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Judge orders Helmig to be released

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 13, 2010 - A Missouri appeals court judge today ordered the immediate release of Dale Helmig from the prison where he has been serving a life sentence for the murder of his mother.

The judge ruled that Helmig could be set free on $50,000 bond while the appeals court considers his case. A circuit judge had ruled last month that Helmig was an innocent man who became the victim of a fundamental miscarriage of justice.

Sean O'Brien, Helmig's lawyer, said the paperwork to free Helmig from prison in Cameron, Mo., could be processed later Monday or early Tuesday morning. Under the court's order, Helmig's family must come up with $5,000 to secure the bond.

Helmig, 54, has been serving a life sentence without parole since a jury convicted him of first-degree murder in March 1996. The cinder-block-weighted body of his mother, who was 55 at the time of her death, was found floating in the flooded Osage River near Linn on Aug. 1, 1993.

DeKalb County Circuit Judge Warren McElwain ruled on Nov. 3 that Helmig did not murder his mother, Norma Dean Helmig, and that his trial was corrupted by an inept defense, prosecutors' misconduct, and police statements that turned out not to be true. The judge said Helmig should be released from prison if he was not retried within 180 days.

The office of Attorney General Chris Koster appealed McElwain's decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City, and O'Brien filed a motion seeking Helmig's release pending the outcome of the appeal.

In an order granting Helmig's release pending further court proceedings, the appeals court said Helmig was like any other person accused of a crime who would be eligible for release while a legal case was proceeding. Helmig is expected to reside with his brother, Richard Helmig, who lives in Rocky Mount, Mo., near Lake of the Ozarks.

"This is a huge step in the right direction," O'Brien said.

Terry Ganey is an independent journalist in Columbia, Mo. 

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