A jury in the double murder trial of an Effingham County man is expected to begin deliberations Thursday afternoon.
The defense rested its case Wednesday afternoon in the trial of Craig Heidt, who is accused of killing his father Philip and brother Carey Heidt in August 2008 in Philip Heidt’s home. Philip was a respected and successful realtor and developer in Effingham County. Linda Heidt, Philip’s wife and Craig’s mother, also was severely wounded in the attack. All three were shot with a shotgun.
Linda Heidt was the final witness in the case, in which evidence and testimony began a week ago. She read a letter from Philip Heidt written Aug. 10, 2008, two weeks before he was killed, and addressed to Craig. The letter had never been delivered.
“Son, I appreciate all the things you do and have done,” the letter read. “Things don’t have to be difficult as they are. You have couple of children who love you. Your mom and I love you. … We are all going through difficult times. I trust you are continuing to check on your disability with the attorney. Don’t be distant and let life pass you by.”
Craig Heidt, who did not take the stand in his own defense, was crying as the letter was read to the court.
Linda Heidt said she and her counselor have had difficulties coming to grips with what has happened and with trying to piece together her memory of the events.
“It’s been hard,” she said. “There are a couple of things that are a little fuzzy.”
Assistant District Attorney Michael Muldrew challenged defense expert witness Kelly Fike’s depiction of how the Heidts were shot. Fike testified that there was nothing between the muzzle of the shotgun and a sleeping Carey Heidt and that after shooting Philip Heidt, the shooter had to move several feet before firing at Linda Heidt, who was coming out of the master bedroom bathroom.
Fike also posited that Carey was shot first, with Linda shot next and Philip being the last to be shot. Linda Heidt testified last week that she heard a shotgun blast and left the bathroom where she was doing a word find puzzle and saw the blast that killed Philip before seeing the blast that wounded her.
Fike also said the bruises on Craig Heidt’s arms were not typical of firing a shotgun.
“You can get them (there),” he said. “But it’s not a normal position to shoot the gun. It’s not a natural place to put the gun.”
Muldrew countered Fike’s account of the kind of ammunition used, pointing to approximately a dozen pellet holes in the bathroom door. Fike said some pellets may have split apart and created additional holes. Muldrew, noting some pellets may have remained in Linda Heidt, argued that eliminated an 2 3/4-inch shells, which carry nine pellets, and instead are consistent with the 3-inch shells found in Craig Heidt’s truck.
“If you have more than nine and more than 12, you would know it’s a 3-inch magnum, correct?” he asked.
Fike said the shooter stood a few inches away from Carey Heidt, but Muldrew pointed to a lamp 19 inches from where Carey Heidt was that had gunpowder residue.
“Gunpower residue has to go forward; it can’t go backward,” Muldrew said.
He also rebutted how far the shooter had to go from shooting Philip Heidt before turning and firing on Linda Heidt.
“That room is only 12x12, 12x13. There’s only so much standing room in that room,” Muldrew said. “You’re telling jurors he shot Miss Linda from the hall?”
Muldrew also called into question Fike’s testimony on Craig Heidt’s bruises, noting Fike does not perform autopsies as does Dr. James Downs, who testified Tuesday if the bruises were consistent with a shooting a shotgun.
“If someone breaks into a house, shoots his brother, father and mother … there’s nothing normal about that, is there?” Muldrew said.
Fike said a shooter switching shoulders would not be as accurate.
“When you’re using double-ought buckshot from a few feet away, you don’t have to be that accurate, do you?” Muldrew asked.
Chris Heidt, brother of Craig and Carey Heidt and son of Philip and Linda Heidt, was called to the stand as a witness for the defense. In direct examination, he testified that he knew nothing of an incident where a gun was wrestled from Craig Heidt or threats where made among the family,
“I was not told of an incident where guns were drawn,” said Chris, adding that he had been informed of an incident between Carey and Craig Heidt at the Sonic in Rincon.
When defense attorney Dow Bonds asked if he’d noticed any damage to the home that was unusual, Chris Heidt said that the home was nearly 30 years old and had raised three boys and seven grandchildren.
“(There was) damage in the home,” he said, “nothing significant, general wear and tear.”
This was in response to the testimony from the state’s witnesses that there had been a tussle prior to the shootings where Craig Heidt pointed a gun at Carey Heidt, threatening to kill him, during which a lamp was broken.
Chris Heidt also said that he did not feel Craig was considered the “black sheep” of the family and said he did not hear Philip Heidt say anything negative about Craig in front of the family.
“I wouldn’t say anyone was the black sheep of the family,” he said. “We all had our own interests.”
He said that, “no one in the family condoned or approved” the affair between Craig and Robin Heidt, and that Carey was mostly concerned about his children at the time and that he loved his wife.
“I think Robin really was the only true love Carey ever had,” said Chris Heidt.
Bonds asked Chris Heidt who seemed to be pursuing whom in the affair between Robin and Craig Heidt, which Chris replied Robin.
“She came to the places Craig was at,” he said.
Chris testified that he openly cooperated with law enforcement and provided them all the information he could upon request.
“I told them, whatever I can do, please let me know,” Chris Heidt said he told Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie when he learned of the shootings.
Chris Heidt said that the day of the shootings he went with GBI agents and Craig Heidt to the hunting lodge in Oliver where Craig was living at the time and that the agents left with bags of Craig Heidt’s belongings, including clothes and shoes.
Chris said that when investigators questioned him, he felt they “were trying to convince me Craig did it.”
“I asked (Craig) several times if he’d done it or knew anything about it,” said Chris Heidt. “He said ‘no.’”
Bonds asked if Chris was satisfied with this response, which Chris said he was.
Chris Heidt also was asked about an alleged fall in his bathroom where Craig Heidt claims to have bruise his left bicep. Chris said he was not but that the base of the toilet had shifted and that the “commode was leaking around the bottom.” But he said GBI agents never lifted the toilet or photographed the toilet.
Bonds asked Chris Heidt at length about his knowledge of the relationship between Philip and Craig and Carey leading up to the killings. He responded saying even though there was friction within the family, “their relationship wasn’t over.”
“There was tension over what was going on in the family, but they were still close,” said Chris Heidt.
He spoke to how immersed Craig Heidt was as a hunter, saying that they would log kills and collect jawbones. Chris Heidt also said that he was never asked to show law enforcement his guns.
Chris Heidt that he tried to provide investigators as much evidence as possible, even going so far as to print off phone records from Carey and his parents and copied checks of Carey and Philp Heidt that were made out in large amounts.
Philip Heidt’s longtime personal assistant and bookkeeper, Joann Reiser, said that as the real estate market plummeted, creditors and bankers would be more adamant about interest payments on loans made to Philip Heidt and his partners, which sometimes included Carey Heidt.
“I think Philip was protective of Carey, knowing the tough time he was going though, like any parent,” she said.
“Isn’t it true,” asked Muldrew, “that no business partner gained from (Philip’s) death?”
Reiser said it was true.