A hushed courtroom heard a co-defendant testify how he beat, strangled, held her face in mud, and finally held a Salina woman’s face under water to kill her.
A murder trial for Dane DeWeese, one of three people accused in the Spring 2013 disappearance and murder of 27-year-old Kristin Tyler continued Thursday in Saline County District Court.
After seeing graphic crime scene photos Thursday morning, jurors heard graphic testimony Thursday afternoon detailing how Tyler was beaten with a chain, strangled, had her face pushed in mud, and finally had her face held under water before she died on a rural Saline County road.
Joel Heil, a friend of DeWeese’s and one of the three co-defendants in the case, testified Thursday afternoon.
Heil said that DeWeese suspected Tyler of stealing drugs and money from his garage. Heil suspected Tyler and her friend Charles “Chuck” Rowson of being “CI’s” as he called them, or confidential police informants.
According to Heil, DeWeese communicated with him late on the evening of April 25th, 2013, that Tyler was at his house. DeWeese went to Heil’s house, where according to Heil he was asked to help him “take care of the money situation”.
The two men headed over to find Tyler, with what Heil says he believed was an intent to “beat her up and get the money”. Heil brought with him a short, thick, log chain that he said he often carried.
Heil testified that they convinced Tyler to go out to a location in rural Saline County to do what they convinced her would be a “Country Deal”, or a drug deal out in the country. According to Heil, along the way DeWeese commented to him that “she isn’t coming back”.
After stopping to get fuel at a convenience store, where DeWeese bought a drink for Tyler, they drove to a remote location in rural Saline County. Heil said that they didn’t need fuel, but rather wanted to make sure that Tyler was seen on security video at the store. He also testified that the two men had left their cell phones behind, with instructions for them to be used so it would appear as if that’s where the men were.
Heil said that they stopped the car on Stimmel Road, in a small tunnel underneath Interstate 135. He said that he and DeWeese got out, and got the chain out of the trunk. They then had Kristin Tyler get out of the car.
Heil testified that DeWeese shouted at Tyler, demanding to know where his money and drugs were. He said that he joined in, and became angry.
Heil said that he swung his chain from his waist, and hit Tyler in the head with it. He became emotional at this point in his testimony, choking back tears.
Heil testified that after the blow from the chain, Tyler immediately fell to the ground and started shaking. He tried to get DeWeese to also hit her with the chain, but he refused. Rather, DeWeese continued yelling at her, telling her that he had kids and accusing her of taking money from them. Tyler responded that she also had children, saying “I got kids”.
Heil said that he climbed on Tyler and continued to beat her with the chain. He then tried to strangle her, using the string from a hoodie he was wearing.
According to Heil, Tyler was still making gasping sounds after the beating and attempted strangulation. He said that with DeWeese’s assistance, both used their feet to hold Tyler’s face in the mud.
They dragged her out of the tunnel and into a ditch off the road. Heil said that she was still gasping, so both men held Tyler’s face down again, this time in water, until she finally became silent.
Heil says that after Tyler was dead, DeWeese went back near the car and retrieved items including the chain and a sweater Tyler had been wearing. While DeWeese was doing that Heil says he was covering the body with grass.
According to Heil, the men then got back in the car and headed back to his house in Salina. Along the way, he drank what was left of the drink that had been Tyler’s.
Tyler said that DeWeese found some cash in Tyler’s sweater, and kept it. When asked how much money there was, he said “I don’t know, at least $60”.
Heil spent the afternoon being questioned by the prosecution. The defense will have its chance Friday morning.
Kristin Tyler disappeared on April 25th. Her body was discovered on May 9th, just west of Salina on Stimmel Road below Interstate 135. Numerous law enforcement officers had been searching the area, and a sheriff deputy on patrol made the discovery.
Deweese, Heil, and 21-year-old Megan Wells, all of Abilene, are charged in the case. Shortly after the body was found police arrested Heil and DeWeese. Wells was arrested on February 26th of this year.
DeWeese’s trial is expected to last through next week.