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Special Assignment: Out Too Soon?

News 12 at 11 o'clock, May 20, 2010

THOMSON, Ga.---It was an unthinkable murder. A 15-year old guns down his family. A step-mother, father, and 6-year old sister killed in their own home. It's been 23 years since Thomson High School freshman Eric Poole murdered his family, but for family, friends, and investigators it feels like only yesterday.

Now Eric Poole is free, paroled after serving his time.

Family and friends knew something was wrong when Janice and Tony Poole never showed up to work that February morning and were alarmed when 6-year old Michelle was absent from school. But it wasn't until their bullet riddled bodies were found did all their lives change.

With it's light blue shutters, it looks like the outside of an average 1987 home, but inside lies a gruesome crime scene.

"This is something we cannot forget even though we would like to forget. And I don't like thinking about this case, I don't like reminding myself what I saw," says Toombs Circuit District Attorney Dennis Sanders.

"We get a call saying there's been a triple homicide, never crossed my mind it was a family. A mother, father and most of all a 6-year old child," says former GBI Agent and current Columbia County Investigator David Rush.

Investigators say 15-year old Thomson freshman Eric Poole first shot his step-mother Janice. Janice was shot twice asleep in her bed.

Then he turned to 6-year old Michelle. Eric shot her seven times in the hallway.

Then when his father Tony returned home from work, he opened fire on him, shooting him five times. His paper bag lunch fell next to him.

"It was shocking, devastating, bewildering," says Sanders.

"Why, you know? The baby. The mama and daddy are bad enough, but why kill her?" Asks family member Fred Windom.

Fred Windom and other family members knew the day would come when Eric would be paroled and released from prison, but they didn't imagine it so soon.

"Not in my lifetime anyway," says Windom.

Even though Eric pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, the maximum sentence at the time was two life sentences. Back then, a life sentence was only ten years. And he could paroled after serving only seven of them.

"This case and other cases like this one are what ultimately led to life without parole," says Sanders. "They need to take into consideration the current law is 30 plus 30."

Eric Poole, inmate 220128 was released this March. After serving just over 23 years.

"I never dreamed that he would only serve 20 years. Somehow that doesn't seem to be appropriate," says Rush.

News 12 requested Georgia Pardon's and Parole Board open Eric's file. Eric had had no disciplinary action since 1998 and completed numerous self help programs. He finished his GED behind bars, and worked at a transitional center before being released. We also found that there were no letters in support for his release.

"I was pretty much...shocked," describes Rush. "I doesn't seem fair for the victims or their family."

With technology changing over the years, no one ever signed up for the Department of Corrections to notify them of changes in Eric's incarceration. But even though the family wasn't notified, Pardons and Parole says the District Attorney must be.

"I didn't get anything. I was not notified by the pardons and parole board," says Sanders.

Neither was Sheriff Logan Marshall, a lead investigator two decades ago. "Normally before the person is released we'll normally get a sheet stating that on a particular date they will be released but we never received that," says McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall.

"I don't think they told anybody," adds Windom.

"I don't blame the family at all for being terribly upset and disgusted at the way it was handled," says Rush. "If that is the way things are done, it needs to be changed for good."

Growing up a man behind bars, many wonder if that boy who killed his family all those year ago has changed.

"Do you think after 23 years he could still be a danger?" Asks News 12's Katie Beasley.

"I'm not gonna say he can't be because I still have a lot of questions in this case. I know what I saw, and any one who would do that-- I don't want to be around. I've got to be honest with you," answers Sanders.

"If he did it 3 times, why not?" Says Windom.

"I hope he's changed. I hope he's turned his life around and can be a productive member of society now and they'll be another judgment day for him," adds Rush.

"I would be very uneasy if he was my next door neighbor," says Sanders.

The board says their job is to "Weigh punishment with rehabilitation and decide at what point enough is enough." This was Eric's third time up for parole. He was denied in 1995 and again in 2002.

At 38-years old, Eric is now living and working in East Point, Georgia. Under the conditions of his parole, Eric is on electronic monitoring, pays fees to victim's services, and must continue intervention and rehabilitation programs.

News 12 did try to contact Eric Poole. The Department of Corrections has an address, but no phone number listed. We've also tried to contact him through family members, but have not been successful.

