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Children Accused Of Killing Father

February 20, 1986

COLUMBIA, Iowa (AP) _ A 15-year-old and his 12-year-old sister were charged Wednesday with killing their father, who their mother said had abused her and excessively used alcohol and drugs.

Among the evidence seized by police was a child’s drawing of a gun being fired at a sleeping man and the girl’s pink handbag containing shotgun shells.

Matthew Gasparovich Jr. and his sister, Heidi, were charged with first- degree murder and ordered held in juvenile hall in Des Moines after a detention hearing in Marion County District Court. Another hearing was set for next week.

The two were taken into custody Monday after they were stranded near Osceola when the car they were driving ran out of gas. Officers who went to the farm home near Columbia of their father, Matthew Gasparovich, found him dead.

Their mother, Donna Woodard, who was divorced from Gasparovich and lives in Los Angeles, said Wednesday they were on their way to California when they ran out of gas and had only $7 with them.

She said her children were ″sweet kids who have never done anything exceptionally wrong. They’re real scared now. There’s no way they did this.″

Among evidence introduced at Wednesday’s hearing was a note written by one of the children, but authorities said they were not sure who wrote the note, which was signed ″J.R.″

Ms. Woodard said she had refused to give law enforcement officers permission to talk to her children.

The note included a drawing of a gun being fired at a sleeping man and said ″and we will take everything and leave and burn down the house with Dad in it.″

According to court documents, investigators also found a pink handbag belonging to Heidi which contained 12-gauge shotgun shells, empty shells or boxes and other evidence.

Marion County Attorney Marty Mertz declined to answer any questions about the note or the investigation.

Ms. Woodard said her 10-year marriage to Gasparovich ended several years ago in divorce.

″He was physically and mentally abusive, but I really don’t care to go into it too much,″ she said. ″He had problems with drinking and drugs when I was married to him.

″Matthew said he hated staying with his father, although he wasn’t drinking as much as he had in the past.″

Gasparovich’s relatives refused to discuss the case.

Ms. Woodard flew to Iowa after her children were taken into custody and joined them during Wednesday’s court appearance.

″I was told they tried to call me to tell me their Dad had been drinking,″ shew said. ″If I had known that, I would have come right away.

″This whole thing is stupid. They don’t deserve this. They don’t deserve to be sitting in there (the courtroom).″

The children were supposed to be staying with their grandmother, Olga Gasparovich, Ms. Woodard said. ″I don’t know why they weren’t there. I have no idea why they were at his house,″ she said.

Ms. Woodard said she had sent Heidi to Iowa for a temporary stay while she moved to a new apartment in California. Matthew Jr. had been in Iowa since October, she said.

She said when she was first told Gasparovich was dead, she thought he had killed himself because ″he always talked about suicide.″

She said she told her children not to blame themselves for what had happened, and that she intends to move to Des Moines to be with them.

″I’m not going to leave my kids again. I’m going to do whatever I can to help them,″ she said.

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