Neil Heddings

Neil Heddings
In 2003 Neil Heddings was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the death of his 2-year-old son Marty. The jury found his girlfriend, Christine “Pinky” Rams, guilty of second-degree murder. Neil received a manslaughter charge because the jury felt that he didn’t do enough to protect Marty from Christine. He served a 4-years and is now out and a free man having paid his debt to society. I caught up with Neil and talked with him for quite some time. I came away from this interview feeling sorry for Neil, I don’t know what happened the night Marty died, but the fact is Neil has paid the ultimate price, the life of his son. Read on:

How does it feel to be a free man?

It’s cool man. I’ve been super stoked. Just been hanging out.

Has it been hard adjusting to being out?

Not really. I’ve got all my friends and family supporting me super good and I’ve been skating and stuff. It’s definitely been a trip but at the same time it’s not hard at all. I’m just jumping right back into who I am which is Neil Heddings the Skateboarder.

How long did you serve?

I served about four and a half years.

It’s weird it seemed like just yesterday that you went in. The time seemed to go really fast for us on the outside. What was it like in there?

Yeah well you know what it, almost seemed like it went really quick when I was in as well but obviously looking back everything is going to seem a bit easier than it really was. The way I am looking at it now is that everything is good right now.

Is your girl still in jail?

Yeah she is serving double life. 

Are you still in touch with her every day?

Yeah I’m just writing letters right now. I don’t have a phone in my house yet. I can’t go visit her in prison because I’m on parole. She got two life sentences and 40 years.

You and Christine have proclaimed you innocence from day one. Tell us how it all went down.

Well without getting too deep into it, basically my son died and they tried to pin whatever they thought happened to him on us which wasn’t something that happened. In the end they used a scapegoat as far as Christina goes and they gave her murder charge and a battery cause of death, that is where her two life sentences came in. And as far as I go they gave me involuntary manslaughter for my failure to protect Marty from Christine.  Which is basically a big pile of bullshit. What really happened was that as far as the judicial system goes, it’s a really messed up system. All politicians are career-minded individuals. All they are worried about are their conviction rates, their records, and the success of their own job. They step on people’s lives day in and day out. At the point where we were ready to go to trial, I had already been there so long that they had no choice for their own political and business careers to move forward and prosecute us and try and put us away. I mean, the DA, Kelly Hanson even said himself that he believed in my innocence but his supervisor wouldn’t allow him to give me a proper appeal or offer me a time served kind of thing at that point. So we went ahead and went into trial and they won.

Christine was found guilty, how did your sentencing play out?

Yeah pretty much they used me as an accessory, which is all bullshit because anybody that really knows me knows that, what supposedly happened is not something that would go down in my life. In my house, or with my children you know? Or anybody in my family. Or even my friends I wouldn’t let anything happen to anybody that I have that much love for.   It’s been a really unfortunate set of bad circumstances. You know? And we’re living through it. We’re all still alive and we’re pushing forward.

I can’t imagine. I’ve got a five-year-old son and I could never imagine losing him. It’s like a bad dream that you can’t wake up from.

Yeah it’s definitely been pretty much completely horrible everything that has happened. But there is a lot of it that has made me a lot stronger of a human being. Obviously I could have done without all of it but there is a positive side to everything that you go though and you’ve got to utilize that or you’re not going to make it.

Did the other inmates treat you differently because of the circumstances you were in under?

I had it real good in there. The dudes in there knew who I was. They knew I was a pro skater. Once they got to know me they realized what kind of character I had and I ended up being just fine in there. I had my fair share of little fights but it wasn’t over my supposed crime and what I was doing there. It was over the day-to-day things that are inevitable in prison. As far as people that I kick it with there in prison I had a real good group. I surrounded myself with good people and I had no major issues in there.

What are your sponsors doing to help you now?

