Helmick takes stand in her murder trial
After nearly four hours of testimony in which Miriam Helmick answered questions from her defense attorney Thursday, prosecutor Rich Tuttle used an aggressive cross-examination to suggest her recent relationships showed a pattern.
Helmick, 52, testified she was “not really” interested in Alan Helmick when they met over dance lessons in January 2005, shortly after she had moved to Grand Junction with little money, a pair of suitcases and two dogs, when she was living out of a run-down hotel for $170 a week.
Helmick, then Miriam Giles, but known to her boss at the time as “Franchesca,” was in town on assignment from her employer to teach dance instructors.
When Alan asked her out on a first date the next month, Helmick testified, she reluctantly agreed and “felt sorry for him,” while telling him the date would cost him two dance lessons. She moved in with him two weeks later, and they were engaged within months.
“It’s fair to say your lifestyle changed dramatically?” Tuttle asked.
“Yes,” Helmick said.
Roughly six months after Alan Helmick’s death on June 10, 2008, Miriam Helmick was surfing the Web, telling at least one person she was “horny” and looking for a “sugar daddy,” according to testimony.
She met Charles Kirkpatrick, a wealthy Orlando, Fla., business owner, in what she described Thursday as a “fling,” with no long-term ambitions. Kirkpatrick, however, last week testified Helmick had repeatedly asked about moving in with him soon after their first date over dinner, which included sex that same night and ended up with her staying at his home three days.
Helmick on Thursday said she stayed just two days and wasn’t interested in his money.
“It’s not exactly Brad Pitt you’re meeting,” Tuttle said.
“No,” Helmick replied.
“But money had nothing to do with it?”
“No,” she said.
Helmick testified she was “humiliated” by Kirkpatrick’s testimony.
Tuttle later raised testimony from another witness, who said Miriam told her on June 12, 2008, that her husband had been acting like an “expletive” just before his death.
“Pretty harsh words just two days after your husband’s murder,” Tuttle said.
“I thought I was having a conversation with a friend,” Helmick said.
During the same conversation, Helmick said she had “learned a car won’t explode” with a full tank of gas, a reference to a fire in Delta on April 30, 2008, involving Alan Helmick’s car while he was in the car.
“I wasn’t joking, and it was not a flip comment,” Helmick testified Thursday. “We were just having a discussion about the car.”
Tuttle then questioned why she waited some nine days after Alan Helmick’s death to clean a large, dried pool of her husband’s blood that had collected and crusted on the floor of a kitchen-office area in the couple’s home, where he was shot.
“Don’t you think that everybody else seems to be shocked by that blood, but you?” Tuttle asked.
Helmick’s defense objected to the question.
“I tried to clean it up,” she later explained. “And I tried not to go into that room.”
Calm, collected and with a monotone delivery that was barely audible in District Judge Valerie Robison’s courtroom, Helmick challenged testimony Thursday from a series of prosecution witnesses in her murder trial.
She was told on several occasions by Robison to speak closer to a microphone at the stand.
Helmick testified that her husband had instructed her in the spring of 2008 to call a life insurance agent with follow-up questions about a policy on his life. She said her husband was taking medication for high blood pressure at the time, and he had started smoking again, suggesting he wasn’t keen at the time to undergo a battery of medical tests required by the insurance company before they issued a policy.
The insurance agent earlier testified that Helmick called and asked about a $1 million policy, but the agent never heard from Helmick again when she was told her husband had to know about it in advance.
Helmick on Thursday denied asking the agent about a $1 million policy on her husband’s life.
“You know of any reason why she (agent) would make that up?” Tuttle asked.
“No,” Helmick responded.
Helmick also testified that her husband had approved of her writing and signing his checks, which drew on a pair of bank accounts controlled by her husband. Witnesses have testified that Alan Helmick was the only person authorized to sign on the accounts.
Prosecutors have alleged she forged 11 checks, totaling more than $40,000, and Tuttle told the jury that Helmick did not mention anything to law enforcement about having her husband’s permission to write and sign his checks.
“It didn’t come up,” Helmick said of her initial June 10 interview with law enforcement. “I didn’t think it was very important at the time and thought we were talking about his death.”
“And Alan’s not here any more to dispute anything you say?” Tuttle asked, pressing Helmick on her claims of having permission to pen his checks.
Helmick said she kept her husband’s cell phone, on occasion, at his request and sometimes found herself serving as a “secretary.” Alan Helmick’s children, business associates and friends have testified to increasing difficulty in reaching him by phone in the months before his death in what prosecutors have alleged was a pattern of isolation.
Miriam Helmick is testifying in her own defense to a charge of first-degree murder in the June 10, 2008, shooting death of her husband at the couple’s former home in Whitewater. She also is charged with attempted murder and 11 counts of forgery.
Tuttle’s cross-examination of Helmick is expected to continue this morning.
Toward the end of Thursday’s exchanges with Helmick, Tuttle raised testimony from a witness who said that a downtown Grand Junction dance studio, Dance Junction, had cost Alan Helmick nearly $80,000 in losses over 2005 and 2006. He also invested tens of thousands of dollars in acquiring horses and other horse-related dealings.
Prosecutors have suggested both pursuits became a priority in Helmick’s life only after he met Miriam Helmick, whom he married in June 2006.
During the couple’s wedding reception, Alan Helmick playfully threw thousands of dollars in cash toward his new bride, according to testimony.
“It’s kind of a metaphor for your marriage,” Tuttle told Helmick. “He threw a lot of money into your interests.”
“He gave it,” she replied.
“That was all coming to an end, wasn’t it?” Tuttle asked.