Witness details teen plot to kill

By Scott North

Herald Writer

The talk in the courtroom Thursday was of murder, but the bored fidgeting of the young defendants was more like something out of a middle-school math class.

Two boys and two girls — ages 13 and 14 — sat in the juvenile division of Snohomish County Superior Court and listened as an alleged accomplice testified how they all participated in the April 13 beating death of an Everett man.

Jeff Grote, 17, told how he and the others wound up killing Jerry Heimann, 64, at the urging of Barbara Opel, 38, his former girlfriend’s mother.

"I waited until Jerry got into the house, got behind him and hit him in the head" with an aluminum baseball bat, Grote said.

When the bat struck, it "made a tinging sound," he testified.

Prosecutors have charged Opel with aggravated first-degree murder and are considering the death penalty. She had worked as a live-in caregiver for Heimann’s ailing 89-year-old mother, and allegedly recruited the teens to kill her boss so she could steal $40,000 from his bank accounts.

Grote pleaded guilty early this month to first-degree murder and agreed to a 50-year sentence. His case was automatically moved to adult court because of his age and the seriousness of the charge.

Prosecutors have asked Judge Charles French to order the other teen-age defendants into adult court as well.

Everett defense attorney Stephen Garvey represents one of the boys, who turned 13 two weeks before the murder. Prior to his arrest, he was a student at Cedarcrest School in Marysville. Court papers indicate he weighed 90 pounds when taken into custody.

On Thursday, the boy sat in stocking feet during the hearing, his ankles shackled. At times he chewed on his lips and stared around the room.

The hearings are expected to last several weeks. Garvey said the issues before the judge really come down to two questions: Does the public need to be protected from the teens long-term, and can these kids be saved?

He and the other defense lawyers plan to present evidence about what likely will happen to the young people if they are placed in an adult prison and given long sentences and limited rehabilitation.

If the teens are convicted as juveniles, they face a maximum punishment of detention and treatment in a juvenile prison until they reach 21. If convicted in adult court, they face a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years behind bars.

"They were not sophisticated, scheming criminally-minded adults," Garvey said. "These are all kids with an amazing lack of sophistication."

The lack of planning that went into Heimann’s killing was clear from Grote’s testimony.

He met Opel just days before the killing after he began dating her daughter, 13, who also is one of the defendants.

Opel let him begin living at her home and sleep with her daughter after the young couple’s first date, Grote testified. He first heard about plans to kill Heimann about three days after he met the family.

It wasn’t long before Opel began involving him in the effort, Grote said. He contacted Garvey’s client and another boy, and they ultimately agreed to beat, but not kill, Heimann for $250.

Grote said Opel recruited one of her daughter’s friends, a 14-year-old Everett girl, to fatally stab Heimann in exchange for money to go roller skating.

On the day of the killing, Grote said he drove to pick up the boys he had recruited. En route to the killing scene, one asked to be taken by his soccer coach’s house so he could drop off a check to pay for his uniform.

At the Heimann home, Opel described her plan for the attack, dividing tasks between the young people and directing them where to hide, Grote testified.

Grote said he struck the first blow when Heimann came home. The other boys joined in, but ran away after delivering a handful of blows with miniature souvenir Mariners baseball bats.

Grote said he eventually knocked Heimann unconscious. That’s when Opel’s daughter took up the aluminum bat and began pounding the man on the back of the head. She also stabbed him in the back, he alleged.

Grote said he checked Heimann for a pulse and found none, believing the man was dead. That’s when the girl recruited by Opel grabbed the knife and began stabbing Heimann, Grote said. She also "took a full chop to his head" with the bat, opening his skull.

Heimann’s body was dumped on the Tulalip Reservation near Marysville, where Grote poured acid on the remains a few days later in an attempt to obscure the victim’s identity.

At one point Thursday, Grote said watching Heimann die had made him physically ill.

"You were upset?" deputy prosecutor Chris Dickinson asked.

"No," Grote said. "Just sick to my stomach."

You can call Herald Writer Scott North at 425-339-3431

or send e-mail to north@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Clyde Shavers, left, and Greg Gilday.
Shavers wins by narrow margin as Dems flip seat in 10th District

Democrat Clyde Shavers won by 211 votes against incumbent state Rep. Greg Gilday. It’s close enough for a recount.

Edmonds man hospitalized after shooting in Arlington

The man, 30, was found Monday night in the 500 block of N. Macleod Avenue after reports of an assault.

Lisa Lefeber, CEO of the Port of Everett, speaks to a crowd while in front of a sign celebrating the opening of the new Norton Terminal on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, at the Port of Everett in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Port of Everett christens new Norton cargo terminal

The $40 million terminal took two years to complete and doubles the port’s storage capacity.

Permit tech Sheyenne Morton and residential plan reviewer Ryan Hammer help a general contractor with some permit work at the Everett Public Works permit office Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Budget dips, but Everett city union workers in line for 7.5% pay bump

The city’s general government fund could drop $1 million. City leaders say the current path is not sustainable.

Snow lingered outside the office building of Receivables Performance Management on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood data breach exposed sensitive info for 3.7 million across US

Lawsuits allege lax security at a debt collection agency led to the attack. It wasn’t announced for over a year.

The Washington State Patrol was investigating a fatal crash involving multiple vehicles Thursday on Highway 530 near Oso. (Washington State Patrol)
1 killed, 1 injured in crash east of Arlington

There was no detour for several hours Thursday afternoon as detectives investigated the four-vehicle collision.

Teen killed in Everett crash, shooting identified

No arrests have been made in the Friday night killing of 17-year-old Gabriel Kartak, of Seattle.

The crab doughnut at Market in Edmonds is a strange delight, with a sweet and dense glazed doughnut topped with bright and briny dungeness crab salad, nutty browned butter and a shower of smoky bacon bits. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)
This idyllic dining destination is right in Snohomish County

Edmonds boasts fresh seafood, Caribbean-inspired sandwiches, artisan breads, cocktails and more.

Marysville Jail (City of Marysville)
Man with hepatitis C accused of spitting on Marysville jail staff

Hepatitis C is usually spread through blood. The suspect, 28, faces allegations of exposing the officers to a contagious disease.

Most Read