Nov. 2008 – Heemstra Takes Stand In Civil Trial

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KCCI Channel News Online. KCCI Staff Writer. November 5, 2008.

Heemstra Takes Stand In Civil Trial

A second wrongful death lawsuit against a central Iowa farmer who killed his neighbor and hid the body in a cistern started Wednesday in Polk County.

The lawsuit was filed in Warren County against Rodney Heemstra, of Milo, by the family of Tom Lyon, who was killed in 2003.

Heemstra was released from prison last week after serving more than four years. He was originally convicted of first-degree murder. The Iowa Supreme Court ordered a new trial, and Heemstra was convicted of voluntary manslaughter.

Heemstra took the witness stand Wednesday morning.  He was asked if he pulled the trigger and shot Lyon.  Heemstra answered "yes."

The civil case will decide how much money Heemstra owes to Lyon's widow.

At the end of the wrongful death case, Judge Michael Huppert, who moved the case from Warren County to Polk County, will have to come up with a judgment.

In a previous civil trial another judge came up with $11.5 million, but when the Iowa Supreme Court overturned Heemstra's murder conviction and that forced a retrial of the civil case.

"Your Honor, one of the most despicable acts in the history in the State of Iowa occurred on January 13, 2003, when the defendant in this case, Rodney Heemstra, intentionally shot and killed Tom Lyon, who was a respected member of the community," said Donald Beattie, the Lyon family attorney.

Heemstra's lawyer argued that Lyon provoked his client.

"He (Lyon) was an angry man.  It's clear from the statements to others, it's clear from his own temperament, that he was an angry man," said Joseph Hryol, Heemstra's attorney.

"You said that the only thing he did was call you a name.  Is that grounds to shoot somebody in the head, in your opinion?" said Beattie.

"No," Heemstra answered.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.