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No plea yet in elder abuse murder case

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Tony and Mary Heinricher
Tony and Mary Heinricher

A couple facing trial in the murder of an elderly woman postponed entering a plea Wednesday morning while attorneys discuss whether a transcript of testimony in the case should remain sealed.

Tony and Mary Heinricher of Napa face counts of murder and elder neglect causing death following the death of Tony Heinricher’s 92-year-old mother, Marilyn Heinricher.

The couple brought Marilyn Heinricher to the hospital Jan. 4, two weeks after she fell in her son’s front yard. She died from complications from the fall Jan. 22.

The Napa County grand jury indicted the couple following a hearing in September.

Mary Heinricher’s attorney, Mervin Lernhart, asked that a transcript of the grand jury hearing remain sealed, saying the information in the hearing would jeopardize her right to a fair trial.

Assistant Public Defender Ron Abernethy, who is representing Tony Heinricher, agreed.

The document becomes public after 10 days, said Deputy District Attorney Michael Mautner. Those 10 days expire Monday.

Judge Mark Boessenecker set a hearing for 8:30 a.m. Friday, when he will decide whether to temporarily extend the sealing order. 

The 388-page document includes testimony from law enforcement and witnesses.

In the meantime, the circumstances behind what led prosecutors to seek murder and neglect charges are unclear.

Mautner acknowledged that the delay in bringing Marilyn Heinricher to the hospital is part of why the Heinrichers are being held responsible for Marilyn Heinricher’s death.

He couldn’t give more reasons since indictment proceedings are secret until defendants are arrested.

The neglect charge lists the dates of the offense as between Dec. 22 and Jan. 4.

The Heinrichers are being held at Napa County Department of Corrections without bail.

Once they enter a plea, the case will go directly to trial. In regular criminal proceedings, cases go to a preliminary hearing first, where the prosecution presents evidence and a judge decides whether or not to hold the defendant to answer on the charges.

Mautner declined to give the reasons for seeking an indictment in this case instead of going the typical route.

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