Feb. 2006 – Lyon’s Widow Awarded $11M

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KCCI Channel News Online. KCCI Staff Writer. February 3, 2006.

Court Issues Largest Punitive Damage Award In Iowa History

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A wrongful death lawsuit has resulted in the biggest punitive damage award in Iowa history.

Rodney Heemstra was convicted of killing Warren County farmer Tom Lyon in 2002.

Lyon's widow, Rhonda, then sued Heemstra.

On Friday, Rhonda Lyon was awarded $11.5 million. Heemstra is currently serving life in prison for Lyon's murder.

"It is clear from the record made that Tommy Ray Lyon was, with few exceptions, the one person who, on a day-to-day basis, kept the farming operation viable and functional. He provided the actual labor and physical efforts necessary to continue the operation," according to the judge's ruling. "Under the circumstances disclosed, the farmer operation itself would most likely have continued even without Ronda's presence. It clearly could not and did not continue absent Tommy Ray Lyon's participation and input."

"More importantly, she lost the fellowship, company, cooperation, affection, and aid which the record reflects was an integral part of Tommy Ray Lyon and Ronda Lyon's marital relationship," the judge wrote in his ruling.

The court considered the portion of Lyon's lost financial support to the estate in the damages.

Heemstra is appealing his original conviction to the Iowa Supreme Court.