News 12 at 6 o'clock, May 20, 2010
THOMSON, Ga.---An entire family murdered at the hands of a teenager. It was a triple murder that caught McDuffie County by surprise.
A 15-year old boy shoots and kills his father, step-mother, and 6-year old sister. 23 years later, it's a crime scene investigators still can not get out of their minds.
Now, barely more than two decades later that killer is free, paroled after spending just 23 years behind bars. It's a decision neither family members, nor law enforcement support, and even more a decision they were not even made aware of.
Family members knew Eric Poole would be paroled one day, but they never thought it would be so soon and they didn't realize it would bring all those feelings rushing back.
It was a cold blooded murder that investigators say took time. 15-year old Thomson freshman Eric Poole first shot his step-mother Janice while she was asleep, the unopened mail still lying next to her.
Then, hours later he killed 6-year old Michelle when she got home from school. When his father was locking the front door after a day at work, Eric shot him from behind.
"In all the years of law enforcement I've seen a lot of bad things, but nothing prepared me for what I saw that night," says David Rush former GBI Agent and current Columbia County Investigator.
"It's so unpleasant, and so disturbing, that its the kind of thing that you get in your mind and you lay in bed that night and you can't stop thinking about it. It affects you that much," says Toombs Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders.
All three victims were shot in the head, multiple times, with a .22 calibur rifle. It was a hunting rifle given to Eric for Christmas one year, emptied on his father, and placed gently on the couch.
"You could see he'd just put his keys down and then someone just opened up on him and started shooting him like a combat mission/ like they were lying in ambush for them," says Sanders.
6-year old Michelle was shot seven times. "It's a case that's haunted me throughout my career and sometimes continues to haunt me, when I think about little 6-year old Michelle, that never graduated high school, never got married, never had children," says Rush.
"Why, you know? The baby. The mama and daddy are bad enough, but why kill her?" Asks family member Fred Windom.
"To see a little six year old laying in the floor, blonde hair but just matted and stained with her own blood," adds Sanders. "You keep going...why would anyone do this to this family?"
It's a question to this day, people are still asking.
"When I got to the door, I saw that the glass was broke," says Windom. He found his brother-in-laws body, two days after investigators say Eric shot them.
"First thing I thought was burglary, you know, cause they were gone. The car was gone and no lights on," says Windom.
At first, everyone was worried about Eric and his safety, but then when news of a recent school suspension hit, he became a prime suspect.
After killing his family, Eric spent the weekend with friends and was taken into custody outside of Atlanta driving his fathers car.
"My problem is with him, he never showed any remorse whatsoever, like it never bothered him. I was told he went out and partied that weekend-- when this happened," says Windom.
Rush says although Eric never confessed to him, he did brag about the killings to other juvenile inmates. "He was going around telling people things like...I've killed three people, I can kill one more," says Rush.
Eric eventually pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to three life sentences, but at the time Georgia law only considered two.
"My contention to them was, so we're like K-Mart now...you kill two, you get one free?" Asks Sanders.
In 1987 there was no life without parole and a life sentence was only 10 years, today it's 30. "The law when Eric Poole was sentenced was simply ten plus ten," says Sanders. "
This case and other cases like this one are what ultimately led to life without parole."
This March, after serving 23 years and 32 days behind bars, Eric went before a parole board and was released.
"He was supposed to pay for life and I think life is when you die," says Windom.
According to the Department of Corrections, Eric is currently living in East Point, Georgia--near the Atlanta airport.
He has never apologized to the victim's families, or expressed why he murdered his family. He told investigators he blacked out and just remembers hearing the gunshots. During sentencing, the judge asked him why he did it. Eric just sat there and gave no answer.