Veteran criminal investigator David Rush has probed many homicide cases during his nearly four decades as a lawman. None of them bothered him as much as a February 1987 triple murder in McDuffie County, in which three members of a family, including a 6-year-old girl, were brutally slain.
"It was the most difficult homicide investigation I've ever conducted," said Investigator Rush. "The person responsible for the killings of three family members never expressed any remorse, showed absolutely no emotion and never offered a reason for what he did. What he did was very cold, very calculating."
He is shocked now that the person convicted of those killings is now a free man.
Eric Poole, now 38, was released from prison earlier this month after serving 22 years. His release was made possible by members of the Georgia State Pardons and Paroles Board. He is now residing in East Point, but must wear an ankle monitor and check in with his parole officer on a regular basis -- both conditions of his parole.
"I'm still kind of shocked," said Investigator Rush, referring to Eric Poole's parole. Investigator Rush specializes in polygraph examinations and works sex-related crimes for the Columbia County Sheriff's Department. A resident of Thomson, he is a retired special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He was assigned as the case agent to the triple-murder case involving Eric Poole, who shot to death his father, Tony Poole, his stepmother, Janice Poole and his stepsister, Michelle, 6.
The shooting deaths occurred sometime between Feb.5 and 6, 1987 at the home of the Poole family on Sand Hill Road in South McDuffie County.
"I knew that someday he'd probably be paroled, but I didn't anticipate it being this soon," said Investigator Rush during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror at his Appling office last Friday.
He described the crime scene as "horrific," after arriving at the mobile home and learning that he had three different crime scenes to process for evidence and to take photographs.
Tony Poole's body was found near the front door, while Michelle's body was discovered in a hallway. Janice Poole, meanwhile, was found lying face down in a bed. Each of the victims had been repeatedly shot with a Ruger .22-caliber rifle, belonging to Eric Poole.
Investigator Rush recalled having worked closely with McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall, who back then served as chief deputy under the administration of former Sheriff William Swan. The late Gene Wells, an investigator with the local sheriff's department at the time, also worked the case. He later became Probate Court judge of McDuffie County.
Evidence showed that Mrs. Poole was shot about noon. Some four hours later, Michelle became Eric Poole's second victim, shooting her shortly after she got off a school bus and fetched the family's mail. About two hours later, Mr. Poole was shot to death as he returned from work and a grocery store.
Investigator Rush said out of the 22 times that Eric Poole fired the rifle, reloading at least once, 19 bullets actually hit the victims.
"Eric had gotten in trouble at Thomson High School that day and was sent home," said Investigator Rush. Later that same day, Eric Poole made up his mind to kill his family.
The killing of Mr. Poole, according to Investigator Rush, was more like an assassination.
"He (Eric) waited behind a bar in the kitchen and shot his father to death as he turned around to lock the front door," said Investigator Rush. "That part really stuck with me."
Over the years, Investigator Rush said he has been haunted by the case, because it involved a child. He also noted that he has spent many sleepless nights.
"I have to wonder what will happen now that he's been paroled," said Investigator Rush. "I hope he's turned his life around, but you just never know."