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Saturday, April 08, 2017 1:00 am

88-year-old's attacker gets 12 years

19-year-old enraged by dog, crashed through back door

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

Of the more than 32,000 days that Dona Malone has been alive, Oct. 28, 2016, was the worst. 

As Malone and her neighbor tell it, that day could have also been her last.

Early that morning – a Friday – Malone, 88, was attacked by a naked, intoxicated Riley Heilman, who was enraged by noise he believed Malone's small dog was causing. Heilman, 19, was sentenced Friday by Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull to 12 years in prison, three of which are suspended.

Heilman, who has a history of drug-related offenses as a minor, will serve a total of nine years. He is also required to pay Malone close to $1,800 in restitution. Heilman pleaded guilty to burglary, a level 3 felony, on March 20. Depending on the offense, level 3 felonies carry possible prison terms of three to 16 years.

But what happened that late October day was far more than a simple burglary. Heilman was originally charged with felony and misdemeanor battery, residential entry, resisting law enforcement and public nudity.

“If my neighbor hadn't come over, I would be dead and so would my dog,” Malone told the court Friday.  

At about 7 a.m., Malone let her dog out the back door of her home into her yard. Noise from a barking dog caused Heilman, who had apparently taken 10 tabs of acid, to vault the fence separating his yard from Malone's. Heilman then crashed through Malone's glass back door and attacked her, screaming that he was going to kill her and the dog.

Malone has said her dog wasn't even barking; it may have been some hounds that live nearby. 

According to police reports, Heilman struck Malone “numerous times in the head with a closed fist and dragged her across the floor by her hair, causing a large clump of hair to come out.”

Joe Fairchild – a neighbor of Malone's – heard the screaming and came running. On Friday, Fairchild again described the scene. He told the court that Heilman's behavior, regardless of how many or what kind of drugs he was on, was inexcusable. 

“I know he was on all kinds of drugs, but to me he was unjustified,” Fairchild said. “If I hadn't shown up, he would have killed her and the dog.”

According to reports, Fairchild was hit multiple times by a metal dog food bowl as he grappled with Heilman. It would take multiple police officers to subdue Heilman.

Describing the extent of her injuries, the damage to her home and emotional distress Heilman caused during his early-morning rampage, Malone said there's not much the defendant could do to make it right. 

“He has destroyed my life,'” Malone said. “And he wants to say, 'I'm sorry.' Sorry isn't enough for me.”

Throughout the testimony, Heilman's gaze rarely left his shoes. When it was his turn to address the court, the young man spoke quietly, stating that he took responsibility for his actions and wanted to try to make amends. When speaking of past failures at drug rehabilitation, Heilman said he never imagined he was capable of hurting someone. 

“I know that saying 'sorry' is not enough,” he said. 

In considering Heilman's sentence, Gull said she believes Heilman's remorse is genuine, but also found Malone's age and Heilman's being out on bond for an unrelated misdemeanor charge as aggravating factors, as were his repeated failed attempts at drug rehabilitation.

There is no excuse for what Heilman did, Gull said, adding that at age 19, he is old enough to know better.

“She is a little old lady and what you did to her is reprehensible,” Gull said. “I hope that as you get on with your life, you look back on this and realize that drugs and alcohol can never be a part of your life again.”

dgong@jg.net