Monday, April 14, 2008

Could this be the next episode of Snapped?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 9:25 AM

My father is alive because of a heart transplant, so I pay close attention to stories about organ donations.

The story of the former Hilton Head Heritage golf tournament grabs me because there is something about it that just smells fishy.

Today, I noticed that the Georgia Bureau of Investigations isn't quite ready to rule his death a homicide.

Let me back up for a minute.

The victim here is named Sonny Graham. Graham received the heart of a Georgia man who killed himself in 1995. Two years later, Graham met the donor's widow. They were married in 2004.

The donor died by suicide as well.

Here's what the Associated Press says about the couple and the investigation:

FORMER DIRECTOR OF HILTON HEAD'S HERITAGE GOLF EVENT

Inquiry into heart recipient's death

Suicide not certain in case of man who wed heart donor's widow

Associated PressHILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. --

Georgia investigators are continuing to look into the death of a heart transplant recipient whose body was found earlier this month in the backyard of his Vidalia, Ga., home.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation special agent Todd Lowery told the (Hilton Head) Island Packet that the agency's ruling that 69-year-old Sonny Graham committed suicide was preliminary. Graham, once the director of Hilton Head's Heritage golf tournament, was found in a utility building in his backyard with a gunshot wound to the throat.

"We won't say definitely it was a suicide," Lowery said.

Lowery said investigators are conducting interviews and waiting for results of Graham's toxicology report, which could take several weeks.

Sonny Graham lived on Hilton Head Island for about 40 years. He was director of the Heritage from 1979 to 1983 and returned to the event every year to volunteer, friends said.

It was while he was living on Hilton Head that Graham got the heart transplant that saved his life. The 33-year-old donor, Terry Cottle, had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home in Summerville, S.C.

In 1997, two years after receiving the transplant, Graham met the donor's widow, Cheryl, after corresponding with her through the agency that arranged the organ donation. In 2001, he bought her and her four children a home in Vidalia and in 2004, the two married. He was 65, she was 38.

The Island Packet reported last week that Graham was her fifth husband.

The husband before Graham, John Johnson, told the newspaper he met Cheryl Cottle while the two were working at the maximum security Georgia State Prison. Cottle, a licensed practical nurse, worked in the infirmary.

Johnson said their marriage started out happily, but soured, and they divorced in 2004. She married Graham later that year.

Telephone messages left this weekend at a listing for Cheryl and Sonny Graham in Vidalia, Ga., were not returned. A phone message left a week earlier also was not returned.

The Island Packet also contacted a previous employer, Community Hospice, in Vidalia. A spokesman there would not comment, saying Cheryl Graham is involved in a lawsuit with the hospice.

I've heard of celluar memories, but how is it that these two men died the same way after being married to the same woman? It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

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