Editor’s note: The Peninsula Clarion does not identify victims in sexual assault cases and will refer to the two women involved in this trial by their initials.
Red faced and breathing heavily, J.Y. sat in the witness stand steadfastly refusing to look at the defense table where accused rapist Shane Heiman sat.
Instead, she looked at the jury, the state’s prosecuting attorney, the judge and finally the ceiling of the courtroom as she recounted waking up to an intruder in her bedroom in November of 2013. Her jaw trembled and a few tears escaped as she recalled him shining a light onto her, pressing the knife into her throat and telling her he would kill her if she didn’t obey. He pushed her face into the bed, tied her hands behind her back, put a bag over her head and led her from the apartment before driving her to a remote location and raping her for hours.
When the prosecuting attorney asked if she had seen the man and would identify him for jurors — she pointed straight to Heiman, but still refused to look at him.
It was the second glimpse into the sordid details of a case against the Soldotna man whom prosecutors have described as a serial rapist.
The first was in prosecuting attorney Kelly Lawson’s opening statements about the case.
“(E.L.) woke up to a strange noise beside her head … she thought she was having a dirty dream, she could clearly hear a male grunting. But as she woke up further, she realized that this was definitely not a dream,” Lawson said. “E.L. saw a man at the edge of her bed. He ripped her blanket off of her. The man had a knife in his hand and he was wearing a head lamp and he was wearing it in such a way that it blinded her.”
Lawson said that the man grabbed E.L.’s arm but that she was able to swing her legs over the edge of the bed and push him away until his head turned just enough so that she could see his profile.
“You’ll hear that the man kept coming after her and (E.L.) knew that she had to get out of that cabin. She knew that if she didn’t come out of that, he was going to rape her and he was probably going to kill her,” Lawson said.
When E.L. escaped, she ran away from her home on Tobacco Lane and to her brother’s home, Lawson said.
“What he saw outside shocked him. He saw his sister, completely naked, crying and screaming about a man at her house who had a knife,” Lawson said.
Both the state’s prosecuting attorney and Heiman’s defense attorneys have repeatedly warned jurors that the trial would be uncomfortable, given the nature of the charges that he faces.
While Heiman will eventually face rape and kidnapping charges against J.Y., she testified against him during a trial for an attempted rape that happened a month after he is accused of raping her. Currently, Heiman is on trial on four charges stemming from the attempted rape incident during which police allege that he broke into a woman’s home on Tobacco Lane, threatened her with a knife and later resisted arrest.
If convicted, he faces up to 99 years in prison on the attempted rape charge and more than $400,000 in fines.
Before J.Y. testified, the jury heard from a Kenai man whose wife woke him up early one morning in 2008 saying that there was a man in bed with them in their home. The prosecution and defense argued for nearly an hour Friday morning about whether the testimony should be admitted, given that Heiman did not sexually assault anyone during that break-in.
Lawson seeks to use the testimony to help establish that Heiman has a pattern of predatory sexual behavior. Heiman’s public defender Josh Cooley argued that it should be inadmissible as evidence given that Heiman was not charged with attempted rape or sexual assault during the incident — rather he was convicted of drunk driving, harassment and criminal trespass. Cooley argued that admitting the 2008 case was basically a circular pattern of logic in which the state was attempting to use the 2013 case to re-frame the 2008 case.
“There was a span of more than five years that elapsed between the two incidents without any intervening incidents in between that would indicate a continued pattern of behavior,” Cooley said.
Lawson said she had prosecuted the 2008 case and that the state had always considered Heiman to have had a rape-driven motive.
Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet took issue with Cooley’s assertion that the 2008 case had no sexual-assault driven motive.
“Nothing was taken, nothing was disturbed, he was in the bedroom of a woman — there happened to be a man in there, too,” Huguelet said. “(It) didn’t appear that material gain was the motive for being in there.”
The court also heard from Heiman’s wife, who invoked her right not to testify against her husband. One component of the case against Heiman is that when police pulled him over on the night they allege that he tried to break into E.L.’s house, he told them he had been sleeping at his home. However, upon verifying his alibi, police found that his wife had filed for a domestic violence-related protective order against him. She told police at the time that he had not been home in days.
Jurors also heard testimony from Soldotna Police Officer Derek Urban who was called to E.L.’s house on Tobacco Lane to assist Alaska State Troopers in their investigation.
Urban told jurors that he and another officer arrived at E.L.’s cabin and found footprints in the snow.
“We followed the tracks until we lost them. They led up to some truck tire prints,” he said. “We were probably one quarter mile away.”
Another element of the state’s case against Heiman framing him as a serial predator, is that he has a similar pattern of behavior for each of the alleged home invasions. During the 2008 case, police said Heiman parked his truck some distance away from the home before breaking inside.
Defense attorneys consistently reminded jurors that the burden is on the state to prove that Heiman is responsible for the attempted rape that he is accused of committing.
“As he sits there right now, Shane Heiman is an innocent man,” said public defender Nathan Lockwood during his opening statement.
“This is a simple case that will be made complicated,” he said. “You just heard from the state that they plan on bringing in other information about other things that may have happened on other nights. … It will be difficult for you not to be distracted by this other information.”
Reach Rashah McChesney at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens.