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Skater Tells Jury He Didn't Kill Son

Neil Heddings talks in Riverside County court. His girlfriend, also on trial, will not testify.

November 15, 2005|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

A professional skateboarder on trial in Riverside County in the death of his 2-year-old son testified Monday, denying that he had any part in the boy's death or that he had tried to cover it up.

Neil Heddings, dressed in a gray suit and with his voice cracking at times, described how he discovered his son's body on the morning of Nov. 23, 2002, in his San Jacinto home.

Heddings, 31, said he picked up the child from his small bed and screamed, "Marcus! No! No, dude! No!"

The murder trial of Heddings and his girlfriend, Christine "Pinky" Rams, 26, began this month in Riverside County Superior Court in Murrieta and is closely watched by skateboarding fans who say authorities jumped to conclusions about Heddings because of his sport's renegade image.

Prosecutors say Marcus died from nearly a dozen blows to his head while in the couple's care.

The defense has said the injuries could have occurred while Marcus was with others, including Marcus' mother, Susie Moyer.

"One killed the child, and the other did a horrible job of protecting him," Kelly Hansen, the Riverside County deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, has said.

Prosecutors have not said who delivered the blows and have charged both Heddings and Rams with murder.

On Monday, Heddings testified that Marcus went to bed around 4:30 p.m. the day before his death.

Heddings said he checked on his son twice after the boy went to bed, and believed he was sleeping.

He awoke the next morning to find his son dead.

"You're not supposed to have to deal with that kind of stuff in your life -- to hold your son and know he'll never move again," Heddings said.

Heddings' attorney, Jeff Zimel, said that by taking the stand Monday, his client wanted to show "anyone who had doubts of his story that he had nothing to hide."

Zimel said he encouraged Heddings to testify as a way to distance his client from how jurors may perceive Rams' actions. The two have seemed close during the trial, at times clasping each other's hands for support.

"Neil doesn't believe Christine did this," Zimel said. "If someone could convince him she did, he'd be the first to convict her."

Rams' attorney, Dario Bejarano, said he had chosen to keep Rams from testifying.

"Neither of them did anything wrong," Bejarano said, "but she has been trapped by things she has said in this case."

A detective and other prosecution witnesses have testified that Rams described Marcus as "ugly" and "retarded" and often neglected her boyfriend's son.

Rams also suggested that the couple could have run away when they were arrested in March 2003, according to a tape of their conversation in the back of a patrol car.

"We had the chance, the time and the money," Rams says in the tape, which was introduced as evidence in the case. She also urged Heddings, "Don't turn on me."

Heddings explained the conversations on the stand Monday.

"It was obvious police were trying to turn us against each other," he said. "There was no reason for her to say that, other than fear."

But Heddings conceded that Rams wanted to delay calling 911 after Marcus was found dead so that she could leave the home with their 2-month-old son and stay with her mother in Lancaster before authorities arrived.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations today following the attorneys' closing statements.

If convicted, Rams could face 25 years to life in prison.

Heddings could get 50 years to life because he was once convicted of assault in San Diego County for hitting a man with a skateboard.

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