Michael York admitted to a Fayette County jury last week that he hit Krystal Heggie, but that he did so after she hit him, and that he did not mean to harm their unborn child.
But the jury, after listening to about two days worth of testimony, determined that there was enough evidence to convict York on three felony offenses, including first-degree murder.
In addition to the murder charge, which alleged that York’s actions resulted in the death of Heggie’s unborn child, the rural Ramsey man was found guilty of aggravated battery and aggravated battery of a pregnant person.
The jury’s deliberations on Thursday lasted about three hours, with that period including a lunch break.
As the trial judge, Fayette County Resident Circuit Judge S. Gene Schwarm, read the guilty verdict, York shook his head. York also shook his head as he turned and watched the jurors leave through the main entrance of the courtroom.
York will be sentenced on the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 24, on the three felony offenses.
First-degree murder carries a penalty of up to 60 years in prison. Both aggravated battery offenses are Class 3 felonies that each carry a penalty of up to five years in prison; the maximum sentence can be extended to 10 years due to aggravating circumstances.
The jury began deliberations after Assistant State’s Attorney Matt Chancey and York’s attorney, Fayette County Public Defender Ed Potter, delivered their closing arguments.
Chancey, pointing to a board used to display photos of Heggie that were taken at the hospital, said, “What an incredible beating Krystal Heggie suffered.
“She was battered beyond recognition,” he said, noting that Heggie had deep bruises and scratches on her face, neck and chest, and that part of an ear had been torn off.
“Worst of all, the baby that she had carried for (more than) eight months died as a result of that beating, a beating he (York) claims took only one minute,” Chancey said.
“He comes home and beats her like a rented mule,” Chancey said. “She’s taken to the hospital nine hours later.”
Heggie was initially treated at Fayette County Hospital, then transferred to a St. Louis hospital, where an emergency C-section was performed. The baby died three days later.
“There is no question he (York) caused the death of that child,” Chancey said.
“The defendant said that he didn’t mean to hurt her. Well, come on – you beat her like that and you didn’t intend to hurt her?
“He was beating her, throwing things at her, dragging her,” Chancey said. “He was trying really hard to hurt her really bad. He beat her so hard that there was bleeding in her brain.
“He wished that baby gone, and he acted on it,” Chancey said, telling jurors that bruises and marks on her arms were evidence that she had tried to protect the baby.
The assistant state’s attorney told jurors that York, who had told police that he had been drinking prior to the incident, initially told police that he had blacked out and had remembered “some things” about the incident.
Chancey told jurors that police “eventually got him to admit that he beat her.”
He said that York told police that he began hitting her after she struck him.
“If you take what he said at face value, on how he retaliated ee that is all out of proportion,” Chancey said.
During his closing statement, Potter reminded jurors that he told them at the beginning of a trial that a trial is like a play.
“If this was a play, it was a tragedy. It was a tragedy for Krystal Heggie, it was a tragedy for Michael York, it’s a tragedy for Michael’s mother, and it’s a tragedy for (the baby),” Potter said. “You’re about the write the last act of the play.
“It’s a bad case, it’s an ugly situation,” he said. “But don’t let yourselves get carried away by emotion.”
Addressing Chancey’s disbelief that the fight between York and Heggie could have lasted only a minute or so, Potter said, “Anybody who’s seen a fight knows that most fights are not very long. Even a professional fight goes (only) a matter of minutes.
“This probably didn’t take very long, either,” Potter said.
In his rebuttal closing, Chancey said, “My guess is (that) you’ve never seen one (where the person) looked like this, even after 12-15 rounds.”
Potter told jurors that Heggie could have sustained injuries to her arms “just as easily to protect her face and head.
“The prosecutor said he was out to get the baby,” Potter said. “I have to take issue with that.
“This was going to be Mike’s first child,” Potter said, and there is evidence to show that he had worked to provide for Heggie and the baby.
“As far as evidence that Mike was going after that child, there is none,” he said.
In response to Chancey’s statement about the length of time that passed before an ambulance was called, Potter said, “No matter how much later, it was Mike who called (for) the ambulance.”
In his rebuttal statement, Chancey said, “He (York) dialed the number and told her (Heggie) to talk ee and then he hides. And how many hours after was it.”
After the fight, Chancey said, “He laid her in bed and went to sleep.”
An ambulance was called two hours after York woke up the next morning, Chancey said. “He’s got to take the time to clean this (place) up,” he said.
Chancey also addressed the claim that York began hitting Heggie after she initiated the fight by hitting him.
“This evidence is overwhelming,” Chancey said.