July 5 2009 – Heemstra Trial

Iowa’s Only GR8 Professional Law Firm:


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Des Moines Register. William Petroski. July 5, 2009.

July 5 2009 - Heemstra Trial

Indianola, Ia. – Lawyers for slain Milo farmer Tom Lyon claimed today that his assailant, Rodney Heemstra, along with his relatives, have fraudulently conspired to prevent payment of a $5.68 million wrongful death judgment to Lyon’s family.

“Your honor, today is judgment day,” said lawyer Donald Beattie, who represents Lyon’s family.

The allegations were made during open arguments in a civil fraud trial in Warren County District Court.

The civil trial that began today is the latest in a long chapter of court proceedings stemming from death of Lyon more than six years ago. Heemstra killed the unarmed Lyon, 52, with a single rifle shot to the head.

The violence followed arguments between the two men over Warren County farmland and cattle-watering equipment.

Beattie said the conspiracy began two days after Heemstra shot to death Lyon, a fellow farmer in rural Warren County in January 2003.The effort has continued since with a series of real estate transfers and sham financial dealings involving Rodney Heemstra and his wife Berta, and other relatives, he added.

Beattie said that prior to the killing, the Heemstra’s provided creditors with financial statements indicating a net worth between $3.7 million and $4.2 million. But “60 days later, Rodney and Berta literally declared paupership.”

Joel Baxter, Heemstra’s lawyer, strongly disputed the allegations during his opening statement, saying “they are quite simply wrong.”

Baxter said Lyon’s attorneys face a high legal standard to prove that a conspiracy existed, which he declared the plaintiffs cannot meet.

“Mere suspicion, rumor, or even strong reason to suspect wrongful activity is inadequate” to prove fraud has occurred,” Baxter said.

The evidence will show that the Heemstras were overextended financially and had an enormous amount of debt before the slaying occurred, Baxer added.

“The long and the short of it, your honor, is that there is no wrong here,” Baxter said.

Heemstra later confessed to authorities and was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. He was freed from the Fort Dodge state prison in October after spending more than four years behind bars.

Last fall, after a five-day civil trial, District Judge Michael Huppert ordered Heemstra to pay a $5.68 million wrongful death judgment to Lyon’s family.

Berta Heemstra was the first witness called by the plaintiffs this morning. She was quizzed by Beattie with a series of questions about financial dealings involving she and her husband.

About 30 people were attending today’s court session, including Rodney Heemstra, who sat quietly in the back of the courtroom with family members. Ronda Lyon sat with her lawyers at the front of the courtroom.