Editor’s note: This story has been changed to show that Heiman’s blood alcohol content on the night he was arrested in 2008 was twice the legal limit to drive. There is no legal limit for general intoxication in Alaska.
A man accused of a 2013 break-in and attempted sexual assault called his wife from jail just after his arrest and told her that he had broken into the home — but not with the intention to hurt the 23-year-old woman who had been sleeping inside at the time.
Prosecuting Attorney Kelly Lawson played a recording of the phone call on Wednesday after the judge had excused the jurors for the day. Lawson, Superior Court Judge Charles Huguelet and Heiman’s defense team debated over which portions of the call should be played for jurors.
In the recording, Heiman tells his wife that he drove to the home of the victim, E.L., after seeing “cops everywhere,” and needing a place to hide. Heiman had helped E.L.’s family build the cabin, though he had not done any work on it for several weeks prior to the break-in. On Tuesday, E.L.’s mother testified that she had called Heiman the week prior to the attack, to install some lights. She told him that her daughter had moved into the unfinished home. However, Heiman told his wife from jail that he didn’t know anyone was living in the home.
“I walked in, got my jacket off and I heard a noise in the kitchen and I walked over and there she is,” Heiman said during the call.
E.L. remembers the early morning intrusion differetly.
“I had felt a pressure on my arm and I heard some grunting … and it stirred me awake,” she said. “At first, I thought perhaps I was having a dirty dream. That’s normal. When I noticed there was a really high beam light on when my eyes were closed, I knew something wasn’t right.”
Like the other woman who testified that Heiman had attacked her, E.L. did not look at him while she spoke in court on Wednesday. She maintained steady eye contact with the jurors and the prosecuting attorney when she wasn’t flinching, burying her face in her hands or fighting back tears. E.L. said she had been trying on clothes and fell asleep nude and wrapped in a maroon blanket which police later found laying on the floor of her home.
“I opened my eyes to someone looking down with a knife,” she said. “(He was) fidgeting with something with his other hand. I wasn’t awake fully, still trying to comprehend what was going on.”
Heiman told his wife that he had smoked more than six grams of synthetic marijuana, or spice, in addition to drinking one-fifth of a gallon of whiskey.
“I was completely wasted. She woke up and I freaked out,” Heiman said in the recording. “I was completely drunk … I don’t even know what to say. I never even hurt her. She didn’t even get hurt.”
He rejected the idea that he had meant to kidnap or rape E.L., telling his wife “Do you really think I couldn’t handle a girl if I wanted to keep her there?”
E.L. said Heiman asked her “do you want it?” during their struggle. She said she fought Heiman off several times as she tried to get out of the home.
E.L. told jurors that Heiman had been relatively easy to fight off. After she had been woken up and had her blanket ripped off of her, E.L. said she pushed at the man standing over her head and managed to swing her legs over the bed and push him again before running for her front door.
“I thought that this person was acting like an intoxicated individual … but I was close enough to smell his breath. I did not smell alcohol at all,” she said.
Heiman asked his wife during the phone call why people were saying that he had tried to rape E.L. She told him that E.L. said Heiman had a knife when he attacked her. Heiman’s wife asked why he had run away from the scene, leaving his hat behind.
“What was I supposed to do when I found her laying there?” he said. “She wasn’t supposed to be there.”
Heiman’s defense attorney Josh Cooley asked that portions of the tape, including an automated message from the Wildwood Correctional Facility and discussion of Heiman’s drug use be omitted when the jury heard the tape.
Lawson argued that Heiman’s drug use was part of establishing a pattern of behavior. During previous testimony an officer told jurors that just after a 2008 break-in Heiman had a blood alcohol level 0.16 — twice the legal intoxication limit to drive in Alaska. She said that the automated recording and Heiman’s discussion of his arraignment were evidence that he had seen the charging documents. Heiman faces three felony charges of burglary, assault and attempted sexual assault and one misdemeanor resisting arrest charge. If convicted he could be sentenced to more than 99 years in prison and up to $410,000 in fines. Additionally, he faces several other kidnapping and rape charges in another case set to begin after the current one is resolved.
“He knew what he had been charged with when he called his wife,” Lawson said.
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens.