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Nearly three years after an Orem woman's murder, a state medical examiner now says the 25-year-old's death from a single gunshot wound may not have been the result of a homicide a crime that sent her husband to prison.
Instead, the manner of Heidy Truman's Sept. 20, 2012, death is something that "could not be determined," an affidavit filed in Provo's 4th District Court on Friday says. Conrad Truman, 33, was convicted of fatally shooting his wife, even though he maintains his innocence and has said he believes his wife may have died by her own hand.
"I can no longer state with medical or scientific certainty which individual fired the fatal shot," Edward Leis, a deputy medical examiner states in the affidavit. "… I can no longer rule out the possibility that Heidy Truman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound of the head."
The findings are based on a review of new evidence, including gunshot residue test results and other findings, which Conrad Truman's defense attorneys contend demonstrate a pattern of "countless" factual misrepresentations, misconduct and lies perpetrated by Utah County prosecutors and Orem police.
The affidavit is part of a petition that asks a judge to toss out Conrad Truman's October 2014 convictions on first-degree felony murder and second-degree felony obstruction of justice charges, for which he is serving consecutive prison terms of 15-years-to-life and one-to-15-years.
"We've made pretty serious allegations against everybody, but we've backed up everything we said," defense attorney Ann Taliaferro said in an interview on Monday.
The claims should at least be grounds for an evidentiary hearing and a new trial, Taliaferro said, because police and prosecutors used the misrepresentations to obtain subpoenas and search warrants including one that allowed them to place a recording device in Heidy Truman's casket first to further the collection of evidence, and later to prosecute and convict Conrad Truman.
"They lied to everybody," Taliaferro said. "They lied to the judge. They lied to the jury. They lied in warrants. The lied to the medical examiner. They lied to [Truman's trial attorney] Ron Yengich. They never gave him the straight scoop."
But Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson, who handled the case, dismissed the defense's motion as a routine part of a process that is, by nature, adversarial and said Truman is entitled to a "zealous representation" by his attorneys.
"I'm confident [the allegations] will be born out as untrue," Johnson said Wednesday. "Certainly if there is new evidence, we would continue to look at those things, but nothing that's been brought before us so far has credibility in our eyes."
The numerous claims outlined in the defense motion and its more than 200 pages of supporting documents and affidavits include:
• The state deliberately misrepresented, in part through altered police reports, the Trumans' financial health and claimed that money, including a nearly $1 million life insurance payout, was the motive for the alleged crime. In court papers, however, defense attorneys show that, in fact, the Trumans were not struggling financially and had thousands socked away in retirement and investment accounts and in joint and individual savings and checking accounts.
• Crime scene diagrams, including a purportedly "to-scale representation" of the Truman home, falsely represent the location where Heidy Truman's body was found in a pool of blood and the location of the gun and shell casings. In addition, "every single measurement" taken of the rooms where events occurred was also wrong, with the discrepancies ranging from several inches to several feet, documents show.
Further, defense attorneys claim police and prosecutors failed to test gunshot residue samples taken from both the Trumans evidence that would support Conrad Truman's assertion that the shooting may have been a suicide.
Tests paid for by the defense show significant traces of residue were found on Heidy Truman's right hand mostly on the webbing between her thumb and forefinger in a pattern that a report from a Pennsylvania lab says is consistent with having fired a gun. No similarly significant amounts of residue were found on Conrad Truman, the report states.
An affidavit from the lab's forensic scientist, Stephanie Horner, says the RJ Lee Group was contacted by Orem police about conducting the tests, but never sent the company any samples.
Johnson attributed any changes to the information presented about the Trumans' finances to the natural course of an evolving, dynamic investigation. He added that prosecutors never proffered that money was a sole motive for Heidy Truman's murder. Claims of factual errors on crime scene diagrams are also questionable, Johnson said, as the house in under the control of Conrad Truman's family and could have undergone alterations or changes over the past three years.
Johnson also contends that gunshot residue science and technology is considered only partially reliable by most experts, including Utah's state crime lab, so it was not relied upon by prosecutors. He also questioned why, if the test results are so valuable, Truman's trial attorneys did not hire the appropriate forensic experts and conduct the tests for use during the trial.
"It would have been very easy for them to send the samples to a lab," he said.
Finally, Johnson said he is not troubled by the medical examiner's decision to revise the autopsy findings.
"In the end, the medical examiner's opinion is just that, an opinion," Johnson said. "The jury was told they could disregard that opinion."
In his affidavit, Leis says he initially ruled that the manner of Heidy Truman's death was "undetermined," but revised his opinion and classified her death as a homicide in July 2013 after prosecutors presented him with a 96-page slide show that included the information about the couple's finances, crime scene data and a recounting of statements from Conrad Truman from the night of the shooting, along with information from family members.
At trial, Leis said that based on the information provided to him and the autopsy findings, he did not believe Heidy Truman could have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
He now says in court papers that based on information provided to him by the defense and his own visit to the Truman home, he now believes the information provided to him by police and prosecutors contained inaccuracies and misrepresentations. On that basis, he says, the medical examiner's office will amend both Heidy Truman's autopsy report and death certificate.