MASS MURDER IN MY BACKYARD
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.'
September 3, 2009
GLYNN COUNTY, Ga., Sept. 3, 2009 -- The wooden sign is plain and simple: New Hope Plantation.
This site is all that is left of the 1763 grant made by the Crown to Henry Laurens, who in 1777 would succeed John Hancock as President of the Continental Congress. He was one of those who worked out a peace treaty that would grant independence to our original 13 colonies in 1783.
At one time, New Hope was part of Hofwyl Plantation, a beautiful place still telling the history and culture of the Rice Coast of Georgia. Hofwyl's entrance-way is no different from New Hope's - just a plain wooden sign - but it leads to a functioning plantation, now a state park, where visitors can see it for a minimal price and a grand tour of house, museum, gift shop, nature trail, picnic area and bus parking. Tourists arrive from all over to see the property with a history from before the Revolutionary War and see a land unscathed by the Civil War.
I live just a few miles away, a short drive up I-95 to the outlet mall in Darien. You can't see the mobile homes from the road but I have driven around the grounds admiring the centuries-old live oaks and a feeling sentimental for the long ago.
On this plantation a crime of horrific proportions took place sometime between Friday night August 28 and early morning on the 29th. A call to 911 came from an hysterical Guy Heinze, Jr., saying his whole family was dead. Crying, blubbering, saying they looked beaten, that it was a horrible scene, he promised to stay on the line with the 911 operator.
When they said the address was Lot 147, New Hope Plantation Mobile Home Park, all the negative assumptions came to the forefront. Trailer Park: trailer trash, drugs, sex, junkyard dogs. But no one said those things. It was just assumed. It happened and it was shocking but it didn't happen to one of "us." The appalling incident at first drained the color from the faces of those hearing and reading about it until trailer park came into the story - but, of course, it wasn't "our kind."
Little by little the story unfolded. There are still no details about the crime, the Sheriff being a taciturn man, but the victims' names were finally released. Yesterday morning's headline in The Brunswick News was softer than earlier ones: "Victims were caring," it said, and we learned if anyone were down on his luck, he or she could have stayed with them.
The father provided food when needed and helped around the Plantation grounds.
He worked at a chemical plant down the road and his boss of 20 years said "he would be sorely missed."
According to Mary Starr, writing for The Brunswick News, one of little victims went to a nearby school, where she was loved for being so bright and uplifting. If anyone were down she would lift his or her spirits.
Those traits are learned at home and it doesn't matter where home is. Grief counselors were at the school Monday morning.
The names are published now and are part of public record. This crime is the second-worst crime in Georgia's history, the first being when a planter and his overseer killed 11 laborers in Jasper County in 1921.
So unforeseen is this carnage that Danny Nobles, of Howard, Jones, Nobles Funeral Home, has never handled a service for so many people. According to Mary Starr, he said: "Oh, this is the largest funeral we've ever done."
The rural church holds no more than 100 people and they will have to borrow six hearses from other funeral parlors in the area to handle the seven family members at a single service. And there is an eigth vicyim now, one who was found in critical condition at the scene, one of the two that had barely survived.
Once beyond the original presumption that trailer residents are "asking for it" whether it be tornado, hurricane or flood that destroys their homes, those reading this ongoing story will realize this family's story may not be subject of a Norman Rockwell magazine cover. But they were real people; they were loving, they cared for themselves and their neighbors, they adored the little three-year-old boy still hanging on to life in a critical care unit at a Savannah hospital, he and his brother the sole survivors of an entire family.
As I listen to the police reports that come almost hourly, I reflect that did what they could with what they had and they were caring people. Who can ask for more?
The murderer, name unknown, remains at large.