POCATELLO — Friends in the local law enforcement community remember former Bannock County Prosecutor Mark Hiedeman as a skilled attorney who spoke his mind, loved his community and revered the position he held for two decades.
Hiedeman, 73, died Thursday of natural causes. He’d been seriously ill for the better part of a month.
Hiedeman joined the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office as a deputy prosecutor in 1985, after graduating from law school. He was appointed to be prosecutor in 1991 following his predecessor’s resignation. He was elected to the office in 1992 and was reelected to serve five additional terms.
His longtime friend, private practice attorney Jesse Robison, said he regarded Hiedeman as a brother. Robison admired Hiedeman for his common sense and his big heart.
Robison said Hiedeman often let friends who were down on their luck live in his basement until they could get back on their feet. Robison recalled a man whom Hiedeman prosecuted who became a close friend. He said the man was a hopeless alcoholic, and in the man’s final days, Hiedeman would buy and deliver his groceries.
Hiedeman had a trademark gold front tooth. A few years ago, Robison said Hiedeman had to get dentures, and he had a gold tooth installed in the set, believing it would be weird at that point to change his smile.
Robison said Hiedeman seemed to excel at everything he tried, including golf, poker, basketball and billiards.
“He was the best pool shooter I ever saw,” Robison said.
Robison believes it reflected favorably on Hiedeman that his office was always “quiet and stable.”
“The job is difficult because you’re trying to keep so many interests happy. You want to make sure you bring charges against people but you don’t want to overcharge people,” Robison said.
Robison said Hiedeman personally handled the county’s first-degree murder cases, and some of the grisliest murder cases in local history occurred during his watch.
Steve Herzog, who was elected in 2012 to succeed Hiedeman as Bannock County prosecutor, believes a high point in Hiedeman’s career was when he secured a pair of convictions against two high school students for the September 2006 murder of Pocatello High School student Cassie Jo Stoddart. Both of the teens who committed the crime were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.
“That was a big accomplishment, and having the convictions survive many layers of appeals said a lot about the quality of the prosecution,” Herzog said.
Herzog said it was also apparent that Hiedeman cared deeply for Stoddard’s family, who became strong supporters of his office following the trials.
Herzog got to know Hiedeman well when he spent time with him to learn the ropes of the office between his election and getting sworn in.
“It was really good for me to be able to hang out with him for a while and get a feel for how you run this office,” Herzog said, adding Hiedeman was a good trial lawyer with a great sense of humor. “He was very gracious.”
Hiedeman advised Herzog that being a prosecutor was the best job in the world and that he should make sure to enjoy the experience.
Bannock County Sheriff Tony Manu recalled how Hiedeman would use his coffee mug as a prop in trials, essentially playing a courtroom game of rope-a-dope with opposing attorneys. Manu explained Hiedeman would hold his mug and appear aloof, seemingly paying more attention to his coffee than opposing arguments.
“At that right moment he would make statements in a trial and he would just blow you away,” Manu recalled. “He was like a sniper.”
Manu said Hiedeman also loved his community and had many friends.
“I’m going to miss him,” Manu said. “I know a lot of sheriffs deputies who have retired and had experiences with him are going to miss him as well.”
Former Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said Hiedeman often visited crime scenes to aid in subsequent prosecutions.
“He was a good prosecutor. He was also a good friend,” Nielsen said. “He worked very, very closely with law enforcement and he took on some pretty heavy cases and handled them well.”
Ed Gygli, a retired Idaho State Police captain, said Hiedeman ranked among the best of the many prosecutors he worked with throughout a 32-year career. Gygli considered Hiedeman to be a good friend who would never sugarcoat his constructive criticism.
“He was always frank and to the point,” Gygli said. “He was never one to be afraid to disagree with you. He’d always tell you what he thought. ... He’ll be missed and he provided a wonderful service to this community.”
Heideman is survived by two sons, two daughters, several grandchildren and his girlfriend of more than seven years, Cynthia Billmeyer.
Billmeyer wrote in a social media post after Hiedeman’s death, “My Handsome, King of My Heart, True North, My Person, Mark passed away yesterday, Thursday Oct. 28. I was blessed to cherish 7 1/2 years with my treasure, a wonderful dad, grandpa, great-grandpa, brother, star prosecutor, golfer, skier, deer friend and my heart.”