Faulty Evidence Leads to New Trial for Orem Man Convicted of Murder
Nearly four years ago, Conrad Truman was charged with the murder of his wife, Heidy Truman, in the couple’s Orem home. He was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison, and the case appeared to be over. However, the recent emergence of new information has thrown a wrench into key evidence used to convict Truman, leading Judge Samuel McVey to order a new trial, setting aside the original guilty verdict. Salt Lake homicide attorney Darwin Overson explains how new evidence is turning the Truman case on its head.
Conrad Truman Convicted of Wife’s Murder, Sentenced to 16 Years in Prison
On October 1, 2012, 911 dispatchers received a frantic call from 32-year-old Orem resident Conrad Truman.
“She was in the shower,” Truman panicked, “she came out of the shower, I heard a ‘pop,’ and there’s blood, it’s her blood.”
Medical personnel arrived at the house to find Truman’s wife, 25-year-old Heidy Truman, lying dead on the floor of the couple’s kitchen. The cause of death was a gunshot to the head – and police were certain it was Conrad Truman’s finger that had pulled the trigger.
“Conrad threatened to kill Orem officers and EMS workers as they attempted to help his wife,” the police report stated. “Blood was found on Conrad’s person, and blood was found on the stairs, front entry way to the home, several walls and in the living room on the couches, bedroom wall and bathroom wall.”
Police officers were also suspicious of Truman’s conflicting accounts of Heidy’s death. After initially describing the death as a suicide, Truman then suggested the death was a murder. According to the police report, “[Truman] saw a black male run out of the home just before Heidy was shot.”
There was also the matter of Heidy’s life insurance plan, which was valued at close to $900,000.
Truman was charged with murder, a first degree felony, under Utah Code § 76-5-203, which calls for a sentence ranging from 15 years to life in prison.
At his trial in October 2014, prosecutors focused on a particularly important piece of criminal evidence: the dimensions of the Trumans’ Orem home. Prosecutors argued that Heidy couldn’t have shot herself in the head as Truman stated, due to the large distance – nearly 14 feet – between the point where she was shot and the point where she fell.
Truman was found guilty, and 4th District Judge Samuel McVey sentenced him to 16 years in prison: 15 for murder, and one for obstruction of justice.
But now, thanks to a major flaw in the prosecution’s evidence, Truman will receive a new trial.
Guilty Verdict Set Aside After Prosecution Used Flawed Evidence in Shooting Trial
“I can no longer state with medical or scientific certainty which individual fired the fatal shot,” Utah’s chief deputy medical examiner, Dr. Edward Leis, said in a signed affidavit. “I can no longer rule out the possibility that Heidy Truman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound of the head.”
At Truman’s trial, prosecutors told the jury that Heidy Truman would have needed to cover a distance of 13.9 feet between being shot and falling to the ground – an all but impossible scenario. However, when the residence was reexamined by Trumans’ defense attorneys, the distance actually turned out to be 11.6 feet – over two feet shorter than the prosecution had stated.
“The significance of these errors,” explained a court document, “is that under the correct dimensions the victim could have indeed shot herself, taken a step and a half and then reached the point where she was found. Thus, instead of the suicide scenario being virtually impossible, it became possible.”
Not only do the new findings cast reasonable doubt on the original verdict – they appear to support the claim that Heidy fired the gun.
“In fact,” the document continued, “unknown to the prosecution because it had been provided wrong measurements, had the victim shot herself at one location in the hall, her head would have been almost exactly at the point where she was found from which the blood splatters originated.”
“We immediately had what we call an ‘Ah ha’ moment where we understand what happened here,” said Truman’s attorneys. “We grabbed a tape measure and measured, and we knew immediately that the measurements were off.”
“[T]he incorrect dimensions presented to the jury,” said Judge McVey, “in essence removed from its members the issue of reasonable doubt based on a defense theory of suicide.”
McVey noted that, while attorneys would have had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the incorrect measurements they initially received, the revelation was grounds for a new trial. Truman’s guilty verdict has been set aside while attorneys on both sides prepare.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Truman’s sister, Colette Dahl, “that we’ve been through all of this when it was not necessary.”
But Dahl was also optimistic about her brother’s legal prospects. “I cannot wait to have him out,” she told reporters. “It will make a difference in all of our families’ life to have him back where he belongs.”
Orem Homicide Defense Attorney Handling Murder Charges in Utah County
While the result of the new trial is impossible to predict with any certainty, Truman’s story is a powerful example of how persistent investigation of evidence can make or break the outcome of a criminal case. No matter how serious or challenging the allegations against a defendant may be, aggressive legal representation can make the difference between a conviction and having a case dismissed or retried.
If you or one of your family members has been charged with a felony or misdemeanor in Utah, you need a skilled and knowledgeable criminal lawyer who will protect your rights while vigorously fighting the charges against you. Call criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson right away at (801) 758-2287 to set up a free legal consultation.
Darwin handles weapons crimes and homicide charges, including aggravated murder charges, automobile homicide, and manslaughter charges. Darwin represents defendants in Orem and throughout Utah, including Salt Lake City, Provo, Ogden, and West Valley City.