Heyer Changes Plea in Murder Issue Date: May 2, 2013
Life as a free man effectively ended on Friday, April 26 for 55-year-old former Wausaukee resident Richard B. Heyer, at least for the next two decades. In an appearance before Judge David Miron in Marinette County Circuit Court Branch 1, Heyer pled no contest to a first degree murder charge in the shooting death of his former sweetheart, Ann Schueller, at a Wausaukee service station last August.
Sentencing is set for 1 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2. Minimum penalty is 20 years in prison without possibility of parole before that time, and the charges could bring a maximum of life in prison without parole. A pre-sentence hearing is scheduled for Friday, June 14. There will be no trial, but defense and prosecuting attorneys can argue during sentencing proceedings. A pre-sentence investigation has been ordered.
On Sunday, Aug. 26, in front of horrified witnesses and a surveillance camera in downtown Wausaukees Citgo Convenience Store, Heyer shot his former girl friend to death and then turned the rifle on himself, but the shot that went to his chest was not fatal. He spent 10 days in a Green Bay hospital and then was released to Marinette County jail, where he has been held since in lieu of $750,000 bond.
Heyer initially had entered pleas of innocent by reason of mental disease or defect to all the counts against him. In court on Friday, Heyer said he was still on prescription medication obtained through the Department of Health and Human Services for treatment of mental issues. However, a court-ordered psychiatric examination has determined he is not insane and was fit for trial.
In addition to the no contest plea on the first degree murder charge, Heyer pled no contest on a secondary charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm while committing a crime. That offense could bring a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment for another 10 years. On motion of District Attorney Allen Brey, an enhancer charge of being in possession of a dangerous weapon while committing the offense was stricken, but will be read into the record for sentencing. That offense could add five years to the prison term.
Court records show that in 1993 Heyer had been convicted of felony manufacture of a controlled substance, marijuana.
Before accepting Heyers plea change, Judge Miron warned him no contest carries the same effect as guilty. By pleading no contest he would waive his Constitutional right to a trial and become subject to a minimum sentence that requires spending 20 years in prison before there is even a possibility of parole, up to a maximum sentence of life without parole. Heyer indicated he understood these things and would plead no contest anyway. Defense Attorney Jeffrey Jazgar of Green Bay concurred.
There were a total of eight people in the courtroom in addition to officers, reporters and court officials. Some of those present appeared to be family members of either Heyer or Schueller or both. Heyer has two children, a son and a daughter, and Schueller had three children, two sons and a daughter. All are in their 20s and 30s.
Brey said after court adjourned that he is pleased that both families will be spared the trauma of a long trial. He said the agreement to change Heyers plea was finalized about 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon in his office and the court proceeding on Friday was promptly scheduled. The only concession by the District Attorney was that the enhancer provision adding five years to the sentence would be dropped.
I think Mr. Heyer did the right thing, Brey said after adjournment. The evidence was overwhelming... Witnesses saw the whole thing, and the surveillance cameras recorded it... The doctors who examined Heyer said he was not insane.... Im happy for her children. This can come to an end. The trauma of preparing for a trial was difficult for them.
He said the entire thing had been extremely difficult for both families. The children, though grown, all knew each other. His family is not happy with him. Although the two were never married, this was a domestic homicide.
Brey described watching the shooting video as a chilling experience. He said Heyer leaned over the counter and shot Schueller through the back as she lay on the floor behind it. The shot went right through her heart, Brey said. It was as instantaneous a death as you could have. The shot to his own chest missed Heyers lungs and other organs and he survived. He said because Heyer is a tall man it was possible for him to point the 40-inch gun at himself.
Heyer appeared in court Friday wearing handcuffs and his orange Marinette County Jail uniform. He appeared calm and well groomed, and answered all questions quietly but without hesitation.
Judge Miron said he had just been informed the previous day that a plea agreement had been reached. He reminded everyone that regardless of any plea agreements, the judge remains free to impose whatever sentence he feels is appropriate between the maximum and minimum legal limits.
Jazgar said he believes there were sufficient facts that his client would be found guilty. Brey said the prosecution was relying on facts presented at previous hearings in the case, and recited a timetable of actions preceding the murder.
In 2008 Heyer and Schueller each divorced their spouses and eventually they got together. On June 1, 2013, Schueller moved out of the home she shared with Heyer and in with friends. During their divorce proceedings, Heyer and his ex-wife had argued over who would have custody of the dog. He won. In mid-August, he called the ex-wife to tell her she could have the dog, but he would need a little time to say goodbye. He also repaid some money he had borrowed five years earlier, a week before the divorce, and called one of his kids to tell him a convoluted story that he needed to come and take care of the livestock.
At 1:30 p.m. on Sunday Heyer calls his ex-wife to tell her to get the dog, Brey went on. At 1:45 p.m., she does that, but he is not at home. He is at the Piggly Wiggly in Crivitz, buying shells for his gun. At 2 p.m. Schueller arrives for work at the Citgo Station. At 2:15 p.m. Mike Prohaska arrived at work. Heyer was outside. At 2:30 p.m. Heyer called his ex-wife to make sure she had picked up the dog, and was assured she had. At 2:37 p.m. Heyer shot and killed Schueller in front of Prohaska, Jan Krueger and the surveillance cameras. He then turned the rifle on himself and pulled the trigger. He was wounded, but he survived.
Miron too said he found a factual basis for the plea and that the defendant is in fact guilty. He dismissed the enhancer count in accord with the plea agreement and found Heyer guilty on the other charges. All that remains now is the sentencing.
Brey asked that Heyers bail be revoked, and Jazgar did not object, since he had not been able to raise it anyway. Heyer was returned to jail to await sentencing.
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