The Murder of Heather Dewild
On the surface this should look like it was a cut and dry case. Of course it seems that every crime, especially those involving murder, has a few unique twists of their own. This one does not disappoint in that area, that is for sure. But, as I often say, I am more interested in the law and how it is followed many times than the crimes themselves. I want to see the evidence and the facts of the case to determine just how a decision was made. Now, in this case one of the two defendants out right pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the other. The second defendant was convicted on one charge but the jury hung on another forcing a mistrial on the murder charge itself. He would later take a plea on that charge. The problem here is that there was little media coverage when it came to not just the trial but the facts itself beyond the sensationalism of the testimony of one of the defendants. Many would argue that it does not matter because in the end both defendants admitted guilty and from a legal standard convictions were obtained. This is true and this is not a case in which I believe there were false confessions or pleas, I do believe the defendants to be guilty. However, I still would like to know what evidence was found, especially since the arrests occurred some nine years after the murder occurred, in order to secure arrests in this case.
In July of 2003 thirty year old Heather DeWild was in the middle of a contentious divorce with her husband, Daniel. Most people indicate that this was not a divorce that Daniel wanted and in fairness I found nothing that indicated the reasons for the divorce. Of course people file for divorce every day simply because they are not happy, and that, at least in my opinion is good enough most of the time. No one is obligated to explain their reasons for wanting a divorce. However, when murder is later alleged you often hear stories about domestic abuse throughout the marriage but I found nothing like that in my research. On July 22nd, with the final hearing for the divorce just a week away, it was said that Daniel had showed up at Heather's parents' home with flowers and a card hoping for a reconciliation. Heather apparently wanted no part of that and declined his offer. It seems her family reported to authorities that Daniel left the home angry. Two days later Heather would meet Daniel at the home of his twin brother, David, in Edgewater Colorado, where he was living. Allegedly she was meeting him to discuss a check that had come in the name of the couple and to also look over some insurance forms. It was said that she took her two young children, then ages five and three, with her because she did not want to be alone with Daniel. She was never seen again.
Of course authorities went to meet with Daniel when Heather was reported missing, presumably by her family. Aside from Daniel's brother, David living in the home, David's girlfriend Roseanne also lived there. Daniel's children were with him and he told authorities that yes, Heather had been there but she had left the children with him to go run some errands and she had never returned. Of course investigators were not completely buying this, but it was his story. And to be fair, stranger things have happened. A few days later, on July 30th officers apparently did a search of at least the vehicles at the home. A bloodhound found evidence of decomposition in the trunk of one of David's vehicles. He was notified of the results the following day and the day after that David and Roseanne would marry. She would later tell authorities that the marriage had taken place so that if anything else would come to light she could not be forced to testify against him.
Daniel's young son, who was five at the time told authorities the day after his mother disappeared that his parents had been fighting but he did not know about what and that he had seen his father “sneak” up behind his mother. This seems to have been all that he expressed. Besides the word of a five year old, even if he had witnessed a murder, may not have gotten them very far.
It seems as if there was no evidence anywhere else that anything had happened home. Heather's car was found abandoned at some point, although I found nothing that gave any sort of specific date. When people in the area were questioned it was said that someone had stated they saw someone who looked like David in a car described as one that he owned near the scene on July 24th. Keep in mind that David and Daniel are twins. At the time of their ultimate arrest and conviction they did look different as David had a beard and mustache and Daniel did not. However, I cannot tell you just how differently they may or may not have looked in July of 2003. The both would have had access to David's vehicles. In fact, the one David was allegedly seen in near the area of Heather's vehicle was a different vehicle than what was said to have been hit by the bloodhound.
Within just a few weeks it seems that investigators could not prove that anyone in the DeWild home had done anything to Heather, nor could they find Heather. It appears that they decided to do the only thing they could at that point and charged Daniel with forgery, claiming that he had signed her name on some checks that valued more than $16,000. Now, there was some indication in my research that this incident may have actually occurred prior to the divorce even being filed as it was said the checks were from 1999. The charges would later be dropped in November of 2004 and family members claimed that he had only been charged in the first place as a method to harass Daniel.
On September 4, 2003 an employee with the Department of Transportation in Colorado was moving some dirt along the side of a highway when he came across a shallow grave in which a body was found. Through dental records it was determined that the body belonged to Heather DeWild. While an official cause of death apparently could not be made due to the decomposition of the body, the manner of death was listed as homicide. That seemed to be rather apparent considering that there was a rope wrapped around her neck and wrists. Then the body had been wrapped in trash bags and secured with duct tape before being placed in the shallow grave. Family members identified her clothing as those that she was wearing when she had gone to meet Daniel on July 24th.
