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Chapter closes, but story may never end
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Barring a last-ditch attempt to file a habeas petition through federal appellate channels, it is likely Craig Heidt will spend the rest of his days in custody.

The state Supreme Court upheld his conviction for the August 2008 shotgun slayings of his father Phillip Heidt, a successful realtor and developer, and his brother Carey. The state’s justices were unanimous in their decision denying Heidt’s appeal of his conviction and left very little doubt as to their opinion.

Defense attorney Dow Bonds made a shotgun that had been turned over to the sheriff a point of emphasis in his arguments before the state Supreme Court justices. That weapon, which Carey Heidt’s widow Robin had brought to someone in order to have it put back together, was similar to the kind prosecutors said could have fired the fatal and near-fatal rounds at Phillip and Linda Heidt’s home.

Much of Bonds’ time in his 20 minutes to present his case was devoted to that shotgun.

Justices dispensed with the issue in just more than one page of their 17-page brief upholding Craig Heidt’s conviction. Prosecutors argued that the gun had been in the sheriff’s office possession and its existence was already known. Both sides agreed, they said, that it had nothing to do with the murders.

“Heidt failed to come forward with any evidence that the State failed to disclose the existence of the shotgun,” Justice Keith Blackwell wrote in the opinion. “Indeed, the only evidence at the hearing on the motion for new trial that even touched upon the suppression element was the testimony of (Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie), and the sheriff testified that, on the day after the shotgun was delivered to him, he told both the prosecuting attorney and Heidt’s lawyer in the courtroom about the shotgun, and everyone agreed that the shotgun was not related to the murders.”

The justices also pointed out that the defense offered no evidence to dispute the sheriff’s testimony.

Justices devoted more of their time to the disqualification of co-counsel Manubir Arora, one of seven errors the defense alleges Judge Gates Peed made in the original trial, in their opinion. Again, their findings are a direct and unequivocal repudiation of the defense’s claim.

Though pre-trial publicity had been heavy, only one juror who was seated knew any of the Heidts personally. Of a 59-person jury pool, six had to be disqualified because they could not impartially judge the evidence before them. Justices cited two other cases, with a 15 percent and a 17 percent excusal rates, that did not merit a change of venue. As Justice Blackwell noted from another case, “even in cases of widespread pretrial publicity, situations where such publicity has rendered a trial setting inherently prejudicial are extremely rare….”

Besides, with the Internet as pervasive as it is, and the proliferation of social media, judging pre-trial publicity may become a lost cause.

There will be questions about what happened that night. How many answers did John Henry Rast take with him when he took his own life?

The Heidt family has had a sordid episode — an affair within the family — laid bare for the world to see. A painful matter that ostensibly should be private has been made into material for the public to chew on.

Perhaps the children of Carey and Robin can somehow find the way to live something resembling a normal life. If anything, the two most heroic deeds to come out of the entire story are Linda Heidt finding the strength and presence of mind to call for help and Carey Heidt changing his insurance policy to make sure his children are provided for in the future, regardless of what happens.

Maybe now the community can move on from the murders and the trial. It’s too much to ask for the family to try to do the same. How they could ever find peace and comfort from all of this? Hopefully, Carey and Robin’s kids can grow up and enjoy something resembling a normal life. That too may be asking a lot.