Woman to stand trial in slaying — (Tulsa World)

Original article no longer available



16 October 1998

An Owasso woman who is charged with murdering her husband said “she just kept shooting” with two guns and “was expecting him to scream and make a noise, and he never made a sound,” a former cellmate of the defendant testified Thursday.

Elaine Tiffany “seemed very upset about her divorce. She felt like she was being cheated,” Renee Rodriguez, 34, said at a preliminary hearing.  At the hearing, Tulsa Special Judge Clancy Smith ordered Tiffany held for trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the March 29 slaying of John David Heckel, a Tulsa World photographer who was repeatedly shot at his rural Owasso residence.

Evidence indicated that he was shot 21 times with 9 mm and .38- caliber handguns. No active divorce case was proceeding between Heckel, 57, and Tiffany, a prosecutor said.

Rodriguez, who faces unresolved drug charges, said she had “numerous conversations” with Tiffany while they shared a cell at the Adult Detention Center.  Tiffany “was angry that she was not going to get the house” in a divorce proceeding and said she argued with Heckel about that issue, Rodriguez said.

Tiffany, 54, said she bought a gun two days before the slaying. She said she also had bought “a yearlong membership” at a shooting range, Rodriguez said.

Tiffany said she was concerned that bullets might pass through the wall of Heckel’s bedroom and strike her teen-age daughter in an adjacent bedroom, her ex-cellmate said.  She said Tiffany told her that before she left to go to a motel room that she had already rented, she put a note on the door of Heckel’s room — stating “do not enter” and “call the police” — because “she did not want her daughter to see him in the condition he was in.”

Rodriguez said Tiffany discussed potential defenses with her and “wanted to use abuse as a reason for her defense. She told me if she got off on insanity, she would have to spend 11 years in Vinita, and she didn’t want to do that.”

Eastern State Hospital, a psychiatric facility, is in Vinita.

When cross-examined by defense attorney Tim Wantland, Rodriguez acknowledged that she has prior convictions for embezzlement, uttering a forged instrument and falsifying a police report. She said she has not been promised any deal from prosecutors on her pending drug charges and furnished information in Tiffany’s case on Aug. 28 because “I couldn’t live with myself.”

Sheriff’s Investigator Craig Bivins said that when he talked with Tiffany at the Owasso Police Department after the slaying on March 29, she said she was “wanting the abuse to stop.”

Bivins testified that Tiffany had told him that “he had abused her and her children for years.”   “She never did tell me who “he’ was,” he said.

Tiffany questioned him about the difference between — and the possible penalties for — first-degree and second-degree murder. She also asked about the definition of manslaughter, Bivins said.

Rodriguez said Tiffany told her that when she went to the Owasso Police Department, she carried a teddy bear and “acted like a 3-year- old child.”

A handwritten note stating that Heckel was dead was recovered from Tiffany’s motel room. Notations indicated that it was written by Tiffany between 5:18 a.m. and 6:02 a.m. March 29.

I just took another Prozac,” and “I will die by suffocation while knocked out,” the note said.

It said Heckel wanted a divorce in order to marry someone else and benefit financially and also said that he “has told me over and over that he will never let me go.”

The note claimed that Heckel had abused Tiffany and molested her daughters. Assistant District Attorney Jerry Truster said he doesn’t have “a shred of evidence that supports” those allegations, which he thinks are without merit.Truster indicated that in the 61/2 months since the slaying, “I haven’t received one phone call” containing “a single derogatory remark regarding John David Heckel.” No family members attended Thursday’s hearing. The couple’s daughter who was at the house — and who has said she was awakened by gunshots, according to reports — made a statement to investigators but was not among the four prosecution witnesses who testified.

After Tiffany underwent three months of mental evaluation and treatment at Eastern State Hospital, a judge ruled in August that she was competent to be prosecuted.

Proceedings in the murder case were delayed when it was determined in April that she was not then competent.

COLOR PHOTO; Caption: Tiffany