Read an ExcerptMOM SAID KILL
By BURL BARER PINNACLE BOOKS
Copyright © 2008 Burl Barer
All right reserved.
Chapter One Wednesday, April 18, 2001, 2:30 P.M.
For Gregory and Teresa Heimann, the nightmare began when their TWA flight from Atkins, Arkansas, arrived at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The couple quickly collected their carry-on items from the overhead bin, followed their fellow travelers up the narrow airplane aisle, and stepped out into the bustling passenger arrival area, where they anticipated a warm welcome from Greg's father, Jerry Heimann, whom they hadn't seen in five years.
Eager to share special time with his son and daughter-in-law, Jerry Heimann personally made the flight reservations and wired money into his son's bank account to pay for the tickets. This was more than a long-awaited get-together. Mr. Heimann, sixty-four, a retired Boeing employee, was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Greg and Teresa scanned the crowd, seeking the happy wave summoning them to a heartfelt reunion. Sadly, Greg's father wasn't awaiting them at baggage claim, nor was his car idling in the loading and unloading zone. Assuming he was on his way, they retrieved their luggage from the TWA baggage carousel and moved it to the passenger pickup area.
Standing outside, suitcase in hand, a disappointed Gregory Heimann watched strangers embrace their loved ones, while he and Teresa comforted themselves with excuses and explanations-trafficdelays and/or car trouble.
After an hour, anticipation became concern; after three, intense anxiety. Greg repeatedly telephoned the Everett, Washington, residence shared by Jerry Heimann and his eighty-nine-year-old Alzheimer's-afflicted mother, Evelyn "Eva" Heimann. Caregiver Barbara Opel, thirty-eight, and her children lived with the Heimanns full-time, yet the telephone calls yielded only incessant ringing. The nagging question of his father's whereabouts remained unanswered.
Perplexed and dismayed, the couple called Greg's mother, Marylou Cannon. Earlier that week, Cannon delivered some blankets to her former husband's home and was surprised that no one answered the door. She left the blankets on the front porch and returned home. Contacted by Greg and Teresa, Marylou agreed to meet them at Jerry's residence.
"We got a shuttle, and it took us directly to Jerry's house in Everett," recalled Teresa. "Once we arrived, we waited outside for Marylou to show up, and we spoke to some of Jerry's neighbors. One of them told us that the caregiver, Barbara Opel, had packed up a U-Haul, took her kids, and moved out at about noon.
"We knew that Jerry was having trouble with Opel," acknowledged Teresa. "In fact, Greg and I wanted to bring our kids with us to see their granddad, and Jerry was going to buy them tickets too, but he couldn't afford it because Barbara Opel had written checks on the bank account he shared with his mother."
"He told us that she forged Grandma's signature on the checks," confirmed Greg, "and that Everett Police investigated her for allegedly filling out a check for eighteen hundred dollars and attempting to cash it at a local check-cashing place. These stolen checks caused his account to get overdrawn, and he was having a lot of trouble getting the stores to believe that it wasn't his fault, and that he didn't have anything to do with it. Dad told me that he had to close his checking account because of all this, but he said that he kind of felt that since she'd taken such good care of Grandma in other ways, that he would overlook it. I strongly disagreed. I told him, 'That isn't something you overlook, Dad.'"
"I assumed Jerry planned on getting Mrs. Opel and her kids out of there after the check incident," said Teresa, "so I thought maybe he told her to move out before we flew in."
Greg's mother and her boyfriend, Stan, arrived, and they went all around the house, checking the doors and windows. The backyard Jacuzzi hot tub was running and half full, but the house itself was lifeless behind drawn shades. Greg found one window slightly ajar, pushed it open, crawled inside, and opened the front door.
The first thing they noticed was the significant absence of furniture. "The place looked like it had been stripped," said Teresa. "Almost anything of value in the house was missing." "There were no couches in the living room," added Greg.
"There was just outside patio furniture, such as plastic chairs. It was pretty dirty, like someone moved out hastily, except for the kitchen floor, which was pretty dang clean compared to the rest of the house. Normally, Dad keeps a clean house, and the place looked fairly bad. My father was very meticulous about his furniture and that sort of thing. He enjoyed entertaining, and he always kept a very clean, well-ordered, and tidy home. There were no couches, chairs, TV sets, or anything that my father would normally have in his living room."
The second thing they noticed was Greg's wheelchair-bound grandmother sitting in soiled diapers and eating torn pieces of paper.
"Grandma can't reach very far," Greg said, "and there was no water on the table. There were some graham crackers in the middle of the table, but she couldn't reach them. She'd been chewing on a piece of paper from the cable-TV guide. She had paper in her mouth, and we took it out when we got there."
