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   Toni Soren Heartsong{desc: Bob Eckhart Heartsong}

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Courthouse Steps Maven
Feb 2009
        February 24th, 2009 07:57 AM        

Who killed Toni Heartsong? 8 years later, husband charged


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

August 30, 2008

"Few people on this planet have ever been so in love. Only the tragedy of Romeo & Juliet rivals ours."

- Bob Heartsong's journal, December 2000

The drive to Bob and Toni Heartsong's Jupiter Farms home was about as far north and west as one can drive and still be in Palm Beach County. Some of the roads are unpaved, and a motorist may pass a sign warning to "Slow for horses." Others offer manure and fresh organic eggs for sale.

It was in this bucolic community that Toni and Robert Heartsong bought a three-bedroom, two-bath home on 11/4 acres in 1990. With a pond in front and lush shrubbery and trees, it was, Toni said, "truly a paradise."

On Sept. 26, 2000, it became paradise lost.

That was the day neighbors heard screams outside the Heartsong home. It was Bob, wailing over the bloodied body of his wife of 26 years outside the doorway to the laundry room. She had been stabbed in the neck seven times.

"Who could have done this?" a distraught Bob Heartsong asked a sheriff's deputy. "Who could have done this?"

Now, eight years later, on Sept. 23, a trial is scheduled for the man who investigators think is Toni Heartsong's killer: her husband. The same husband who passed a polygraph exam when asked if he was involved. The same husband who had several witnesses vouch for his whereabouts at the time she was killed. The same husband who described Toni as "a saint" the day after she was murdered.

"I was happy in my life. Totally happy in my life," Heartsong told investigators shortly before he was indicted.

Was their marriage as idyllic as Bob Heartsong, now 63, portrayed it?

In a journal that Toni, 50 when she died, maintained for nearly nine years, she wrote copiously about the sons she clearly loved and her tortured relationship with her older brother.

There is much less about her husband. Although she sometimes expressed happiness, even love for him, she more often wrote of the angst she felt in her marriage.

"I'm miserable. Nothing he does satisfies me - I'm constantly angry and frustrated. I feel so trapped."

-Toni Heartsong's journal, May 1992

Whether Bob Heartsong is convicted or cleared of his wife's murder will likely hinge on DNA evidence. Blood with his DNA was found under one of Toni's thumbnails, and the palm of one hand. He was unable to explain why.

Some people described the Heartsongs as hippies when they met in Miami Beach in November 1973. She was opinionated and outspoken. He was even-tempered and low-key.

Her name was Toni Soren, and she was orphaned in her teens. His was Robert Eckard, and he had spent six months in a federal prison the previous year for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was the caretaker of a Miami Beach mansion when Toni knocked on the door one day, saying she was the friend of a friend of the home's owner.

"We talked and we talked," he wrote in a journal. "There was no need for food. All we needed was to look in each other's eyes and we were nourished."

The next night, she proposed marriage. They crafted their own ceremony and were "married" less than two days after meeting. They changed their name to Heartsong. Seven months later, in June 1974, they were legally married.

Like Bob, Toni became a vegetarian and the couple owned a tofu business for a while. He started a business in 1985 building waterfalls and ponds for homes and commercial projects such as Frenchman's Creek and BallenIsles Country Club in Palm Beach Gardens.

The couple's first child died at birth. Two sons followed, Elijah or Eli, and Jacob, called Jake. The Heartsongs, by outward appearances, lived well. They purchased their Jupiter Farms home in May 1990, later buying 21/2 acres of adjacent land. By the time Toni was killed, her husband said he was making about $150,000 a year.

"Being honest ... if somebody lived in Nirvana, I did."

- Bob Heartsong interview with investigators, August 2006

Here's what he told authorities happened the day his wife was killed:

Heartsong left the house at 6:45 a.m. for his office on Indiantown Road. Later that morning, he went to a Publix in Jupiter where his older son, Eli, bagged groceries. Then he went to a job site in Delray Beach.

Heartsong left at 2:45 p.m. for Delray Mazda, where he placed a $200 deposit on a car. He drove next to a job site in Palm Beach and then went home. He got there about 4:50 p.m.

When he tried to enter the front door, Heartsong found it was deadbolted. He and Toni never used the deadbolt, and often didn't lock doors at all, he said.

When he walked around to the side of the house, he saw Toni - wearing a gray tank top and blue denim shorts - lying in a pool of blood. He called 911, then returned to his wife to feel for a pulse. She was stiff. Her eyes were blackened. She had a gash on her forehead. She had not been raped.

Sheriff's investigators found no signs that the home had been ransacked. Jewelry boxes in the master bedroom were plainly visible, but nothing was missing.

