A Salina man and an Abilene woman are sentenced for their roles in the 2013 disappearance and murder of a Salina woman.
On Tuesday afternoon in Saline County District Court Judge Jared Johnson sentenced 26-year-old Joel Heil to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. He sentenced 21-year-old Megan Wells to 8 months in prison, but granted probation.
Back in April DeWeese had pled guilty to 1st degree murder, while Wells pled guilty to obstruction of apprehension of prosecution.
The case revolves around the disappearance and murder of Kristin Tyler. She disappeared on April 25th of last year. 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.
Along with Heil and Wells, 33-year-old Dane DeWeese was charged in the case. He was found guilty of first degree murder at the conclusion of a trail that lasted nearly three weeks back in April.
Illegal drug use, primarily methamphetamine, was a key factor in the case. Everyone involved was connected to one another by drug use.
At the sentencing on Tuesday, several people tearfully spoke. Joel Heil’s grandmother spoke, as did Kristin Tyler’s mother and sister.
The Tyler family said that they forgive Heil. Tyler’s mother said that there were many who lost in this case, saying “it wasn’t just Kristen who lost, you lost, Dane lost, and Megan lost”. She added “you have made it easy for us to forgive you, and God has forgiven you.” She challenged Heil to be a survivor of methamphetamine, to put his faith in God and to read the bible, and to take one day take one day at a time. She thanked him for coming forward and giving the family closure and a chance to heal.
Joel Heil spoke, choking back tears at times, as he read a statement. He took responsibility, and apologized, saying that he doesn’t feel like he can ask for forgiveness now, but maybe someday. He said that he is not a monster, that he’s not a “bad guy with a bad heart”, but rather that methamphetamine turned him into a monster. Heil said that every night when he closes his eyes he sees Kristin. He concluded “If I could give her life back I would. I stole a mother, a daughter, a future, and dreams. I stole a life”.
Judge Johnson said that he, and the community, “learned much from the forgiveness here today”. He said that though he’s sure they are angry, the Tyler family “did come here with anger, instead they came with forgiveness”. He also spoke about methamphetamine, saying “it is a plague that destroys families”.
Heil’s guilty plea in the case was part of agreement with prosecutors. In exchange for a recommendation of life in prison with a 25 year minimum, he testified against DeWeese during the trial. As part of the plea agreement, the state dropped a conspiracy charge that Heil was facing but still retained an attempted robbery charges.
Prosecutor Christina Trochek also spoke. She spoke about how methamphetamine destroyed so many lives in this case. “It is truly a scourge on this community” she said.