If you witness a crime, here’s what to do
At the first day of Chase Helvey’s murder trial Monday, prosecutors said that he assaulted a woman with a blowtorch and shot a man in the head because Helvey felt he was owed $90.
Helvey, 26, is facing charges of murder, first-degree assault and evidence tampering. He is accused of fatally shooting 36-year-old James Potter and seriously injuring Rebecca Richardson during an assault on the night of March 25, 2018.
During the prosecution’s opening arguments, assistant commonwealth’s attorney Andrea Williams said that Helvey severely beat Richardson and shot Potter because he wanted $90 from Richardson. Richardson and Helvey both had problems with addiction, and Richardson had resorted to sex work to pay for drugs, Williams said.
Potter’s sister, B.J. Martin, was the first witness on the stand Monday. She told jurors that her brother had struggled with an addiction to drugs for years, but that he still cared for his family and sons. She said that she believed his addiction began with a traumatic injury when he was about 13 years old that resulted in him being prescribed strong pain killers.
Potter and Richardson had a toxic “on again, off again” relationship for five or six years before the shooting, Potter’s sister said. The two brought out the worst in each other, she said.
Richardson is set to testify later in the trial, Williams told jurors Monday.
Prior to March 25, Helvey had contacted Richardson through an advertisement on Backpage, a website that has since been taken down, Williams said. Shortly after Helvey contacted her, Richardson met with Helvey at a hotel off Athens Boonesboro Road. Potter would drive Richardson to such appointments, Williams said.
Helvey and Richardson were in the hotel for about 20 minutes, but Helvey had been unable to perform sexually by the time hotel employees told the two to leave, Williams said. Helvey had paid Richardson $100 dollars up front, and after being kicked out of the hotel, Richardson gave Helvey back $10 with the rest to be repaid later, Williams said.
On March 23, 2018, Richardson got a text from Helvey that said, “You still owe me $90. We can do this the easy way or hard way. I’m gonna get it though if it’s the last thing I do,” according to court records.
Court records say that minutes later, Richardson got a second text that contained a photo of Helvey holding a gun, and a message that said “I wrote your name on the 1st 2 bullets. You have 48 hours.”
On March 25, 2018, Helvey was with two other men at his home at 656 Maxwelton Court when they made a plan to lure Richardson to the house, Williams said. Helvey used the phone of Austin J. Adams, 23, to text Richardson and ask if she “made outcalls,” Williams said.
When she said yes, the men texted Richardson the address, Williams said. When Richardson knocked on the door, Adams let her in and directed her toward the kitchen at the back of the house.
A man then jumped out of a closet as Richardson walked past and began attacking her, Williams said. Adams and another man sat in the living room and listened while Helvey beat Richardson with a wooden object and burned her with a blowtorch, Williams said. A third man was upstairs in his room with headphones on.
Richardson would later say she didn’t remember much that happened after she was first struck by a wooden object and fell to the ground, Williams said. Adams told investigators that after the assault, Helvey walked outside, and a gunshot rang out.
After the gunshot, Helvey ran back inside and told everyone they had to go, Williams said. Adams and Helvey got into a truck driven by the man who had been upstairs, and the fourth man had taken off walking toward Memorial Coliseum before getting a ride-share home.
During the truck ride, Helvey said he’d gone outside after the assault and found Potter in his truck, Williams said. Helvey had tapped his gun on the drivers’ side window of the truck, Potter saw him and tried to drive away. Helvey bragged to Adams and the other man in the truck that it had only taken “one shot,” Williams said.
Adams was also charged with assault in the case, but he took a plea deal and agreed to testify against Helvey, according to court records.
After Potter was shot, his truck went up an embankment and came to a stop against a building, Williams said. Since it was a building owned by the University of Kentucky, UK police were called to the scene.
The first UK police officer to arrive at the scene was Holly Williams. She testified Monday that she saw that the driver of the truck was slumped over and had a head wound. But the driver’s side door was locked. Holly Williams was able to break out the drivers’ side window, which she noticed had already been partially broken.
Once she was able to open the door, turn off the truck and put it in park, Holly Williams saw that the driver was bleeding badly from the head. She administered aid until Lexington firefighters and other UK police officers arrived.
Another UK police officer, John Harder, arrived and found 37 needles and other drug paraphernalia in the truck. From what the UK officers saw, they believed Potter had overdosed and crashed into the building, Harder testified.
Harder, who is now a detective with the UK police department, said Monday that he and the other UK police officers searched the truck as if it were part of a DUI case. Items were moved around, removed and put back into the truck during the search, and the case was not immediately turned over to the Lexington Police Department.
Had the officers known then that they were dealing with a shooting, they would have preserved the scene and waited for Lexington homicide detectives to process the truck, Harder said.
Potter was still alive and able to move when he was removed from his truck. He was taken by ambulance to the UK Chandler Hospital intensive care unit. As they were treating Potter, hospital workers found that he had been shot and informed police. Potter died of his injuries four days later.
Lexington police took over the investigation the day after Potter was shot.
Helvey’s attorney, Stephen Owens, said during opening arguments Monday that there’s more to the story.
Owens said that no one actually saw Helvey shoot Potter, and that the other men in the house had behaved suspiciously after the assault that seriously injured Richardson. Owens pointed out that while two of the men drove to other counties after what happened on March 25, 2018, Helvey had stayed in town.
The trial is set to continue with more witnesses for the prosecution Tuesday morning.