Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson announces Eudora resident Ronald Eugene Heskett, 49, was sentenced today in the Division Six courtroom of the Honorable Peggy C. Kittel following the September 2015 jury trial for the September 12, 2014 second degree murder of 65 year old Lawrence resident Vance F. Moulton.
The Court sentenced Mr. Heskett to 195 months in the custody of the Secretary of Corrections. The Court also ordered that when Mr. Heskett is released from prison that he must register as a violent offender for 15 years and has 36 months of post release supervision.
Mr. Heskett’s attorney argued motions for a new trial and downward sentencing departure prior to the Court announcing its sentence; however, those motions were denied.
On September 12, 2014 shortly after 10:00 a.m. officers with the Lawrence Police Department were called to an apartment in the 2400 block of Melrose Lane in reference to a deceased male. When officers arrived, personnel with the Douglas County Fire and Medical were already on the scene and confirmed the victim was deceased. Officers found the victim in his bed, on his right side and a bath towel was wrapped around his neck. He had been strangled with the towel.
Mr. Heskett informed officers that he was the victim’s care provider as the victim had cerebral palsy. He told officers that he had cared for the victim both the night before and that morning, but he had left to run errands. He said when he returned from running errands at approximately 10:00 a.m. that he found the victim deceased.
When the coroner performed the autopsy on the victim, the doctor determined the victim would have been unable to commit suicide in the manner in which Mr. Heskett purported. Detectives again questioned Mr. Heskett about the victim’s death and he eventually confessed that he pulled a towel around the victim’s neck and twisted it tight and claimed it was to assist the victim in committing suicide. He claimed the victim was unable to twist it as he would lose his grip because of the weakness caused by cerebral palsy. He said he twisted the towel tighter and tucked the towel under itself and then put the victim’s head on the ball of the twisted up towel. Heskett testified at trial he used the towel to strangle the victim to death.
During the investigation it was discovered over $14,000 in cash belonging to the victim was never recovered and the missing money was believed to be the motive behind the murder. The victim had been saving the money to buy a wheelchair accessible van. In the months before the murder Heskett bought a 1972 Chevelle car for $4,900 and spent thousands of dollars fixing it up. Right before the murder the victim discovered his bank account was overdrawn. “Heskett’s greed drove him to murder Van,” Branson said. He went on to say, “Prison is where he belongs.”
District Attorney Branson thanked the Lawrence Police Department, Chief Assistant District Attorney David Melton and Senior Assistant District Attorney Eve Kemple for their work on the case.