a shift change at the PD, how would a different officer picking up the lead sheets from his shift commander ever know which leads had already been followed up on, and where to pick up on the next unchecked leads if there was absolutely no records of the previous leads having been followed up on already?
This defies logic! A police department couldn’t possibly even function in that manner!It’s more likely that they simply didn’t follow up on any of those leads.
As you’ll see, when Calvin Hudson called in with his two alternate suspects that had said in his presence “ we’re going to kill the whole fuc*ing family “, it took them 4 years to go visit Mr Hudson, let alone to seek out the two alternate suspects. Not until jury selection was under way in 2013 did they send anyone to interview Mr Hudson.
The prosecution used the testimony of a Mr Thomas Williams ( transcript pages 5190-5210 ) to dispute the claims of Mr Guy Heinze Jr in which Guy claimed that he had been at the campground known as Barrington Park around 1am on the morning of the murders, and that Mr Williams testimony that Guy was never seen at the park around 1am as proof that Guy wasn’t being truthful about his whereabouts that morning. The charge of Lying to Law enforcement about his whereabouts on that morning actually was used to arrest Mr Heinze Jr.
The problem with that is that on transcript page 5201, line 22, Mr Hamilton asks Mr Thomas:
“Q: Now if I understand correctly, Mr. Williams, is you went to bed at 10 o’clock that night?
Mr Williams responds:
A: yeah. “
Mr Hamilton then goes on to state what is obvious. If Mr Williams went to bed at 10pm the night before the murders, why would he be expected to know if Guy had entered the campground at around 1am, and left later that morning?
Mr Williams testified that he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. That he was asleep.
Guy Heinze should never have been arrested on that charge to begin with, let alone had that testimony used by the prosecution against him.
Two pieces of evidence turned over to authorities after Glynn County PD had completed their processing of the scene and relinquished the trailer home back to New Hope Trailer Park.
The Police Department had been called by Ms Gail Montgomery ( now Gail Priest ) to collect first, a Pair of what she described as bloodied nunchucks, and later an equally apparently bloodied Estwing Hammer.
Initially, the police claimed to the judge during a motion for a continuance, that there were no such calls to their department and Ms Montgomery was merely a frequent caller to the PD, and intimated that she was lying and looking for attention.
Their claims of the non existent phone calls were quashed, when the recordings of those phone calls to Glynn County PD were found, and the officer on those two calls stated that the Glynn County PD definitely wanted that evidence.
Ms Montgomery says the items had been retrieved possibly by officer Mike Owens, the same officer who had held on to Guy’s clothing overnight instead of turning them into evidence the morning he collected them.
Not only has officer Mike Owens become someone of questionable reliability during the entire case, it turns out, he was questionable BEFORE this case as well and had been the subject of an internal affairs investigation regarding his handling and preservation of evidence collected in criminal cases.
As i just mentioned, officer Owens had prior to the murders at New Hope trailer park, been investigated by the Department of Internal Affairs, and he admitted during that investigation that he was guilty of collecting evidence in a criminal investigation in which he mishandled and improperly preserved the collected evidence!
The prosecution suppressed that from the defense, which would have allowed the defense attorneys to impeach all of Officer Owens testimony as well as his reports.
Since the prosecution knew about his credibility problem, their suppression of this information from the defense is a clear Brady violation in when testimony or evidence against a defendant is impeachable, it most often becomes exculpatory, in that it becomes unusable against that defendant by the state because we cannot verify reliably that it has been entered into evidence in the same condition as it was when collected from the scene of a crime.
In the onset of the investigation into the Murders, a caller by the name of Calvin Hudson placed 2 phone calls to the Glynn County PD stating that 2 men with affiliations to a local gang known as The Insane Gangster Disciples had said in his presence that they were going to “ the entire fuc*ing family “.
They failed to question the two men involved because they determined one, Andy Anderson was being held in jail at the time, though there was no record of that produced at trial. The second man’s name was given only as Dwayne. They chose not to try and search for Dwayne as they had no last name. This is ludicrous.
Every known gang member is listed across this country in Data Based. Brunswick is a town of 15,000 people, not many of them named Dwayne. There was no acceptable reason to ignore this lead to alternate suspects.
That lead had been presented to the police in 2009, yet they never went to see Mr Hudson until jury selection was under way in2013, Nearly 4 years later, and only after they caught wind that the defense team had spoken to him.
Furthermore, there was another Anderson Known as Joseph Bryant “ Big Joe “ Anderson. Big Joe gave an interview with Glynn County PD in which he named alternate suspects that were exculpatory to Mr Heinze Jr.
Was “ Big Joe “ a relative of Andy Anderson ?
Did he ALSO point the finger towards Andy and Dwayne?
We may never know, because true to Glynn County PD and The DAs form, the recording of that interview with Big Joe was lost or destroyed, never to be found again.
The Trial itself didn’t end the injustices.
After the defense rested its case, the prosecution motioned to enter one more witness. They referred to officer Tillman as a “ rebuttal witness “. This was extremely odd because the defense had yet to make its closing arguments. The prosecution at this time had nothing to rebut!
Never the less, Judge Scarlett allowed the witness to testify.
