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Tape Used Against Skateboarder

Arrest recording has Neil Heddings' girlfriend saying they should have run after his 2-year-old son was found dead in San Jacinto.

November 02, 2005|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

The prosecutor in the murder trial of pro skateboarder Neil Heddings, accused with his girlfriend of killing his 2-year-old son, told jurors Tuesday that some of the most damning evidence came from the young couple as they chatted inside a patrol car.

The Riverside County couple were secretly tape-recorded after their 2003 arrest, said Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Kelly Hansen, who read a transcript of their conversation to the jury.

"We should have ... ran, Neil," Christine "Pinky" Rams told Heddings. "We had the chance and we had the ... time, we had the money."

"I know. I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Heddings said.

Heddings found his son Marcus, known as Marty, on the morning of Nov. 23, 2002, "lying face down with his little hand to his little lips," Hansen said in his opening statement at the Riverside County Superior Court in Murrieta.

The boy sustained nearly a dozen blows to his head, probably with a fist, the autopsy revealed.

The eight-man, four-woman jury will decide whether Heddings and Rams killed the boy at their San Jacinto home, or whether Marcus died from an unknown illness or negligence by his mother, as defense attorneys contend.

Heddings' and Rams' lawyers acknowledged the difficulty of trying such an emotional case.

On Tuesday, a sheriff's deputy and a firefighter who testified choked back tears.

"The biggest uphill battle we've got is that it's tragic when a helpless child dies.... You've got to blame somebody for it," said Rams' attorney, Dario Bejarano, during a break.

If convicted, Rams, 26, could face 25 years to life in prison; Heddings, 31, could get 50 years to life because he has an assault conviction in San Diego County for hitting a man with a skateboard.

Heddings has been showered with support and donations from the skateboarding community.

The Vans shoe company contributed $1,000 to Heddings' defense fund, and a former subsidiary of Nike held a fundraiser for him at a Portland, Ore., skate park.

Many of his supporters have said police simply assumed that the tattooed skateboarder and his pink-haired, pierced girlfriend were to blame.

The couple looked demure in court, each wearing glasses and long-sleeved jackets; Rams' hair is now blond.

Defense attorneys tried to shift blame for Marty's death to his mother, Susie Moyer, with whom the boy stayed in San Diego shortly before his death. They told the jury she was an admitted drug user with a history of violence.

Marty was lethargic, irritable and vomiting when he was returned from a visit to his mother's house, and he cried when his neck was touched, Bejarano said.

In interviews, Moyer has acknowledged using methamphetamine, but denied contributing to Marty's death.

She has said that on her son's last visit, the toddler looked battered and bruised, injuries the defense attributed to playing with Rams' young son.

It is unknown whether Moyer will testify.

Rams, whose attorney said he was unsure whether she would take the stand, offered investigators another explanation for the young boy's death, telling them that Marty slipped in the bathtub and hit his head the day before he died.

Heddings' attorney, Jeffrey Zimel, called Marty's death "a mystery" and told jurors that after listening to expert testimony the cause of death "will still elude you."

"Neil Heddings loved his son.... He was a caring, attentive, affectionate father," said Zimel, who plans to have Heddings testify. "He was incapable of hurting his son."

The prosecutor, however, said Heddings and Rams were the only adults who cared for Marty during the time he incurred the fatal head injuries.

The couple also waited 15 minutes after finding Marty before calling 911, he said.

"He didn't die from natural causes.... He didn't die from an accident. He didn't die from falling," Hansen said.

The prosecutor called several safety personnel to testify Tuesday, with the first officer on scene, Riverside County Sheriff's Deputy William Stokes, becoming so distressed that the judge handed him a tissue box.

He said he entered the single-story home and Rams motioned for him to go to the back of the house.

"She wasn't upset, she wasn't crying, she wasn't hysterical," he said.

He said found Heddings sitting on his son's bed, rocking back and forth with Marty in his arms. The deputy recalled Heddings saying: "He's gone."

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