MOUNT VERNON, Mo. -- A woman who is charged with child abuse and child endangerment got out of jail for the first time in six weeks after a hearing on Thursday. A judge reduced the bond of Charlee Heitz from $65,000 to $10,000 after she agreed to six conditions for her release.
On Dec. 2, Aurora police arrested Heitz after two of her friends took her twin sons, who were just under six months old at the time, to a hospital to be treated for rat bites. Later, police say, Heitz’ two-year-old son told them that he also had been bitten.
Heitz lived in Aurora at the time of her arrest. She is estranged from her husband. When the children were bitten, they were alone in an upstairs room of a filthy house that Heitz, her boyfriend and the other friend were cleaning in preparation for moving away from it. The twins were strapped in car seats. Police said Heitz was intoxicated when they arrested her.
Heitz is charged with two counts of child abuse and three counts of child endangerment. On Thursday, she waived her right to a preliminary hearing, at which the prosecutor would have presented some of the evidence against her. Associate Circuit Court Judge Larry Meyer sent the case to circuit court.
Heitz smiled at her parents through her tears when Meyer agreed to reduce her bond. The judge told Heitz not to see her kids unless the visits are supervised, not to talk to their father or any witnesses in the case, not to drink alcohol, not to leave Missouri and to live with her parents.
"The truth will come out,” said Heitz’ father, Arlis Gideon, in an interview after the hearing. “Charlee's 22 years old. She’s never been in any trouble. She loves her children."
Gideon was waiting to take his daughter home. She’s scheduled to make her first appearance in circuit court on Feb. 10. Lawrence County Prosecuting Attorney Robert George says he's offered Heitz a plea agreement that carries jail time. Heitz's attorney, Dean Price of Springfield, has not accepted so a trial could be on way. If convicted on the five charges, she could get up to 29 years in prison.
George said overcrowding at the county jail is one reason he agreed to the reduced bond but he believes the case is one for which Heitz needs to pay for her crimes.
"This is a case that I think warrants some kind of punishment," George said in an interview after the hearing.
The children are in foster care under the auspices of the Missouri Division of Family Services. Her father believes she’ll get the children back.
“I believe she will,” said Gideon. “She's willing to take any kind of treatment or anything she needs to do. I believe that’s the reason the case went the way it did."
Arthur Heitz of Springfield, Charlee Heitz's estranged husband, is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 30 on a charge of child abuse, which is unrelated to the incident on Dec. 2. George filed that charge last week. Investigators believe Arthur Heitz placed the couple's son on an electric space heater. He is free on his own recognizance, which means a judge didn’t see the need to set a bond.
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