In January 1991, Bernards township in New Jersey was shocked into silence when Dawn and Richard Heikkila were found murdered inside their residence. The couple was shot dead with a shotgun. As police tried their best to get to the bottom of the matter, family members struggled to accept the tremendous loss. Investigation Discovery’s ‘Your Worst Nightmare: The Worst Son’ chronicles the brutal murder and charts out the ensuing investigation which brought the murderer to justice. Let’s delve into the details of this case and find out where the perpetrator is at present, shall we?
How Did Dawn and Richard Heikkila Die?
Dawn and Richard Heikkila had an excellent standing in society and were quite respected. They were both working professionals, with Richard being a well-known Parkinson’s disease researcher employed by the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. On the other hand, Dawn worked as a real estate agent with Burgdorff Realtors. Considered to be kindhearted and generous people, their untimely demise is grieved to this day. Although Richard and Dawn were murdered on January 29, 1991, their bodies were ultimately discovered the following day.
Once the police got involved, they found Richard lying at the bottom of the stairs while his wife law in the second-floor hallway. They both were shot behind their heads with a shotgun, and an autopsy determined the bullet wounds to be the cause of their death. Besides, authorities were also able to find several spent shotgun shell casings nearby and hoped a ballistic report would provide a lead about the perpetrator. Moreover, in a terrifying discovery, the police noted that a shotgun shell was inscribed “Mom,” while another read “Dad,” signifying a premeditated crime.
Who Killed Dawn and Richard Heikkila?
With the discovery of the inscribed shotgun shells, the suspicion naturally fell on Dawn and Richard’s adopted adult son, Matthew Heikkila. As per the show, through the investigation, authorities learned that Matthew lived with quite a few mental health issues and was not always in control of his senses. He often had psychotic outbursts and lived with what the show called an “adopted child syndrome.” Although Matthew was adopted, Richard and Dawn loved him like their own son and wanted to see him excel in life. However, they weren’t happy with his attitude and often pushed him to change his ways.
The couple wanted to see their son become independent and succeed, but Matthew saw this as an attack on his freedom, and thus, he revolted. Court records even say that he was arrested and put on trial for threatening his father with murder in 1989. Nevertheless, he was found innocent by reason of insanity, and the judge let him off on the condition that he would attend therapy. However, therapy did not seem to help, and soon Matthew went back to his old ways.
The police investigation even discovered that Matthew picked up his girlfriend after killing his parents and took her out for dinner in New York. Once the two returned, he forced his girlfriend to spend the night in his house with Richard and Dawn’s body still lying out in the open. After obtaining his girlfriend’s statement, authorities were sure of Matthew’s involvement, but catching him was tough as he had already fled the country.
On February 4, 1991, an officer who had a previous run-in with Matthew spotted him in Jamaica. He was immediately apprehended, and authorities learned that he had flown to the foreign country on January 30 itself. Thus, with Matthew under arrest, he was brought back to the United States and charged with the murder of his parents – Dawn and Richard Heikkila.
Where Is Matthew Heikkila Now?
Once produced in court, Matthew Heikkila was convicted of 12 charges, including murder, kidnapping, robbery, unlawful weapon possession, and making terroristic threats. As a result, he was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 60 years in 1993. With Matthew not eligible for parole, reports state that he remains incarcerated at the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton and has a mandatory sentence up to 2051.