Hancock murder trial gets underway

Rick Helmick Jr., accused of killing his father and his girlfriend, awaits the start of his trial.

Three years and three months after former Hancock County resident Rick “Big Rick” Helmick Sr. and his girlfriend, Natasha Riley, were killed with .45-caliber bullets fired into the back of their heads, Rick “Little Rick” Helmick Jr. – through his attorney – advanced his theory of defense and claimed he’s not the killer.

Helmick found the dead bodies and left the crime scene to find the person or persons responsible for the assassination-style homicides of his father and his girlfriend, Greg Eichelman, Third Judicial District public defender, told jurors during his opening statements.

Helmick didn’t notify law enforcement because he didn’t trust deputies, in part, because he’d been shot by one.

Helmick knew he had a rotten relationship with the sheriff’s department and believed that if investigators found him in close proximity to two dead bodies, he would be charged even though he didn’t commit the crimes, Eichelman told jurors.

According to testimony, both Helmicks had a reputation for dealing drugs.

The defense attorney also suggested Helmick will testify.

Helmick’s wife, Becky Helmick, called 911 and reported the couple had been found dead. She told a 911 dispatcher that her husband was “tore up so bad” and was trying to find the killer.

The defendant is charged with aggravated kidnapping for allegedly using duct tape to lash his grandmother, Bobbie Helmick, to a chair in Helmick Sr.’s mobile home.

A deck that’s approximately 35-feet long and features a paperclip-shaped pool connected the Helmicks’ mobile homes.

Helmick’s version of the April 2016 double homicide bears no resemblance to the prosecution’s theory of the case.

District Attorney General Dan Armstrong told jurors Helmick fled because he’d just killed his father and Natasha Riley, the daughter of Sneedville Mayor Pat Riley.

The defendant was taken into custody near a mobile home on Broyles Lane in Morristown where he’d been staying with friends.

In the woods behind the mobile home, law enforcement officials found a Hi-Point .45-caliber handgun.

The bullets that killed Helmick Sr. and his girlfriend were fired from that handgun, according to Armstrong.

Hancock County Sheriff Brad Brewer, who was a detective in 2016, testified that at one point “Little Rick” asked him if he thought the person responsible for the double homicide would ever be identified. Brewer testified he told Helmick Jr. that he already had found the killer, and he was looking at him.

Brewer says at that point the defendant lost his composure and cried for nearly a half-hour.

Additional details about the double homicide surfaced on Monday during the first day of testimony.

“Big Rick,” who lost his eyesight in a vehicle crash and had two prosthetic eyes, was shot in the back of the head as he lay on a sofa in the den. Riley’s lifeless body was 2 to 3 feet away on the kitchen floor. She was also shot once in the back of the head.

The bullets were not recovered when law enforcement officials first visited the crime scene, the bullets were found four days later, according to John “J.J.” Sipos, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent.

The bullet that killed Helmick Sr. shattered his dentures and was embedded in a sofa cushion. The bullet passed through the sofa padding, but did not exit the cushion, Sipos testified.

The bullet that killed Riley passed through her head and struck a window frame before traveling through a window. It was found outside the window, fewer than 2 feet from “Big Rick’s” mobile home, the TBI agent testified.

The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case Wednesday afternoon.