Defendant Heck to take the stand next week in infant-assault trial

By Janice Gregorson

The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

A Mankato man accused of assaulting his infant son in Rochester more than three years ago could be on the witness stand as early as Monday afternoon.

Defense attorneys have told Judge Kevin Lund that they expect Robert Heck III to testify. He is on trial on charges of first-degree assault and aiding an offender. Authorities allege he is responsible for 25 fractures to his 2-month old son, Jordan, in January 2007. He denies the allegations.

The court trial began Tuesday and could be in the judge's hands for a verdict by the end of the day Wednesday.


Prosecutors Julie Germann and Ross Leuning said they expect to call three more witnesses Monday, including Dr. Daniel Broughton, medical director of the Mayo Clinic child abuse team. Broughton was among those called in on Jan. 11, 2007, when Heck and his girlfriend, Valerie James, brought their twin son to the emergency room at Saint Marys Hospital concerned about swelling in his thighs. X-rays showed the infant had suffered a total of 25 fractures to his legs, arms and ribs.

On Friday, Lund heard from Dr. Anthony Stans, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Mayo. Stans is the doctor who treated Jordan's injuries, putting the baby in a full body cast.

He testified the injuries he saw were not the result of an accident, such as falling from his father's arms when he feel asleep, as the judge heard Thursday in a recorded telephone call between Heck and James.

He also said the injuries are not the result of brittle bone disease. He said it is true Jordan had decreased bone density, something fairly common in early births.

Jordan and his twin, Jacob, were born 10 weeks premature on Nov. 9, 2006. They also were conjoined and separated surgically. Jordan was released from the hospital on Jan. 3, 2007 and lived with his parents and 10-month-old sister at the Ronald McDonald house so the parents could visit Jacob. Jordan was admitted back to the hospital on Jan. 11.

Stans said the fractures in Jordan's legs occurred at different times and some were in the early stages of healing. He said the only thing that changed was his environment: That he had been released on Jan. 3

Stans testified that he periodically saw Jordan for revisits until age two. He said Jordan's bones have healed and he has not had any other fractures. He said Jacob has never had a fracture, in ruling out brittle bone disease as a significant factor.

Prosecutors also called Amy Arndt to testify. The Mankato woman said she dated Heck for about two months in the spring of 2004. She had three children. At the time, they ranged in age from a two months to three years old. During the time Heck lived with Arndt, she said her 15-month-old son suffered a broken leg.


She said she never was really sure how it happened, but testified that Heck told her the boy had fallen down the stairs while in his care.

Another of her children suffered burns to his fingers. Arndt said she told Heck to move out in June, 2004. She said they had gotten into an argument after she had gone to the grocery store and returned to find bruises on her youngest son's head. She said she obtained an order for protection after getting telephone voice mail threats from Heck.

She also testified that she lost custody of her children for six months after the series of injuries.

Defense attorney Bill Wright asked if she has lost custody of her children any other times. She said yes. Once for six months, and once when her oldest son was a couple months old. She said that was for drug use.

Wright also asked about a police search of her home, looking for drugs, about that time. Arndt said there was such a search, but no drugs were found.

"Didn't you tell police that anything they found belonged to Heck?" Wright asked. She said no.

"Wasn't it true Heck moved out because drugs were found in the house?" he asked.

Arndt said no.


Arndt admitted she never saw Heck harm her children and said he was never violent with her.

She also agreed that the son who suffered a broken leg frequently fell and got his legs caught in the crib bars.

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