Image: Tyler Heinze with a friend
Stephen Morton  /  AP
Tyler Heinze, 16, right, walks with a friend after the funeral for his father, Guy Heinze Sr., and other slaying victims on Saturday in Townsend, Ga. Tyler is the brother of Guy Heinze Jr., who is charged with killing their father and seven other people in a mobile home park.
updated 9/6/2009 6:15:29 PM ET 2009-09-06T22:15:29

The brother of a Georgia man charged with slaying his father and seven others in a mobile home insisted Saturday that the suspect would never harm his family, and he also speculated that a dispute over drugs could have prompted the killings.

Family members spoke to reporters outside a graveside funeral for seven of the victims slain a week earlier inside the home they shared near the Georgia coast.

Their grief was mixed with shock after police charged 22-year-old Guy Heinze Jr. on Friday with eight counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his father, uncle, aunt and four cousins. The eighth victim was a boyfriend of one of the cousins, and his funeral arrangements are pending.

"I know my brother didn't do this. My brother has a conscience," 16-year-old Tyler Heinze said outside the rural cemetery where seven caskets topped with roses were resting atop freshly dug graves.

"I can say there was drug involvement in the house and I think somebody ripped somebody off and somebody needed to get their money back," said Tyler Heinze, who once lived at the mobile home but had moved in with his stepfather before the killings.

"Maybe somebody in the house double-crossed someone. It could've been my brother who double-crossed somebody, and it could be part of his fault that somebody came in there and did this."

‘My whole family’s dead!’
Police have refused to say how the victims died or what evidence they have against Guy Heinze, who reported the gruesome scene to authorities Aug. 29 in a chilling 911 call. He frantically told a dispatcher "My whole family's dead!" and said they appeared to have been beaten to death when he found them.

Heinze had been jailed soon after the slayings on charges of illegal possession of prescription drugs and marijuana, as well as lying to police and evidence tampering.

Video: Eighth victim dies in Georgia trailer killings Tyler Heinze declined to speak in detail about drug use at the mobile home.

"I'm not going to sit here and ruin my family's name," he said. "I don't want people to think my family was trash. They were hardworking people."

The suspect worked construction jobs hanging drywall and wanted to be a truck driver like his father, said his grandfather, William Heinze. The family called the suspect "Little Guy," until he outgrew his father.

"He loved his dad. I know in that 911 call that we heard on the news, he was devastated to find his dad dead like that," the grandfather said. "I just can't believe it, unless they really had some proof."

Copper-colored casket
Dozens gathered for the funeral at the Young's Island Community Church of God in McIntosh County, about 20 miles north of the mobile home park where the slayings occurred in neighboring Glynn County.

The copper-colored casket of the family patriarch, 44-year-old Rusty Toler Sr., sat beneath a green tent with the coffins of his two sons — Russell Jr., 20, and Michael, 19 — on either side. In front of them were two white caskets containing Toler's daughters, 22-year-old Chrissy and 15-year-old Michelle.

Beside the Toler men sat the caskets of Toler Sr.'s sister Brenda Gail Falagan, 49. Draped in an American flag, a nod to his prior Army service, was Guy Heinze Sr. He and Toler Sr. had been inseparable since childhood and referred to each other as brothers, though they were not blood relations, said Heinze Sr.'s father, William Heinze.

One victim, identified by police as Chrissy Toler's 3-year-old son, Byron Jimerson Jr., survived with critical injuries and remained hospitalized in Savannah.

Seemed like a ‘good guy’
Joseph L. West, Chrissy Toler's boyfriend and the eighth victim, had enlisted Heinze Jr. a few times to help work on his family's shrimp boat, said Otis West, the slain man's brother. He said he didn't know Heinze well, but he seemed like "a good guy."

"He didn't seem like anybody who would do something like this," West said Saturday. "But you never know."

A friend who went to high school with the suspect in Brunswick said he kept to himself, but he was always nice and respectful. Ashley Strickland said she doesn't believe Heinze is the killer.

"As far as I know, they've always been a very tight-knit family," Strickland said. "They've had their fights but they've always made up."

Clint Rowe, a family spokesman, said relatives were shocked by the arrest.

"It floored them," said Rowe, an uncle by marriage to the four Toler children. "He was part of the family."

Heinze Jr. was among 10 people living in the 980-square-foot home that Toler Sr., whom he considered an uncle, rented for $405 a month. A friend has said Toler Sr. took in relatives who were struggling to find work.

Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said two new pieces of information led authorities to charge Heinze late Friday but wouldn't elaborate. The chief also declined to say whether police believe Heinze acted alone.

Heinze's arrest warrant for the evidence tampering charge says he 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.

Heinze was released on bond on the lesser charges for about two hours Friday before he was charged with murder and arrested again.

Heinze's attorney, Ron Harrison, didn't return several phone calls Saturday, but he has said Heinze denied any part in the slayings.

More on: Georgia

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Video: Man who reported massacre charged


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