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Man in elder home charged for stomping fellow resident to death

By Staff | Aug 1, 2018

FORKSVILLE – After stomping a fellow resident nearly half to death, Dar-Way Elder Care Rehabilitation patient Terry Lee Heckman grabbed a hold of a registered nurse by her hair and started swinging her around the room.

“I’m going to die,” nurse Donna Wiles remembers saying over and over, according to court records.

Chaos erupted in the facility on Route 154 on the afternoon June 30, when Heckman, 57, allegedly stomped Michael C. Zaladonis in the skilled nursing home’s conference room, according to state police.

As Heckman was eventually restrained and taken into custody, Zaladonis, 65, was rushed to the UPMC Susquehanna Williamsport Regional Medical Center, where he lingered in critical condition before he died of his injuries on July 7, according to police.

Initially jailed at the Columbia County Prison on assault-related charges in lieu of $25,000 bail, Heckman has since been arraigned before Sullivan County District Judge Jennifer Vandine on charges of criminal homicide, recklessly endangering and simple assault. He was recommitted on no bail. The original assault charges were withdrawn last week and replaced with the more serious charges.

Following the attack on Zaladonis, Heckman allegedly grabbed another patient, Jody Reynolds, “by the back of the neck,” according to an affidavit filed jointly by Trooper Thomas Weaver and Cpl. Joshua Bryer, who work at the Laporte barracks.

The trouble began about 4:40 p.m. as Wiles was walking another resident toward the conference room, Weaver said in the affidavit, adding that the nurse saw Heckman “poke” his head out of the room, look around and then close the door behind him as he went back in the room.

The room is off limits to patients, according to the facility’s regulations, Weaver said.

“Wiles yelled for someone to get Heckman out of the room,” Weaver said.

Samantha Adams, a certified nursing assistant at the nursing home, then entered the room.

“Wiles then heard Adams yelling for help and screaming ‘He’s stomping him.’ Wiles ran to the conference room and saw Zaladonis lying on his back in a corner between a wall and a printer,” Weaver said in the court document.

Heckman had bolted from the room, and Wiles soon left to see where he had gone, Weaver said.

The nurse then suddenly saw Heckman holding Reynolds by the back of the neck. As Heckman started to shove the patient to the floor, “Wiles leaped and stopped Reynolds from hitting the ground,” Weaver said.

That’s when Heckman violently grabbed the nurse by her hair and began swinging her around, Weaver alleged. “She feared for her life,” the investigator said.

When troopers arrived on the scene, the staff already had managed to restrain Heckman in his room, Weaver said. Heckman was whisked away to the Laporte barracks, where he agreed to be interviewed after being read his Miranda rights.

“Heckman had related that Zaladonis said something to him about the way he was moving around. Heckman related he argued with Zaladonis and began to choke him. He could not recall what occurred after that,” Weaver said in the affidavit.

Adams, the certified nursing assistant, told police that when she entered the conference room, she saw “a body lying motionless on the floor” and Heckman standing on the right side of the body “repeatedly stomping (on the man’s) chest and abdomen with his left foot. Adams told police that she ran over to Heckman and pulled him away,” court records state.

Upon completing an autopsy on Zaladonis, a forensic pathologist ruled the patient died of “multiple blunt force trauma and determined the manner of death was homicide,” according to court records.

It was unknown how long Heckman and Zaladonis had been residents at the nursing home. When a newspaper reporter visited Dar-Way late Last Monday afternoon, a senior staff member said the facility would not comment on anything regarding the case.

Heckman has a preliminary hearing at Vandine’s office on Aug. 17.