Nov. 2008 – Judge To Decide Amount Heemstra Will Pay Widow’s Estate

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KCCI Channel News Online. KCCI Staff Writer. November, 18 2008

Judge To Decide Amount Heemstra Will Pay Widow's Estate

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A judge will now decide what Rodney Heemstra will pay the estate of Tom Lyon.

Nearly three years ago, Lyon was gunned down by Heemstra, who then hid his body.

Testimony continued Friday in a civil case over how much Heemstra, who was convicted of murder, should pay in financial damages.

Heemstra's defense team called a neighbor of the slain farmer, who claims she once saw Lyon alone outside with a female neighbor.

Although Alta Michener admitted she never saw anything improper, she tried to imply otherwise.

"They were whispering and she said, 'Well, Alta, we're going to go cow checking.' And I said, 'Cow checking?' And she said, 'Yes, we're going to go check Tom's cows,'" Michener said.

That raised the ire of Lyon estate attorney Donald Beattie. He accuses Heemstra's lawyers of trashing the Lyons' marriage to try to lessen what Heemstra will have to pay in damages.

"It's become apparent that the defendant Heemstra has chosen this setting as an opportunity to assassinate the character of Ronda Lyon, Tommy Lyon and anybody associated with them," Beattie said.

Beattie asked the judge to award the Lyon estate more than $750,000 for the family's economic losses; $2 million for Ronda Lyon's loss of consortium, or companionship; and $10 million in punitive damages as a financial punishment.

Heemstra lawyer Joel Yunek asked the judge to be reasonable and to keep in mind that Heemstra is already behind bars for life.

"In the end, Your Honor, again, this case is about the law and we have some very definite guidelines to follow, and all I am urging is that you, in fact, follow the Iowa law," Yunek said.

The ultimate number will come from Judge Sherman Phipps. The judge indicates he may not make his decision until after the first of the year.

Heemstra was not at the courthouse. He's now serving his life sentence.