552 N.E.2d 446 (Ind. 1990), 15S00-8711-CR-1081, Heck v. State

Docket Nº:15S00-8711-CR-1081.
Citation:552 N.E.2d 446
Party Name:Roy HECK, Sr., Appellant, v. STATE of Indiana, Appellee.
Case Date:April 06, 1990
Court:Supreme Court of Indiana

Page 446

552 N.E.2d 446 (Ind. 1990)

Roy HECK, Sr., Appellant,


STATE of Indiana, Appellee.

No. 15S00-8711-CR-1081.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

April 6, 1990

Page 447

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 448

Kathleen A. Dayson, Indianapolis and Joseph W. Votaw, III, Lawrenceburg, for appellant.

Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. and Michael Gene Worden, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, for appellee.

GIVAN, Justice.

A jury trial resulted in the conviction of appellant of Voluntary Manslaughter, for which he received a sentence of fifteen (15) years.

The facts are: The appellant, Roy Heck, Sr., and the decedent, Rickie Heck, were husband and wife. In August of 1985, Rickie started dissolution proceedings against appellant. Sometime between January 5 and 6, 1986, while the dissolution proceedings were pending, the decedent disappeared.

In late October of 1986, her decomposed remains were found buried on appellant's farm. Dr. Lee Lehman, a pathologist, testified that he performed an autopsy on the remains of the decedent in October of 1986, but because of the advanced decomposition of the remains, he found no demonstrative cause of death. However, after further consideration, the pathologist's report was changed, and because of a broken jaw, which he believed had been inflicted near the time of death, he theorized the probability was that the decedent had died as a result of a severe blow to the head.

Near midnight on January 6, 1986, a number of witnesses in the vicinity of the trailer in which the decedent lived heard an argument between the decedent and another person. Some of these people did not

Page 449

see the other person, while others stated that they saw the decedent arguing with a tall young man. One of these witnesses, Tessie Standriff, stated that her trailer was near the decedent's trailer and that she heard the argument and could identify appellant as the person arguing with the decedent. She stated that she could not identify him by his face but could identify him by his voice.

At trial, she testified that appellant told the victim she was coming home because she was his wife. However, during a pretrial deposition, she had indicated she had not heard such a statement. The evidence shows that Mrs. Standriff was Philippine and had a limited use and understanding of the English language.

Some of the witnesses testified they heard screaming and gunshots that night. Following the decedent's disappearance, appellant told various relatives that she had told him she was taking a trip to Florida. When Roy Heck, Jr. went with appellant to the decedent's trailer, he noticed food still on the stove. He also noticed the trailer was messed up, which was unusual for his mother. The following day, Junior observed one of his mother's suitcases in appellant's home.

A few weeks before the victim's disappearance, appellant had beaten her and was scheduled to go to trial on charges stemming from that incident the week the victim disappeared. When he failed to appear in court, he was arrested. While in jail, he was visited by his daughter, Roberta, and his girlfriend, Shirley Slaughter. He asked them to sprinkle pepper over the site of a sinkhole on his farm (this is the location where the body eventually was found). He also asked them to remove the victim's possessions from his home, including spare purses and a suitcase, before the police searched the house. The women complied with the request the next day. The suitcase contained items of female apparel. The purse contained the victim's drivers license, social security card, make-up, and other such items.

Appellant also requested that the two women telephone the police pretending to be the victim. Shirley attempted to comply with appellant's request. Appellant later told Roberta to keep quiet about her mother's purse and drivers license.

Robert Cuneo testified that he and his father were in the roof repair business and that in times past appellant had permitted them to dump old shingles on his farm. Shortly after the victim's disappearance, appellant contacted the elder Cuneo and asked him to dump some old shingles in the area where the victim's body later was found. He told Cuneo that he wanted the shingles dumped there to cover up the smell of some soured corn. Robert Cuneo testified that the area appeared to have been recently dug out and smoothed over.

In March of 1986, Roberta was in Florida with Eleanor Slaughter, Shirley's mother-in-law, and Shirley's daughter, Shawn Theis. She observed that Eleanor had the victim's ring in her possession with other jewelry to be sold. Eleanor told her that appellant had given her the ring to sell. Appellant later claimed that he had obtained the ring when the victim threw it at him during an argument.

In October of 1986, appellant was served with a warrant to search his farm and in particular the sinkhole site where the victim's remains later were found. Shortly after the warrant was served, appellant left and went to Tennessee. However, he returned shortly and turned himself in to the police.

Appellant claims the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and couples this with his claim that much of the evidence submitted was inadmissible. Appellant contends the State's evidence fails to disclose the cause, means, manner, place, or time of the victim's death. It is true that none of these facts was established by direct evidence. However, a jury's verdict may be based solely upon circumstantial evidence. Rowan v. State (1982), Ind., 431 N.E.2d 805.

In the case at bar, there is ample evidence to support a finding that appellant had a history of battering his wife, including a criminal charge for which he was to

Page 450

go on trial near the...

To continue reading