LIMA — The family of a slain Lima woman felt a range of emotions Friday in a Lima courtroom: Mourning. Anger. Rage. Aggravation. Remorse.
The judge understood their emotions, but he said he couldn’t excuse taking action on them, especially when Robert Heidenescher Jr. attacked alleged killer Loyal D. Johnson Jr. during his first court appearance.
“I understand you are the brother of the victim. Your grief, it can be taken as a sign of how you acted,” Lima Municipal Court Judge William Lauber said. “It still does not excuse it.”
Two hours beforehand, Heidenescher attacked Johnson, the man accused of stabbing 45-year-old Katie M. Mills multiple times Wednesday night. Yelling out, “You son of a bitch,” Heidenescher rushed from the front row when Johnson stepped before the judge.
Deputies quickly leaped on top of Heidenescher, 49, of Lima, stopping just short of using a Taser gun on him. In the melee, Mills’ daughter, Katelyn Mills, screamed out, “No, Uncle Bob!” and “She is dead. I can’t do this right now!”
“I’ve never seen anything like that in person,” Lima Police Department Det. Sean Neidemire said. “That’s the kind of thing you see on TV.”
The veteran judge said it’s the first assault he’s ever witnessed while municipal court was in session, although he did walk in on an altercation once.
Lauber slapped Heidenescher with a 30-day sentence in the Allen County Jail for contempt of court, saying he started “practically a riot.” When Heidenescher stood before the judge himself after two hours to cool down in the jail, he apologized.
Lauber decided to hold off serving the sentence until Aug. 19, after Katie M. Mills can be buried and properly mourned.
“I apologize, sir. I already apologized to (officers). It’s totally my fault,” Heidenescher said before shaking a bailiff’s hand and embracing him. “I appreciate that you let me go to my sister’s funeral.”
Katelyn Mills, 18, was quieter in her apology, mostly nodding when she appeared before Lauber on her own contempt of court charge worth three days in jail. Lauber later purged that charge and sentence from her record.
“I understand the victim was your mother,” Lauber said, as she nodded. “The court understands and has very great empathy for your situation. You’ve lost your mother through an act of violence.”
Johnson, 68, could face 15 years to life in prison and a $15,000 fine if convicted in the stabbing death. Neidemire said Johnson lived at 650 N. Elizabeth St. with Mills and Mills’ boyfriend. Johnson admitted drinking alcohol before the incident, Neidemire said. There hadn’t been previous calls to the address to suggest issues, Neidemire said.
After the attack, the regular business of the court resumed, with Johnson saying he didn’t own property or a car and couldn’t afford an attorney. Lauber set bond at $1 million for Johnson and will assign him a court-appointed attorney. Lauber set a preliminary hearing for Wednesday.
Funeral arrangements haven’t been set yet for Mills, as police await the results of an autopsy from the Lucas County Coroner’s Office.
Mills leaves behind two daughters, Katelyn Mills and Katarina Mills, and a son, Kory Carter. Her husband, Clayton Todd Mills, died in 2000 at the age of 37, leaving the children without either of their parents now.
Lauber spoke with Mills’ family after the hearings adjourned, urging them to let the justice system take its course.
“Trust me,” Lauber said. “Justice will work itself out. Hopefully your sister, your daughter, your mother will not die in vain.”
Johnson arraignment hearing
Loyal Johnson hearing