I’m still in the process of working out my sponsors. I’m trying to take it slowly and rebuild my career. I don’t really have anything super definite in the works yet. I’ve been hanging out with Jamie Thomas as far as Fallen Shoes goes. I’ve been working with Pig Wheels trying to get my wheel back with them, and Independent is still going strong, of course. Independent has been my main sponsor throughout my entire career. They were the first company I was with and they’ve been the only company that I’ve had my entire career. I’ve had a board out with Sacrifice for all the years that I was in prison.  Those dudes have always been really cool to me but I’m in the process of switching over to Creature Skateboards right now. Rene over at Sacrifice is a great dude, he’s a real good friend of mine and he told me from the beginning that if there is somebody that comes along and is willing to offer me a good chunk of money and that I feel that if I need to do something that will further my career than to go ahead and do it. Our friendship and what we’ve done with Sacrifice has always been about that, they are major supporters of mine and I am a major supporter of them and they are really good friends, they are like family. I’m just trying to make money. I’ve got to try and advance my career. I’m moving on a little bit. There is no bad blood as far as I’m concerned. I’m just making some changes in my life.

Did any sponsors that you had before it all went down try to distance themselves from you or anything like that?

Yeah Vans really did. In fact, they owe me money still from back in the day. They kind of dropped off the face of the earth anytime anybody would mention my name. It really disappointed me. I mean, I’ve got Vans tattooed across my feet. They are pretty much the only shoe company that I rode my entire career. Companies’ turn corporate you know? What surprised me was there was a fundraiser event and Nike came out and shot my mom a load of money to help her with some bills. And they publicly announced that they had my back as far as being a skateboarder. As soon as that happened, Vans tried to jump back on the bandwagon a few years later. They tried to follow suit but I’m just a little bit smarter than that. I was like, “Damn, you dissed me once I’m not going to let you diss me twice.” So I’m looking at a lot of things.

If you could go back to before all fo this went down, say 5 years ago, what would you do differently?

Hindsight is 20/20, you know? As far skateboarding and my career go, things were going really good at the time. I had a business going, I was skateboarding, I was traveling, my career was doing fine. I wasn’t doing no wrong. I think that what ever happened was a really bad unforeseeable event and it changed my life in major ways. Who knows what would have happened if I stayed on that same path I was on before. Who knows where I would be right now. Maybe I would be worse off than I am right now. God is the only one that can tell you what’s down with your life and what your destiny is and he isn’t going to tell you. No, I don’t think that I would have changed a thing about how I’ve been and how I’ve lived and everything that I’ve done. It’s built me to be the person that I am today regardless of what I’ve been through.

Neil Heddings Front Side Air

Frontside Air. Photo: Joshua Word.

Are you going to try and bring Roll Model back?

No not really now. I’m just not into that responsibility. I’m going to skate and build my career back up to where I feel comfortable being and I’m just going to ride everybody else’s ticket again for a while. I have no room in my life for all that responsibility. Maybe in the future, I’ve got a couple of business plans in mind but it’s not something I would start until I was completely ready. I have to be comfortable with where I am at right now. I can’t sit here and tell you what I am and what I’m not going to do as far as stuff like that goes. I’ve only been out a month. I just have to get back on my wheels again.

How did you pass time in prison?

You learn to do things day by day. You kick it with your friends. Get in fights. Draw a lot. You drink and do all sorts of things. You do what ever it is you can get away with in there and you pass the time. For the most part I had a good time in there a lot of the time because like I said I surrounded myself with really good people. I had a lot going on in there as far as things that you can do in there. I’m not really going to get real vocal on stuff like that but I mean you definitely find ways to pass time. You write a lot of letters, you draw. And you try and involve yourself with your circle of friends that you made in there and roll with that whole crew. Sometimes you wind up just sitting and thinking a lot, you persevere either way.

What do you want to say to everyone?

If anything I just want to thank everyone who had my back the entire time I was gone. There were a lot of people that really believed in me and I hope that they know that I really appreciate that. All the people that supported my mom and my family when I was gone, sent some money for bills. I really appreciate that it shows me that where I am at today. I came out and people were just automatically like, “Neil, what’s up? Hey we’re so stoked to see you back, lets go skate!” The attitude never changed even though I went through all this weird stuff people still had my back. People still believed in me.


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