AUBURN — A DeKalb County man described the wife he strangled as his “soulmate,” while the woman’s daughter sobbed loudly after questioning why her mother had been killed, during a sentencing hearing Monday in DeKalb Superior Court II.
Joseph F. Traster, 55, pleaded guilty to intentionally killing Lisa M. Heiser while acting “under sudden heat” in a Waterloo house on Halloween last year. Traster originally faced a charge of murder, but that was amended to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, a Level 2 felony, as part of a plea agreement.
Under the terms of the agreement, Judge Monte Brown sentenced Traster to 17 1/2 years in prison, all executed, and no probation.
Police found Heiser dead inside a home in the 500 block of Meadows Lane, Waterloo, on the afternoon of Oct. 31. She had been strangled to death.
Jail records listed Traster’s address as the 1300 block of Shawna Avenue, Auburn, although he allegedly told police he lived at the home where the homicide occurred.
During a plea hearing in March, the court heard that while Traster was at work earlier that day, Heiser had sent him a text message indicating she wanted a divorce.
Traster said when he arrived home after work, Heiser was in bed, and he asked her to get up and talk. Traster said Heiser told him she was “through talking.”
Traster said he then went to the kitchen before returning to the bedroom, where he put on his pajamas.
“I tried to cuddle with her,” Traster said. “She kicked me in the groin.”
Traster said he went to the bathroom and then returned to the bedroom. Traster said he attempted to talk to Heiser, but she would not talk.
According to an affidavit of probable cause for Traster’s arrest, filed by DeKalb County Police Detective Brady Thomas, Traster told Thomas he got up onto his knees in the bed and placed both hands around Heiser’s neck. He said he squeezed Heiser’s neck for an amount of time he could not recall, the affidavit said.
Traster told Thomas he eventually lay back down on the bed and went to sleep. Traster said that around 2 p.m. that afternoon, a family member knocked on his bedroom door and woke him. Traster said he spoke briefly with the family member just outside the bedroom door. He then went back inside the bedroom and touched Heiser. Traster said she was cold to the touch, and he called his son, telling him he believed he killed his wife, according to the affidavit.
During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Traster apologized to Heiser’s family saying, “I can’t explain my actions.”
Traster continued, “I cry, I miss her. She will still always be a part of my heart no matter what. … She was my soulmate.”
Throughout Traster’s comments, Heiser’s daughter sobbed. Prior to Traster’s statement, Heiser’s daughter addressed the court.
“I want to know why,” she said. “I want to know why he took her away from me, when I was sleeping and couldn’t do anything to help her. … He took the only parent I have in my life. He took my baby’s grandma away.
“Does it make you feel like a better man that you did what you did?” she asked Traster.
Traster silently shook his head and looked down at the table in front of him.
“I shouldn’t have to be here today,” the daughter continued. “There’s so many things I want to know why.”
Both DeKalb County Prosecutor ClaraMary Winebrenner and Traster’s attorney, DeKalb County Public Defender Mark Olivero, asked Brown to accept the plea agreement that came with a fixed sentence of 17 1/2 years.
Winebrenner noted that Traster has no prior criminal record, and Brown acknowledged that in cases such as this, that would be unusual.
Reviewing a presentence investigation, Brown noted Traster has been candid and never denied or disputed the facts in charging documents.
Turning to Heiser’s daughter, Brown said, “Oftentimes there are no answers to the fair questions you have raised. I wish I did” have answers. “You certainly have my sympathy.”
Brown described Traster as “a victim of his own conduct” and said he “now has to pay a very, very serious price.”