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State rests its case against Craig Heidt
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The state rested its case against an Effingham County man accused in the August 2008 shotgun slayings of his father and brother late Tuesday afternoon, and defense attorney Dow Bonds is expecting to be through sometime today presenting witnesses and evidence on behalf of Craig Heidt.

Craig Heidt is charged with killing his father, longtime respected Effingham businessman Philip Heidt, and his brother Carey Heidt and severely wounding his mother Linda Heidt at Philip and Linda Heidt’s home.

Bonds spent more than two hours cross examining GBI Special Agent Eugene Howard, who as case agent supervised the investigation into the killings. As the case agent, Howard explained, he served as a clearinghouse for the information gathered by other GBI personnel and the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office. He also was tasked with assigning leads to investigators to follow.

Howard said “everybody” was a suspect in the hours, days and weeks after the killings.

“This was what we commonly refer to as a ‘whodunit,’” he said.

Howard said it was “impossible” for someone to reach their hand in through a broken pane on the back door and open the door. Agents found a key in the dead bolt and said a key Philip and Linda Heidt used for the lock before they went to bed was kept on a mantle. Investigators found the key on the mantle in its normal resting place but could not find a spare key that was said to be kept in an outside utility room.

Craig Heidt’s inconsistent statements — he told investigators he was not involved in an affair with Robin Heidt as Robin was admitting to the relationship in separate interviews — raised suspicion, according to Howard.

He also said the crime scene — particularly the remote location of the house and the fact no money or jewelry was taken, among other clues — revealed that burglary, robbery and extortion were not motives.

“The objective was to break into the residence and kill every soul in the residence,” Howard said.

Howard also said Craig Heidt volunteered that he was missing a shotgun, boots and coveralls from a feed room in a shed outside the house.

Howard showed in photos of the room, with Heidt pointing to where he kept the items, that he considered it difficult for someone else to find the shotgun in the feed room in the dark.

Bonds questioned Howard on potential leads, including Philip Heidt’s various business partners and dealings.

“In talking to some of Philip Heidt’s business partners, it was clear he was the rainmaker,” Howard said. “He had the contacts. He had the ability to make things happen. It became clear no one benefited from his death.”

Howard testified that Philip Heidt’s death created a “hardship” on many of his partners. The investigation generated nine volumes of files, almost 1,300 pages in all.

“We followed numerous leads, a very large number,” he said.

Craig Heidt was arrested in May 2009 because authorities found out he and Robin Heidt and Robin Heidt’s children were preparing to move to Charleston, S.C., and that Robin Heidt had been shopping for a wedding dress. They didn’t want to deal with the spousal privilege that may occur or with extradition, Howard said.

Craig Heidt was arrested driving Carey Heidt’s truck, Howard, and it was loaded with Craig’s possessions.

Bonds questioned the number of people on the crime scene log, a list that contained 179 entries. Howard said that list also includes people who were in charge of security around the crime scene and of keeping the crime scene log. He said most people on the list went to the mobile command center established at the Heidt home.

Bonds also challenged Howard on a bloody footprint found near the front door and on tire tracks that were reported to be found in the yard. Howard said the footprint was thought to be from one of the first responders as Linda Heidt was taken to Memorial Health University Center in Savannah.

Bonds also asked why the GBI did not test for gunshot residue on Craig Heidt’s clothing and did not send any items that were soaked in gasoline spread throughout the house for comparison. Bonds also asked why a hunting mask wasn’t tested.

“There weren’t going to be any eyewitnesses,” Howard said. “The goal was to go in and kill everybody in the house.”

Howard also was probed on other potential leads. Bonds questioned him about Jason Sapp, who Howard said now is in a relationship with Robin Heidt. But Howard’s investigation showed Sapp was in a rehabilitation facility in Jesup at the time of the killings. Howard said he also eliminated the late John Henry Rast, Robin Heidt’s brother who was the passenger in the truck when Craig Heidt was arrested, because Rast was in Charleston at the time. John Henry Rast committed suicide earlier this year in Robin Heidt’s garage.

Authorities did not impound or search Robin Heidt’s vehicle because they knew where it was at the time of the shootings, a result of a GPS tracking device used by a private investigator.

“We looked at all reasonable suspects,” Howard said, adding authorities have not excluded Robin Heidt as aiding or abetting Craig Heidt.

State medical examiner Dr. James Downs testified that the bruises Craig Heidt claims to have received in a fall, after taking a shower at his brother Chris’ home a few days after the killings, were inconsistent with his story. Photos and a video re-enactment of the fall from the shower, in which Craig Heidt said he slipped and landed on the commode.

Family members said Craig came out of the bathroom and told them he slipped in the shower and landed on the commode, going so far as to re-enact for them his head going into the bowl — earning him the moniker of “Tidy-Bowl Man” from his family.

“He didn’t show me his specific injury,” said Kathy Heidt, who was in the kitchen with a few others at the time. “But he said he hurt his shoulder.”

Howard showed a video with Craig Heidt re-enacting the fall from the shower and showed the jury photos he had taken of the bruises to his arms. Howard said that by judging from the color of bruises that they weren’t a result from the very recent episode in the shower.

Effingham County Sheriff’s Detective John Bradley suggested inspecting Craig Heidt for bruises, since those often result from firing a shotgun, Howard said. Heidt began to try to explain away his bruises even before taking off shirt, Howard noted.

“As an investigator, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up,” he said.

Bonds questioned Howard’s background in medical training, and Downs also said the bruises were at least three days old. He also said they were consistent with bruises that may result from firing a shotgun.

“It’s kind of bread and butter of what I do for a living,” Dr. Downs said.

He also said with a fall in the manner Heidt showed, there would have been bruising to the chest and there was none to be seen in the video or photos.

“There’s no way those could have happened in the fall,” Dr. Downs told the court of the bruises to Heidt’s arms. “If he fell with that kind of impact, I’d expect head injuries and damage to the (toilet) seat area.”

Bonds asked if Dr. Downs was employed by the state.

“I don’t testify for the defense. I don’t testify for the state,” Dr. Downs said. “I testify for the truth. I don’t have a side.”

Rev. Shelly Nelson-Bridger, the first defense witness called, said Craig Heidt did not appear to be acting out of the ordinary when she met him and the family at Chris Heidt’s house in the hours just after the deaths of Philip and Carey.

“He looked shocked and seriously upset,” she said. “Everyone was shocked and trying to make sense of the senselessness that happened.”

Rev. Nelson-Bridger, who was pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in August 2008, said she’s met with Craig Heidt several times since he was arrested.

“Did your talks on spiritual process have anything to do with the fact that he was sleeping with his brother’s wife?” asked Assistant District Attorney Michael Muldrew.

“He was very apologetic about what he had done to his family,” she said.