A Douglas County jury convicted Eudora resident Ronald Eugene Heskett, 49, of the September 12, 2014 second degree murder of 65 year old Lawrence resident Vance F. Moulton.
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 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 that was kept in the victim’s dresser drawer 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 wheel 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.
“We never believed that Heskett was trying to help his friend commit suicide. Van Moulton was murdered by Ronald Heskett to cover up the fact that he had stolen his money and used it to buy a car. The jury agreed,” District Attorney Branson said.
Mr. Heskett faces a sentence of up to 653 months depending on his criminal history. The judge ordered he be held without bond until his sentencing hearing, which was scheduled for November 6 at 1:30 p.m.
The Honorable Peggy C. Kittel presided over the trial. The case was investigated by the Lawrence Police Department and the trial was prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney David Melton and Senior Assistant District Attorney Eve Kemple. The trial began on Monday, September 14, opening arguments were delivered on Tuesday, September 15 and testimony continued until the following Tuesday. Closing opening arguments were delivered this morning and the case went to the jury at approximately 11:20 a.m.