Heatherington appeals mischief conviction, sentence

October 8, 2004 


LETHBRIDGE, Alta. (CP) - A former southern Alberta alderwoman found guilty of public mischief for sending lurid stalking letters to herself is appealing her conviction and sentence.

Dar Heatherington, 41, filed appeal papers in Lethbridge court Friday.

Heatherington was sentenced in September to a 20-month conditional sentence after she was convicted in June by Judge Peter Caffaro.

She resigned from Lethbridge city council in August and had already announced she wouldn't seek re-election when voters go to the polls in municipal elections Oct. 18.

During Heatherington's sentencing in provincial court, Caffaro said the fact she had served her community as an alderwoman and did not have a criminal record worked in her favour.

"In this case we have public mischief but no specific victim. The victim is the municipality of Lethbridge," said Caffaro.

"I am convinced Darlene Heatherington is not a danger to the community. However, I do not think in the present case, given her attitude, she is any help to the community."

Heatherington's run-ins with the law began in the spring of 2003 when she vanished in Great Falls, Mont., while on council business. She reappeared three days later in Las Vegas saying she had been drugged, abducted and sexually assaulted. She later recanted the story to Montana police.

After she returned from the United States, police in Lethbridge charged her with lying to them about being harassed by a persistent stalker. She said the stalking included phone calls and lurid letters to the family home.

Heatherington has always maintained her innocence, however, and denied she had anything to do with the letters and calls.

But Caffaro was highly critical of her credibility. He pointed to the fact that police discovered she had been reading books about stalkers at the local library and that some of the lurid stalker letters she said she received were identical to ones found on her office computer.

"Coincidence? I think not," the judge said at the time.

The judge also dismissed as highly speculative a defence suggestion that Heatherington's husband, Dave, was to blame.