BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Spared from a possible death sentence by a deal between lawyers, a Georgia man convicted of beating his father and seven others to death inside the mobile home they shared was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Guy Heinze Jr. was sentenced less than a week after a jury found him guilty of malice murder for the Aug. 29, 2009, slayings. Prosecutors dropped the death penalty as an option for 26-year-old Heinze last week as part of a deal with defense attorneys that allowed them to avoid a hung jury.
Relatives of the victims told reporters as they left the courthouse in Glynn County yesterday that they had been opposed all along to Heinze receiving the death penalty.
“That’s the easy way out,” said Diane Isenhower, whose ex-husband and four children were among those slain. She said she’s satisfied knowing Heinze should spend the rest of his life in prison. “It’s a relief. Now I just pick up the pieces and go on.”
Under Georgia law, Heinze faced an automatic life sentence once the death penalty was off the table. The only thing Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett had to decide was whether the defendant would ever be eligible for parole.
Heinze’s attorneys, who have insisted he is innocent, presented no witnesses and said little to try to persuade Scarlett before he imposed his sentence. Newell Hamilton Jr., Heinze’s lead defense attorney, declined to comment after the hearing.
“There are people who believe in Guy and believe he’s innocent,” said Heather Teston, who said she has been a friend of Heinze’s since high school. “Maybe they should have moved the trial somewhere else. After four years, everybody here has been set in their opinions on the case. I think ultimately he was railroaded by the justice system.”