BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A Georgia man suspected in the beating deaths of his father and seven others in their mobile home is scared to death because he's innocent, the suspect's brother said today.
Guy Heinze Jr., 22, appeared before a Superior Court judge for the first time since he was indicted on eight counts of murder last September. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
"He's scared to death, and he knows he didn't do it," Tyler Heinze, the suspect's 17-year-old brother, told The Associated Press as he left the courthouse.
Police arrested Guy Heinze six days after the Aug. 29 discovery of the bloodied bodies of his father, Guy Heinze Sr., and several members of an extended family beaten with a blunt weapon inside the mobile home they all shared.
It was Heinze who alerted neighbors to call 911 that morning and sobbed as he told a police dispatcher: "My whole family's dead."
Nearly nine months later, authorities have released few details about the case and have not given a motive. None of the evidence was discussed in court. The judge mostly went over procedural details with attorneys.
Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams denied a motion by Heinze's lawyers to ban the media from pretrial proceedings. But she said she'll consider certain requests to shut the public out of hearings involving evidence.
Defense attorney Joseph Vigneri told the judge he's concerned news coverage of court proceedings before the trial could deprive Heinze of an impartial jury.
"If you can show that to this court, I will close this courtroom to the press as well as the public," Williams said.
While Heinze's brother watched from the back of the courtroom, family and friends of several of the other victims sat quietly up front.
They included Diane Isenhour, whose four children - Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell D. Toler Jr., 20; Michael Toler, 19; and Michelle Toler, 15 - were among those slain. So was her ex-husband, 44-year-old Rusty Toler Sr.
The other victims were Rusty Toler's sister, Brenda Gail Falagan, 49, and Chrissy Toler's boyfriend, Joseph L. West, 30.
"It's a rough road," Isenhour said after the hearing. "I'm having faith in the Lord."
It will likely be years before the case goes to trial. The judge said Tuesday she's giving attorneys on both sides at least three more months before she sets a date for Heinze's arraignment, when he'll be asked to enter a plea.
Tyler Heinze said he doesn't see how his brother could have killed their father and so many others he was close to - especially by himself.
"I haven't heard anything to convince me that one person could kill eight people and come out without a scratch," he said.