Heartsong's co-workers were questioned in Delray Beach. Most said he arrived there between 10 or 11 a.m., and left between 2:30 and 3 p.m. The auto dealership employee he spoke to said he got there around 2:50 p.m. and left 15 to 20 minutes later.

A dive team searched for a knife in the 9 feet of water in the pond in front of the Heartsongs' home and found nothing. Investigators checked out men who had been arrested for burglaries in the area. They questioned a carpet cleaner due that day, a vagrant seen in the area, a contractor who had a dispute with Toni. Nothing panned out.

Heartsong was cooperative. He waived his right to call an attorney before talking. He let investigators look through his home and his SUV without a search warrant. He had no life insurance policy on Toni that would enrich him. There was no history of domestic disputes. And then he passed that polygraph.

Heartsong spoke and wrote of his wife repeatedly in adulatory terms after her murder. "I idolized her," he said the day after her death.

But in a journal she kept between 1991 and 2000, Toni Heartsong described the marriage in less glowing terms. She said the couple went to a marriage counselor in 1997 because "we fight way too often."

"The more money we have, the more lonely I am. Bob and I are strangers now. Making love is non-existent."

- Toni Heartsong's journal, January 1994

In the journal he started after Toni's death, Heartsong mused three weeks after the murder about his mixed feelings over having sex with somebody new. Less than six weeks after her death, he wrote about spending the day with a woman: "My body was willing, but I am not ready." Two months after the murder, he bought a motorcycle. Six months after Toni's death, he took a date to his son Eli's wedding.

In November 2002, a state attorney's investigator interviewed Donald Nix, who worked for Bob Heartsong off and on. He recalled a conversation about five months after Toni's murder in which Heartsong was "talking about ... how happy he was that Toni is dead ... and that he has had so much freedom," Nix said.

"I have ... had more moments of bliss in my life than you can ever imagine. More moments of bliss with my wife than anybody can ever describe."

- Bob Heartsong in a TV interview shortly after the murder

Ed Fitzgerald also was questioned in 2002. He had contracted with Heartsong on various jobs and thought he was a "very, very nice man ... a gentleman."

But Fitzgerald thought it odd when he got a call from Heartsong the same day Toni was killed, telling him he was on his way to a car dealership. The two were not working together on a project at the time, and the call came "out of the blue," Fitzgerald said. Was Heartsong establishing his alibi?

Detectives eventually busied themselves with other cases, and the murder of Toni Heartsong remained unsolved.

"Our nights are literally silent. Can't imagine having fun with Bob."

- Toni Heartsong's journal, February 1994

In July 2006, the sheriff's office cold case unit reviewed the murder. "The detectives back then didn't realize really what they had," said Detective John Van Houten when he interviewed Heartsong the following month.

In reading earlier reports, Van Houten noticed that Bob Heartsong's DNA was found on Toni's body. He asked Dr. Cecilia Crouse of the county's DNA lab to review the evidence.

Crouse reported that blood containing Heartsong's DNA was found mixed with Toni's blood on her right hand and his blood DNA was exclusively under her left thumbnail. So how did his blood get on his wife's hands? Detectives decided to ask him.

In August 2006, Van Houten and Sgt. Bill Springer met with Heartsong.

"Your blood has been found on Toni and there's no explanation for it other than if you had a fight with her," Van Houten told him.

There was no fight, Heartsong insisted. "I have no idea why my blood is on her."

Maybe you flipped out for a couple of minutes, Van Houten and Springer suggested. Maybe she said she was leaving you and you flew into a rage. Maybe you killed her and didn't even realize it. No, no and no, Heartsong replied.

"Well, Bob, DNA doesn't lie," Springer said.

"I'm sure it doesn't," Heartsong agreed.

Heartsong's attorney, Barry Maxwell, suggested in a recent interview that Heartsong may have cut his hand during the course of his job that day, then bled on his wife. But Heartsong himself ruled this out when questioned two years ago.

"I hadn't been doing any manual (labor)," he said. "My guys ... did most of the real heavy lifting and all that." He did not bleed on Toni, he said.

"We've had a really special time. So special, that I couldn't even begin to tell somebody how special our lives have been. We were just one of those unique moments in time, you know?"

-Bob Heartsong to investigators the day of the murder.

If his blood was on Toni, shouldn't he have had a big scratch on his body, Heartsong asked his interrogators.

"I don't know if you were scratched underneath your shirt," Springer replied. "They did a (expletive) job. They should have checked you over, took your clothes, did everything. ... You'd have been the prime suspect."

