LINN — A central Missouri man who served 14 years of a life sentence for his mother's death before a judge overturned the conviction as the result of a tainted trial won't be tried again unless compelling new evidence comes to light, a county prosecutor announced Sunday.
Osage County prosecutor Amanda Grellner gave no reason for her decision to dismiss the case against 54-year-old Dale Helmig. But in a brief statement, she noted there is no statute of limitations for murder, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported.
"This case remains an open and ongoing investigation," Grellner said. "Should additional information become available, it will be reviewed and analyzed, along with the other information we already have, in making a decision as to whether or not to re-file and re-try Dale Helmig."
Helmig, a house painter, has always maintained his innocence in the death of 55-year-old Norma Helmig, whose body was found tied to a concrete block in the flood-swollen Osage River on Aug. 1, 1993. He was sentenced to life without parole after a Gasconade County jury convicted him in March 1996 of first-degree murder.
Unsuccessful in various appeals, Helmig brought a habeas corpus action in the northwestern Missouri county where he was imprisoned, arguing he was being illegally detained.
DeKalb County Circuit Judge Warren McElwain heard arguments in July 2010 and ruled last November that Helmig should be freed because he "was a victim of a fundamental miscarriage of justice."
Among other things, McElwain suggested in his ruling that Norma Helmig's husband, Ted, was a more likely suspect than Dale Helmig. Ted Helmig and his wife were going through a bitter divorce at the time. Their rift included an incident at a Jefferson City diner where Ted Helmig threw a drink at his wife — a dispute wrongly blamed on Dale Helmig at his murder trial.
Helmig was freed in March after the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld McElwain's ruling. The Missouri Supreme Court later declined to hear Attorney General Chris Koster's appeal and gave Grellner 180 days to take Helmig back to trial or dismiss the case.
Ted Helmig, now 80, has consistently denied killing his wife.
Dale Helmig has always maintained he was in Fulton when his mother was killed, and he spent the night in that city because he thought the bridges over the Missouri River at Jefferson City had been closed.
The bridges were closed for much of the day on July 28, 1993 — the last night Norma Helmig was seen alive — because authorities feared a runaway propane tank, set free by record-setting flooding along the Missouri, would hit one of the bridge supports and explode.