While grieving a family slain in a Georgia mobile home, relatives of the victims have been grappling with another problem — how to pay for so many funerals at once.
But help including donations and service discounts has been pouring in to the extended family of 44-year-old Rusty Toler Sr., his four children and two siblings. The seven died along with the boyfriend of one of the daughters in a cramped mobile home where they lived together while weathering unemployment and economic hardships on the Georgia coast.
A pastor in a neighboring town said residents have been donating money to help cover funeral costs to a fund he set up with a local bank. A funeral home and a company that pours concrete burial vaults are offering their services at a discount.
"I'm sure they need quite a bit of help," Carl Rowe, an uncle to Toler's children, said Thursday. "You're talking about a family that averages a $10,000-a-year in salary, and most are maintenance workers and low-income workers. You're not looking at big-time money people here. You're looking at down-to-earth folks."
A graveside funeral for seven of the eight victims was scheduled for Saturday, a week after a relative reported discovering the bodies at the New Hope Plantation mobile home park a few miles north of the port city of Brunswick.
Along with Toler Sr., the dead included his brother, Guy Heinze Sr., 45, and sister, 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. Funeral arrangements for him were still pending.
"It's just overwhelming — seven at one time. Eight, really," said the Rev. Danny Stilwell of the Church of God of Prophecy in Eulonia, who declined to say how much had been donated to the fund he set up. "It's nowhere near what's needed, but people are responding. Whatever's given is truly appreciated."
Danny Nobles of Howard-Jones-Nobles Funeral Home in Jesup said they were giving the family discounted services to help them deal with the cost, but said he did not want to go into specifics.
The Bailey Monument and Vault Company in Waycross was providing the Toler family with a discount for concrete burial vaults, which the family otherwise could not have afforded, said Keith Hawthorne, the company's president.
"I'm just trying to get all of them through this as easily as I can," Hawthorne said. "I've never met them and doubt that I ever will, but I don't need to. This is a particular hardship on them."
The sole survivor of the attack remains hospitalized in Savannah. Rowe said the victim, a young boy, was showing signs of improvement after surviving critical injuries.
Guy Heinze Jr., the 22-year-old man who reported the deaths of his father and relatives to police, remained jailed Thursday on $20,000 bond. He was charged with lying to police, tampering with evidence and drug possession hours after making a frantic 911 call to report the slayings.
Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering has said investigators aren't calling Heinze Jr. a suspect in the killings, but they aren't ruling him out either.
Ron Harrison, Heinze Jr.'s attorney, has said his client is cooperating with police and believes the killer remains at large.