The initial homicide investigators neither inspected Heartsong for scratches, nor photographed him, says defense attorney Maxwell. And a fingerprint on the home's deadbolt and bloody footprints in the house have never been matched to anybody, he said.

Plus, an FBI lab analysis found, among other things, brown beard hairs from a white male on Toni's body and "negroid" head hairs near her body. "We have foreign hairs all over the body," Maxwell said.

Heartsong also reminded his questioners in 2006 that he had alibi witnesses at the Delray Beach job site. But, Springer said, "we have a discrepancy there, too."

Heartsong had told investigators that on the day Toni was killed, he drove to the Publix near his home and spoke to his son, who told him Toni had been there a short time earlier and left. He said he then left for a Delray Beach job site between 10:30 and 11 a.m.

A video camera inside the Publix showed Toni there at 11:21, and records showed she made a deposit at a Bank of America branch in the store at 11:32. Bob Heartsong couldn't have arrived in Delray Beach between 10 and 11 a.m. as he said, because he arrived at Publix 15 to 20 minutes before his wife, according to his son, Eli, who was working that day. Investigators surmise that after Heartsong left Publix and before he went to Delray Beach, he killed his wife.

Only one problem with that theory, Heartsong told them: "I didn't go home at all."

"I feel so sad, so meaningless to him, really, so unimportant."

-Toni Heartsong's journal, November 1996

On Sept. 26, 2006, Van Houten presented his evidence to a county grand jury, which then indicted Heartstong on a first-degree murder charge. He was arrested six years to the day after Toni's slaying.

Heartsong remained in jail until May of this year, when Circuit Judge Lucy Chernow Brown set bail at $100,000. He is confined to house arrest until his trial begins. He now lives in North Palm Beach with a woman he married in June 2003.

Heartsong says he never even struck Toni. "I loved my wife more than most human beings can ever understand love," he wrote in a questionnaire he completed for investigators.

"I would have given my own life for her."



Courthouse Steps Maven
Feb 2009
        February 24th, 2009 08:12 AM        

Peace, Love And Murder

Did A Peace-Loving Hippie Brutally Murder His Wife?


January 17, 2009

(CBS) Bob Eckhart and Toni Soren, two self-proclaimed hippies, fell in love and were married only 48 hours after meeting. Twenty-seven years later, their union was torn apart when Bob came home from work to find Toni bludgeoned and stabbed to death, with seven wounds to her neck.

Bob's peaceful personality made him an unlikely suspect in his wifeís death and the case went cold-until 2006, when a determined detective reopened the case in the hope that new DNA technology could help uncover her killer.

Could this affable man who said his marriage was "like living in nirvana" so brutally kill his wife?

Bob and Toni began their whirlwind courtship when she was just 23. He was 28.

"An incredibly beautiful girl knocked on my door, and her name was Toni and we talked for must have been six or seven hours," Bob recalls. "We could connect completely with no walls, no shields. Everything was just magic."

It was the uninhibited early 1970s. Within 48 hours of meeting, the two young lovers eloped. They had a hippie wedding.

"I was always amazed I was married to her," Bob tells 48 Hours Mystery correspondent Harold Dow. "She was my lover, my wife, my sister, my mother -- everything rolled into one.Ē

Bob and Toni were so entwined, they even created their own lyrical last name - Heartsong -- by fusing their two given names.

"We took the heart out of Eckhart and the song out of Soren and we made Heartsong," Bob explains. "We had blended together and become one person."

Toni had lost both her parents as a teenager and was raised as a young adult by her older brother, Barry Soren.

"I did everything I could for her," Soren says. "And our relationship was tight enough that she wasnít spun out about the terrible events -- the terrible way her life started."

With Bob, Toni seemed to have found a path to her own happy family.

Her cousin, Mel Sorkowitz, admired Bobís ambition. "Bob impressed me as being a very hardworking guy," he says.

Another cousin, Deb Schepp, liked Bobís calm personality. "The image that I got was that he was a very peaceful person, very spiritual," she says. "I know he and Toni practiced meditation, and it seemed like the ideal life for her."

Bob and Toni eventually settled in Jupiter, Fla., where they did everything together. They were strict vegetarians and wrote a tofu cookbook. They were also both artistic.

"We used to have a little company that we beaded necklaces for stores and we produced thousands and thousands and thousands of beaded necklaces," Bob explains.

The couple also used their artistic talents to start a company that built stone waterfalls for homes and businesses. And they became dedicated parents to two sons, Jake and Eli.

Schepp describes Toni as a happy mother who loved her boys.

"I think she was my best friend," says Eli. "She helped me out in whatever troubles I had." Adds Jake, "I loved my mom. My parents loved each other."

Through 27 years of a generally happy marriage, Bob and Toni did have some rocky periods.

