Sonny Graham lived on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. He had lived there for 40 years, 35 of which he had been happily married to his wife, Elaine. Gray and Michelle were his and Elaine’s two wonderful children. Sonny was the Heritage Golf Tournament’s director from 1979 to 1983, and he volunteered at the event every year after that.
Sonny Graham died of congestive heart failure at the age of 57. Doctors told him he only had about six months to live, so when he received a call from the Medical University of South Carolina informing him that a heart had become available, he couldn’t have been happier.
Sonny began to experience strange cravings in addition to having a new heart. He had never liked beer or hot dogs before, but he found himself wanting them more and more.
To Sonny’s dismay, the identity of the heart donor was kept private. The only information he was permitted to learn was the donor’s age – 33. Sonny contacted the organ donation agency again a year later, and this time they gave him what he wanted.
Terry Cottle met Cheryl while managing an apartment complex in Jasper County, South Carolina. She was his boss’s daughter, and despite the fact that he was already married with two young daughters, he and Cheryl fell in love quickly. He divorced his wife, and nine days later, he married Cheryl.
Things were going swimmingly at first. Cheryl’s two sons, Christopher and Timmy, were adopted by Terry. Jessica was his and Cheryl’s daughter. Terry offered to work so Cheryl could continue her education as a nurse. Cheryl’s father died in 1994, and her mother moved in with them around Christmas.
Terry completed his GED, obtained a real estate license, and became a certified emergency medical technician at the age of 33. However, it was insufficient. Cheryl desired a more luxurious lifestyle than he could provide and even told him she couldn’t stay married to a man who earned less than she did. She even removed her wedding band and tossed it over the garden fence.
They agreed to split up, but the next morning, Terry shot himself in the head in the bathroom. He was on life support for four days before the machines were turned off and his organs were donated for transplants.
Sonny Graham began writing letters to Cheryl Cottle, a widow with four children, as soon as he learned about the man who had saved his life. In 1997, the two finally met. It was love at first sight for Sonny.
Sonny divorced his wife, and in 2001, he purchased Cheryl and her four children’s home in Vidalia, Georgia. He retired from his job as a plant manager for Hargray Communications in Hilton Head and married Cheryl in 2004; he was 65 and she was 38. Sonny told the Hilton Head Island Packet in 2006 for a story they were running, “I felt like I had known her for years. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I just stared.”
However, things were not meant to be. Sonny Graham drank his coffee and walked out the back door on an overcast spring morning, nearly 13 years after Terry Cottle had murdered him. He entered his shed, took out a 12-gauge Remington shotgun he used for quail and dove hunting, pointed the muzzle at the right side of his throat, and pulled the trigger.
According to scientists, there have been more than 70 documented cases of transplant patients experiencing personality changes as they adopt some of the characteristics of the donor.