Rhonda Heaton expected to testify at attempted-murder trial Friday
January 12, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Rhonda Heaton is expected to tell a jury Friday morning how her former husband shot her in the back of the neck and let her suffer for hours before help arrived.
Her testimony likely will conclude the prosecution's efforts to prove that Robert Cash intended to kill his wife June 11, 2010, at their west Steamboat Springs home.
Thursday was the fourth day of the first-degree attempted murder trial, which is scheduled for seven days. On Wednesday, Routt County Public Defender Sheryl Uhlmann conceded during opening statements that her client shot Rhonda Heaton but that it was not a planned act and therefore not first-degree attempted murder.
Jurors heard testimony Thursday from two experts. The first was a doctor who treated Rhonda Heaton for the gunshot that lodged a bullet near her spine.
Golden orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lonnie Loutzenhiser said he used six screws and rods to stabilize Rhonda Heaton's spine three days after she was shot by Robert Cash. Loutzenhiser also removed the bullet.
After testimony from the surgeon, Colorado Bureau of Investigation firearms examiner Dale Higashi was called to the stand. The trial soon stalled as lawyers began arguing about what Higashi should be allowed to say.
After a three-hour recess, Higashi addressed a theory by the defense that the bullet that struck Rhonda Heaton was a ricochet that struck a wooden object before entering her neck.
Higashi said he looked at the bullet without a microscope and observed, blood, tissue and what "at the time looked like wood."
No further tests were done on the item that looked like wood.
Higashi also said he did not see a flattening of the bullet that he would expect to see had it struck a wooden object before it hit Rhonda Heaton.
"There is nothing on (the bullet) to state with certainty that it did or did not strike something before it struck Mrs. Cash," Higashi said.
Robert Cash is charged with first-degree attempted murder and crime of violence, both felonies. If convicted, he could be sentenced to as many as 48 years in prison.
The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Routt County Justice Center.
— To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com