"Were there ever any times where you or Toni were unfaithful in your marriage?" Dow asks.

"Iíve never had sex with another woman during my marriage," Bob replies. "There were times where I was sorely tempted, thereís no question about that. I think she had sex with another man once or twice."

Bob says Toniís affair happened in the early 1980s. They got through that period, but the tough times occasionally returned.

Toni kept a journal that chronicled her frustrations. The following is an excerpt written in the early 1990s:

"He doesnít seem to really show me any love. Not in ways that are important to me. Like calling ... Iím constantly angry and frustrated. I hate it. He hates it. I feel so trapped. Not enough money to leave. Not enough care to work it out by both of us."

Bob says the couple had their share of tough patches, but worked on their marriage.

"[We] tried to find out what I was not doing that made sense. What I was not communicating, what I was not connecting -- thatís' what I meant. She was very upfront. Sheíd tell me, 'I donít like this' and Iíd say, 'OK. What can I do about it?'"

Even her cousins acknowledge Toni was not the easiest person to live with.

"Toni had a tough side. She inherited that from her mother. She could come across as being aggressive," explains Mel Sorkowitz.

But by all accounts, there were never any physical confrontations. Toniís brother says she would have said something to him if she ever felt threatened by Bob.

"No doubt," Soren says. "No, she would've used me to come in and protect her."

The Heartsongs worked through the rough patches of their marriage, and by the late 1990s, Bob says things got better; their business was thriving and they were happy again.

"We're all diamonds that need to be shaped," he says. "And that's what I am is a diamond that's being shaped in my lifeÖ you know, so I listened."

Toni wrote about their reconciliation in her journal: "Things were better and Bob is back to his sweet self."

"It was the most incredible relationship," Bob says. "I used to describe it as living in Nirvana."

The Heartsongs' life together ended on Sept. 26, 2000. Bob says he came home at 5 p.m. and found Toni lying in a pool of blood.

"I lifted her up with my arm like this," Bob demonstrates to Dow. "I held her up and when I saw her face, I freaked out Ö and when I saw her eyes were beaten closed, I was just destroyed by it. I gently laid her back down and I said to myself, 'I donít want to remember this.'"

Toniís cousin, Sandra Sorkowitz, was shocked by the carnage.

"Somebody had to be very, very angry to do what they did to Toni. It was too violent," she says.

Another cousin, Elissa Lejeune, thinks this was not a random murder; no valuables were taken and Toni was not raped.

"I think that she probably did know her killer," she says.

And others began to wonder about the person that Toni knew best-Bob Heartsong.

"I never would have believed he personally did this to Toni," Schepp says, "but I began to wonder if maybe there wasn't something we, as a family, didn't know."

Just days after he found his wife murdered in their home, Bob Heartsong led local media on a tour of the crime scene.

"You invited the media into your home. Whyíd you do that?" asks Dow.

"They kept asking me," Bob explains. "And finally, I said, 'Well, OK, letís talk about it.' You know, I could not believe that somebody in the world had done this."

Tim Valentine investigated the case for the state attorneyís office.

"Literally every part of Toniís body had a bruise to it," he says.

"Toni initially was beaten in this area," Valentine says, pointing to the doorway where her body was found. "We determined that by the amount of blood on the wall, here, and the amount of blood on the cement. We theorize that somebody was holding her by the back of her head and just literally smashing her head against this cement. The beating was so severe her front tooth was knocked out."

Toni, described by everyone who knew her as one tough lady, did not stay down according to Valentine.

"Toni had time to stand up," he says. "Toni had time to reach across the doorway-there was a little table there-and grab a beach towel. That was clutched in her hand when she was found dead."

It was after collapsing again, investigators believe from the blood evidence, that Toni was stabbed seven times in the neck "Ömaking sure she wouldnít wake up," says Valentine. "Definite overkill," he says. "The brutality associated with this case was well beyond the norm I have found in any case."

As the husband, Bob says he knew investigators would suspect him of the murder. But he cooperated fully. Bob took and passed a lie detector test. He did two taped interviews with police, never asking for a lawyer. He told them he left the house in the early morning.

Bob says he spent most of the day at a job site in Delray Beach, 43 miles south of Jupiter. Investigators say the murder happened around 1 p.m.

"I was there 'til about 2:30," he tells police during questioning. "I mean, Iíve got five witnesses that are verifying that I was there."

Bob was later seen at a Mazda dealership in Delray at 2:45 p.m. And he says he didnít get home until 5 p.m., when he discovered Toniís body.

Police apparently bought his alibi.

Barry Soren, Toni Heartsongís brother, met with the lead homicide detective to ask about progress in solving his sisterís murder.

