Heskett trial: Defendant ‘jovial’ while establishing alibi, claims victim asked him to shoot him; financial records shown to jurors
The human relations director for Trinity In-Home Care, the former employer of Ronald Eugene Heskett, testified Friday that Heskett seemed “jovial” when he stopped by the office shortly after Heskett is alleged to have killed a Trinity client in his care.
Scott Criqui said Heskett had been his “regular, upbeat” self the morning of Sept. 12, 2014, when he visited Trinity. Criqui said Heskett told him he was “needing to do laundry” for Vance “Van” Moulton, 65, of Lawrence, and was out looking for quarters and a laudromat when he stopped by his workplace around 10 a.m.
Heskett called Criqui a short time later to report that he’d found Moulton in his apartment with a towel around his neck, dead of an apparent suicide by asphyxiation.
Heskett, 49, of Eudora, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with Moulton’s death. Prosecutors allege Heskett had a financial motive to kill Moulton, but the defense says Moulton’s death was an assisted suicide.
During Heskett’s short visit at Trinity, Heskett told Criqui that Moulton was suicidal, Criqui said.
“(Heskett) brought up in a humorous fashion that Van wanted Ron to shoot him,” Criqui testified.
Criqui said that he had never before heard of Moulton having suicidal tendencies, and if he had, appropriate action would be taken to have Moulton assessed for mental health issues. In a recorded police interview shown to jurors earlier this week, Heskett was seen telling investigators that he had told Criqui prior to Sept. 12, 2014, of Moulton’s suicidal comments.
Criqui said he grew concerned hearing the light-hearted mention of Moulton’s suicidal comments, and began arranging services for Moulton shortly after Heskett informed him Sept. 12, 2014. But before help could be summoned, Heskett called Criqui after arriving back at Moulton’s apartment reporting Moulton’s death.
“(Heskett) was very hysterical sounding on the phone,” Criqui testified. “I didn’t want Ron to be alone.”
In a police video shown Thursday, Heskett told detectives that he had already helped Moulton die by twisting a towel around his neck and tucking it under his body “until his ears turned purple” by the time he stopped by Trinity. Heskett had admitted the brief visit was made to establish an alibi.
Criqui said that Moulton and Heskett “got along extremely well,” and that Moulton was assigned as Heskett’s client because Heskett was “on time,” “dependable” and “one of the best workers at the time.”
But prosecutors claim Heskett killed his friend and client for financial gain. Evidence shown throughout the week has established that Moulton had about $13,000 in cash saved from government checks in April and May that remains unaccounted for.
In the police video shown Thursday, Heskett told police that the $13,000 was once kept in Moulton’s safety deposit box at Bank of America, but was later moved to a dresser drawer in Moulton’s apartment.
On Friday, Detective Lance Flachsbarth testified that after Heskett mentioned the dresser drawer, Flachsbarth searched the entire apartment but did not find the cash.
Tonganoxie carpenter Brian Johnson also testified Friday, saying that he had sold Heskett a 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle worth $4,900 in late May 2014. Heskett paid cash for the car, Johnson said.
It was later discovered Heskett “fudged” the purchase price on the car title Johnson gave him. Heskett allegedly put down the price as less than $2,000 — the same amount Heskett told investigators in the video Thursday that he paid for the car.
Jeff Wolff of Wolff Diagnostic & Automotive in Eudora testified after Johnson, saying that Heskett paid him about $1,884 for work on the Chevelle in June. But this wasn’t necessarily out of the ordinary, as Wolff also said that Heskett had paid nearly $600 in cash in January for work on two pick-up trucks.
Retired FBI agent and forensic accountant Randall Wolverton testified that Heskett’s bank account records indicate that Heskett maintained a relatively low balance in his checking account for much of its use from June 2013 through September 2014, even being overdrawn by $1 to $5 on several occasions.
But there was one inconsistency that prosecutors highlighted. Wolverton told jurors that there was an out-of-the-ordinary deposit of $2,000 in June 2014.
Defense attorney Mike Warner noted, however, that Wolverton could not know the origin of that $2,000, nor did Wolverton know if Heskett was “squirreling away” cash at his home to make the deposit.
The trial will continue Monday with the state’s final six witnesses, prosecutor Eve Kemple told Douglas County District Judge Peggy Kittel on Friday. After that, Warner said he plans to call a few witnesses. Warner said that testimony may run through Tuesday.