While authorities search for the gunman in an apparent triple shooting that has left two people dead and another critically wounded, friends and longtime associates are trying to figure out why a prominent Effingham County businessman and his son were killed.
Longtime real estate agent and developer Philip Heidt, 59, and his son Carey, 32, also a realtor, were shot and killed in Philip’s home early Monday morning. Philip’s wife Linda, 58, was wounded and was taken to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah. Hospital officials could not comment on nor confirm she was taken to Memorial.
Effingham County Sheriff's investigators said Tuesday afternoon that the investigation into the slayings of the Heidts is continuing. No arrests have been made, and ECSO investigators and Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents are continuing to follow leads, having worked around the clock.
"We're looking for the facts of this case," said Detective David Ehsanipoor, noting the rumors that had been running rampant through the community once news of the shootings broke.
The shootings, and the deaths of the Heidts, stunned their friends and colleagues.
"It’s hard to comprehend," said Wendel Wilson, a longtime friend of Philip Heidt’s. "It was a matter of shock and disbelief. Anytime you lose a good friend, it’s hard to believe they’re gone."
The news of Heidt’s death rippled through the community Monday, leaving his many friends and colleagues to wonder why it happened.
"He’s just an icon of the community," said Gussie Nease. "He was a family man. It was hard to see something in this community that he didn’t have his fingerprints on."
Nease and Heidt had known each other since childhood, even riding the same school bus, she said.
"He’s a dear friend to me," she said. "He had been a colleague and a friend for a long time. I can’t imagine anyone hurting Philip. I’m in total disbelief."
Philip Heidt was an associate broker at Coldwell Banker Intercoastal Realty, and Carey was an agent with the firm. Philip Heidt had been a past president of the Effingham County Chamber of Commerce, a life member of the Savannah Board of Realtors and was on the board of directors of the Citizens Bank of Effingham, according to the bio on his firm’s Web site.
He was a member of Bethel Lutheran Church and operated a farm that had been in his family for five generations.
He and Linda had been married for nearly 40 years and had three sons and seven grandchildren, according to his bio on his firm’s Web site.
Wilson recalled coaching one of Philip Heidt’s sons in recreation ball, and Philip helping him coach the team.
"I’ve known him pretty much all of his life," he said. "He’s been a very good friend."
Carey Heidt was father to three children and was also a member of Bethel Lutheran Church.
Authorities have been tight-lipped about the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Effingham sheriff’s deputies were called to Philip Heidt’s home on Springfield-Egypt Road around 3:30 Monday morning in response to the report of a multiple shooting.
Once they arrived, they found three people who had been shot. Two were confirmed dead at the scene and another was taken to Memorial, Effingham Sheriff’s Detective David Ehsanipoor said.
Investigators are not saying who they believe shot the Heidts. They also are not releasing the name of the person who called in the shooting.
Deputies, GBI agents and Effingham County Fire and Rescue units lined the stretch of Springfield-Egypt Road near the Heidts’ home. Deputies had cordoned a lengthy stretch of the road in both directions.
Much of the evidence gathering has been finished at the home, but sheriff's deputies are maintaining control of the scene, Ehsanipoor said.
Heidt is being hailed as someone who saw the potential of Effingham County.
"He certainly was a visionary in the real estate market and in what Effingham County could be," Wilson said. "He was active and pushed Effingham County to what it could be. He pushed to bring a lot of business into the county. A lot of the commercial (activity) has come in as a result of him."
Said Nease: "His imprint is everywhere. If you thought of someone of knowledge of the (real estate) market, you thought of Philip. He was the go-to guy with what was happening."
Ehsanipoor said anyone with pertinent information about the shootings should call the Effingham County Sheriff's Office at 754-3449.