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Crime News Dateline

A Prominent Georgia Family Was Gunned Down In Their Home — And The Killer Surprised Everyone

Successful real estate investor Philip Heidt had always valued family over anything else, but when he was found shot to death inside his home alongside his son and gravely injured wife, investigators uncovered a startling family secret.

By Jill Sederstrom

In the early morning hours of August 25, 2008, Linda Heidt, the matriarch of a prominent and well-respected Georgia family, placed a chilling 911 call.

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“Help. Please,” Linda struggled to tell an Effingham County 911 dispatcher, according to “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered,” airing Wednesdays at 8/7c on Oxygen.

“What’s wrong?” the dispatcher said.

“Gun,” Linda said. “Shot.”

Through halting words, Linda was able to tell the dispatcher she had been shot in the face. Her husband Philip Heidt—a prominent real estate developer—was shot too and the fate of the couple’s adult son, Carey Heidt, who had been staying with them that night, was unknown.

When officers arrived at the couple’s home, they stumbled upon a grisly scene. Linda was found still conscious, slumped on the floor behind the kitchen table, still clutching her cell phone, with a piece of fabric soaked in blood covering a large wound to her neck and face. Her husband, Philip, was shot in the face in the master bedroom, having pulled the bedsheet over his head to try to shield himself from the fatal shot.

The couple’s son, Carey, who also suffered a gunshot wound from a 12-gauge shotgun to the face, was still tucked beneath the covers in a spare bedroom.

Gasoline had been poured throughout the house, unnerving the first responders who believed the killer may have been planning an ambush. As Linda, the sole survivor, was rushed to the hospital, investigators tried to piece together who would have wanted to harm the Heidt family.

They’d uncover a dark secret that would shatter the family and point to a suspected killer much closer than anyone could’ve imagined.

Those who knew the family agreed that they were a close, church-going family, who were known as pillars within their small town community outside of Savannah, Georgia.

“They are a family that loved their family and I think you can see that throughout the whole Heidt clan. There’s a lot of love that goes through them,” Philip’s friend Billy Hickman told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.”

Philip Heidt, a large-scale real estate investor, was a successful and respected businessman who brought his youngest son, Carey, into the fold, but when the 2008 recession hit, it struck the family business hard.

Investigators considered whether Philip’s business ties could have been a motive for murder or if the family’s neighbors, who were suspected of cooking meth, may have had it out for the family.

“After looking at the scene, it became obvious that the scene was staged,” GBI agent Eugene Howard told "Dateline" correspondent Dennis Murphy. “It was meant to look like a robbery, however, nothing was taken of note. There was money left, keys left.”

Linda, the sole witness to the heinous crime, had survived, but her jaw was wired shut and it took weeks before she was able to speak to investigators. When she did, she only was able to recall a man with a slender build shooting her as she came out of the bathroom after hearing gunshots.

But investigators would soon learn that Philip and Linda’s oldest son, Craig Heidt, had been carrying on an affair with his brother Carey’s wife, shifting suspicion to a suspect much closer to home.

A police handout of Craig Heidt

Craig, a divorced father of two, had been on disability after hurting his back when he began secretly seeing his brother’s wife, Robin.

Robin and Carey had once been high school sweethearts and shared three children together, but as Carey’s demands at work began to grow Robin would later testify that she started to feel lonely and turned to her brother-in-law for support.

The scandalous relationship had sent shockwaves through the family in the weeks before the murder, angering Philip, who had always valued family.

“The most important thing to him was his family,” Hickman said. “He always wanted his family to be close to each other, he always wanted his family to love each other.”

Carey’s close friend told “Dateline: Secrets Uncovered” that despite the betrayal, Carey had still loved his wife — who was the only woman he had ever loved — and was hoping to find a way to make the relationship work to keep his family intact. But he was shot to death before he’d ever get that reconciliation.

On the night of the murders, Craig claimed that he had been watching hunting and fishing shows at a rustic cabin about half an hour away from the murder scene. GBI Special Agent John Barry searched the cabin and found no sign of a 12-gauge shotgun, but he did find shotgun shells in Craig’s pickup.

Craig also told investigators that a 12-gauge shotgun he had stored in a shed at the back of his family’s property had been stolen along with a pair of boots.

He insisted that there had been nothing romantic going on between him and Robin.

“I know that it looks bad, but I’m gonna tell you something, I couldn’t do that to my brother,” Craig insisted in a taped interview with investigators just two days after the murders.

But what Craig didn’t know was that Robin had already divulged the relationship to investigators.

Without enough evidence to arrest Craig, authorities let him go and kept tabs on him as he moved in with Robin and began driving his slain brother’s truck.

Then, nine months after the brutal murders, investigators finally believed they had the evidence they needed to arrest Craig and charge him with the murders of his brother and father.

Prosecutors would argue in court that Craig snuck into the family home and shot his father, brother, and mother because he coveted his brother’s wife and wanted to assume Carey’s life.

Despite the shocking arrest, Craig’s family — including his other brother Chris and even his mom Linda — continued to support him and insisted there was no way he would have ever resorted to murder.

Linda testified that Craig had seemed “worried” about her and protective of her in the days after the shooting and said she had no reason to suspect he was the person who pulled the trigger.

The dramatic trial would also include testimony from Robin herself, who testified that she had a “very good, prosperous living” with Carey.

“He was a very good husband,” she said. “He was the best father, a wonderful father.”

Robin said the crack in their relationship came in 2008 when Carey — stressed about the financial crisis — began spending more time at work and had less time to devote to her.

Robin admitted to telling her husband about the affair with his brother in May of 2008.

“He was very upset and he said, um, that if I was going to have an affair he wished it would have been with anybody else except his brother,” she testified.

Robin testified that tensions among the family members were at an all-time high just weeks before the shooting, and recounted a heated argument she had with Philip, who urged her to put an end to the relationship, in the driveway. It was a conversation she would later reiterate to Craig, she testified.

Hickman testified that Philip had talked about taking his oldest son out of his will after discovering the infidelity.

Another family friend also took the stand to testify about an incident before the shooting. She testified that Craig walked into the home with a gun and confronted Carey, in front of their father, not long before the murders. Jurors saw photos of damage that prosecutors said had been caused that day during a scuffle for the firearm.

Then the weekend of the murder, according to prosecutor Michael Muldrew, Philip and Carey had recruited someone with a helicopter to fly over the rustic cabin where Craig was staying to take pictures documenting Craig and Robin’s vehicles together outside the cabin. The invasion only fueled Craig’s rage, who had once told his mother that if he wanted Robin, he would have her.

Muldrew said Craig made his move in the early hours of August 25, 2008 after Robin told him earlier that night that Carey was spending the night at their parents' home.

They also pointed to tell-tale bruises found on Craig’s upper arms that they argued had come from the kick back of a shotgun.

Craig’s defense team would argue there was no physical evidence, including DNA or blood, to link Craig to the crime and relied on testimony from his mother and brother.

But even with the support of his surviving family members, a jury would side with the prosecution and opted to convict Craig of killing his brother and father. He was given two life sentences for each death and an additional 85 years for other crimes, including the attempted murder of his mother.