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Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
January 24, 2024 ·  3 min read

He Received the Heart of a Suicide Victim and Ended Up Dying the Same Way

In the small town of Vidalia, Georgia, a tale of suicide unfolded that left a community perplexed and grieving. Sonny Graham, a 57-year-old man on the brink of congestive heart failure in 1995, found a lifeline in the form of a heart transplant. Little did he know that this transplant would connect his fate in an eerie way to that of the heart’s original owner, Terry Cottle, who had tragically taken his own life.

Terry Cottle, 33, faced mental health struggles and a heated argument with his wife, Cheryl Sweat, before his life-ending decision. Sonny, the recipient of Cottle’s heart, felt a profound connection to the donor’s family and reached out to them. Two years later, Sonny met Cheryl, then 28, for the first time.

It was love at first sight for the man who received a suicide victim’s heart

“I felt like I had known her for years.” Sonny recalled in a 2006 interview with The (Hilton Head) Island Packet. “I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I just stared.” Love blossomed, and despite the unusual circumstances, Sonny and Cheryl eventually married, nearly a decade after Sonny’s life-saving transplant.

However, the tragic echoes of the past resurfaced in 2008 when, at the age of 69, Sonny Graham took his own life—mirroring the same method employed by Terry Cottle 13 years prior. The shock and sorrow of his suicide reverberated through the tight-knit community, especially among those who knew Sonny well.

A man loved and respected by his community

Sonny Graham died in the same way as his heart transplant donor - a victim of suicide.
Image Credit: Family Handout

“Any time someone had a problem, the first reaction was, ‘Call Sonny Graham’,” shared Bill Carson, a friend of Sonny for over 40 years, in an NBC interview. “It didn’t matter whether you had a flat tire on the side of the road or your washing machine didn’t work. He didn’t even have to know you to help you.”

The uncanny parallels between the lives and deaths of Terry Cottle and Sonny Graham raised speculation online about the existence of a ‘suicide gene.’ Some found it mind-boggling and heartbreaking that a heart transplant could intertwine two lives so intricately. Social media became a platform for expressing disbelief and seeking answers.

However, Terry Cottle’s sister dismissed the notion of a ‘suicide gene,’ emphasizing the separation between the brain and the heart. “The brain is where the conscience resides, where love and loss are felt; the heart is just a pump.” She asserted in an interview with CBS.

A sad reminder for us all about suicide

The tragic tale of Sonny Graham serves as a reminder of the complexities of life, love, and the mysteries surrounding organ transplants. Despite the unsettling coincidences, the scientific community maintains that the physical heart is merely an organ. And the essence of emotions and decision-making resides in the brain. The story of Sonny Graham and Terry Cottle, though hauntingly interconnected, raises questions about the fragile boundaries between life and death. And the enduring impact of shared human experiences.

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Read More: Robot Was Gifted With Intelligence; Did it Decide to ‘Commit Suicide’?


  1. Man Who Received Heart Of Suicide Victim Goes On To Live Same Life And Die In Same Way.” IGV Official. Annie Walton Doyle. January 18, 2024
  2. “Man with suicide victim’s heart takes own life” NBC. April 6, 2008