"She was so dehydrated that her lips were all cracked and broken," Teresa said. "It was horrible. I had to clean her up because she had soiled herself." Marylou and Teresa immediately tended to Greg's grandmother, removed her soiled clothing, and gave her food and water, dressed her, and put her to bed. "She had very little light pants on, light little top, little zip-up jacket, and a little pair of booties that were almost off her feet. Her diapers and undergarments were soiled, had been soiled for quite a while. They were saturated, almost falling apart they had been on her so long. She was raw and red. It was quite painful for her, even in her state. It hurt her for us to clean her up because her urine and her feces was eating at her skin."
Teresa Heimann, a certified nurse's assistant, had worked in medical wards, and was familiar with this type of situation. "When people sit a lot in wheelchairs," she explained, "you need to make sure that they are clean and dry at all times."
"One thing we needed to find out right away was details about what medications Grandma was taking, or what medications she should be taking," added Greg. "I figured perhaps my sister, or my former stepmom who also lives in Everett, and who is still close with Jerry and the family, would know. When I went to call them, that's when we discovered what was going on with the telephones."
What they found gave more cause for concern. "The answering machine was unplugged from the telephone," said Teresa. "The battery was removed from the caller ID unit, the downstairs phone was unplugged from the wall, and the phone in Jerry's bedroom was missing."
"We needed that phone working," said Greg emphatically. "When we finally got it all plugged back in, we called my sister and talked to her, and we called several others about Grandma and her medications."
"Greg also called the Snohomish County Sheriff 's Office, Washington State Patrol, Sedro-Woolley hospital, because Jerry has property in Skagit County, and even the Lynnwood police," said Teresa.
"We called everywhere trying to find my father," confirmed Greg, who also spoke with an attorney relative who advised Greg to contact Adult Protective Services in the morning.
As a matter of course, Greg opened the refrigerator. "It was full of meat, and a turkey, and other nice things that he bought for our visit," said Greg sadly. "He bought buffalo meat for me especially, and he also had some fancy ribs, and some seafood. We planned on having a nice big picnic with the whole extended family and friends."
For Jerry Heimann, extended family included three of his four ex-wives: Marylou Cannon, Shirley Hots, and Ruby Adams. Marylou was the mother of his children, Shirley was his second wife and best friend, and Ruby was wife number four, who possibly was on the cusp of renewed nuptials with the romantic Mr. Heimann.
Everyone who knew Jerry Heimann described him in much the same manner. "Jerry was simply the most likeable guy," observed a longtime acquaintance. Jerry Heimann loved women, and women loved him. It was easy for Jerry to get married, but not so easy to be married. It's a true testimony to his unique character and personality that three of his ex-wives were his best pals, and his most ardent well-wishers. He wasn't perfect, no one is. But in a world where selfishness is all too common, Jerry Heimann was remarkably selfless. He saw the best in people, whether they saw it or not, and he overlooked their faults. When he looked at casual acquaintances, he saw close personal friends. Here was a man who had pain-physical pain from cancer, emotional pain from the death of one of his children, and financial pain from the projected costs of his mother's care. He was hungry for happiness, and if there was a man on earth who deserved it, it was definitely Jerry Heimann.
Teresa Heimann was hungry for food after the long trip, so Greg, Stan, and Marylou went to the store for pizza and soda pop, while Teresa looked after the elderly Mrs. Heimann. Shortly after the trio left the house, the phone rang. Teresa about jumped out of her skin in eagerness to answer it.
The call was from Shirley Hots, one of Greg's former stepmothers, checking to see if the couple made it in safely. She had no idea Jerry was missing, and now she, too, was concerned.
When the late-night shoppers returned to the house, Teresa ate pizza, but Greg couldn't eat, too preoccupied with worry. "The more I looked around the house, the more upset I became. For example, Dad regularly padlocked his bedroom door from the outside when he left the house. The bedroom door was broken open, the padlock and the part connected to the door frame were on the floor, and all his personal files-bank statements, insurance policies-were scattered all over the place. Dad wasn't so far gone that he would leave his paperwork out. There was private numbers in there that he wouldn't want other people to have. There was some insurance paperwork there he wouldn't want other people to see. If he left the house, which he had, then he would have [picked] that stuff up. He doesn't leave stuff out. He keeps a nice and tidy house and puts stuff away."
Marylou and Stan went home distressed; the exhausted and confused couple went to an upstairs bedroom and attempted to rest. Tossing and turning, a troubled Greg Heimann got back up at 3:00 A.M. From the moment he and his wife had arrived in Seattle, everything was unsettling, inexplicable, and unnerving. Greg checked every part of the house for some clue as to his father's whereabouts.
