Jessica Heavner said it was just like her brother, Jefferson, to stop and help a stranded driver who’d spun off an icy road in Catawba County Friday.
But it cost the 26-year-old single dad his life.
“Pretty much the irony is he went out of this world doing what he loved to do: helping people,” Jessica Heavner said.
Jefferson Heavner and two other men were passing in a truck when they went to help the motorist whose car spun out on Mathis Church Road in the Bandys community, Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid said.
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Nearby neighbors came to help, too. It was about 5:20 p.m. Friday.
But when the stranded motorist, Marvin Jacob Lee, 27, of Claremont, became belligerent, the Good Samaritans decided to call police to come help him.
“They thought he was drunk or on dope and said, ‘Let’s just call the law and let them deal with it,’ ” Reid said.
As they called, Lee took out an automatic pistol and started shooting, the sheriff said. The group ran. A bullet struck Jefferson Heavner, who fell. Reid said Lee walked to Heavner, stood over him and shot him “numerous times.”
Lee returned to his car, as deputies arrived. They shouted for him to get out.
When he didn’t, they called a SWAT team, which pulled their armored truck up to Lee’s car. “They saw that he was passed out,” Reid said.
SWAT members pulled Lee from his car. He awoke as they struggled to pull him out and tried to resist, Reid said.
Lee was in the Catawba County Jail without bond Saturday.
Lee’s previous run-in with police involved traffic infractions, and he did not have any prior arrests for violent offenses, records show.
Living for the moment
Jefferson Heavner grew up in the town of Catawba and lived in Newton.
He always wore a smile, his sister said, and loved the outdoors, including hunting, working on cars and riding four-wheelers.
“He was always up for an adventure,” she said.
“He was very fun loving. “He lived every day in the day and for the moment.”
Jefferson Heavner, who was recently laid off from his job as a line worker for Time Warner Cable, leaves behind a 17-month-old son, his sister said.
Family members recalled how Jefferson Heavner always went out of his way to help others.
If he saw a stranger in the local Wal-Mart parking lot whose car wouldn’t start Heavner would get his jumper cables out, his sister said.
“Jefferson was always willing to help out in situations like this,” wrote his aunt, Crystal Steagall, on a Go Fund Me page she set up to help with funeral and other expenses. “This was a senseless crime that took a son, brother and father from a family that loves him dearly.”
After funeral expenses, “every penny will go to a trust fund for his son,” Jessica Heavner said.
By Saturday night, about 75 people had contributed a total of $2,910 toward a $5,000 goal.
“The public out-pour has been very tremendous,” Jessica Heavner said.
Staff Researcher Maria David contributed