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Guilty on all counts
After 6 1/2 hours of deliberation, jury convicts Craig Heidt of double murder
CH Bonds verdict
With defense attorney Dow Bonds alongside, Craig Heidt closes his eyes as Clerk of Courts Elizabeth Hursey reads the guilty verdict on all 11 counts of his indictment, including the charges of murder for killing his father Philip Heidt and brother Carey Heidt in August 2008. - photo by Pool photo
Even jurors struggled to keep their emotions in check as Effingham County Clerk of Courts Elizabeth Hursey read the verdicts on 11 counts.
Craig Heidt hung his head after Hursey read the first verdict Thursday evening at 6:35 p.m., guilty as charged for the August 2008 murder of his father, longtime Effingham businessman Philip Heidt. The jury, after six and a half hours of deliberation, found Craig Heidt guilty on all 11 counts, including the murder of his brother Carey and for aggravated assault on his mother Linda in the shotgun attack upon all three in Philip and Linda Heidt’s home in the early morning hours of Aug. 25, 2008.
Sentencing for Craig Heidt will be held in a few weeks, Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Gates Peed said.
With most of his family sitting behind him, Craig Heidt heard each verdict and each juror’s answers as they were polled by Judge Peed.
Defense attorney Dow Bonds escorted his client into the adjacent room after the court was dismissed. Assistant District Attorney Michael Muldrew, the prosecutor in the case, declined comment afterward, citing Judge Peed’s dictum on extrajudicial statements.
Muldrew and Bonds delivered their closing arguments to jurors Thursday morning, after six days of evidence and testimony concluded late Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s been hard on all of us,” Muldrew said. “Which makes it especially hard because the victims were such good members of the community. So many times, our victims lived close to the edge. But that’s not the case with Philip and Carey Heidt. They’ve done nothing to deserve what happened to them.”
The state, in its case against Craig Heidt, said his affair with Carey Heidt’s wife Robin was the genesis for the situation that ultimately led Craig Heidt to break into his parents’ home, kill Carey and Philip with a shotgun and then turn and fire upon his mother.
“There was a cancer in this family. It was Craig Heidt and his affair with Robin,” Muldrew said. “And that cancer destroyed the family. The evidence clearly shows that the defendant not only wanted his brother’s wife, he wanted his brother’s life. And there was only one way, ladies and gentlemen, for him to get that.”
Muldrew presented more than 30 witnesses and the state lined up close to 400 exhibits, most of them photographs, in its case. The state’s case took nearly five full days to present to jurors.
“The state’s case is based on evidence. It is based on witnesses and on witnesses’ statements,” Muldrew said. “All the defense has given you is conjecture, gossip and rumors. … Your job is to judge whether or not the sheriff’s department and the GBI arrested the right man for killing Philip and Carey and for almost mortally wounding Linda Heidt.”
Muldrew said the evidence, from the first witness to the end of the case, shows beyond a reasonable doubt that Craig Heidt was culpable.
“He had motive, he had a plan, he had the opportunity and he enjoyed the results of his crime,” Muldrew said. 
Bonds continued to call into question the state’s case, citing its basis in circumstantial evidence and on an investigation that did not fully explore other possible scenarios for the deaths of Philip and Carey Heidt.
“Regardless of what you have seen, heard or read, this trial is a mystery,” Bonds said. “It was a mystery two years ago and it’s a mystery today.”
Bonds termed the state’s case an old way of doing things, by choosing a theme, putting a name on it and calling it “money and lust.”
“It didn’t have to be this way,” he said. “If you don’t have enough hard evidence, they can get a conviction by having a jury disgusted by an affair with his brother’s wife.”
Bonds also said the state had a lack of “hard, concrete evidence” against Craig Heidt and the technology is available to find that evidence.
“We don’t have to rely on affairs and arguments between family,” he said. “The bottom line is they don’t have any physical evidence that directly connects this crime to Craig Heidt. That’s the bottom line.”
Bonds continued to question why no tests for the gasoline were done, why the clothes taken from Craig Heidt’s residence at the lodge of the Gopher Hill Hunting Club were not tested for gunshot residue and why other potential leads in the case were not fully investigated.
“The prosecution promised you a lot of things they did not deliver on,” he said. “They want you to make a leap of faith. This is a court of law — this is not a time to take a leap of faith on another man’s life.
