WENATCHEE — Two sexual abuse survivors confronted their rapist Thursday in Chelan County Superior Court when Theron Jay Heideman was sentenced to 17 years in prison for child rape.
“The time he’s looking at is nothing compared to the damage he has caused us,” said one victim who, like all the victims, was a young child when the assaults began.
Judge Travis Brandt sentenced the 54-year-old Peshastin man to 204 months in prison and a lifetime of community custody.
Heideman pleaded guilty Oct. 22 to three counts of first-degree rape of a child in connection to the sexual abuse of three children from 2007 to 2015. Charges of sexual abuse of a fourth victim were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
The 17-year sentence is indeterminate, meaning Heideman must be deemed fit to rejoin society by the state Department of Corrections, and he could ultimately spend the rest of his life in prison.
Brandt explained the sentence length is a middle ground between the 189-month joint-recommendation from Deputy Prosecutor Julia Hartnell and defense attorney Jon Volyn and the request of Heideman’s victims, who asked he receive the maximum allowable sentence: 216 months.
Heideman has spent three years and nine months at the Chelan County Regional Justice Center as his criminal case unfolded and will receive credit for time served.
At one point in 2017, he was charged with 11 sexual abuse felonies in four separate cases with four victims. The cases were consolidated in January 2020 and the number of charges increased to 14 with four victims. As part of a plea agreement, Heideman pleaded guilty to abusing three children and not the fourth. All four victims were related to Heideman.
The victims were ages 10, 4, 8 and 5 years old when the abuse began. Three victims told investigators that Heidemen often blindfolded them and forced them to perform oral sex; another told a detective that Heideman raped her vaginally and taught her how to perform oral sex, according to probable cause affidavits filed in Superior Court.
Accusations of sexual abuse predated his arrest in March 2017. His adult children sued the state Department of Social and Health Services in 2018 alleging Child Protective Services failed to protect them from abuse committed by Heideman and his wife from 1999 to 2009. In 2018, they were awarded $2.5 million.
The two victims making statements during sentencing participated via Zoom. Heideman, his lawyer, the prosecutor and judge were in the courtroom. The second victim to appear was in tears throughout her five-minute statement. The abuse led her into depression and self-harm, she said.
“I was and still am afraid to be in a room alone with an older man,” she
The first victim to testify said the abuse brought on a drug addiction, from which she’s in recovery. “The damage he’s caused is something that I will have to face for the rest of my life and it will never go away,” she said. “Because the man who was supposed to protect me the most is the one who hurt me the most.”
A third victim in November filed a statement in Superior Court that described Heideman as “pure evil” and requested he receive the maximum allowable prison term.
“This man knows no such thing as remorse,” the victim wrote, adding, “…I have no doubt that if he sees freedom we will continue to hear of victims.”
Speaking to the court and his victims, Heideman asked for forgiveness.
“I am so, so sorry for what I have done,” Heideman said. “I hope that some time that they can find it in their heart to forgive me and that that forgiveness is the kind of forgiveness that our Lord Jesus Christ gives us.”
While urging Brandt to follow the recommended sentence of 189 months, Volyn explained that Heideman learned the abusive behavior as a child when he was sexually molested by at home by family members and friends.
“That’s the environment he came out of,” Volyn said. “That was the only experience he knew, that he grew up out of to become an adult.”
He claimed that sleep deprivation caused by then-undiagnosed sleep apnea, and later a traumatic brain injury and subsequent painkiller use, contributed to his behavior, as well.
Volyn added that Heideman is in poor health and may die in prison.
Among the courtroom observers was Det. Josh Mathena, who investigated the case for the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office.
“You want to be happy when you get a conviction like this but the bottom line is you think about the victims, especially — they were little kids. Three, four, five years old when this happened, and some of them were teens when this happened,” Mathena said. “I’m happy it’s over for them but I know that they still have a very long struggle in life. And I hope one day they can get back to, you know, whatever normal is.”