He has never apologized to the victim's families, or expressed why he murdered his family.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by me on Jul 26, 2012 at 04:28 PM
    I've been reading all the comments and one thing is evident. All u ppl seem to wanna say how u knew me and spent time with us. Funny thing is, I only remember a very few of u and u were never there much. Jeff was and now he seems to have jumped on the " let's hate Eric, bandwagon. " I was mean? eerie? Never. Its nice to sit back and talk about someone. But if u don't knw them, what r u talking about? And I'm a good person. I don't care what any of u say. U don't knw me. I just see alot of lies. I hope none of u r Christians. Cause u sure don't act like it.
  • by me on Jul 26, 2012 at 04:13 PM
    Just so u get ur facts straight, I NEVER said I would do something like that again. And I wrote letters in prison, trying to apologize.
  • by NA Location: NA on Feb 14, 2012 at 01:33 PM
    Eric has applied for a job at my business. He did indicate convicted for murder. I did not press for details but I did clearly since a quite and non remorsefull person. I did some research after he left and could not believe what i was reading. Make no mistake about it, I will and anyone out there better watch out. This is in my opinion a ticking time bomb of a person and I still cant believe he has visited my business. I will protect my family. I felt something very sinister after speaking with him. He clearly is not like us. He is the exact reason we need prison. He is disturbed. God help us and God please improve our system of parol.
  • by S Location: Florida on Sep 3, 2010 at 08:16 PM
    I was locked up with Eric in Milledgeville, Ga at the YDC center - We were both teens. He bunked next to me. I knew his story - it was hard to sleep without 1 eye open. I asked time and time again what happened and why did he do it. He never had an answer and said he did not remember anything. This guy was strange. He was very easy going, and extremely nonchalant about most everything. He had some bizarre things to say from time to time about leaving his body and being able to travel wherever he wanted... I guess that was his escape. I was there from oct 87 to oct 88. I think the guy should have stayed locked up forever - but im not the system, was just in it. I do remember him getting slapped around a bit by other inmates. I always asked, why do you put up with it - he said he didnt want to get in trouble. I said Eric - you're here for life, what more could possibly happen to you. He never had an answer. He was cold, and remembering it now is chilling.
  • by Jeff Location: Tampa on Jun 14, 2010 at 06:36 AM
    I was Eric's "best" friend at the time and used to spend the night at his house. Eric was not abused he was the kind of kid that was always in trouble and did not want to pay the price his dad and step mom did all they knew but I dont think they could have changed this no matter what they did.
  • by C Location: Thomson, Ga on Jun 11, 2010 at 11:26 AM
    OMG!!! This brings so much back!! When I moved to Thomson in the late 80s and moved into a double wide as a 5 yr old child, I still remember the bullet holes in the walls, that my parents had NO CLUE that a family had been murdered there!!! I still remember everything about that house and will never forget it. We lived there until my parents found out that a family had been murdered in it.
  • by Lucy Location: Augusta on May 24, 2010 at 01:10 PM
    I am married to a member of the Poole family and this has always been an uneasy subject for my husband to discuss or hear about. I pray for this cousin and for the remainder of the Poole family. My husband and brother-in-law are Poole's of great character and class and are well respected in this community. Thank GOD we aren't judged by the mistakes of our relatives. I'm also THANKFUL that Eric is not a member of our community. We have NO room in our lives for extra liabilities and I personally won't tolerate it.
  • by V Location: Augusta on May 22, 2010 at 04:29 AM
    Brandy, you might want to keep your distance from this so called cousin. This loser doesn't know you, and doesn't regard you as family after being locked up and living with his prison family for so long. He has seen and been exposed to many unimaginable things from the general public belief's of normalcy.
  • by Devin Location: Thomson Ga on May 21, 2010 at 04:36 PM
    This story has never left me for you see Michele was not only my neighbor but my best friend. In fact I remember the night that I tried to call her house to spend the night while my mother and sister were going to a concert but no matter how many times I called noone ever answwred. I remember crying cause I couldn't go, I was just a nine year old little girl at the time. I remember my mom waking me up the next morning and trying to explain to me how I could never go to Michele's house again and my response was "mom thats not funny" how could I possibly comprehend. I remember looking at her house from mine with an ache in my heart I had never known. Michele and I would always play "house" together, I still remember how her room looked. I have a beautiful blonde haired blue eyed daughter now and my heart still aches because she never got the chance. Tony and Janice were nothing but nice to me. Eric kept to himself but was never mean to us. I don't know why he did it. Its his to live wit
  • by Anonymous on May 21, 2010 at 07:32 AM
    Lady Justice strikes out again!!
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