July 17 2009 – Heemstra Trial

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Des Moines Register. Grant Schulte. July 17, 2009.

July 17 2009 - Heemstra Trial

Indianola, Ia. — A three-year legal fight to claim millions of dollars from convicted killer Rodney Heemstra neared an end Thursday as attorneys for the Milo farmer and his victim's widow submitted their final evidence.

The decision falls to Judge Paul Huscher, who heard the case in lieu of a jury and is expected to rule in a few months. Attorneys in the nine-day civil trial must submit final arguments in writing within a few weeks; a date was not set.

The trial is the latest in a series of court battles that began after Heemstra shot and killed his neighbor, Tom Lyon, in 2003 during an argument over farmland and cattle-watering equipment. Heemstra has insisted he killed Lyon in self-defense.

Prosecutors alleged that Heemstra then dragged Lyon's body behind his pick-up truck and buried it in a cistern.

Heemstra was later convicted of first-degree murder. The Milo farmer served four years in prison after the Iowa Supreme Court granted him a second trial that ended with a voluntary manslaughter conviction.

The latest trial focuses on allegations by Lyon's family that Heemstra and his relatives concealed millions of dollars in assets to avoid payment of a $5.68 million wrongful-death judgment.

Heemstra's mother, Marilyn, testified Thursday that she had lent tens of thousands of dollars to her son and daughter-in-law since 2003, but did not ask what the money was for.

Marilyn Heemstra, who testified earlier in the trial, said she has not yet asked for repayment, and did not turn down any requests "in any specific case that I can think of."

The trial in Warren County District Court ended Thursday morning after Heemstra's attorney, Joel Baxter, called Heemstra's mother, son and wife back to the stand to answer questions about financial documents related to Heemstra's property.

Heemstra and his wife, Berta, had owned about 1,600 acres of farmland in Warren County and in northern Iowa.

They also rented about 1,500 acres of farm ground. The couple listed a net worth of about $4.1 million on a financial statement filed days before the January 2003 slaying.

Heemstra testified this week that his criminal case made it impossible to operate his farms.