Husband guilty in fiery fiasco

January 13, 1995|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,Sun Staff Writer

An eastern Baltimore County man pleaded guilty yesterday to stealing his estranged wife's car and setting it on fire with the intention of ramming it through his mother-in-law's living room where his wife was staying.

However, Michael Wayne Heim, 26, of Victory Villa Gardens was stopped short after he apparently set the fire inside the car too soon and lost control when the flames got out of hand and the car struck an exposed sewer pipe in the front yard of a house several blocks from his intended mark.

Heim, the only one injured, spent 23 days in a coma with serious burns to the right side of his face, neck, back and shoulders. He has had several skin grafts and said that his medical bills total about $90,000. His attorney argued to Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl that Heim had suffered enough.

Judge Kahl gave Heim, who pleaded guilty to second-degree arson, a three-year-sentence with all but 30 days suspended. He will serve the sentence on weekends. Judge Kahl also suggested to Heim that he get counseling.

On June 1 just before midnight, Heim called his wife, Denise, on the car phone and told her that he had taken her 1993 Honda Civic. She immediately called the police, who in turn called Heim on the car phone and asked him to return the car or they would charge him.

According to the police report, Heim responded, "Charge me, I can't get it back right now."

Heim then spent the next two hours calling his mother-in-law, Linda Sue Edwards, telling her that he was going to light the car afire and drive it into the house. Mrs. Heim went to the Essex District Court about 2 a.m. to take out a warrant on her husband.

About that time, Heim called Ms. Edwards for the last time, telling her "I doused the car with gasoline and I'm going to blow it up. . . . Ready or not here I come," the police report said.

Police then saw Heim driving the Honda on Compass Road in the Goldentree neighborhood. The car was smoking and flames were shooting from the interior, police said. He still was several blocks from Yew Road where his mother-in-law lived.

Heim lost control of his car, which jumped the curb into the front yard of a house on Compass Road and crossed into another front yard before being stopped by the sewer pipe.

Heim was found on the ground with his back on fire. He later said he had taken crack and barbiturates before the incident.

"I plan to get psychological help," Heim said in an interview after the sentencing. "I wasn't in the perfect frame of mind. I was a mess. I really was. I still have nightmares about it. I will never be able to forget it. I have scars on my body that will remind me every day."

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