Tonawanda News

February 2, 2013

Court denies convicted town killer's appeal

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — An appellate court Friday upheld the murder conviction of a Town of Tonawanda man, David Heck, who beat his elderly mother to death on Christmas Eve 2009.

Heck used a hammer to strike his mother, Ruth Heck, 87, more than a dozen times in their Conant Drive home. He then left his mother’s body inside the house, which they were about to lose due to foreclosure, for five days until police discovered it when Heck called for help following a failed suicide attempt. 

During the state Supreme Court trial in 2011, Heck, now 58, and his lawyer, John Nuchereno, argued a burglar murdered the victim when Heck was at the store, and Heck returned to find his mother dead. 

Nuchereno also said Heck didn’t call police right away because he wanted to spend Christmas with her. 

In turn, Christopher J. Belling, the lead prosecutor on the case, said Heck murdered his mother because he was living off her Social Security checks and realized their financial end was drawing near, with a foreclosure coming and bills piling up. 

Belling also argued Heck attempted to cover up the murder by making it look like his mother had fallen, hitting an angel figurine that was covered with blood on the way down. 

After the weeklong trial, a jury delivered a guilty verdict in March 2011. 

The next month, Justice M. William Boller imposed a sentence of 25 years to life.

In his appeal, Heck, who is serving his sentence at a state prison in Elmira, challenged the weight and sufficiency of the evidence against him.

In their decision, however, appeals judges said the evidence presented at trial was “overwhelming.”

“The evidence at trial established that defendant failed to notify police of his mother’s death for several days; falsely stated to his neighbors that she was alive despite his knowledge of her death; staged the crime scene to make it appear that his mother had accidentally fallen and hit her head and then proceeded to tailor his account of her death accordingly,” the decision states.

The court also said the hammer, used as a weapon, was missing from Heck’s toolbox, and that a fellow jail inmate testified that Heck confessed to the murder — evidence that the court said clearly points to Heck’s guilt.

The court goes on to state that there was no evidence of a break-in, as Heck argued, and that the crime appeared to be one of passion, as an intruder would be unlikely to hit someone 13 times. 

The document reads, the defendant’s version of the story “was unsupported by any credible evidence.”

Heck also challenged the admissibility of statements he made when police arrived at his home and at Kenmore Mercy Hospital.

Both challenges were denied by the court.