A ruling on Craig Heidt’s motion for a new trial may not come until February, at the earliest, after Monday morning’s proceedings in an Effingham County courtroom.
Heidt, convicted a year ago in the August 2008 shotgun slayings of his father Philip Heidt and brother Carey Heidt, originally filed a motion for a new trial in January. That motion came days after Craig Heidt was sentenced to two life terms plus 85 years.
Defense attorney Dow Bonds argued that a shotgun similar to the one authorities said was used to kill Philip and Carey Heidt in Philip Heidt’s home as they slept was turned over to the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office but the state did not inform the defense of that weapon. The disassembled shotgun was brought to the sheriff’s office near the end of the trial, Bonds said.
The shotgun had been taken apart by John Henry Rast before his death in 2010, Bonds said. Rast was the brother of Robin Heidt, the widow of Carey Heidt who had been having an affair with Craig Heidt.
No murder weapon has been found by investigators.
“Had we known this gun had been taken apart by John Henry Rast, we could have cross-examined Robin Heidt about the gun,” Bonds said. “It could have completely changed our defense. We feel like it could have been a critical piece of evidence.”
Assistant District Attorney Michael Muldrew, however said the only shotgun reported missing was Craig Heidt’s Remington 870, which had been behind a door in a shed adjacent to his father’s house. That shotgun could fire 3-inch Winchester shells, the kind used to kill both Philip and Carey Heidt, Muldrew said.
That shotgun, Muldrew said, also had a wooden stock. The disassembled shotgun brought to the sheriff’s office did not.
Walter David Dumas testified Monday morning that Jason Sapp, who then was dating Robin Heidt, asked him to put back together a shotgun that had been taken part. A car salesman, Dumas also builds custom rifles on the side.
He had the weapon sitting in his office during the trial. He said Robin Heidt wanted the shotgun as a keepsake.
“As the trial was going on, I decided to open it and I unzipped (the case),” he said. “I saw it was a Remington 870. It was public knowledge the suspected murder weapon was a Remington 870 that couldn’t be found. … I zipped it back up. … It was really kind of nauseating.”
Dumas went to the sheriff’s office the next day, and he was joined by Chris Heidt, whom Dumas said helped him get in touch with Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie. Inside the sheriff’s office, investigators began taking pictures of the gun. Dumas also gave a statement to Detective John Bradley.
“What made you think it was this particular 870?” Muldrew asked Dumas.
“The fact that it came from Robin Heidt made me think it might be of some importance,” Dumas said.
“You don’t have any idea if this gun is in (question) in anything?” Muldrew asked.
“Clueless,” Dumas said.
The defense also has charged that the shotgun was withheld as evidence, an accusation Muldrew refuted. Allen Heidt had five guns he had received from Robin Heidt that he wanted to turn over to the ECSO in May 2009, Sheriff McDuffie said, including a Remington 870. Those guns eventually were released to Craig Bonnell, Robin Heidt’s attorney, on Judge William Woodrum’s order.
The serial number from the Remington 870 from those guns matched the serial number from the gun Dumas and Chris Heidt brought to the ECSO during the trial, Muldrew said.
Sheriff McDuffie said the existence of the gun was made known to Muldrew, Judge Gates Peed and Bonds the next day.
“Mr. Bonds agreed the gun didn’t have anything to do with anything,” Muldrew said. “Mr. Bonds admitted during the trial that the weapon his client’s brother took to the sheriff’s office had nothing to do with this case.”
Bonds said after the hearing he did not recall discussing the disassembled shotgun with the prosecution and the judge. Part of the defense’s contention for the new hearing was that the state knew about the weapon but did not disclose it to the defense.
“They knew about it the same time as we did,” Muldrew said.
Bonds also charged that the state did not test the shotgun Dumas and Chris Heidt brought to them.
“There’s nothing to test,” Muldrew said.
The state has until Jan. 27, 2012, to file its response to the defense’s motion for a new trial, filed last week but which Muldrew said he did not receive until Friday. Judge Peed also gave the defense until Feb. 17 to file a response to the state’s answer.
Bonds also said that Craig Heidt’s family continues to stand behind him and visits him frequently in prison. He is an inmate at Macon State Prison.