May 2010 – Heemstra’s mother’s land buy questioned

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Des Moines Register. William Petroski. May 11, 2010.

Heemstra's mother's land buy questioned 

Seven years after Rodney Heemstra killed farm neighbor Tom Lyon in rural Warren County, a farmland purchase by Heemstra's mother and his lawyer's attempt to overturn a civil fraud ruling are stirring new controversy.

• Heemstra's mother, Marilyn Heemstra, 72, of rural Milo late last year purchased a 160-acre farm for $679,000 near Ceylon, Minn., across the border from northwest Iowa. Rodney Heemstra, who still hasn't paid a $5.7 million wrongful death judgment to Lyon's estate, was seen last fall at the farm auction when the land was sold.

An attorney for the Lyon estate questioned whether Rodney Heemstra acted behind the scenes in making the purchase. Marilyn Heemstra said today she bought the land using money from her late husband's life insurance policy.

• An attorney for Heemstra, Joseph Hrvol, last week filed a petition in Warren County District Court asking a judge to throw out a civil fraud ruling in September that ordered the sale of land owned by the Heemstra family in five Iowa counties. Judge Paul Huscher, who called Heemstra "conniving" and "motivated by greed" in his findings, hasn't ruled yet on the petition.

Hrvol refused to say on Monday where Heemstra is living. Lyon's estate wasn't able to serve him court papers several months ago.

Heemstra wasn't in a Warren County courtroom on Monday morning when a hearing was scheduled regarding plans to sell the Heemstras' land. The hearing was subsequently rescheduled until June 24 to allow for participation by the state of Iowa, which has filed tax liens against some Heemstra property.

Kay Wrucke, county recorder in Martin County, Minn., said Monday that Marilyn Heemstra purchased 160 acres of farmland that was recorded on Dec. 1. Local residents told The Des Moines Register in September they recognized Rodney Heemstra at the auction and asked why he was being allowed to purchase the land while facing a multimillion-dollar court judgment.

Donald Beattie, an attorney for the Lyon estate, said Monday he believes Rodney Heemstra is behind the Minnesota farm purchase, using assets he has attempted to hide from the Lyon family. He said Heemstra's mother testified during a past deposition that she would do anything her son told her to do.

"If you link the dots ... one can draw their own conclusions," Beattie said.

Marilyn Heemstra left a voicemail message for the Des Moines Register shortly after 6 a.m. today strongly denying anything improper. "I am calling about the farm I bought in Minnesota….This was bought with my husband’s life insurance money," she said. County records show the farm had a mortgage of $331,000.

Hrvol, who is representing Heemstra and some of his relatives on post-trial motions in Warren County District Court, said he was not in a position to comment on Marilyn Heemstra's farmland purchase.

Hrvol, in a petition filed Friday, cited a January Iowa Court of Appeals ruling that invalidated certain writs of attachment to Heemstra's properties. A writ of attachment is a court order to seize an asset.

Because of the appeals court ruling, there could be no basis for Heemstra or his relatives to be accused of fraudulently transferring land, Hrvol said.

"The judgment against Rodney and Berta Heemstra for punitive damages and equitable attorney fees should be ... nullified, vacated, discharged or released," Hrvol wrote. Any money already paid by any of the defendants should be returned to them, and any further attempts to sell the Heemstras' properties should stop, he wrote.

Lyon family attorney Beattie disagreed with Hrvol's legal argument, saying Huscher's ruling last year had nothing to do with writs of attachment.

Beattie, referring to testimony last year by one of Heemstra's Anamosa prison cellmates, said: "Nothing that the Heemstra clan does surprises me anymore. I think this is just a step at Rodney Heemstra's jailhouse pledge that Ronda (Lyon's widow) wasn't going to get a dime."

Regarding Heemstra's whereabouts, Beattie said he doesn't know where Heemstra is and he hasn't talked with anybody who knows where he can be found.

Attorney Hrvol said Monday that Rodney and Berta Heemstra are still married, but he declined to say whether Rodney is still living with his wife at a home near Lake Panorama in Guthrie County.