"He said to me, 'We donít think Bob Heartsong did this. Heís just a hippie. Heís harmless. And in answer to your question, no, I donít believe your brother-in-law had anything to do with this,'" Soren says.

Police now looked harder at other suspects. A homeless man had been seen in the Heartsong's neighborhood for several weeks. There had also been a spate of burglaries in the area, and police found an unidentified fingerprint on the door lock of the Heartsong home. None of these leads went anywhere.

"There was no prime suspect, there was not enough evidence to charge anyone in this case," Valentine says.

The case went cold. But members of Toni's family were still troubled by some of Bob's behavior, like bringing a woman to his son's wedding just six months after the murder.

"God forbid if something so horrible had happened to my husband," Toni's cousin, Deb Schepp says. "I'm pretty confident six months later, I would not be ready to dance with another man at our childís wedding."

Bob says the woman was a friend of Toni's. "I was in tears the whole wedding," he says.

And while some who knew Bob found it hard to believe he was capable of murder, others say he had a mean streak.

"He gets out of the car, he walks up to me and he says, 'I hate the bitch,'" recalls Steve Kochakian.

Kochakian says Bob once referred to Toni that way while he was working for Bob. He says he saw Bobís temper another time-directed at him, over a minor business matter. "Iíve never seen anybody get so angry at anybody. Iíve been a bouncer. I mean, Iíve seen people angry. But never like this," he says. "It was a threatening thing to me."

With the case at a standstill, Bob was moving forward with his life. Two months after the murder, he bought a motorcycle. He sold his business a year later and he started dating.

Suzye Goldstein, who owns a marketing business, met Bob through an online dating service in 2002.

"Itís not that often you go out with somebody and find out that their wifeís been murdered, the case is still open. And, you know, he did tell me they suspected him and whatever," she says, describing him as "...gentle, kind. Totally unconditional, which Iíve never met a man like that in my life."

Bob and Suzye were married a year later and settled into their new life together. Yet even living with his new wife, Bob kept a shrine to Toniís memory in his den and a trunk full of memories in the living room. And he still has the box that contains Toniís ashes.

"My wife was cremated, and one day, my children -- when I die -- will take a moment and put my remains where her remains go," he says. Toni Heartsong's unsolved murder continues to be a part of Bobís new life, and now Suzye's.

"Whoever did this crime, if he could do it once -- and this might not have been the first time -- he could be doing it many more times. So there is an excellent chance there is somebody out there still doing this," Suzye says.

But while Bob and Suzye were still wondering who killed Toni, six years after her death, Palm Beach County cold case detectives had found new evidence and they were closing in.

In 2006, six years after Toni Heartsongís unsolved murder, the case was reopened and landed on Cold Case Detective John Van Houtenís desk.

"The attack was so brutal on the victim, Toni Heartsong," he says. "Ninety-nine percent of them are domestic when the violence is so overwhelming.

DNA testing in 2000 was not conclusive enough to charge anyone, so Van Houten had all the samples from Toniís body retested using newer, more precise techniques. He made two striking discoveries: a trace of Bobís blood was under Toniís left thumbnail and his DNA was on her right palm.

That's what convinced Van Houten's boss, Sgt. Bill Springer, that the cold case could now be solved.

Says Springer, "When I reviewed this case and I looked at the physical evidence, I said, "this is a good case.'"

Armed with the new forensic evidence, police brought Bob back in for another interview.

"He denied it and denied bleeding, was very adamant that he didnít bleed that day," says Van Houten.

Convinced Bob was lying and convinced they had the DNA evidence to prove it, the cold case squad came to an inescapable conclusion.

Who does Van Houten think killed Toni Heartsong? "Her husband, Robert Heartsong," he says.

The Heartsongs vehemently disagree. "The whole conception of killing somebody, of harming somebody else, is just beyond me," Bob says.

Suzye says it's inconceivable for her to think Bob could be guilty of the murder for which heís accused.

"No, no," she tells Dow. "If I thought in any way -- and Iím talking about any way -- that there was any possibility that he could be a man that was capable of doing something like that, and with all weíve had to face, I would have walked away!"

But in September 2006, Bob Heartsong's quiet new life with Suzye got a jolt.

"I had just driven in the driveway. I got out of my car and all of a sudden a black car comes rocketing into the driveway and a guy says to me 'Hands up' and he points a gun at me," Bob recalls.

Bob was arrested for the Sept. 2000 murder of his wife, Toni. Then he was held without bail for 20 months as preparations for his trial dragged on.

Even when Bob was released in the spring of 2008, he was far from free; he was sent home and kept under house arrest wearing an ankle bracelet.

