GOLDEN, Colo. - An Edgewater man admitted killing his wife during a plea bargain hearing in Jefferson County District Court Thursday afternoon.
Daniel DeWild, 40, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
When Judge Christopher Munch asked the defendant if he hit his wife on the head then placed a rope around her neck, DeWild replied, “Yes.”
It was an admission that Heather DeWild’s family had been waiting to hear for nine years.
“That’s the best thing about today,” said Heather’s father, David Springer. “The fact that we got words out of his mouth confessing the crime.”
“Getting Daniel DeWild to admit that he killed Heather DeWild, that’s huge,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey.
Storey said he made a promise to David and Carol Springer when he took office that he would find justice for their daughter. With his term in office near an end, Storey made good on his promise.
“We formed a task force to give this case a fresh set of eyes,” Storey said. “I assigned an investigator solely to this case.”
Storey said the sheriff’s office, Arvada police, the CBI, and Edgewater police all helped investigate this case.
“I’m real proud of the effort,” he said.
Family members say they’re grateful that the long wait for justice is over.
Springer told 7NEWS that he knew about the plea-bargain, but was still surprised that DeWild admitted how he killed Heather.
“He’s just not the type of person that will accept responsibility for his actions,” Springer said.
Last month, a jury convicted DeWild of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and of being an accessory to murder but deadlocked on the murder charge itself. A judge then declared a mistrial on that count and set a new trial date for Jan. 8.
With the admission on Thursday, the judge dropped the first-degree murder charge and told DeWild that he will be formally sentenced Feb. 28.
DeWild could face up to 75 years in prison.
The judge told him that the sentence for second-degree murder will run consecutively to sentences for his earlier conviction on conspiracy and accessory.
History on Heather DeWild's murder in 2003
Prosecutors said Daniel and his twin, David, plotted the killing together.
David DeWild pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit second-degree murder and testified in court that his brother was the one who hung Heather in July 2003, just days before their divorce was scheduled to be finalized.
According to court documents, Daniel tried to reconcile his marriage by bringing flowers and a card to Heather at her parents' home on July 22, 2003. She declined. He left in a fit of anger.
Two days later, Daniel created a ruse to get Heather to come to his house, a grand jury report said. She thought she was going to sign a mortgage check and pick up insurance cards for their children. She brought her children, a 3-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, because she didn't want to be alone with Daniel.
When interviewed by police the next day, the boy said he saw his father sneaking up behind his mother's back. The boy also told detectives that he didn't know why his parents were fighting.
Heather wasn't seen alive again.
The jury heard testimony at trial that Daniel DeWild lured Heather into the garage, then threw the petite, 4’10 woman to the ground. He then he hit her in the head with a mallet. David DeWild testified that Daniel tied a noose around her neck, attached it to a pulley system that he had devised using a beam in the ceiling, and pulled her up until she was hanging.
Daniel then tied her hands and feet, wrapped her in trash bags in and put her body in the back of his brother’s Suburban, according to David's testimony.
David DeWild testified saying that he had disposed of her body. He drove the Suburban, with Heather’s body in the back, to the location where it was discovered six weeks later by a Department of Transportation worker moving dirt on Highway 6 between Golden and Black Hawk. The body in the shallow grave was badly decomposed, but dental records confirmed that it was Heather.
Her neck and wrist had been loosely bound with rope.
Family members remember Heather as a shy woman with a good sense of humor.
They said Thursday’s plea agreement is a gift that will spare them from sitting through another trial.
“I didn’t think that it would happen,” said Rebecca Barger, Heather’s sister. “That he (DeWild) would admit in any way that he is guilty, so this is definitely a good day for the family.”
“This is good news right before a good holiday,” said Jennifer Springer, Heather’s other sister.
“It’s been a nightmare,” said Daniel’s sister-in-law, Mary Roseann DeWild.
Mary Roseann had initially been charged with conspiracy in connection with the case, but those charges were later dropped.
When asked if she had any idea why Daniel pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, she replied, “I have no clue. I’m glad he finally manned up and I’m glad it’s over… I don’t ever want to see another courtroom for the rest of my life.”