What he testified to was extremely suspicious. Suddenly out of the blue, the DAs office had discovered an officer that no one had heard of up to that point, who claimed to have conducted the search of the area outside of the home of the Heinze/Toler residence after the murders and would testify that he found no such items as the nunchucks, or the hammer that it had now been proven did in fact exist. As had become the norm during this investigation, he could produce no report on his search to the defense.
As if That wasn’t enough, prosecutor John Johnson must have realized his case was not as strong as he had wanted it to be. He requested that he be allowed to change the wording of the charges. No longer with the charge be strictly against Guy Heinze Jr. As the lone killer. he requested that the charges now include Guy Jr. as an active participant, or being involved with a non active participant who knew of and conspired with others to commit the murders.
This had undoubtedly caused confusion and stress among the jurors. For 8 days they had heard testimony, seen evidence and geared their minds towards determining if Guy Heinze Jr was the sole killer. Now, in the 11th hour, they would be asked to recall all of that testimony and evidence, and quickly restructure their thought process to include a second possibility.
This in and of itself shows even the prosecutors believed there was reasonable doubt in their case. So abundant was it, that they asked that a couple other options be added for the jury, to suddenly and without notice ponder. They literally doubted their own case to such a degree that they scrambled for other ways in which they might get a conviction and be able to say the most brutal murders in Georgia history had been solved. Case closed.
The removal of juror 152 was a spur –of- the- moment decision in which Guy Heinze Jr was put on the spot and under great duress as you might imagine he would be when being asked to make a decision that effects the rest of your life. He was, in his own words “ given 10 minutes “ to make his decision.
There’s no possible way GuyHeinze Jr could have possibly absorbed the gravity of that decision in just a few minutes, and although the death penalty was off the table in agreement that juror #152 ( the last remaining dissenter after the jury was instructed multiple times to return to deliberation after they were hung in earlier deliberation ) would be replaced by an alternate. The alternate votes guilty, thus ending the trial with a guilty verdict unanimously.
This was not a decision a defendant should be rushed to make by neither the defense counsel nor Judge.
Removal and replacement of a juror during deliberation is allowed only under extreme circumstances. In this instance, juror 152’s extreme circumstance seems to be that he mentioned the trial to a bailiff, and the bailiff claimed the juror said the word “ cockroach “to his wife during a family visit during sequestration. Though it’s true that it had been mentioned during the trial what appeared to be cockroach bites on some of the victims, the bailiff heard no context of the conversation between juror 152 and his wife. It’s just as plausible the Juror was mentioning cockroaches in reference to the motel he was being sequestered in.
It was also declared that he was annoying to the other jurors.
None of these are extreme circumstances that should have ended with his removal from the jury to be replaced by an alternate.
One juror was recorded by the BBC for the documentary “ Life and Death Row “ stating that the first thing he thought to himself when he first looked at Guy, was that Guy “ showed no Remorse “
One who is supposed to be presuming innocence up until all the evidence and facts have been submitted, should not even be LOOKING for remorse, as why would an innocent individual being tried for a murder he did not commit, be remorseful?
This same Juror, again in the audio visual recorded documentary also stated that he felt that when the death penalty option in sentencing was taken away, that he felt the jurors had been robbed, that something had been “ taken away from them “.
Additionally, two more jurors in the documentary stated before the camera that they had been confused during the entire trial.
This is not just a misstep. In fact, it’s a violation of Judge Scarlett’s Jury instructions in which he told the jury, “ if you’re wavering, or if you are unsure, you MUST vote not guilty “
I do not believe the sufficiency of the evidence to proceed to trial was ever there. I believe the DA also knew it wasn’t there, as prior to trial they contracted the help of an Assistant DA in Atlanta Georgia to conduct research in regards to the odds of winning for the state in a strictly circumstantial evidence, death penalty trial.
If sufficiency is in fact found to be there in the eyes of the law, and the Honorable justices of Georgia’s Supreme Court, then the weight of evidence must be even more scrutinized.
This was a terrible tragedy that took place at New Hope Trailer Park. There is no denying it.
The case was mishandled at every turn. The evidence left behind, lost or destroyed seems to have each and every time occurred to the Benefit of the state, and to the detriment of Guy Heinze Jr.
The scales of justice were weighted heavily against Guy Heinze from day one until the verdict was read, and every single error lays with the state. Every single one.
A fair and impartial trial cannot happen when the defendant has to pay for the errors, intentional or otherwise of those who seek to imprison him.
In the words of Schaefer Cox “ if the government wants you guilty, they’ll make you guilty “.
It is as clear as day that the Glynn County DA and police department wanted Guy Heinze Jr to be guilty, and they lost, destroyed, mishandled or disposed of every piece of evidence along the way that might have proven him otherwise.
This page is updated regularly there will be more information added on subjects including: -
The Investigation, The Case according to Law Enforcement, a breakdown of the news coverage, The Trial, The Evidence, Who was on the Case and where are they now, Guys conviction and current situation, who are Eye on Innocence, The life on Death Row BBC Documentary.
Any information on this page has been verified by Guys family, partner and/or official documentation.
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