Finally, in September 2008, nearly eight years to the day after Toniís murder, Bob Heartsong headed to court. Toniís cousins arrived at the Palm Beach County Courthouse hoping for some resolution.

"I'm sure, as the trial unfolds, we're all going to learn things that we wish we could erase, but we can't," Deb Schepp says.

Prosecutor Barbara Burns will try to convince the jury that Bob is the murderer. She calls to the stand a neighbor of the Heartsongs named Carol Parkman. Parkman testifies that she heard Bob and Toni arguing around 1 p.m., the time investigators believe the murder occurred.

Investigators say lunchtime was Bobís window of opportunity.

His cell phone records show no calls between 12:30 p.m. and 1:41 p.m., even though he was on the phone constantly the rest of the day. Thatís when Burns believes Bob was at home arguing with Toni.

"He confronted his wife with whatever the confrontation was that turned violent," says Burns.

As for the knife used to stab Toni, Burns believes it came from an open kitchen drawer seen in the crime scene photos. Under questioning, Bob told detectives that was the drawer where he and Toni kept their favorite knife, which they used to cut tofu.

In a taped interview with police, Bob describes the knife as being smooth, with a slightly serrated edge and a little longer than a paring knife, about 5- to 6-inches long.

He tells investigators the knife is missing.

Prosecutor Burns believes the murder was committed with the tofu knife -- especially because a knife block with several knives was on top of the counter in plain sight.

"A stranger is going to go to the knife block if thatís what theyíre looking for," she argues, "because theyíre not gonna have any idea that a knife is kept anywhere else in that kitchen, except on the knife block."

But her most compelling piece of evidence is that trace of Bobís blood found under Toniís left thumbnail.

There were tense moments in court as the jury listened to the tape of Bob's interrogation by Springer and Van Houten:

Cop: Bob we canít get over your blood on her body.
Bob Heartsong: I have no explanation for it because I didnít touch her.
Cop: What possible reason why your blood would be on her body?
Bob: I have no idea. I have no idea at all.

Today, Bob admits the blood might be his, but he has an explanation. "Itís possible that I cut myself slightly at work. I might have cut myself on anything," he says. "Her nail might have gotten into an old cut. I donít know."

Then there is the other critical piece of evidence - Bob's DNA was found on the palm of Toniís right hand.

"And that means one thing from all the experience I have," says Springer. "Thatís the last person she touched, or touched her."

Bob admitted touching Toni when he found her body in the doorway of the couple's house. But did he just touch her or did he bleed on her? It becomes a key question, because if Bobís blood is on Toniís palm, it almost certainly got there the day of the murder.

"She didnít leave the house with blood on her hand. No woman does," Barry Soren. "If she noticed there was blood on her hands, she was immaculate-she would have washed it off."

A blood expert testifies about the breakdown of DNA on Toni's palm. She says itís a mixture of Bob and Toniís DNA and some of it is blood.

"It could be a combination of skin cells plus blood, or blood plus blood," says Dr. Cecilia Krauss. "I just know that blood is there. I donít know what the other component could be."

Toni's brother, Barry Soren, takes this to mean it's Bob's blood, and after eight long years, he thinks his sisterís murder has finally been solved. "I cannot find a way out for Bob. He had to have done this, Iím sorry to say that."

Bobís defense attorney, Barry Maxwell, says the blood evidence isnít conclusive at all, and heís about to punch some big holes in the prosecutionís case.

"As I sit here, I am adamantly telling you that this man did not kill his wife of 27 years," states Maxwell, and opens Bobís defense with testimony about his alibi.

From the very beginning, Bob Heartsong has said he could not have murdered Toni because he was in Delray Beach, working on one of his water projects, at a mansion later featured in the movie "Bad Boyz II."

"I got on 95 and I went to Delray," Bob tells Dow. "I had a very large project. We were building a shark pond."

Five men who worked with Bob at the job site that day testify. They all say they saw him at various times throughout the day.

Dow asks Burns, "Do you think they were lying or mistaken?"

"I donít think they were lying, I think they were mistaken," the prosecutor says. "It was a very large construction site, but because they saw him at one point and then sometime later on, they just kind of assumed that he was there, so I think it was just a mistake."

Remember, police say the murder happened around 1 p.m. in Jupiter -- 43 miles north of Delray. Bobís lawyer, Barry Maxwell, says itís a stretch to believe Bob could have pulled it off. Witnesses place him in Delray at various times in the morning and the afternoon.

"So bottom line, in order for him to have left the construction site, headed back home, which is a good 45 minute drive away, commit the murder, clean himself up, drive another 45 minutes back to that Delray Beach construction site -- Superman couldnít have done that. He would have had to flown like Superman," says Maxwell.

