Dale Helmig spent 14 years in prison for the murder of his mother, until a judge ruled that there was a “fundamental miscarriage of justice” in his case, and that his lawyers have now proven him innocent.
Helmig was released on bond last week. Helmig tells the Missourinet that sometimes he’s bitter he had to spend 14 years in prison, but says he got rid of most of that a long time ago.
“The bitterness and holding on to a lot of hate, that would just eat up whatever years you have left. I’ve got some children out here that need me. I want to have a good relationship with them and I’m not going to have time for all that,” Helmig said.
He says it’s been strange to try to adjust to a life without the routines he had to go through in prison. He’s been trying to see his three children, aged 15 to 21, as often as he can since getting out last Monday night.
“I’m gonna have a good relationship with them. They missed out on… I missed out on them growing up and they missed out on being with their father while they were growing up. So I’ve got a lot of catching up to do there,” Helmig said.
He’s living with his brother right now near the Lake of the Ozarks.
“I could be out here in park living in a tent with a little heater and I’d still be happy. You know, I still wouldn’t be in prison,” Helmig said.
We asked Helmig if he has any plans to sue the state for compensation for wrongful imprisonment.
“No, that would be something down the road. Right now we’re concerned with what is going on right now, and that’s the appeal,” Helmig said.
He’s referring to the appeal of his case by the Attorney General. Some witnesses recanted their testimony from the first trial, and the judge says there was also prosecutorial misconduct. Helmig says the state has “nothing on him.”
“Basically they lost 2/3 of their ‘nothing’… I just don’t see them… I don’t think they should even take me back to trial. But they might,” Helmig said. “I want to be exonerated and I want my name cleared, absolutely. It would be great, we’ve got DNA testing to do also, and it would be great to find out what happened to mom. I don’t ever see me giving up there, I’m gonna try to do my best, whatever needs to be done, to find out what happened to her.”
Helmig tells us he realizes his innocence means someone else is guilty. Norma Dean Helmig’s body was found tied to a cinder block in the Osage River in 1993.
“I know, you know, everything points to dad, and at the very beginning I thought dad did it. I still do a little bit, but there is no evidence he did it really. Just circumstantial,” Helmig said.
Ted Helmig admitted during one of Dale’s appeals that he continued to get his wife’s mail for weeks after she died. A purse found years later in the river where she was dumped had cancelled checks inside it from 10 days after her disappearance. Ted and Norma Dean Helmig were reportedly going through a messy divorce at the time.
Dale says while he and his father “haven’t always seen eye to eye,” Ted did post Dale’s bail last week and when he was originally on trial.
“He’s been behind me all the way. He’s told reporters he never thought, he said ‘I know Dale would never do that, he’s not like that. He’s always loved his mom,’” Helmig said. “A lot of times in a situation like this something will come out or someone will talk. Usually everybody always talks to somebody and there’s never been any of that come out from dad.”
He reflects on the original trial.
“Waiting to go to trial, I never thought once I’d be found guilty. It just wasn’t an option; I never thought that at all. I was real positive, if you’re innocent and you get an attorney, you know. Which, I should have got involved more. I thought I had a good attorney and I didn’t,” Helmig said.
We asked Helmig if he would ever move back to Osage County.
“Right now a lot of people are pulling for me and are on my side, but I just don’t see me going back down there. I think that would be a stupid move. I don’t have any desire to go out there. I do have some friends out there. My mother’s grave is out there. But I don’t, I don’t see me ever going out there and staying,” Helmig said.
A camera crew from America’s Most Wanted has been following Helmig since his release last week. The show aired an hour-long segment on his case last year, and Helmig says he feels like he owes the show some of his time because of their support. He also thanks Sean O’Brien, a UMKC professor and attorney with the Midwest Innocence Project, who has been working to set Helmig free since 1998.