Jeff Hillard (left) talks to his attorney and Heidi Hillard talks to her attorney during a break at a preliminary hearing in Sedgwick County District Court Feb. 3. The Hillards are charged with murder.
Hearing details torture, death
By Taylor Messick
Last Updated: February 16, 2017
The case against four people charged in the brutal torture and death of Scottie Goodpaster Jr. unfolded in Sedgwick County District Court last week.
For some witnesses, the details were difficult to recount.
The preliminary hearing, which is being held to determine whether the case will move forward, went on for two days and will resume Feb. 10.
Four people are accused of killing Goodpaster at a home on South Meridian in Valley Center Nov. 6. Heidi Hillard, Jeff Hillard, Willie Morris and Brian Bussart are each charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated kidnapping and three counts of aggravated battery. Jeff and Heidi Hillard are also charged with one count of rape. The fifth defendant, Alexandria Scott, is charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping.
The preliminary hearing lasted all day Feb. 2 and 3 for Heidi Hillard, Jeff Hillard and Willie Morris.
Scott waived her right to a preliminary hearing and will have a trial by jury on March 6. Bussart waived his right to a preliminary hearing and jury trial. He will have a bench trial on Feb. 23. He has accepted a plea deal in exchange for his testimony, which will dismiss all charges except for first-degree murder. Prosecutors are recommending a prison sentence of 25 years with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Testimony came from three witnesses. Craig Bright is the former brother-in-law of Jeff Hillard and testified on Feb. 2; the two had contact on the day of the crimes. Goodpaster's girlfriend testified on Feb. 2 and 3. Brian Bussart began testimony on Feb. 3 and will finish cross-examination on Feb. 10.
Goodpaster's former girlfriend is not being named because she was the alleged victim of a sexual assault. The details of her testimony were difficult for some to process because of her borderline schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, which created some consistency issues in her testimony.
During cross-examination by the defense, the woman outlined a chaotic, drug-filled lifestyle she and Goodpaster had been leading during the month before his murder. She detailed homelessness and crime that became routine parts of the day for the couple during their month of acquaintance. According to her testimony, the couple woke up each day not knowing where they'd sleep that night; she said they often sold an ounce of methamphetamine each day and panhandled to pay for hotel rooms and other necessities. She said the relationship had "gotten serious" during their final week together and that the two were "emotionally attached."
Nov. 6 was a typical day for her and Goodpaster, she said. They found a group of potential methamphetamine customers in Heidi Hillard, Jeff Hillard, Willie Morris, Brian Bussart and Alexandria Scott. According to the woman's testimony during cross-examination, they also found a potential seller in her brother. Bussart testified during the prosecution's examination that an ounce of meth can cost up to $800; the group was only able to come up with $185 so the woman's brother offered to trade his handgun to make up the difference.
Things went south when the brother, who left the hotel room earlier, was arrested after being pulled over and failed to deliver the meth. No one else involved in the deal was aware of his arrest at the time and the buying party got anxious when they felt they had been swindled. According to the woman's testimony during the prosecution's examination, she woke up to the five suspects already inside of the hotel room. Bussart said that a third person, Danielle, was staying with the couple at the hotel room and opened the door when he knocked and told her it was him; the rest of the suspects accompanied him.
The woman said that conversations about the missing drugs and money stayed civil for about 20 minutes before Heidi Hillard asked to talk to her in the restroom and proceeded to threaten and question her. Heidi asked repeatedly about a "setup" before striking the woman in the head and knocking her to the ground, she said. The victims' cell phones were taken by the suspects and the woman was told she would have to come with the Hillards, who she had just met, to "explain it to Ted," she said. She was led out of the hotel room at knife-point and told by the Hillards to "remain calm" and "don't act like anything's happening," she said.
Alexandria Scott went with them. The woman had known Scott for three years since Scott had dated the woman's ex-boyfriend's brother.
According to testimony, Goodpaster didn't appear fearful at the time and left under his own volition with Morris and Bussart. Bussart said the three went back to the Hillard residence in Valley Center and smoked methamphetamine for several hours. Bussart had been living with the Hillards for about two months and had known Heidi for almost a year; Bussart had known Morris for five years and Goodpaster for four months.
The female victim said that she was driven to Walmart and questioned more about a "setup" and threatened. Scott was sent inside by the Hillards to purchase rope, zip ties and a blindfold; after returning, she asked to be taken home before telling the woman "you get what you deserve," she said.
The woman was child-locked in the back seat of the vehicle with Heidi and was driven to an empty parking lot by Jeff. Once they arrived, Heidi used a taser on the woman about 20 times, she said. When she still didn't give any answers about the "setup," the Hillards got more aggressive. The woman said Jeff climbed into the back seat and laid on top of her while blindfolding her and zip-tying her hands together; he then took the taser from Heidi and proceeded to lift her shirt and use the taser on her abdomen and on her genitals.
After the tasing stopped, the woman said she was strangled unconscious by Jeff Hillard with a rope-like object. When she woke up, she said she begged for her life and admitted she was trying to think of anything to tell the Hillards to get them to stop.
