Heather Opel was just thirteen years old when she helped to murder a man. According to court documents Heather Opel who was thirteen, her fourteen year old friend Marriam Oliver, seventeen year old Jeffrey Grote and fourteen year old Kyle Boston were paid by Barbara Opel to murder a man she had problems with.
The teenage killers would ambush the victim and would beat and stab him to death. Heather Opel and Marrian Oliver were sentenced to twenty two years in prison, Jeffrey Grote received a fifty year sentence and Kyle Boston was sentenced to eighteen years. Barbara Opel received a life sentence for arranging the murder.
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845115 OPEL, HEATHER L
Location – Mission Creek Corrections Center – Women
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Relatives of a man brutally murdered by five teens finally had their chance to confront one of the killers in court.
“Heather Opel says she deserves a chance for the future. I ask why,” said Colleen Muller, the daughter of Jerry Heimann, who was beaten to death by the teens on April 13, 2001.
“Life in prison is what she deserves,” said Muller, who noted the 14-year-old girl willingly took part in the group execution after living under Heimann’s roof, eating his food and accepting his Christmas presents.
“They have ruined so many lives,” Muller said.
Prosecuting attorneys asked for a sentence of almost 25 years.
But Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Linda Krese, who last month found Opel guilty of first-degree murder and assault with a deadly weapon, issued a sentence yesterday of 22 years, the mandated minimum, with no time off for good behavior.
With credit for time already served, Opel, one of the youngest defendants to ever face adult murder charges in the county, will be released in her mid-30s.
She is to serve time at juvenile facilities until she is 21, then transfer to the Purdy Correctional Center for Women to serve out the rest of her sentence.
In an agreement worked out with prosecutors, Opel waived her right to a jury trial to avoid a more serious charge of aggravated murder.
Yesterday, the girl, in gray-green prison garb and shackles with her hair stylishly gelled, turned to face the family and offer them an apology.
“I want to say I’m sorry to Mr. Heimann’s family,” said the thin, athletic teen, a former star on the basketball court at Evergreen Middle School. “I really hope you will accept my apology — and if you don’t, I understand why.”
Krese noted both the heinous nature of the crime and the dysfunctional upbringing of the teen in making her sentencing.
“Parents are supposed to be a moral compass,” she said. “It is clear that in Ms. Opel’s life, that moral compass was broken.”
Police say the plot to kill Heimann and steal his money was masterminded by the girl’s mother, Barbara Opel, at the time a live-in caretaker for Heimann’s 89-year-old mother, who has Alzheimer’s.
According to court documents, Opel recruited four boys and her daughter, then 13, promising them money and gifts.
Records say she yelled encouragement from a hiding place as they savagely beat 64-year-old Heimann to death with baseball bats and stabbed him with knives as he pleaded for help.
Records show the mother had her 7- and 11-year-old children help clean up the blood, then piled everyone in the car to dump the body in a remote spot on the Tulalip reservation.
Heimann’s invalid mother, who witnessed the crime, was found abandoned in the house, eating newspapers, when out-of-town relatives stopped by the house days later.
Barbara Opel will be tried for aggravated murder in February 2003. If convicted, she will become the first woman in the state of Washington to face the possibility of the death penalty.
Heather Opel’s attorney David Roberson described a long record of complaints about Barbara Opel that were reported to Child Protective Services in the girl’s infancy and childhood.
The state, he said, did nothing to prevent the constant physical and mental abuses of Heather and her siblings.
He described the convicted teenage killer as “a 13-year-old who never had a chance.”
Following the sentencing, Heather Opel’s attorneys filed an appeal of the decision to try her as an adult in court.
If the ruling is overturned, she will be incarcerated in juvenile prison, and could not be held past her 21st birthday.
Heimann’s family declined to talk to the media after yesterday’s sentencing.
Prosecutors said the relatives were too upset.
“They had hoped for as long a sentence as possible,” said Chris Dickinson.
He described the case as the “most unusual and mind-boggling case we have ever been involved in.”