Plea agreement with federal agents reveals more details in Hays case

September 28, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

The stretch of U.S. 150 from Louisville to Daviess County, Ind., looks a lot like Forkland. Creeks meander near the road that cuts through rocky elevations.

At the Daviess County line the hills stop and the land goes flat. The earth is planted in a patchwork of soybeans and corn stalks. The county is known for its Amish farm settlement and a royal line of Belgian draft horses that they use to work the land.

Michael Hays bought many of these muscular, beautiful animals from Amish breeders. He used them in pulling contests all over the country.

It is here in rural Odon and in Kokomo, Ind., 50 miles north of Indianapolis, that Dean E. Heckathorn says he helped Michael Hays grow marijuana in corn fields. And it is here, near Odon, that the body of Rusty Marshall of Danville was found in a shallow grave.


Heckathorn, 34, of Pittsford, Mich., along with William "Butch" Beasley, of Lawrenceburg, pleaded guilty in a Lexington federal court Tuesday to conspiracy to distribute marijuana. In doing so, they agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their investigation of Michael Hays of Gravel Switch.

Heckathorn told the court that he worked for Michael Hays and helped him, his wife, Trena, and her son, Derek Keith Brummett, wrap Marshall's body in plastic in Forkland, and then salvaged Marshall's truck in Indiana.

Heckathorn was in Indiana Easter Sunday when he said Michael Hays called and told him to come to Forkland, which is about a four-hour drive.

Heckathorn described the day's events in his plea agreement filed in U.S. District Court.

According to Heckathorn's statement, he, along with Clifford Slusher, drove to Michael Hays' house in Gravel Switch. Inside the house, Rusty Marshall's body was lying in a pool of blood.

Heckathorn told authorities he and Slusher helped wrap the body in plastic and put it in a horse trailer. Michael Hays and Slusher brought the body to Indiana.

Later, Heckathorn and Ricky Joe Griffin cut the blue pickup truck that Marshall usually drove in two and took it to be salvaged.

Marshall's body was found buried on a farm in Odon that at the time belonged to Ken and Nancy Heightchew of Newcastle, Ky.

Four days later, a Lancaster man, William David Miller, shot Michael Hays in Odon within five miles of that farm. Griffin and Slusher were present at the Shell Mart where the shooting took place.

In an affidavit about that shooting, Griffin said that he and Slusher were looking at horses in Indiana.

Slusher told police that he, Griffin, Michael Hays and William D. Miller had gone to the Shell Mart for some cigarettes and at the store Miller told Michael Hays, "You're not going to kill me; I'm going to kill you."

Then Slusher said he saw Miller shoot Michael Hays in the head with a .32-caliber pistol.

William David Miller told Indiana police that he stripped marijuana for Michael Hays for $70 a pound.

That began a five-month investigation, still on-going, by the Drug Enforcement Agency, Kentucky State Police and Indiana State Police.

Heckathorn's plea agreement implicated everyone involved in the burial and William David Miller; his son-in-law, Frank Hall; his daughter, Beverly Hall and Beasley - of working on marijuana farms in Forkland, and Odon and Kokomo, Ind.

Heckathorn said in the spring of 2002 he cloned marijuana plants from Michael Hays' farm in Forkland and they were hauled to Indiana in horse trailers and planted in the cornfields there. The plants were fertilized and tended that summer.

In the fall the crop was harvested, dried, stripped, bundled and stored at Michael Hays' barns and house in Gravel Switch, he said.

Heckathorn said that he lived in Gravel Switch during the winter to guard the crop and was paid cash.

Everyone except Slusher and Griffin have been charged.

Beasley and Heckathorn pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of conspiracy to grow marijuana, money laundering and traveling in interstate commerce to promote the marijuana.

Heckathorn could face up to 35 years in prison and as much as $4.7 million in fines. Beasley faces at least five years in prison and as much as $2 million in fines. Both will be sentenced on Jan. 8, two months after Michael Hays and his seven co-conspirators' Nov. 17 trial date.

Heckathorn and Beasley agreed to testify and cooperate with the investigation.

William David Miller's trial in Odon, Ind. for attempted murder was postponed. A pre-trial conference will be held on Oct. 14.

Liz Maples can be reached at

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