She said that she told them Goodpaster claimed earlier in the day that he wanted to "set them up with law enforcement" after the meth deal was done. Bussart wasn't present when she told the Hillards this, but claimed during examination that Heidi was enraged because she was under the impression Goodpaster would come after her children and try to get them taken away, a detail that wasn't admitted by the female victim.
The woman said after telling the Hillards about the "setup," Jeff "seemed to drive faster" back to the Hillard residence. Once back at the residence, the group lured an unsuspecting Goodpaster into a large farm shed with his blindfolded and zip-tied girlfriend. The victims were seated in wooden desk chairs and surrounded by the suspects. The Hillards began to question Goodpaster about the supposed "setup" that he may or may not have even known about.
Eyewitness accounts conflicted over who threw the other under the bus once Goodpaster and the woman were cornered. The woman said she became angry when Goodpaster started blaming her for the failure of the drug deal. Bussart gave a different account during examination.
"She just kept saying he's a liar," said Bussart. "He kept denying it; he never really blamed her for it, he just kept denying it."
Witnesses said that Goodpaster was tortured over a two-hour period, mainly by the Hillards, while the others were present and failed to do anything to stop it. The female victim was cut loose and "participated" in the torture of Goodpaster, according to Bussart. She claimed during cross-examination that she acted out of fear.
Eyewitness testimony corroborated that while the Hillards began to question Goodpaster more aggressively, they began also using the taser on him, beating him and kicking him; he was struck with pieces of wood, a spray painter, fists and feet. The female victim said Heidi drove the sharp end of a hatchet into Goodpaster's knee; she then threatened him with a knife before slicing his ear almost off and pushing screws into his ears. The woman said Heidi cut Goodpaster's genitals and told him she would "make sure" he "didn't have children." The woman described Goodpaster's screams as "yelps" and Bussart said the group started a mo-ped engine to drown out the sound. Bussart said the Hillards choked Goodpaster with an extension cord and attached jumper cables to Goodpaster's nipples, but the battery on the other end was dead.
Bussart claimed during examination that he doesn't like blood and couldn't watch most of the torture. He left the scene in a pickup to get cigarettes roughly an hour into the torture. Eyewitness testimonies claimed that Morris struck Goodpaster once with a fist and that the female victim struck him twice with a piece of wood and again with a fist. At three different times, Goodpaster attempted to escape. On the third try, he dove through a glass window and badly cut his arm; this increased the profuse bleeding in addition to his nose and other injuries.
After crashing through the window and trying to run, Goodpaster was chased down by Jeff Hillard and beaten even more while Morris helped hold him down, the woman said.
She said she was sent after a wagon in the yard to help move Goodpaster when Bussart arrived back at the residence in the pickup and pulled it over to the group. Heidi was concerned that Goodpaster was now screaming outside and sent Bussart after a staple gun, the woman testified. She said Heidi attempted to staple his mouth closed and taped over the staples when he was still able to scream.
The group tied a rope around Goodpaster's feet and loaded him onto the floor of the backseat of the pickup as Heidi's young daughters arrived back home with their babysitter sometime in the morning, the woman said. Heidi took the woman inside with the children and Jeff drove away with Morris and Bussart.
Bussart said during examination that Goodpaster eventually stopped fighting when they were loading him into the pickup and stopped moving shortly after they left the driveway.
The female victim said she felt the suspects now trusted her but said she was still terrified and didn't know what they would do to her. Heidi told her to shower and when she got out, she said she found Heidi in the bedroom with her daughters, she said. The two were then watching a video feed from cameras Bussart admitted to setting up a month before when the police showed up. The woman hid in the closet while the police kicked down the door and raided the house. The woman said that because she was on the run for probation violation, and also terrified, she lied to police about her identity.
Meanwhile, Jeff Hillard saw his neighbor, which is his mother, outside and feared that she had called the police, Bussart said. He headed south on Meridian to potentially throw off a pursuit and made his way to his former brother-in-law, Craig Bright. Bright lives on 93rd Street and instantly knew something was wrong when he saw Jeff, he said. He testified during examination that Jeff knocked at the door asking him to "help stash something" but said he didn't need to know the details. Bright saw blood on Jeff's hands, knew something was wrong and asked him to leave. Jeff again asked for help and inquired about cleaning supplies. Bright said he thought he could see someone slouched over in the backseat of the pickup as he gathered a couple of supplies for Jeff. He said Jeff told him the blood on his hands wasn't his. He immediately called the police when Jeff left. He broke down during cross-examination.
"I can share this as a man I've known a lot of years," said Bright. "I had never seen anything resembling the appearance that I saw on my porch that morning. I was fearful; and I had never had any reason to fear Jeff for anything. Jeff and I were brothers for a lot of years and I asked his help for things … so would I say I was shocked he asked for help? No. But I never dreamed I never dreamed it would've been."
After being turned away by Bright, the men frantically searched for another place to dispose of Goodpaster's body, Bussart said. They settled on a country location near a creek bed and some trees. Bussart said the men dragged Goodpaster's body to a tree where they tied the rope around his neck and Jeff pulled the rope over a branch and hung the man's corpse before dumping it in the creek.