Fugitive lawyer to be extradited to Mo. Former 'John Doe' sought in thefts from two estates

September 23, 1992|By Darren M. Allen and Amy L. Miller | Darren M. Allen and Amy L. Miller,Staff Writers

After more than two years on the lam, Harold Paul Heitmann will be winging his way home Friday afternoon.

But a happy homecoming is far from what Missouri law enforcement officials have in mind for the 54-year-old former St. Louis prosecutor.

Until state police and the FBI determined his identity Sunday evening, Mr. Heitmann had been passing himself off as an attorney from Minneapolis. He had been living in and around Mount Airy and was even practicing simple law, acting as general counsel for a Taylorsville company. He was arrested Monday at the business.

Mr. Heitmann waived extradition proceedings at a hearing in Carroll County District Court yesterday. St. Louis County prosecutors told Carroll County State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman that they would take custody of Mr. Heitmann on Friday.

When he was arrested in June after a traffic stop in southern Carroll County, he identified himself as Bruce Donald Willis, a partner in Popham, Haik, a law firm in Minneapolis. When investigators learned he was not Mr. Willis -- the real Mr. Willis provided proof of that -- he would not reveal his true identity.

Mr. Heitmann has been one of Missouri's 10 most-wanted fugitives, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He is charged with stealing $135,000 from two estates he handled as an attorney in private practice. When he arrives, his bail will initially be set at $1 million, according to charging documents in Missouri.

Mr. Heitmann, who was known temporarily as John Doe to authorities here, left Missouri a day before a court hearing at which he was to present a final accounting of a woman's estate he was handling.

At first he was thought to be a victim of foul play, but Mr. Heitmann soon became a suspect when the money was found to be missing from the estates. FBI agents searched from Canada to Mexico for Mr. Heitmann.

The path leading to Mr. Heitmann's capture began when his 30-year-old Mount Airy girlfriend began to have doubts that the man she loved was really Minneapolis lawyer Bruce Donald Willis.

She hired a private investigator, Michael Mills, who tracked down the actual Mr. Willis in Minneapolis and turned the information over to the police.

Mr. Heitmann was estranged from his wife in Missouri. The couple have three children. Their oldest son was in court yesterday to identify his father.

"I'm just pleased that things turned out the way they did," Mr. Mills said. The investigator said that when Mr. Heitmann first came to Maryland, he lived in a tent and then in boarding houses.

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