12/06/2005

Prosecutors will likely seek death for officer's killer

By DEANNA BOYD
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER

FORT WORTH -- Prosecutors will likely seek the death penalty against a 39-year-old man accused of fatally shooting a Fort Worth police officer last week, but officials say a final decision won't be made until the completion of a standard review.

Stephen Lance Heard was formally charged Monday with capital murder and aggravated kidnapping in connection with the fatal shooting of officer Henry "Hank" Nava and a subsequent three-hour standoff with police in which a 26-year-old woman was held hostage.

"The last time we had a capital murder involving a police officer shot in the line of duty that we prosecuted in Tarrant County was the 1983 murder of a deputy sheriff," said David Montague, spokesman with the district attorney's office. "We sought the death penalty. We got a death penalty, and that defendant has since been executed.

"That continues to be the philosophy of this office."

Monday afternoon, Heard, flanked by three deputies, was arraigned before magistrate Gene Grant, who set his bail at $1 million on each charge.

Later, state district Judge James Wilson appointed attorneys Mark Daniel and Tim Moore to represent Heard.

Heard, who was wearing a blue Tarrant County jail jumpsuit, quietly answered the judges' questions during the brief hearings.

"This is a tragic situation from everyone's standpoint," the defense attorneys said in a written statement issued Monday. "We are just now beginning our investigation. We anticipate that we will learn that there is more to this than has been disseminated."

Montague said the review, which includes delving into a suspect's criminal history and mental health issues and discussions with the victim's family, can take months to complete.

"The purpose of the review process is to determine if there are any extenuating circumstances or extraordinary circumstances that would dictate we should not seek a death penalty," Montague said. "Other than that, we'll continue to follow our philosophy."

Heard remains in the Tarrant County Jail. In addition to the charges in last week's shooting, he is being held on a parole violation warrant.

Heard told reporters in a jailhouse interview Thursday that he thought Nava was a robber when he returned fire on him inside a northwest Fort Worth mobile home Tuesday afternoon.

Arrest warrant affidavits state that Nava and two other officers, all wearing raid-style jackets with *police* written on the front and back, had gone to the home searching for Heard, who was wanted on the parole violation warrant.

The affidavits state that the officers were given permission to search the home by a female occupant, who had told the officers that Heard was not there.

Nava had opened a bedroom door and told the other officers that Heard was inside when Heard opened fire on him, the affidavits state. A gunbattle ensued.

Nava died Thursday from a gunshot wound in the head. He was buried Monday.

The last capital murder of a peace officer shot in the line of duty to be prosecuted in Tarrant County was the death of Clark Rosenbalm Jr., a Tarrant County sheriff's deputy.

Rosenbalm was slain at the scene of a drug deal Dec. 4, 1983.

Troy Dale Farris was convicted of capital murder for Rosenbalm's death.

He was executed at the age of 36 on Jan. 13, 1999.

Staff writer Martha Deller contributed to this report.

Related story: North Texas mourns Officer Hank Nava

Fort Worth Star Telegram (http://www.star-telegram.com/)

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