Jury chooses first-degree murder | NevadaAppeal.com

Jury chooses first-degree murder

F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Phyllis Strickland, left, comforts Joyce Greene at a memorial garden dedicated to Greene's daughter Heather Deyerle near The General Store, where Heather worked. Pictured at right is Mike Greene, Heather's father; and brothers Frank, in white, and Mike Jr. Heather's estranged husband, Christopher Deyerle, was convicted of first-degree murder Monday.

YERINGTON – The same Lyon County jury that found Christopher Deyerle guilty Monday of first-degree murder in the 2006 killing of his wife, will today decide his sentence.

After three hours of deliberation Monday, the five-woman, seven-man jury returned the verdict, dismissing the defense suggestion that Deyerle reacted in a “sudden heat of passion” when he learned, that his estranged wife Heather, 24, was dating another man.

“It came back pretty much the way I expected. It wasn’t a whodunit,” said Heather’s father Michael Greene.

Greene and his wife, Joyce, were home when Deyerle and Heather met up in the Greene driveway on May 4, 2006, with the agreement to sign divorce papers.

When the seven shots rang out about 9 p.m., Greene ran outside and caught sight of Deyerle running down the street. The 54-year-old father said he gave chase, but, unable to catch the much younger man, he returned to his house to cradle his mortally wounded daughter. She was struck once in the pelvis and once in the head, succumbing three hours later at a Reno hospital.

“He’d gotten real close to Heather Deyerle and he blasted a bullet through her brain and it came out the top of her skull. He executed her,” said Lyon County District Attorney Bob Auer in closing statements.

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Deyerle avoided police for 15 hours before he was found limping along River Road in Dayton the following afternoon.

During the five days of testimony in the case, several prosecution witnesses testified that Deyerle had told them in the days and weeks before the killing that he intended to kill Heather if she were seeing another man.

Two of those witnesses, Dennis and Jessica Ramirez, changed their statements to police on the day of their testimony to say that two days before the killing, Deyerle had told Dennis Ramirez he was getting a gun and going to “kill the bitch.”

Deyerle denied saying that to Ramirez and told the jury that he was no longer friends with the couple over an alleged drug debt.

Just three people testified for the defense: a former Lyon County lieutenant, who told the jury he photographed what he thought was pork thawing out in Deyerle’s sink; Deyerle himself to detail his version of events the night of the shooting; and Deyerle’s friend Anthony Paetz, who said he and Deyerle planned to go shooting the night of the killing.

One of Deyerle’s friends, Chris Hurtz, was set to testify but was not called by the defense.

Hurtz said he and Deyerle had plans to go camping the weekend after May 4.

It was Deyerle’s behavior surrounding the killing, that Defense Attorney John Schlegelmilch said proved the killing was not premeditated – an element necessary to prove first-degree murder.

“The first question that Mr. Deyerle asked was, ‘Is Heather OK?’ If he had these nefarious plans to kill her then – if he went up to her and put that last bullet into Heather’s head – why is the first thing out of his mouth, ‘Is Heather OK?'” Schlegelmilch said.

“There was no preconceived plan presented by Mr. Deyerle. Why would he make plans with somebody to go out that night? Why would he need dinner? Why would he not get back in his car and go? Why would he not grab the bullets that are in the car and start shooting everybody else?”

The jury, however, rejected the defense’s arguments. They found that Deyerle planned the killing and meant to kill his wife.

Michael and Joyce Greene are still reeling from the loss of their only daughter. Michael Greene said immediately after her death, they considered moving to Arizona where their sons Mike and Frank live, but then the community reached out to them.

Heather’s friends at the Mound House General Store, where she worked, planted a tree there in her honor and businesses in Mound House donated rock and a bench to put at the site. Michael Greene said he trims the tree, and whenever they go there, they find notes from Heather’s friends.

It’s comforting to know their daughter was loved, said Joyce Greene. Since Heather’s murder, she volunteers on a domestic abuse hotline.

She said she feels guilty in knowing that when Deyerle began to shoot, instead of running into the house where he parents were, Heather ran through the garage and out the side door.

“She never called out. She chose to save us,” she said.

Michael Greene said he holds no ill will toward Deyerle’s family, who sat through the trial.

“We don’t blame them for it. They have their own tragedy to deal with,” he said.

And, amazingly, he’s found comfort in the most horrifying moment of his life – that he could hold his daughter and tell her he loved her as she lay dying.

“That’s the only solace I have in this tragedy,” he said. “Her void will never be filled.”

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.