(Sixth of ten articles about the Kent Heitholt murder in 2001 with a primary focus on interpreting the physical and other evidence at the crime scene that has been made available over the Internet.)
The Heitholt Nissan Maxima was an early 1990s vintage four door sedan with black body paint. Markings on black painted vehicles are often exceptionally difficult to see well enough to allow interpretation. However, a thin film of dirt had accumulated on the vehicle prior to the assault and murder and this facilitated the detection of contact markings.
A large number and wide variety of recent contact markings were observed to the driver side from the driver door to the left rear bumper. Most of these appeared related to the assault struggle between Kent Heitholt and the killer. Some markings were likely made by the killer or the victim. Interestingly, several of the markings appeared made by the assault weapon. Some of the interpretations from the vehicle markings are that:
Many of the killer’s striking actions against the victim appeared to have been so close to the Nissan that they left scrub and erasure markings on the car.
Around 20 or so striking actions can be inferred from the scrub and erasure markings on the car.
In all striking action instances, the victim’s head was likely so low as to infer the victim was not on his feet at any time.
The striking actions were forward and downward on the outside of the front door, forward on the left rear door, downward on the left rear door, rearward on the left rear door, forward toward the left rear wheel on the quarterpanel, rearward and downward on the quarterpanel and rearward and downward on the left rear tire.
The rearmost striking actions made by dirt film erasure marks may represent a brief reversal in the attack with the victim attempting to register some blows upon the attacker after having tackled him The scrub and erasure markings suggest that the assault weapon required a two hand grip.
The two hand grip on the weapon appeared to change from time to time.
The scrub and erasure markings left by the assault weapon on the Nissan were consistent with a straight edged rectangular object one to two inches thick and with one side being about 8 to 10 inches long. The rectangular object appeared reasonably consistent in size with a metal clipboard with a paper enclosure feature. Also under consideration would be a notebook computer with a metal or hard plastic exterior. Still another consideration would be a 2 by 10 wood block about 15 plus inches long with added metal features.
Police photo of driver side of Heitholt Nissan Maxima. CBS News photo.
Still from police video showing driver side of Heitholt Maxima. Scrub and other contact markings can be readily seen to the left rear door window, left rear door and left quarterpanel as well as left rear wheel. Scrub markings can also be seen to outside of the left front door frame. Still from CBS News video.
Driver side of Heitholt Maxima with number and other indicators of locales of contact and other markings to doors and body. 1, 2, and 3, are forward and downward scrub markings to the outside of the driver door. 3 and 4 are forward and downward scrub marks that appear made at the same time. 5 and 6 are forward and downward scrub marks that appear made at the same time. 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 are scrub markings to the left rear window. 11 and 12 appear made at the same time. 13 denotes a general locale of possible blood spray drops. 14 denotes a zone of possible horizontal sideswiping marks possibly preexisting. 15 denotes a horizontal scratch that has some similarity to a keying scratch but may be related to 14 markings. 16 denotes a locale of strong downward swiping markings. 17 denotes an outline of markings suggesting a possible body slump against the door by the victim or killer. 18 denotes a series of finger type dirt film erasure markings aft of the gas cap. 19 denotes a hand swipe erasure and a odd series of light erasure marks that appear related to the hand swipe. 20 denotes a complex series of markings on and near the gas cap. 21 denotes several forward and downward scrubbing swipes. 22 denotes a small locale of complex movement blood deposits. Modified still of CBS News video.
Another view of the wide variety of markings to both driver side doors. Still from CBS News video.
A different view of the markings to the driver side doors. This photo shows how markings 3 and 4 appear made by the same object at the same time as well as markings 5 and 6. Still from NBC Dateline video.
View of rear window on driver side with identifiers for several apparent scrub markings that were possibly made by the attacker and or the attacker’s weapon. These identifiers are the same as shown in a previous photo. 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10 have a forward and downward scrub angle. 11 and 12 have a rearward and downward scrub angle with both near parallel and possibly made by the same object at the same time. 11 has an upward check type mark before the downward generation. 8 and 10 have lateral check type marks before the downward generation. 13 denotes a locale having spray type markings typical of blood spray but the color can’t be confirmed from this and other available photos as consistent with the color of blood. Modified still from CBS News video.
View of markings found to both driver side doors. Identifiers are the same as shown in an earlier photo. Markings 3, 4, 5, 6, and 16 appear to be weapon striking markings with associated striking angles. 3 and 4 appear made at the same time as well as 5 and 6. Marking 16 appears to be three strikes or varying angles with only one depicted by the arrow. Marking 14 appears to be a horizontal scrub that may have been pre-existing. Marking 15 is a horizontal scratch that possibly was pre-existing and made at the same time as 14. However marking 15 has a slight directional change and bright reflection that hints it might have been a made about the time of the murder either as a prelude keying or a scratch made by the assault weapon. Item 17 denotes the orange dashed possible body outline of either the victim or the killer. Modified still from CBS News video.
Closer view of left rear door highlighting marking area 16 and placing arrows at the indicated widths of two downward striking markings which have similar widths. These markings infer a length of one side of the assault weapon as well as infer that the assault weapon was a rectangular object. A rough estimate of the indicated assault weapon side length is about 8 to 10 inches. CBS News photo.
