Editor’s note: The Peninsula Clarion does not identify victims in sexual assault cases and will refer to the women involved in this trial and story by their initials, E.L. and J.Y.
After several hours of deliberation, a jury found a Soldotna man guilty on four charges of attempted rape, burglary, assault and resisting arrest.
The charges were levied against Shane Heiman, 40, after he broke into a woman’s home in 2013. Jurors heard more than a week of testimony from witnesses whose homes Heiman had broken into and law enforcement officers who investigated the crimes.
Prosecuting attorney Kelly Lawson and defense attorney Josh Cooley sparred several times over the testimony that Lawson used to build her case that Heiman is a repeat offender who breaks into women’s homes with the intent of raping them. Cooley highlighted testimony from a 2008 home invasion case in Kenai, during which a woman woke up to find Heiman sitting at the foot of her bed.
She testified that she woke her then-boyfriend who chased Heiman from the home. Lawson framed the incident as one in which Heiman was thwarted in his plans to rape the woman, while Cooley said Heiman — whose blood alcohol level at the time was more than twice the state’s legal limit to drive — was confused and unsure of why he was in the home and did not attack anyone.
“Shane Heiman is a creature of habit,” Lawson said during her closing argument. “He enters into people’s homes late at night. He waits until they’re fast asleep. He enters these homes armed, always with a knife and some form of binding material. He uses alcohol and spice as encouragement, liquid courage if you will.”
A key portion of Lawson’s case was testimony from a woman who said Heiman broke into her home and raped her in November 2013, one month prior to a December 2013 home invasion case that he was tried for over the last several days. Now that he has been convicted in the December case, he’ll face five more charges of sexual assault, kidnapping, assault and burglary from the earlier case. Police used DNA evidence gathered after the November assault to link Heiman to that case after he was arrested in December on the night he broke into a woman’s home on Tobacco Lane. She fought him off and he was later arrested fleeing from the scene in his pickup truck.
The victim in the earlier case, J.Y., testified that Heiman broke into her apartment, bound her and raped her in his truck for several hours before she escaped and ran into Soldotna.
Lawson used J.Y.’s testimony as proof that Heiman had intended to rape the woman whose home he broke into in December — he was thwarted when she fought him off and ran to her parents home nearby.
Cooley spent several hours pointing out inconsistencies in J.Y.’s story. In addition, he said Lawson was using details from other cases to distract jurors from the lack of evidence in the bungled December home invasion. “I would love to get up here and just be able to focus on the case for which you are here. But we can’t because there has been introduction of confusion and introduction of distraction and introductions of things that do not prove intent that Mr. Heiman had in E.L.’s house that night,” Cooley said. “So they take your attention and they focus it on J.Y. and they say, ‘Look, oh, this is really disgusting, this is bad, we want you to use this in your deliberations.’”
Cooley spent nearly an hour speaking during his closing arguments on Friday and most of that time was spent dismantling J.Y.’s testimony.
“The (J.Y.) case is absolutely riddled with reasonable doubt,” he said.
He implied that J.Y. had lied several times in her story to the police. He said the physical evidence on her body did not match her story.
“She tells you that her hands are tied tightly behind her back,” he said. “This is not a natural position for us to be in, it is very uncomfortable.”
J.Y. testified that she fought the bonds as she lie in the back of Heiman’s truck while he drove her to a secluded area.
“We have photographs of her wrists taken (shortly after the incident),” Cooley said as he handed photos to the jury. “We have photographs of her wrists taken hours later when she was interviewed by a nurse. Already these marks are disappearing. She told you … that she fought those ties for 20 minutes while she was rolling around in the back of the truck.”
He also brought up J.Y.’s testimony during which she admitted that she had lied about being beaten up during the assault because she thought no one would believe her story.
“She lied about it. As if the story wasn’t incredible enough. She goes, she applies makeup to create the illusion of a bruise and she sends it to her ex-boyfriend,” Cooley said. “This was a one night stand that got sprung into a jealousy trap for (her ex-boyfriend). This was never supposed to go this far.”
Cooley said the jury should not use J.Y.’s testimony that Heiman raped her to support the idea that he was intent on doing the same to E.L. when he broke into her home a month later.
“The state wants to inflame your passions. They want to use the shocking headline of the J.Y. case to prove what happened in the E.L. case,” he said. “Does anybody want to wake up with somebody else in their house? Absolutely not. This is not OK behavior, but it is not evidence of sexual assault.”
After Cooley spoke, Lawson addressed the jury again before the group went into deliberations.
“You’ll find this case is simply about the defendant Shane Heiman who intended to sexually assault (E.L.) on Dec. 13, 2013,” Lawson said. “The defendant would like you to believe that this entire case is nothing more than a series of coincidences and easily explainable scenarios.”
Lawson took issue with Cooley’s dismissal of J.Y.’s testimony about being raped. She said the similarities between the two home invasions were difficult to ignore.
“Had (J.Y.) made this entire story up, boy she must have been one heck of a predictor of the future. Otherwise, how could she possibly have known that these details, what happened to her in November, would be almost identical to what happened to (E.L.) one month later?” Lawson said. “From waking up to knives in their faces, waking up to headlamps being shone in their eyes and waking up to this man terrorizing them, from this shotgun they found in his truck a month later, from that rope that (J.Y.) described, to those exact same shoes … it’s those details and evidence and testimony that show how unmistakable and clear these charges are.”
Heiman could be sentenced to more than 99 years in prison and more than $410,000 in fines for the E.L. case, but the state did not set a sentencing hearing. Heiman will be tried for the J.Y. case before he is sentenced.
Cooley told the court he intended to request a change of venue for the next case as media coverage would make jury selection in Kenai difficult. Heiman’s next hearing is on Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the Kenai courthouse.
Reach Rashah McChesney at Rashah.firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens