Cleve Heidelberg Dies A Free Man By Marcella Teplitz

On March 24, 2018, Cleve Heidelberg died quietly in his pajamas, in his own apartment with his recently purchased car parked outside. Cleve had plans for his future most of which revolved around helping others.   While his friends and family are sad that he is no longer with us, we all agree that he died a free man breathing free air.  Despite the efforts of those who would try to frame him for a crime he did not
commit, Cleve triumphed over his persecutors.

In the three years I worked on his case, I never saw him raise his voice or speak in anger about anything, especially his life which for almost 47 years, until May 22, 2017, was spent in prison.  While those of us on “Team Cleve” were often angry and frustrated about his incarceration, he never was.

Cleve was tried and convicted for the murder of a Peoria County Sheriff’s officer in 1970.  Despite the lengthy confession of another man to the crime in 1970, neither the police nor prosecutors would ever
speak with that man even though he was easily found in prison.  For that reason, among others, Cleve Heidelberg’s conviction was overturned by the judge. While his persecutors often said that this confession was “cooked up in prison” by Cleve and his fellow inmates, there is no truth to that lie.  In fact, one of his persecutors proved this to be a lie when he listened at the door of the jailhouse when Cleve met with his attorney on one of his first nights of incarceration.  The illegal eavesdropper heard Cleve tell his attorney that he had loaned his car to Lester Mason the night of the murder.  Cleve never changed his story in 47 years.

On May 22, 2017, Cleve Heidelberg walked free of the Peoria County Jail for the first time in almost 47 years.  His first stop was to see his sister Mae Winston.  Both Cleve and his sister were getting on in years, and she had but one wish – to live long enough to see her brother walk out of prison.  She prevailed in that wish and was able to spend many happy times with her brother before his passing.

From that day forward, if Cleve and I spoke on the phone or in person, he would always say that he was blessed, and he was.  His positiveness is an inspiration to all who knew Cleve, and we shall not forget him.  These are just a few of my personal thoughts and memories I wish to share with the people of Peoria.

Cleve Heidelberg spent 46 years and 361 days incarcerated for a crime he did not commit.  His strength and fortitude in the face of “unimaginable injustice” was amazing.

Marcella Teplitz
Private Investigator and Friend of Cleve Heidelberg