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Children Accused Of Killing Father

February 20, 1986

KNOXVILLE, Iowa (AP) _ A 15-year-old boy and his 12-year-old sister, accused of murder in the fatal shooting of their father, are ″sweet kids who never did anything exceptionally wrong,″ their mother says.

″This whole thing is stupid,″ said Donna Woodard after her son, Matthew Gasparovich Jr., and daughter, Heidi, were put in the custody of Marion County youth authorities Wednesday on a charge of delinquency by first-degree murder.

″They don’t deserve this. They don’t deserve to be in there,″ the mother said outside the courtroom where District Court Judge Thomas Mott ruled there was enough evidence to hold the two. He set another hearing for Wednesday.

Her ex-husband, Matthew Gasparovich Sr., was found shot to death at his farm home near Columbia on Monday. Officers took the children into custody earlier Monday near Osceola, about 40 miles away, where the car they were driving had run out of gas.

Ms. Woodard said the children had only $7 when they ran out of gas and were on their way to Los Angeles, where she lives.

Her children are ″sweet kids who have never done anything exceptionally wrong. They’re real scared now. There’s no way they did this,″ she said.

Gasparovich’s relatives refused to discuss the case, but Ms. Woodard said her ex-husband was abusive during their 10-year marriage.

″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.″

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

Ms. Woodard flew to Iowa and joined her children during Wednesday’s court appearance. She said she told them not to blame themselves for what happened.

Among evidence introduced at the hearing was a note authorities said was written by one of the children. Signed ″JR.,″ It depicts a gun being fired at a sleeping man and says, ″we will take everything and leave and burn down the house with Dad in it.″

Investigators also found Heidi’s pink handbag that contained 12-gauge shotgun shells or ammunition, empty ammunition shells or boxes and other evidence, court documents said.

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

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 into a new apartment. Matthew Jr. had been in Iowa since last October, she said.

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

Ms. Woodard said she intends to move to Des Moines to be near her children. ″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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