The following was originally published in the Columbia (MO) Tribune on May 27, 2009.
Hoping a brother goes free
TV program re-creates trial of Dale Helmig.
By Terry Ganey
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Columbia lawyer Kenny Hulshof’s performance as a special prosecutor in the murder trial of Dale Helmig will be re-examined in an unusual episode of “America’s Most Wanted” that will be televised Saturday.
“The show is designed to capture bad people and put them away,” said producer Dave Bolton. “This case jumped to our attention because it looked like a huge miscarriage of justice because the bad guy who did the crime was still out there and the innocent guy was put in prison for a crime he did not commit.”
“America’s Most Wanted,” scheduled for broadcast at 8 p.m. Saturday on KQFX-TV (Fox 38), will devote an hour to the investigation and trial of Helmig, now 53, who in 1996 was convicted of murdering his mother. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The body of Norma Helmig, 55, was found in the flood-swollen Osage River near Linn on Aug. 1, 1993. A concrete block had been tied to her body with a nylon rope.
Although Dale Helmig usually lived with his mother near Linn, he said he spent the night of her murder at a motel in Fulton because flooding had blocked his route home. But Osage County Sheriff Carl Fowler said there was a window of time in which the floodwaters receded long enough to give Helmig an opportunity to commit the crime. Prosecutors said Helmig and his mother had argued over a $200 telephone bill.
Bolton said the program will focus on the sheriff’s investigation and re-create Helmig’s trial.
“When you look at the court transcript and read what the prosecution said and what the prosecution’s witnesses said happened, and you reinvestigate and find what really happened, you learn that the two do not mesh,” Bolton said. “Any objective person looking at the case and looking at the facts and looking into this criminal trial would say he did not get a fair trial and deserves another shot at justice.”
Hulshof, who worked as a special prosecutor for then-Attorney General Jay Nixon, helped argue the case against Helmig. Hulshof did not respond to a request for comment. In previous interviews he said he believed Helmig was guilty as charged and that it was his duty “to try to convince the jury of that.”
“Whatever their decision was would have been justice in that case,” Hulshof said in a 2005 interview. “And they unanimously found him guilty.”
In January, a judge overturned a murder conviction in another Hulshof-argued case. Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled evidence was withheld in the case of Joshua Kezer, who spent more than 14 years in prison for murder. Hulshof said he also stood by that conviction.
Hulshof served 12 years in Congress and was the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor against Nixon last year. Hulshof is now an attorney with the Polsinelli Shughart law firm in Kansas City.
Helmig, who is being held at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, has insisted he is innocent of the crime and that he loved his mother. Two previous documentaries have raised questions about his case. In 2000, a pilot television show, “Was Justice Denied,” challenged the outcome of Helmig’s trial. Later, students at Illinois State University in Normal completed “A Matter of Innocence: The Dale Helmig Story.” In 2005, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published “Questions of Justice,” a three-part series on Helmig’s case.
Dale Helmig’s younger brother, Richard Helmig of Rocky Mount in Morgan County, contacted “America’s Most Wanted” several years ago about his brother’s predicament.
“I believe he is 100 percent innocent,” Richard Helmig said. “We’re hoping that somebody might call in with some knowledge about the case.” He said “America’s Most Wanted” would protect the identities of those coming forward with new information.
Helmig said he talks to his brother in prison every day by phone. “He’s holding up well,” Richard Helmig said. “He has a lot of high hopes.”
Reach Terry Ganey at 573-815-1708 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.