View of the driver side markings to either side of the left rear wheel. Still from CBS News video.
View of the complex markings to the left quarterpanel and left rear wheel. Still from CBS News Video
Same photo as above but with contact marking identifiers along with inferred weapon stroke angles. Again identifiers are the same as shown in earlier photo. Marker 18 denotes about six dirt film erasure markings aft of the gas cap that appear consistent with finger or knuckle markings. One possibility is that Marker 18 indicates several striking actions at varying locations as denoted by the two arrows. Marker 18 may also represent a brief reversal in the attack where the victim is attempting to hit his assaulter. Marker 19 denotes a downward finger swipe along with puzzling markings discussed in greater detail in a subsequent photo. Marker 20 denotes a multitude of differing contact markings at the gas cap including a strong horizontal scrub, check marks consistent with a weapon scrub, and a palm print as indicated by trial testimony. Marker 21 denotes a series of weapon scrub lines inferring a downward striking motion denoted by the associated arrow. Marker 22 denotes a small complex blood transfer zone inferring a stream of castoff blood from a heavily bloodied weapon with a downward striking angle. Still from CBS News video.
Closeup view of the left quarterpanel just aft of the left rear wheel. A great deal of blood spray is evident in this photo on the quarterpanel and also on the tire. The blood spray varies greatly in size and angle. Direct transfer of blood is evident to the wheel well edge of the quarterpanel. The swirling action of the blood deposit at marker 22 can be seen although the image is overexposed in that locale and the reddish blood color is washed out. The lower marking at 19 corresponds to a hand swipe removal of the pre-existing dirt film. No blood can be seen associated with the hand swipe indicating the hand making it was not covered with blood. Blood spray overlay can be detected in areas of the swipe. The peculiar series of markings to the right and above the 19 marker appear associated with the lower hand swipe. One possible interpretation is that these markings were a combination of light contact by the assault weapon and portions of the right hand of the killer as he was falling down. Finally note the two apparent finger markings to the lower section of the tire tread which have associated blood smearing. Modified still of CBS News video.
Still closer view of the prior photo showing the complex blood transfer deposits at marker 22 which also suggests a possible width of the assault weapon similar to that suggested by tire marker T1 in subsequent photos. Note how the blood deposits at 22 solidified without apparent coalescing and dripping. Also note other large blood drops nearby. Modified still of CBS News video. Left rear tire and rim/wheel cover markings
The final assault attack on the victim appeared to occur near and at the left rear wheel. Several blood evidence markings were found to the tire, rim, and cover and described in the photos that follow.
View of left rear wheel and lower portion of quarterpanel. Still of CBS News video.
View of the left rear wheel. T1 locates some closely spaced scrub lines on the tire sidewall that appear made by the assault weapon and may give an indicator of the thickness of the assault weapon assuming it was a rectangular box shape made of some hard material. T2 locates some blood transfer smear markings to the tire sidewall with some companion finger appearing smear lines to the tread. T3 locates a smaller blood transfer smear zone. Modified CBS News photo.
Closer view of the tire scrub marks at T1 which suggest a possible thickness indicator for the weapon. It appears the weapon was being drawn back toward the tire here for a striking launch in the outward and downward direction. The arrow at the rim locates a small stream of blood that was likely cast off from the weapon when another part of the weapon struck the tire at T1. Modified still of CBS News video.
Close-up view of the left rear wheel rim and cover showing a variety of blood markings. Still of CBS News video.
Another view of the left rear wheel rim and cover with identifiers for the several differing types of blood markings. C1 denotes an elongated blood transfer zone that corresponds with direct contact of the victim’s bloodied head with some sliding movement either up or down during the direct contact. C2 denotes a zone of blood spatter consistent with direct contact with the victim’s bloodied hair and or beard. C3 denotes a zone of striation lines that likely correspond with direct contact with the victim’s bloodied sweater rim. C4 denotes a rectangular zone of erasure scrubbing of blood transfer and is consistent with direct contact with a straight edge of the assault weapon. C5 denotes a peculiar appearing dual castoff blood trail that indicates blood moves up then forward before draining downward. C6 denotes a lateral zone of rotating swirl markings that may have been made by the weapon at the same time as the scrub erasure at C4. Marker C7 denotes the beginning of a rectangular line scrub and is better seen in a following photo. Marker C8 denotes peculiar dual castoff blood trails similar to those seen at C5. Marker C9 denotes the heavy blood spray and castoff zone toward the rear of the head transfer zone. Marker C10 locates a single large blood stream that moves rearward horizontally from the locale of the head blood transfer zone. Modified still of CBS News video.
Another view of the left rear wheel rim and cover with only Markers C4 and C7 identified. C4 is a scrub erasure zone while C7 is a scrub zone with a suggestion of light blood smearing. Both C4 and C7 appear similar in width. Modified still of NBC Dateline video.
Wide variety of projected head locations of victim during striking actions inferred by scrub markings on vehicle. In all instances, the victim would have either been on his knees, crawling about or nearly flat out on the ground. One possible interpretation of the markings at 18 and 19 is they may represent the killer falling rearward and being briefly attacked by Heitholt. In that case, the head figures at 18 and 19 would represent the killer’s head and not the victim. Modified still of CBS News video.
Part 7 of the series will be posted tomorrow 2/25/14
You can view the series of articles