After a week working a case so murky they could not say whether a killer was on the loose, police said Guy Heinze Jr. was responsible for the slayings he reported and charged him with eight counts of first-degree murder. Among the dead were seven of his relatives, including his father.
As family members prepared to bury the victims Saturday, Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said two new pieces of information led authorities to charge Heinze late Friday.
He would not say what that information was or how the victims died last weekend at a mobile home park a few miles north of Brunswick, a port city midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla.
The chief also declined to say whether police believe Heinze acted alone.
"Right now, I don't know," Doering said. "I do know he's involved... I would have not allowed him to be arrested if I was not comfortable with that."
Doering, who insists revealing details about the slayings could jeopardize the investigation, said he wasn't sure Heinze was responsible for the deaths until late Friday afternoon.
"It's the most heinous crime we've ever had in this community," he said.
Hours after the bodies were found, Heinze was charged with evidence tampering, lying to police and drug possession. The arrest warrant for the evidence tampering charge says Heinze admitted removing a shotgun from the home and trying to hide it from police in the trunk of his car. He told police he thought the gun was stolen.
But police never said they suspected him in the killings, and he was released on bond on the lesser charges for about two hours Friday before he was charged with murder and returned to the county jail.
A phone message left for Heinze Jr.'s attorney, Ron Harrison, was not immediately returned. Harrison said earlier this week that Heinze denied any part in the slayings.
In the call to emergency dispatchers early Aug. 29, Heinze said it appeared the victims had been beaten to death.
"My whole family's dead!" he screamed. At one point he returned to the mobile home to find his cousin Michael Toler, whom he said had Down syndrome, barely breathing.
"Michael's alive, tell them to hurry!" Heinze yelled in the background as a maintenance man at the mobile home park spoke with a dispatcher. "He's beat up! His face is smashed in!"
Toler died later at a hospital. The seven other victims were found dead at the scene. The sole survivor was 3-year-old Byron Jimmerson Jr., the son of one of the slain women. He was critically injured and remained hospitalized after.
On Friday, as Heinze was arrested, family members gathered for a funeral home visitation. The victims were to be buried Saturday.
The dead included the suspect's father, Guy Heinze Sr., 45; his uncle, Rusty Toler Sr., 44; and his aunt, Brenda Gail Falagan, 49. Also slain were Toler Sr.'s four children - Chrissy Toler, 22; Russell D. Toler Jr., 20; Michael Toler, 19; and Michelle Toler, 15.
Chrissy Toler's boyfriend, Joseph L. West, 30, was also killed. Byron is her son.
Clint Rowe, who has been acting as a spokesman for the family, said it was "definitely a surprise" to learn of the arrest at the visitation.
"I'm floored right now," Rowe, who is an uncle to the Toler children, said from the funeral home. "But right now it's just an arrest. We have to see where this thing takes us so I'm going to keep my mouth shut until the Glynn County Police Department informs us of more."
Gail Montgomery, the manager of the New Hope Plantation mobile home park, where the slayings happened, said the arrest leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
"I'm feeling just like everyone else is right now, we're all shocked," she said. "We don't know what any of the circumstances are. We don't know if there was more than one or if it was him by himself."
Associated Press Writer Desiree Hunter in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this report.