By Brian Heap
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
12:28 PM CST, February 13, 2012
Billy Joe Craig Jr. and Charles Christopher Logsdon were bound over for trial on six charges, including first degree murder and robbery in the murder of Hutchinson mother Jennifer Heckel.
Reno Co. District Court Judge Joseph McCarville made the ruling after a three day preliminary hearing in which he listened to testimony from nearly two dozen witnesses.
McCarville scheduled a March 5 arraignment for Logsdon and Craig. Heckel was found shot to death inside her Hutchinson home last June.
During the three day hearing, witnesses testified Heckel was not the intended target of a crime. However, prosecutors didn't disclose exactly how Craig and Logsdon ended up at her home.
Craig testified whereabouts the night of Heckel's murder and appeared to give her ex-husband an alibi. She also blew a kiss to Craig as she left the witness stand.
The prosecution didn't have to provide all of the details. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to prove to the judge there's enough evidence to send the case to trial.
Before the judge ruled, prosecutors called drug users, convicts and associates of Craig and Logsdon in an effort to unravel a web of criminal activity they believe ultimately led to the mistaken identity killing Heckel.
A former jail inmate testified about conversations he had with defendant Logsdon while both men were locked-up in Ford County last year.
Witness Steven Dome told the court Logsdon spoke about the murder of Jennifer Heckel on several different occasions during the days they were housed together. According to Dome's testimony, Logsdon and co-defendant Billy Craig owed $19,000 to a drug dealer in Wichita and made arrangements to kill another woman in exchange for forgiving the debt.
Dome said Logsdon was also concerned about a cigarette that had been left at the scene with his DNA on it. Dome said Logsdon told him he received a text from Craig the next morning saying they had killed the wrong person. Prosecutors showed a video from inside the pod Dome and Logsdon shared at the jail.
Dome testified the video shows Logsdon reenacting Heckel's murder, as he dropped to his knees and pointed a gun to his head.
Dome acknowledged receiving a plea deal from Ford County in exchange for his cooperation and testimony in the Heckel murder case.
The state called a second man who was jailed in Ford County in the same pod cell as Logsdon. Justin White said he knew nothing about Heckel's murder until he met Logsdon.
White described Logsdon as "cold-blooded" and "cocky" and said he had been bragging about elements of the Heckel murder and another shooting he'd been involved with. White said Logsdon told him he was "really high" on meth the night of the murder and that Heckel's son had seen him. White testified he was not offered anything in exchange for his testimony.
Earlier this week, prosecutors showed the judge a videotaped interview defendant Billy Joe Craig Jr. gave to police with his attorney present. Hutchinson Police Detective Tyson Meyer testified Craig volunteered the statement in an effort to work out a plea deal in the Heckel case. On the video, Craig can be seen dropping his head on the table and weeping as he describes the events that led up to Heckel's death.
"I've been praying to the Lord for forgiveness every day," Craig told investigators as he recalled driving co-defendant Charles Christopher Logsdon and another man (who has not been charged) to the house June 14, 2011.
"I wanted my money" Craig said on the tape. He said the plan was to steal from a known drug dealer. Craig said he knew one of the men with him had a gun, but he thought it would only be used to scare the target. Craig said he slumped in the driver's seat of the car while the Logsdon and the other man went inside the home. They returned to the car a few minutes later and jumped inside saying "We shot her, we shot her," Craig recalled on the video.
"I couldn't believe they done that. They were just supposed to get my money," he continued. Craig repeatedly told the investigators his story was the complete truth.
However, once the video concluded, Meyer testified there were pieces of Craig's story that didn't add up and he said Craig later recanted the story altogether.
Prior to showing the tape, many of the witnesses called to the stand appeared combative and uncooperative. They often bickered with attorneys about the wording or direction of questions and their memories of prior police interviews are fuzzy.
Another witness, Kylie Hartman, invoked her 5th Amendment right against self incrimination in response to most questions from the state. Hartman's attorney sat by her side and held up five fingers when advising her to invoke the right. Hartman is charged in a computer fraud and identity theft case. Craig is also a defendant in that case.
Before that, several witnesses talked about conversations they had with the defendants about Heckel. A friend Milissa Lewis talked about a conversation she had with Craig in late June or early July during the investigation of Heckel's murder. She said police came to Craig's apartment to ask him questions. Afterward, she said he was ranting and raving about how he was going to go to prison for murder. She says he would say things like how was I supposed to know she was a mother. She says Craig told her all he could do was put his head down, point the gun, and shoot. Lewis is an admitted former meth user and says Craig often sold her drugs.
A woman, whose identity we can't reveal, was the intended target of a robbery the night Jennifer Helckel was murdered, prosecutors said. The woman admitted selling drugs to co-defendant Craig in the past. She said after she was informed co-defendant Logsdon was planning to rob her, she panicked, moved out of state and got out of the drug business.
A friend of Logsdon testified he told her he was involved with Heckel's murder. 39-year-old Karra Branton is currently in prison for a parole violation on a drug conviction. She testified Logsdon told her another woman, not Heckel was not the intended target. She testified Logsdon told her they were going to print up counterfeit money in exchange for drugs. He told her something happened, they couldn't make the money and intended steal the drugs. Branton didn't provide information on how Logsdon ended up at Heckel's home.
Police officer's also took the stand to talk about the crime scene. Heckel's son went to a neighbor's house after the shooting to say his mother had been hurt. When officer's arrived on the scene, they found Heckel had been shot four times, including two bullets to the back of her head. The officer also showed the judge video he shot of the crime scene, which showed Heckel's body on the floor of the kitchen after EMS tried unsuccessfully to revive her.
Craig and Logsdon are charged with first degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and felon in possession of a firearm.
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