Crime

Defense attorney says client relieved after murder charge dropped in 1989 cold case homicide of Sarah DeLeon

Murder charges were dropped Friday against Carolyn J. Heckert of Smithville, accused of killing a teenager nearly 30 years ago.
Murder charges were dropped Friday against Carolyn J. Heckert of Smithville, accused of killing a teenager nearly 30 years ago.

An attorney for a woman accused of killing a teenager nearly 30 years ago said his client is relieved to be home after nearly seven months in jail.

John P. O’Connor, an attorney for Carolyn J. Heckert, said the Smithville woman was elated after a first-degree murder charge against her was dropped Friday by Wyandotte County Judge Aaron Roberts.

Prosecutors had accused Heckert, 48, of killing Sarah DeLeon. Heckert was arrested in October in connection with the 1989 cold-case homicide and held initially on a $1 million bond that was eventually reduced to $500,000.

On Friday, Heckert was released after spending seven months in custody at the Wyandotte County Detention Center. Heckert, O’Connor said, was relieved the charges were dropped.

“Anybody charged with first degree murder and potentially facing a life sentence, it’s a huge weight on anybody,” O’Connor said. “She was no different.”

Attempts Friday to reach members of DeLeon’s family were unsuccessful. Wyandotte County prosecutors declined comment aside from the statement released Friday to announce the dismissal.

DeLeon was 18 on Dec. 29, 1989, when she was found stabbed to death along railroad tracks near Interstate 435 and Wolcott Drive in western Kansas City, Kan.

Her abandoned Ford Mustang had been discovered the night before on 78th Street under Interstate 70 in Kansas City, Kan.

Police said the car was found with its door open and its emergency flashers on.

New DNA collection and testing technology prompted Kansas City, Kan., police to reopen the 27-year-old case in July 2014.

O’Connor said there were a number of factors that prompted the judge to drop the charge, but he did not want to discuss specifics of the case.

“It wasn’t just one thing,” O’Connor said. “It was a combination of things. It’s complicated.”

Prosecutors, O’Connor said, could refile murder charges against Heckert, a mother of two daughters. He hopes Heckert’s ordeal is over.

“I’m very pleased for my client and very happy she can go home and be with her children,” O’Connor said. “Hopefully this is behind her.”

Toriano Porter: 816-234-4779, @torianoporter

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