“This case is about no hard physical evidence and the things that weren’t done that should have been done.”
Bonds posed that the GBI began focusing its investigation on Craig Heidt two to three days after the killings, to the exclusion of other potential suspects. 
“The GBI wanted to prove it was Craig Heidt,” he said. “There are so many questions and so little answers. I wanted to see evidence. All I got was excuses. … Hearing, suspicion, rumors, gossip, that’s what drove the investigation. There are so many questions left unanswered by overzealous agents who wanted to make an arrest.”
Bonds also pointed to a suspected meth dealer who lived on Springfield-Egypt Road, of whom Philip told Chris to be on the lookout for. Muldrew said the sheriff’s office knew of the meth lab and the dealer.
Bonds’ closing arguments drew a lengthy and stern rebuke from Muldrew.
“I hope y’all were as insulted as I was about the mischaracterization of the evidence,” Muldrew said. “In 20 years, I don’t know if I had ever heard a more ridiculous closing argument than I had in this courtroom.”
Muldrew countered Bonds’ assertion that a letter written Aug. 10, 2008, from Philip Heidt to Craig Heidt was hidden. Muldrew said the letter was never given to Craig Heidt and in the two weeks between writing that letter and the shootings, circumstances had changed. He also took exception to the notion that the state was keeping that letter away from evidence.
“Nobody has hidden anything from you,” Muldrew said. 
In a closing argument that lasted one hour, 15 minutes, Muldrew offered the state’s theory of the crime — from Craig Heidt retrieving his shotgun and boots from the feed room, finding the spare key to the back door deadbolt, shooting Carey first, walking across the hall to shoot Philip and intending to shoot Linda, only to find she wasn’t in bed next to Philip and having to turn and fire when Linda came out of the bathroom. He also demonstrated how the gasoline was poured throughout the house and the phone line was cut but before striking and lighting a match, Linda was overheard calling 911 and Craig panicked.
Muldrew also said it couldn’t have been a robbery because nothing other than Craig Heidt’s possessions were taken. He also said witnesses testified that the killings had nothing to do with any of Philip and Carey’s business dealings.
“There’s not a shred of evidence this has anything to do with business,” Muldrew said. “If you think some cattle partner from Ohio can come to Effingham County and commit these crimes, then we just need to burn the courthouse down if something that silly and fanciful can be a reasonable doubt.”
Muldrew also said Craig Heidt went from “living in a metal shed” on a hunting club to living in his late brother’s nice house. He also harkened to the testimony of some of Philip Heidt’s close friends, who testified that the usually private Philip was in turmoil because of the affair.
“What was killing Philip, what was tearing his guts apart, was the affair between Craig and Robin,”he said. 
He also pointed to what he described as Craig Heidt’s lies throughout the investigation, from lying about the affair to lying to the extent of the affair to lying about the first call that morning, refuting his claim that it was from Robbie Caldwell when phone records show Craig already had called Robin Heidt.
Craig Heidt also lied to Christy Campo about his financial status and later lied about his relationship with his father, Muldrew said. The only way to get enough money for his plans, Muldrew said, was to kill his father and mother and brother to collect the life insurance money and the $3.5 million policy Carey had, the beneficiaries to which had been changed unbeknownst to Craig.
Muldrew also called the gunshot residue issue a “red herring,” saying that residue is viable for testing after three hours and that at a hunting lodge, gunshot residue would be prevalent.
He also lied about the bruises he said to have gotten from a fall in the shower the day before he was interviewed by the GBI. The bruises were at least three days old, the state alleged, and could not have resulted from the day before.
“He’s absolutely guilty,” Muldrew said. “It is absolutely impossible for those bruises to have been from the day before. The only, only, only reason he would lie about the bruises is if those bruises were evidence of guilt.”
Muldrew also said the defense never controverted the witnesses of the state and even the defense’s expert witness had to agree with his theory of how the shootings took place.
“You’ve got a motive, a plan and an opportunity,” Muldrew said. “He wanted his brother’s wife, and he wanted his brother’s life. 
“He’s the only one, after nine months of exhaustive investigation, who had a motive to commit this crime. He hated his brother; he hated his father. …The GBI didn’t jump to a conclusion, but when they reached a conclusion, it is the only reasonable conclusion.”