Testimony: Investigation tainted in death of Helmick’s first husband

A sheriff’s deputy in Florida, the brother of accused murderer Miriam Helmick, was allowed to assist in the investigation into the death of his sister’s first husband in 2002, according to testimony Monday.

J.P. Morgan, who is still a deputy with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department, was among the first law enforcement officials who arrived at the scene of the shooting of 46-year-old Jack Giles in Jacksonville, Mesa County Sheriff’s investigator Jim Hebenstreit testified during a motions hearing in Grand Junction.

Morgan’s ultimate role in the investigation of Giles’ death during the weeks after the shooting wasn’t spelled out.

Giles’ death eventually was ruled a suicide. Mesa County prosecutors have called it murder and used Hebenstreit’s testimony Monday to cast more doubt on the efforts of Florida authorities to investigate the matter.

“It’s very obvious Jacksonville law enforcement did not take this seriously as a homicide investigation,” Assistant District Attorney Rich Tuttle told the judge.

Morgan has been called to testify in his sister’s murder trial, which starts Nov. 9.

District Judge Valerie Robison on Monday reserved a ruling for later this week on the question of whether the jury in Helmick’s trial will hear evidence related to Giles’ death.

Helmick, 52, has pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including attempted murder and first-degree murder, in the shooting death of her second husband, Alan Helmick, at the couple’s home in Whitewater in June 2008.

Prosecutors have alleged Miriam Helmick killed Alan Helmick after a six-month period in which she forged thousands of dollars in checks from her husband’s banks accounts, and just before the alleged thefts were about to be exposed.

Prosecutors also argue the death of her first husband in the face of financial woes shows a pattern.

“... the chances of two successive husbands committing suicide or being murdered in the wake of financial difficulties by someone other than the spouse are extremely small,” Tuttle wrote in an August court filing.

Giles was found dead in bed with his wife, Miriam Morgan Giles, the morning of April 15, 2002 at their home in Jacksonville.

The case was closed within a month as suicide when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found no trace of gunshot residue in tests performed on Miriam Giles’ hands.

Jack Giles, who was predominantly left-handed, had used his right hand to shoot himself in the head with a .38 handgun. Hebenstreit on Monday said he and others found suspicious the positioning of Giles’ thumb inside the gun’s trigger guard.

He likely would have had to hold the gun upside down, using his thumb to take his own life, Hebenstreit said. Giles’ thumb was still inside the trigger guard, and his right arm lying across his chest, when authorities arrived on the scene.

“Nobody was able to explain how (the gun) naturally ended up where it did,” Hebenstreit said.

Tim Giles of Atlanta, Jack Giles’ brother, was not interviewed by Jacksonville authorities in the wake of his brother’s death, Tuttle told the judge.

“He said (Jack) couldn’t tie his shoes with his right hand,” Hebenstreit said.

Mesa County prosecutors also have suggested a financial motive for murder: Two months before Giles’ death, a Florida judge issued a judgment in favor of American Express of more than $130,000 against Jack and Miriam Giles.

Steve Colvin, a public defender who represents Helmick, said questions surrounding Giles’ death add up to a potential major distraction for the jury.

“The fact Mrs. Helmick had tragedy in her life before doesn’t mean she’s more likely to commit murder,” Colvin said.


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