A case and trial that gripped the Effingham County community and ripped apart a family has reached its conclusion.
Craig Heidt was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison plus 85 years in Effingham County Superior Court on Thursday afternoon. Heidt was convicted four weeks ago for the murder of his father Philip Heidt and his brother Carey Heidt. He also was convicted of nine other charges, including aggravated assault, burglary, criminal attempt to commit arson and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime for the August 2008 incident in Philip and Linda Heidt’s home.
Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Michael Muldrew said the state was satisfied with the sentencing.
“In light of the facts of this case, it was appropriate,” he said. “Given the heinous nature of the crime, we expected the maximum. All the evidence we had pointed to Craig Heidt as being the person who committed this crime. Once you look at how the scene was staged, with the key, that right there narrowed your focus. We had other evidence that pointed to his guilt that for one reason or another we did not present.”
Muldrew also praised the work of the investigators in compiling the evidence, especially Erick Riner, Tom Woodrum and GBI case agent Eugene Howard.
“We’ve been living with this case for almost two and a half years,” he said. “It’s great that it’s over with. They did tons of work that most people wouldn’t be aware of.”
Defense attorney Dow Bonds did not offer any testimony or witnesses on his client’s behalf during the brief sentencing phase, and Craig Heidt also did not speak.
Judge Gates Peed also kept his statements short, saying he had given much consideration to what he would say during the sentencing.
“I thought long enough about it to simply say the court does not need to say anything,” Judge Peed remarked.
Judge Peed then delivered his sentence to Heidt, who had many family members sitting in the gallery behind him. The state asked the two aggravated assault convictions to be merged and also recommended merging a burglary conviction with the criminal attempt to commit arson conviction.
Muldrew also does not expect the venue — Bonds filed a change of venue motion, citing pre-trial publicity — to be an issue upon appeal.
“The court exhaustively examined that with the jurors,” he said.
Heidt was given two consecutive life sentences for the malice murder convictions, 20 years consecutive for the aggravated assault charges, 20 years for aggravated battery, 20 years for burglary, 10 years for the merged burglary and arson charges and five years each consecutively for the three possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime convictions.
Bonds has 30 days from Thursday’s sentence to file a notice of appeal. Because of the length of the court transcript, it could take a year or longer for a motion for a new trial. Bonds left the Effingham County Judicial Complex without speaking to reporters, and Heidt family members also declined to speak following the sentencing.
The state also has not ruled out charging others in the crime. Robin Heidt, Carey Heidt’s widow who was involved in an affair with Craig Heidt, has been charged with intimidating a witness. She testified for the prosecution during the trial and has not yet been indicted.
Prosecutors said the affair, and Craig Heidt’s desire to collect estate and life insurance proceedings in order to continue his relationship with Robin Heidt, set in motion the events that led to him murdering his father and brother with a shotgun in his parents’ home and seriously wounding his mother, Linda Heidt, in the early morning attack.
“At any time we have credible evidence that somebody else might have been involved, we’ll prosecute the case at that time,” Muldrew said.
“There is no statute of limitation on murder.”
Craig Heidt was processed through Effingham County Jail and will be returned to the Bulloch County Jail, where he has been housed. He will be taken to the state classification and diagnostic center in Jackson before he is sent to maximum security correctional facility.
Muldrew and Effingham Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie both expressed their relief the case was finally over but also expressed their sorrow toward the Heidt family.
“I’m glad we’ve got some resolution to it,” said Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie. “You can’t feel good about it because you have two families that have been totally destroyed.”
Said Muldrew: “The tragedy that was inflicted on this family, words cannot express. You still have a family that was a torn apart, that was destroyed. You have grandchildren who don’t have a grandfather. You have a lady, Linda Heidt, who is one of the most wonderful people you’ll ever meet, who has lost two sons and a husband. There’s no winners. You can’t bring anybody back.
“It’s just a tragedy all the way around.”