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Heaton v. Gaetz

January 16, 2009

STUART HEATON, PETITIONER,
v.
DONALD GAETZ, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. Patrick Murphy United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MURPHY, District Judge

Petitioner, Stuart Heaton, was convicted of first degree murder by a Fayette County, Illinois, jury in 1992. He was sentenced to life in prison. On December 12, 2007, he filed a petition for habeas relief.*fn1 The petition has been fully briefed (see Docs. 11, 20, and 22), and the Court will rule without a hearing.

I. BACKGROUND

The following description of the facts is gleaned from the Rule 23 Order of the Illinois Appellate Court, Fifth District ("Fifth District"), which denied Heaton's post-conviction appeal. (Doc. 11, Ex. M). Sixteen-year-old Krystal Naab was stabbed to death with scissors at her trailer home in Ramsey, Illinois, on July 23, 1991. She suffered some 81 stab wounds and bled to death. The time of death was estimated to be 2:00 p.m.

DNA testing was done on a semen sample taken from Naab's body. A DNA expert testified that Heaton was the donor of the semen and that the likelihood of a random match was 1 in 52,600. The condition of the trailer indicated that a "massive clean-up effort had been undertaken by the killer." (Ex. M, p.1).

Heaton owned a white pickup truck which had "distinctive hubcaps." Seven witnesses testified that a white pickup truck was seen in the area on the day of the murder. The witnesses were shown a picture of Heaton's truck, which had large toolboxes in the bed. The witnesses testified that the truck that they saw on the day of the murder did not have toolboxes. Heaton's neighbor testified that he helped Heaton put toolboxes in the bed of his truck at about 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. on the day of the murder.

A mailman, Larry Miller, delivered mail to the victim's trailer at about 12:25 p.m. on the day of the murder. Naab was alive then and waved to him. Miller testified that Heaton's truck was parked in the driveway at that time. Miller knew Heaton, and he specifically identified the truck as belonging to him.

Heaton's mother and stepfather, Dovie and Francis Bergen, testified that Heaton came to their home at about 3:25 p.m. on the day of the murder. They lived about 6 miles from the victim's trailer. Heaton was wearing blue sweat pants and no shirt at that time.

Heaton's wife, Karen Heaton, was employed at a hardware store. She testified that her husband visited her at her job during her afternoon break (approximately 4:00 or 4:30 p.m.) on the day in question. Mrs. Heaton's co-worker testified that Karen told her on that day that she was surprised that Heaton had visited her at that time and that he was acting strange. At trial, Mrs. Heaton denied making those statements to the co-worker. Mrs. Heaton further testified that her husband was probably wearing sweat pants when he dropped her off at work that morning. Two Illinois State Police agents testified, however, that in an interview on the evening of the murder, Karen Heaton said that Heaton had been wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes that morning, and that he was wearing sweat pants and a long-sleeved shirt when he picked her up that afternoon from work. (Ex. M, pp. 3-4).

Photographs taken of Heaton on the evening of the murder showed "numerous small lacerations on his hands, a large laceration on the back of his right calf, and a small cut on his forehead." (Ex. M, p. 4). The pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim testified that Heaton's wounds were similar to the wounds on the victim and that "both individuals exhibited 'pairing' type wounds that could have been caused by opened scissors." (Ex. M, p. 4).

No blood, hair, fibers, or fingerprints from the scene were linked with Heaton, and no incriminating evidence was found during searches of his truck and residence. (Ex. M, p. 5).

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On direct appeal, Heaton claimed:

1. The state's DNA evidence was inadmissible.

2. The trial court erred in admitting photographs ...


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