June 2011 – Heemstra in court to fight wrongful death case damages

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Des Moines Register. William Petroski. June 4, 2011.

Heemstra in court to fight wrongful death case damages

Former Milo farmer Rodney Heemstra is still battling the ghost of Tom Lyon more than eight years after he killed his neighbor in rural southern Iowa in a dispute over farmland and cattle-watering equipment.

Heemstra, 52, used a rifle to shoot the unarmed Lyon in the head in Warren County in January 2003. He served four years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, and in 2008 a judge ordered him to pay Lyon's estate $5.68 million in wrongful death damages.

Heemstra and his lawyers have never quit fighting Lyon's family in the courts in an effort to prevent the collection of the judgment.

The latest round occurred Friday when Polk County District Judge Michael Huppert heard arguments by Heemstra's lawyers to set aside sheriffs' deeds on his land holdings. A sheriff's deed is a result of a judgment lien. Huppert said he will rule at a later date.

Heemstra didn't testify during the proceedings, and he walked stone-faced from a Des Moines courtroom. As he headed out of the Polk County Courthouse, Heemstra ignored questions about how he was doing and whether he had moved to northern Iowa.

Don Beattie of Des Moines, an attorney for Ronda Lyon, Tom Lyon's widow, said he wasn't surprised at Friday's developments. He said he will continue to resist Heemstra's court maneuvers.

"Certainly, they are doing whatever they can to stop the sale of real estate," Beattie said.

He also said it's clear that Heemstra will never surrender as Lyon's estate presses its case in the courtroom.

"He never will. What's he got to lose?" Beattie said.

Retired Judge James Brown of Osceola, a court-appointed referee, has previously estimated Heemstra's 1,500 acres in land holdings to be worth an estimated $6 million to $7 million. The properties are in Warren, Wright, Humboldt, Guthrie and Hancock counties.

In a separate matter, Heemstra filed a motion on Friday in Warren County District Court in Indianola seeking to nullify other financial judgments favoring Lyon's estate. He claimed the court lacked jurisdiction over prejudgment orders to seize his assets.

The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled against Heemstra in December and again in February. Both times the justices upheld district court judgments in favor of Lyon's estate.

One of the cases involved a September 2009 ruling by District Judge Paul Huscher, who called Heemstra "conniving" and "motivated by greed."

Huscher agreed with Lyon's estate that Heemstra and his relatives had used a series of sham transactions in an attempt to transfer farmland and other assets to avoid paying the $5.68 million judgment.