Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Theirs may not be your typical love story. But in a WCCO exclusive, Denny Hecker’s wife says she and the imprisoned former auto dealer were made for each other.
The two married after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud — and soon were both behind bars in separate states.
Last month at Celebration Church in Lakeville a slender woman stood up to tell her story. Her name is Christi Rowan-Hecker.
“I am going to use a different name, Denny Hecker, I don’t know if anyone knows him,” she said at the church.
At this Christian women’s conference, Rowan-Hecker explains her devotion to a man she went to prison for.
“I’m his wife and I’m extremely honored to be his wife,” she said then.
And she spoke of her own crime.
She committed perjury and falsified a credit application to get Hecker, her then boyfriend, a Land Rover in 2008.
“The finance company came back and asked me for a W2, so I gave them my W2 and I added a 1 in front of it — that’s what I did,” she said.
Her talk draws applause.
Afterward, she tells women she hopes her story can help others.
Rowan-Hecker now supports herself and her two children with her photography business and working for Celebration Church.
Denny Hecker is 21 years older than her. She denies it was his money that attracted her to him.
“That relationship picked me,” she said. “He was made for me.”
Their relationship unfolded publicly amidst two years of court appearances in his criminal, bankruptcy and divorce cases.
Rowan-Hecker says he coped by taking painkillers.
“He was using Vicodin,” she said.
She and her 16-year-old daughter, Rachel, say Hecker was unpredictable.
“The mood swings were huge,” Christi said.
Rachel added, “but we didn’t know … you could never tell.”
Christi continued on, saying, “He was a great, functioning addict. Nothing inside me said, ‘walk.’ Nothing did.”
In February 2011, they were married by telephone when he was in the Sherburne County Jail.
The next month she went to federal prison in Illinois — 10 months away from her children; Rachel and then-6-year-old Fysher.
“It was really hard,” Rachel said.
“There is still forgiveness that needs to happen,” Christi said. “I pray every day that she’s able to forgive me.”
Denny Hecker is now serving his 10-year sentence at the low-security federal prison in Loretto, Penn.
He calls Christi two to three times a day. In a telephone interview from prison, Hecker says he is doing well after an emergency angioplasty last month.
“I feel great, I really do,” he said. “Working out, probably at my high school weight right now.”
Last winter, he was abruptly moved from the federal prison camp in Duluth, Minn. Sources told WCCO he was caught with a smuggled cell phone.
When asked why that moved him, he said, “I am not sure, I can answer that call or that question.”
The trustee in Hecker’s ongoing bankruptcy case has repeatedly accused him of hiding assets. We asked him if it was true.
“Well Esme, I think that question has been asked and answered, and quite frankly I’m just at my wit’s end,” he said.
He says he struggles to pay for extra food, hygiene and other items at the prison commissary.
“It costs about $75 a week to live in prison and every week it seems pretty hard to scrape that up,” he said.
Hecker once lived in a 30,000-square-foot mansion.
Now he shares a living space with other inmates.
“There is 150 men on the floor, kind of an open warehouse,” he said. “You have to learn to be patient.”
And he dreams of the day he can be with his wife.
“I am here paying my time and hopefully, God willing, my health stays together and I will get out of here and Christi and I will continue our great life together,” he said.
He ended the call telling us he was being moved to a different location in the prison.
He told his wife, “Christi, I will call you in about an hour. OK, love you guys.”
Christi is on probation until 2017. Denny is scheduled to be released in 2019.
He will be 67 years old then.