And as for Bobís blood under Toniís fingernail, Maxwell cross examines the blood expert:

Barry Maxwell: And, from your analysis Ma'am, can you tell this jury how long this sample of Mr. Heartsong's blood DNA was existing underneath the left nail of Mrs. Heartsong?
Dr. Cecelia Krauss: No, DNA does not tell you how long it's been there."

"Weíre talking about a husband and wife married for 27 years," Maxwell says. "We donít know when that blood was placed under that fingernail. We donít know if it was the morning of, [or] a couple of mornings before."

Maxwell tells jurors there could be all kinds of explanations.

"How do we know Mr. Heartsong didn't cut himself shaving a couple of days before and Mrs Heartsong [says] 'Ah honey, you've got some blood, let me wipe that.' How do we know? We donít!"

Remember prosecution witness Carol Parkman, the neighbor who testified she heard Bob and Toni arguing? It turns out that in previous interviews with investigators and attorneys, she told a different story.

Barry Maxwell: Now, do you remember your answer, when I asked, 'Did you recognize the voices that you heard?' You stated 'no', didn't you?
Carol Parkman: Right.

Maxwell discredits Parkman's previous testimony.

Maxwell: You also stated that the pitch of the tone of conversation you heard was not aggravated, or was a normal conversation, correct?
Parkman: Thatís correct.

Thereís another big problem for the prosecution: crucial mistakes by the initial investigators after the crime -- mistakes even the prosecutor acknowledges.

"Nobody asked him to take his shirt off. Nobody inspected him under his clothing for any injuries or fresh injuries," Burns says.

"Isn't that standard procedure? Shouldnít that have been done?" asks Dow. "Yes," Burns replies.

The original investigators also failed to request records from cell phone towers that would have pinpointed Bobís location throughout the day by tracking the signal from his phone. Those records are now gone.

"It would have either given him the airtight alibi he wanted, or it would have given us the airtight case that we needed," Springer says.

Maxwell points out to the jury other unexplained pieces of evidence -- unidentified hairs found on Toniís body. Tests showed none were Bobís hairs. Maxwell tries to create doubt in jurorsí minds.

"So as we sit here today, we don't know whose hair was found on Mrs. Heartsong's body. Thatís crucial for the stateís case and they havenít met that," he says.

There are more forensic questions that investigators never answered: the unknown fingerprint on the deadbolt lock and bloody footprints in the house that the original detective on the case could not identify.

And then there is Ronald Ganyo, a schizophrenic homeless man seen near the Heartsong house around the time of the murder who left Florida soon afterwards. Investigators tracked Ganyo down in California, where local police interviewed him.

In police video, Ganyo mutters incoherently, talking vaguely about hearing voices and dreaming about murder.

California police claim that off-camera Ganyo talked of details police say might be related to Toni Heartsongís murder -- details they reported to Palm Beach County Det. David Bradford.

Maxwell: Mr. Ganyo talked about a blond woman, correct?
Det. Bradford: Thatís correct.
Barry Maxwell: Mrs Heartsong was blonde wasnít she?
Bradford: Thatís correct.
Maxwell: Mr. Ganyo talked about the blond woman being stabbed, didnít he.
Bradford: Yes he did.

But Ganyoís DNA was not found at the crime scene and he was dismissed as a suspect.

So who killed Toni Heartsong? "We donít know and we will never know," says Maxwell.

While the lawyers offer different explanations of the evidence, and different theories about how Toni died, one big question continues to hang over the entire case. If Bob Heartsong did kill Toni, what was his motive?

Investigators think Bobís motive was mercenary. They speculate he was planning to divorce Toni and didnít want to pay for it.

"Itís greed to me, is what it is," Springer says. "Heís the type of person that 'itís my business, my house, I worked hard all these years and Iím not gonna share it, because itís mine.'"

Barry Soren believes Bob's motive was years in the making.

"Marriage is the motive," he says. "People are married, they have a thousand insults, a thousand things that happen in a marriage, a thousand hurts. If youíre not careful and you donít have a good core morality after 27 years, people lose it."

In court, the prosecution has no clear-cut motive to offer and the jury is about to hear from one last witness who knows more than anyone about Bob and Toni Heartsongís marriage: their son, Jake, who was 16 when his mother was murdered.

"My mom was like my best friend, I was better friends with her than my dad at the time," Jake testifies. "And if I had any inclination that my dad did this, I would be the first to tell you that he did this. And trust me he did not do this. I watched him thoroughly more than anybody would because I lived with him before and after this and I can tell you, frankly, that he didnít do it!"

