Neil Heddings guilty of involuntary manslaughter, girlfriend found guilty of second-degree murder
By KENNY KLEIN / The Press-Enterprise
Jurors convicted professional skateboarder Neil Heddings of involuntary manslaughter Thursday and found his girlfriend guilty of second-degree murder and assault on a child in the death of Hedding’s 2 ½-year-old son Marcus.The jury, which began deliberating Wednesday afternoon after more than two weeks of testimony, also found Heddings not guilty of assault on a child causing death.
Heddings, 31, and Christine “Pinky Rams, 32, had been charged with murder and assault in the boy’s 2002 death at the couple’s San Jacinto home.
If convicted of all the charges, Heddings had faced 50 years to life in prison because in 1997 he pleaded guilty to hitting a man with a skateboard during a fight in San Diego County. Rams had faced 25 years to life if found guilty on all charges.
Now Heddings could face a maximum of 14 years in state prison; Rams could face a minimum of 15 years prison time, prosecutor Kelly Hansen said Thursday.
The couple will later be sentenced by Judge Mark Cope at the Southwest Justice Center in French Valley.
“It’s always a gut-wrenching case when you have a child who dies at the hands of another, Hansen said after the verdict was read.
Rams’ defense attorney Dario Bejarano expressed disappointment at the verdicts, while Hedding’s attorney Jeff Zimel declined to immediately comment.
Jurors left the courthouse through a back entrance. Heddings, who skated for teams including Vans, has performed throughout the world, including Europe and Australia.
During closing arguments this week, Hansen told jurors that Heddings failed as a parent and is just as guilty of killing his son as Rams, who Hansen said beat and abused the toddler to death.
Defense attorneys argued that the financially struggling couple did their best to care for Marcus. They said anyone could have fatally abused the toddler because the injuries were weeks to months old. The couple traveled to support themselves by selling skateboard-related items at skateboard events and often left Marcus with friends.