Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady said he will not reopen a case that sent Cleve Heidelberg to prison 45 years ago despite information from a Chicago attorney and local investigator that the police investigation and prosecution of the case have serious errors that tainted the outcome.
Heidelberg was sentenced to 99 to 175 years in prison for the murder of Peoria County Sgt. Raymond Espinoza. (See Community Word article February 2016 “’Unimaginable Injustice’”; 45 years in prison: Is Cleve Heidelberg Innocent?”)
Chicago attorney Andrew Hale has spent more than a year reviewing the case. He submitted a 27-page letter to Brady in December asking that the case be reopened.
“I have reviewed the material he provided and at this point will not reopen,” Brady said.
Hale said that while he is disappointed, he will not drop his work on the Heidelberg case.
“This is something the public needs to know about. Brady told me he couldn’t deny there were issues of concern but as a whole, the case did not need to be reopened and reviewed,” Hale said.
Heidelberg has always maintained his innocence and another man confessed to the crime.
Hale is working with Marcella Teplitz, a private investigator and retired detective with the Peoria Police Department.
“I believe Cleve Heidelberg is innocent and is the victim of a great injustice,” Hale said. “I’m committed to this case. I have a full-time law practice in Chicago, and I juggle to make time for this case, but I feel I need to spend every waking moment on this. There is an extreme sense of urgency with this case.”
Heidelberg is now 73 years old and in poor health.
“I’m extremely disappointed with this decision (by Jerry Brady), but this is by no means the end of the road,” Hale said.
After learning of Brady’s decision not to re-open the case, Hale filed a request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act for all emails in the last six months containing Cleve Heidelberg’s name from the offices of Jerry Brady, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, Peoria County Sheriff Mike McCoy and Peoria Police Chief Jerry Mitchell.
Hale is evaluating his next move and may file a petition with U.S. District Court in Peoria for the release of Heidelberg.
State Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, is on the Illinois General Assembly Judiciary Criminal Law Committee. He said in a statement: “When I saw Marcella’s Teplitz’ name, it got my attention. Marcella is tough on crime and with her looking at this it made me believe there may be merit to Mr. Heidelberger’s request for a review. “
In a letter dated Dec. 4, 2015, to Brady, Hale wrote, “I have spent almost a year researching and investigating this case and started this project with no agenda. If anything, I began with an attitude of skepticism. But, as time went on, more and more facts supported Mr. Heidelberg’s claim of innocence.”
His letter documents false evidence provided by police, examples of important documentation that has been either lost or destroyed, improper police procedure and a police account of events following the murder that placed Heidelberg in two different locations dozens of blocks apart at approximately the same time.