As convinced as Jake is of his father's innocence, prosecutor Burns tries to convince the jury of his guilt.

"The evidence is clear that, for some reason, whether it was financial, whether it was infidelity, whether it was just a silly argument, he lost it," she tells the jury.

And after one last plea from Maxwell, the jury will decide Bob's fate.

"Come back with the verdict which is just with the evidence or lack of evidence before you," he tells jurors in his closing. "Give Mr. Heartsong his freedom back."

Which picture of Bob Heartsong will the jury believe? The peace loving former hippie who claims he lived in nirvana with his wife? Or a man authorities believe exploded in rage and brutally killed her after 27 years of marriage?

"What would be your reaction if the jury finds you guilty?" asks Dow.

"I have to accept the life thatís given me. And I have to continue to walk on my path," answers Bob. "And if it happened that way, Iím certainly going to be very, very sad."

An innocent man going to jail? ďYeah, absolutely," Bob says. "It would be a travesty."

As the jury deliberates, Toniís family thinks either outcome will be a sad one.

"I never came here gunning for Bob. I never did. I mean itís a family that has been torn to pieces," Toni's cousin, Deb Schepp, says outside of court.

Jurors had deliberated for less than three hours when they asked the judge for clarification on one of the stateís most important, but confusing pieces of evidence: Was it Bob Heartsongís blood that was found on Toniís right palm?

The judgeís answer: the evidence is inconclusive.

That answer is all the jury needs to hear. Just moments later, the jurors reappear to announce their verdict: "We, the jury, find as follows: We find the defendant not guilty."

Upon hearing the verdict, Bob almost collapses into his seat. For him and his loved ones, it brings not only relief, but vindication.

"All I want to say to you is I'm free! As I should be," he tells reporters outside the courtroom. "I didn't do it. I never could have done that to anybody. It's impossible for the kind of person that I am ÖYou can't imagine what it's like to spend 24 months in jail -- and finally be free -- for something that you didn't do, for losing somebody in your life that was more important to you than air. And here I am. I'm gonna live!"

Jurors say their verdict does not reflect what they truly believe about Bob Heartsong.

"I would say out of 12 jurors, 10, 11 of us, if not all of us, believed he did it. We just did not have the evidence to convict him," says jury foreman Tony Alberto. "So even though there wasnít enough evidence, you canít convict someone based on your feelings."

"You're saying Bob Heartsong got away with murder?Ē asks Dow. "Yes, I am," states juror Tony Albertson.

For Alberto, that inconclusive DNA on the palm was what turned this case around.

"If it had been his blood, there is no way, no way, I would have entered a not guilty verdict," he says.

The jurors say it's the stateís fault that Bob Heartsong isn't going to prison.

"A lotta things were left unturned or uninvestigated," says juror James Finch.

Alberto is angry at the state. "I think they were irresponsible in the investigation. The state didn't have enough case against him, that's why we couldn't do our job and convict him.Ē

For Toniís family, the verdict is a mixed bag.

"You know what? It doesn't matter what's in my heart of hearts. The jury has spoken," says cousin Mel Sorkowitz . "Whoever murdered her is gonna have something in their heart of hearts for the rest of their life.Ē

"I'm not completely unhappy with the result. He gets to go back to his kids," concedes Toni's brother, Barry Soren. "I don't know the answer. Listen, what my sister would have wanted for her children is more important than my instinct to a vendetta.Ē

Back at home, Bob sets foot into his backyard for the first time in two years.

"I canít believe Iím free. Itís fabulous!" he says.

"And all the time I kept saying, 'I know theyíll be able to see the truth, I really know theyíll be able to see the truth,'" says his wife, Suzye.

"But you gotta know there people out there who still think you killed your wife," Dow says.

"Yeah, but I know what I did and what I didn't do, and I know I didn't kill my wife," Bob responds. "So, what they think -- that's their problem to deal with. Hopefully somewhere's along the line thereíll be enough truth thatíll be brought on in this case, and the exoneration will be complete."

Bob says he still lives with the stigma of having been accused and he believes his name wonít be completely cleared until the real killer is found.

And he says he will never stop missing Toni. "Theyíre gonna have to find the people that did this incredible act. I wonít rest until thatís brought out," he says. "I miss her terribly. Iíll miss her all the rest of my life. My relationship with Toni will go on just the way it isÖ"

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department says the Toni Heartsong murder case is closed.
Bob Heartsong's legal troubles put him $400,000 in debt. He is looking for work.


Courthouse Steps Maven

Courthouse Steps Mavens   Questionable Cases   Found Not Guilty
*But are they?*
   Toni Soren Heartsong{desc: Bob Eckhart Heartsong}

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