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Skater's Girlfriend Killed His Son, Jury Is Told

Neil Heddings' boy died of blows from Christine 'Pinky' Rams, Riverside County prosecutor says during final arguments.

November 16, 2005|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

The prosecutor in the murder trial of professional skateboarder Neil Heddings and his girlfriend, accused of killing Heddings' 2-year-old son, detailed for the first time Tuesday what role authorities believe each played in the boy's death.

Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Kelly Hansen said Heddings' girlfriend, Christine "Pinky" Rams, 26, was the one who struck the child repeatedly over the head, causing his death. But he also blamed Heddings, 31, for willfully ignoring signs of abuse.

"The parent has a legal duty to protect his child," Hansen told the jury in his closing statement in Riverside Superior Court in Murrieta. "A failure to act is the same as doing an injurious act."

The trial, which began this month, is being closely watched by skateboarding fans, who say authorities jumped to conclusions about Heddings and Rams because of their tattooed, dyed-hair appearance as part of sport's edgy culture.

The couple's defense attorneys have argued that Heddings' son, Marcus, who died Nov. 23, 2002, of head injuries in his San Jacinto home, may have been victim of an unknown illness or negligence by Marcus' mother, Susie Moyer, who also had cared for him at her San Diego home.

On Tuesday, Rams' attorney, Dario Bejarano, said his client was not "an evil stepmother" and pointed out that Moyer has failed to appear for the trial, despite a bench warrant to compel her to.

"Where is Susie Moyer, and why doesn't she care about her child?" Bejarano asked jurors. "If I was her, I'd be ... screaming, 'I want justice for my son!' "

But Hansen said all the evidence pointed to Rams, including witnesses who said that Rams had verbally abused the boy, and Heddings' own testimony Monday that his girlfriend suggested they delay calling 911 after Marcus was found dead. Heddings said Rams wanted to take the couple's 2-month-old son and stay with her mother in Lancaster before authorities arrived.

"Why would she want to leave if she didn't know how he died?" Hansen said. "[In police questioning], there were no tears from her, no stunned silence, no emotion whatsoever. Why? Because she knows what has happened. She was there when those fatal blows were inflicted."

Bejarano downplayed Rams' wishes to go to Lancaster after Marcus was found dead.

"That's not fleeing," he told the jurors. "The mother's house is a safe haven."

Until Tuesday, Hansen had stopped short of blaming either Rams or Heddings for the actual physical abuse. Both are charged with first-degree murder and felony assault.

Hansen told the jurors, who are expected to begin deliberations today, that the couple "are guilty separately, for what they did and what they failed to do."

Hansen said Heddings should be convicted of murder for aiding and abetting Rams -- by not reacting to her verbal abuse against the boy and ignoring previous wounds, including a black eye, scratches on his thigh and a bruise on his back.

Outside court, Hansen said he had pointed to Rams as the boy's killer because "it was the more reasonable interpretation of the evidence."

Jeff Zimel, Heddings' attorney, said his client "had no idea someone had abused his son."

"Neil's conduct was not that of a guilty man," Zimel told the jury. "He called police, he did not run or flee, even though he was asked to. He took the stand to explain what happened. He did what an innocent man would do."

If convicted on the murder charges, Rams could face from 25 years to life in prison. Heddings could get 50 years to life because of an unrelated assault conviction.

On Tuesday, Judge Mark A. Cope also gave the jury the option to convict one of them of involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

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