Still it was many more years before the case seemed to move forward. In fact a new prosecutor was elected in 2005 and said he was making the case a priority. Even then no arrests were made until December of 2012 when a grand jury handed down indictments. Daniel, his brother David and David's wife, Roseanne were all arrested and charged in the murder of Heather. Eventually charges would be dropped against Roseanne, apparently just before he case was to go to trial. Prosecutors would not say the reason for them dropping the charges other than to say that David's recent plea agreement had not been a factor. This tells me that they did not have the evidence to charge her or at least believe they could successfully get a conviction.
My issues here though lie with what exactly had been discovered as far as evidence and what was presented that after nine years a grand jury felt there was enough to charge the defendants when apparently there had not been in prior years. When it comes to grand juries they are literally one sided. The whole purpose of a grand jury is to allow a prosecutor to present what evidence they have collected, or in fairness, allege they have collected, and let the grand jury decide if it is enough to bring charges. If a grand jury elects to indict then generally an arrest warrant, or warrants, are issued and charges are filed. In one of the articles I read about the indictment I heard about the alleged witness who saw “David” near the area in which Heather's car was discovered. In another article it was said the grand jury heard evidence that “a witness” saw “three people with a body wrapped in plastic about 4 am.” Now, first it never said who the witness was or even on what day that they allegedly saw this. In fact, the grand jury would only say that they believed that Heather DeWild was murdered sometime between July 24th and September 4th 2003.
Daniel, David and Roseanne were all facing apparently separate trials near the end of 2012. In August of that year David pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the second degree. He provided authorities with a video re-enactment of what he said occurred on the day of her murder. I will get into what he stated in the video, or at least some of that in just a bit. In January of 2013 he was sentenced to twelve years for his part. Two months later just as Roseanne was set to go to trial the prosecution dropped the charges against her. Then Daniel went to trial in November.
The video that David made was apparently played in the courtroom for the jury and some of that, apparently not all, has been released to the media since that time. According to David, he and Daniel had began to plot the murder soon after Heather had filed for divorce. The two brothers allegedly began watching true crime shows for tips on how to avoid detection. I found this comment amusing in some way. As you can probably imagine I watch an abundance of true crime documentary shows myself. I have often joked with my husband that I watch them in order to find out what NOT to do because an overwhelming amount of those programs are made because the killer was caught. Of course they give you ideas on what you should and should not do I suppose, but then again, I have never seriously considered murder. I think those who do are a rare breed and most of them consider themselves to be extremely savvy and smart enough to get away with it no matter how stupid and ignorant they are.
David went on to tell authorities that Daniel had purposely gotten Heather to come to the home and planned to get her into the garage to execute his plan. Daniel had rigged a noose and pulley system in the garage of the home. David claimed that Daniel began to sneak up behind Heather and hit her over the head with a rubber mallet. He was then able to get the noose around her neck and use the pulley system to lift her body up off the floor of the garage.
Beyond this I am unsure what else David may or may not have said about his own participation in getting rid of the body or the car and what anyone else did. I suspect that while authorities have said his plea deal did not include having charges against his wife dropped, that his confession never mentioned her in a position of doing anything in which authorities felt they could obtain a conviction.
Other than the fact that David testified and this apparent video was shown to the jury I found little else that was presented at Daniel's trial. It seems that even the video was not enough to help the jury decide to find him guilty on the charge of first degree murder. They did find him guilty of conspiracy to commit murder but the judge was forced to declare a mistrial on the murder charge itself. I suspect, although I found nothing to verify, that despite the hung jury on the charge it largely leaned towards guilt. The following month a deal was hammered out between the prosecutors and the defense allowing Daniel to plead guilty to second degree murder. Again I am speculating that if he had been convicted on first degree charges he was looking at either the death penalty or natural life in prison and the plea took that off the table. He was eventually given a sentence of seventy-four years for all of his charges.
According to the Colorado Department of Corrections David was eligible for parole in 2016 but that was denied. His next hearing is in July of 2018, just next month. It also states that his mandatory release date is scheduled for December 2021. He can get out sooner, but he cannot be kept any longer than the mandatory release. As far as Daniel goes the situation is much bleaker for him and it looks as if prison has not been good for him. His prison mugshot shows him sporting a black eye. He is not eligible for parole until the year 2047. He was forty years old when he entered the system. He will be seventy-four before he is even eligible for parole and even then his release is not set in stone. His mandatory release year is 2084, when he will be over one hundred years old. Daniel DeWild will likely die in prison.