Neighbors always saw a lot of traffic at Henry Heid’s Otis Orchards farm, but never the kind of commotion that caught their attention last week.
Heid, a kind-hearted 75-year-old man who friends and relatives say was fond of the outdoors and quick to lend a hand, was found beaten to death in his garage on April 9.
The discovery of Heid’s body transformed his 13-acre alfalfa farm on Harvard Raod north of Euclid Avenue into the site of a murder investigation. Yellow crime scene tape flapped in the wind that swept cold across the freshly plowed fields in the quiet northeast Valley farming community.
Commuters along busy Harvard Road slowed to catch a glimpse of detectives stomping through the brush and peeking inside Heid’s four outbuildings.
Neighbors began double checking the locks on their doors.
“I just can’t imagine this. It’s so quiet out here,” said one neighbor who kept an eye on the detectives from her living room window. She refused to give her name.
Heid’s murder is the second in rural Spokane County this year. In January, a Waverly couple was found shot to death in their bed. In that case, two suspects were quickly apprehended. A motive - revenge - soon followed.
But the investigation into Heid’s murder has moved slowly and methodically. Detectives have not named any suspects, and say thet can only assume that Heid was killed during a robbery.
“It’s kind of scary. I make sure my doors are locked,” said Donna Boatright, who lives on Harvard Road, north of Heid’s house.
Heid was the most unlikely of murder victims, friends and family members said. He had no enemies.
“My guess is his death is because he discovered another crime,” said sheriff’s Lt. John Simmons, who is overseeing the investigation into Heid’s murder.
A search of the fields and railroad tracks near Heid’s house did not turn up any evidence. Detectives are investigating a person of interest, Simmons said Thursday.
The uncertainty has left friends and relatives considering different scenarios, all of which centered around robbery.
It was common knowledge that Heid often carried hundreds of dollars in his wallet, they said. Heid’s wallet was missing when his younger brother and two family friends found his body on the floor in the garage.
Forrest Heid said his older brother had sold a 1939 Ford pickup truck the week before his murder for several hundred dollars, and was probably still carrying the cash.
“That was probably just a start of what he had in (his wallet),” Forrest Heid said.
Several people have offered information about people and cars they saw near Heid’s house about the time of his murder, he said.
So far, nothing has answered the question friends and relatives keep asking: Why?
“He didn’t have an enemy anyplace,” Forrest Heid said. “Everybody liked him because he’d done everything anybody ever wanted him to, and they did the same for him.”
Heid, who never married, had lived for 59 years in the white farmhouse in Otis Orchards. In 1938, his parents traded a 1934 Chevy 1-ton truck as a down payment on the place. He worked for 36 years at Kaiser Aluminum’s Trentwood plant before retiring from his job as a processor in 1982.
Neighbors said Heid spent long hours working in his fields, but always found time to help others in need. Heid’s generosity made him popular throughout the Otis Orchards community.
“Everybody knew him,” said neighbor Gail Rich.
She and her husband, Gary, met Heid 13 years ago when they moved in two houses down from him. The couple was among the 200 or so friends and family members gathered Tuesday at Heid’s funeral.
“Henry’s life ended tragically and unexpectedly. All of us pray that there will be answers to the unanswered questions in the days to come,” Reverend Ray Ruef told the mourners.
Heid was born in Hanover, Kan., the son of a poor farmer and his wife. At 16, Heid moved with his family to Otis Orchards where he worked side by side with his father and brother, Forrest, in the family’s fields.
He would spend nearly the next six decades in Otis Orchards, less the three years he was stationed in Guam servicing B-29s for the Air Force during World War II. In Otis Orchards he earned a reputation as outspoken and generous, and as a man with a sense of humor.
At his funeral, Ruef talked about Heid’s knack for rearranging things left on the porch at a friend’s house if they were not home when he visited.
“He had this little habit of leaving his calling card,” Ruef said. “That way you knew Henry had been there.”
R.K. Thomas, who stopped at Heid’s house Wednesday while relatives packed up his belongings, met Heid when both worked at Kaiser. The two spent the past several years fishing together and helping each other do work around their houses.
“All you had to do was call him and he’d be there,” Thomas said.
Tom Beeching, who used to talk to Heid during walks past his house, said people didn’t have to know Heid well to know the impact he had on the community.
“He was the type of guy that always acknowledged his neighbors,” Beeching said. “That in itself was reassuring because it showed somebody cared.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 photos (2 color)