"I even looked in the crawl spaces under the house, and then I sat down and made a list of everyone I would contact in the morning. And while I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, I was looking at Grandma's chair, just spacing out a little bit, thinking what I had to do, making a list of who I needed to call in the morning, and I noticed there was some blood on the back of the chair. And I looked closer, and there were quite a few spots of blood on the back of the chair. There was some blood on the walls in the kitchen, there was blood on the trash can. It was either paint or blood, it looked more like blood to me than paint that had run down the back of the trash can."
Greg Heimann made his list. First, call the police. Second, call Adult Protective Services. "About seven in the morning," said Greg, "I was just about to call the police when my mom called and asked me to wait to call the police until after she got there. She wanted to be there when the police arrived."
Greg opened up all the blinds and window shades to let some sunshine in, and he looked out the front window. "It was about eight in the morning, and I saw a guy sitting outside in a car. He was just sitting there, looking at the house as if something was the matter. I was just about to go outside and see what he was up to when the phone rang."
The caller was Greg's former stepmother Shirley, calling to see if Jerry had shown up. Told that Jerry was still missing, Shirley promised to come over and help find him.
"Then there was a knock on the door. I opened it up, and there was this little guy standing there. He looks at me like he is really relieved to see me, and says that he's glad to see that I'm okay."
"If you're looking for my dad, Jerry Heimann," said Greg, "so am I. I'm his son Greg. My father is missing."
"Well, that's why I'm here," said the gentleman. "My name is Gary Bright. I'm from Adult Protective Services."
"I was relieved that he showed up," said Greg, "I had it on my list to call Adult Protective Services, and there he was. Next he showed me the report about an anonymous caller saying Barbara Opel was poisoning my dad, and that something needed to be done immediately. Naturally, I wasn't too thrilled to hear about that."
Bright came inside, Greg introduced him to Teresa, and together they brought Bright up to speed on the trauma of their anticipated reunion with Jerry Heimann. Bright flipped open his cell phone and punched in three numbers.
"I called 911 for an officer to respond on the allegations of abandonment of Evelyn Heimann," said Bright. "When Officer Wardlaw arrived at about eight-fifteen, I met her outside and briefed her on the abandonment issues, and also told her that Evelyn Heimann's son, Jerry, was missing."
"As I entered the house," reported Wardlaw, "I noticed that most of the furniture had been removed from the living room. Evelyn lay in her bed in the only main-floor bedroom, awake but unresponsive. Greg told me that his grandmother had not spoken in quite some time and suffers from dementia. I then called for Aid to check on Evelyn."
"Officer Wardlaw and Mr. Bright asked us what we knew about Barbara Opel," said Greg. "To tell the truth, we didn't know much about her beyond what Dad told us. We only knew that, at first, Dad was thrilled to have her take care of Grandma, plus Dad was crazy about her three kids, who were, I believe, thirteen, eleven, and seven."
Jerry Heimann first met Barbara Opel in November 2000 at either the Albertsons supermarket or the Dairy Queen restaurant, depending upon whom you ask. Opel was struggling for cash and living in a string of Snohomish County motels; he was looking for someone to help take care of his mother. A few weeks later, Heimann asked Opel and her three children to move into his home. He sold that residence to generate available cash, and then rented a larger house from Huber Development agent Jesse Eline.
"The residents in the house," explained Eline, "were Evelyn Heimann, her son, Jerry Heimann, Barbara Opel, and her three children. A few days prior to Greg Heimann's arrival, I had a phone call from Barbara Opel telling me that they needed to break the lease and move out in a matter of days. I told her that the law allowed that for an additional month's rent, and Opel quickly agreed. She mentioned something about Jerry moving to Arkansas to be with his son. When I told her that I needed to go to the house and place a rental sign in the front yard, and that a move-out inspection would have to be done, she seemed to get anxious and upset."
Opel had good reason to get anxious. She'd recently murdered Jerry Heimann and, in the opinion of some, was about to leave his mother to die of dehydration and starvation. The last thing she needed was a "move-out" inspection.
"Here we have," commented crime writer Jeff Reynolds, "obvious indications that Barbara Opel has all the refined thought processes of a toddler-a psychotic toddler, but a toddler nonetheless. There are, admittedly, things Barbara Opel did well. Like most psychopaths, she can cry on cue, elicit sympathy, and misrepresent herself to get what she wants."
Shirley Hots's memories of Opel validate Reynolds's assessment. "Opel sobbed as she told Jerry that she was down on her luck. She told Jerry that she had experience taking care of the elderly, and he offered her a job. He invited Opel and her children to live in his basement," said Hots. "Jerry let Opel use his car and even bought a Christmas tree and gifts for her children. She said she took care of people, and he needed someone. He was such a good man. He trusted anyone."
Excerpted from MOM SAID KILL by BURL BARER
Copyright © 2008 by Burl Barer. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.