‘Their lives were worth more than $90.’ Man convicted in murder, assault near UK campus

A Fayette County jury found a man guilty Thursday of murder, first-degree assault and tampering with evidence in connection with a March 2018 shooting and beating that left one man dead and a woman seriously injured.

The four day trial of Chase Helvey, 26, saw testimony from three other men who were in the house the night of the attack, as well as the woman who was injured and multiple investigators. He was convicted after a jury deliberated for about four hours.

Helvey was arrested in 2018 after the fatal shooting of 36-year-old James Potter, and a reported attack that put a woman named Rebecca Richardson in the hospital for days.

Two of the men who were inside the house at 656 Maxwelton Court when the attack occurred testified that they listened as Helvey beat Richardson, and heard or saw him go outside before one shot rang out.

University of Kentucky police officers testified during the trial that when they’d first come upon the scene on the night of March 25, 2018, they’d found Potter with a head injury inside his truck, which had been driven up an embankment before coming to rest against a building. The university officers had found needles and drug paraphernalia in the truck and investigated the situation as a DUI crash. The officers moved and removed items in the truck as they searched it.

It wasn’t until the next day, when workers at the University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital told UK police that Potter had been shot, that they turned over the case to the Lexington Police Department. During testimony on Monday, UK police investigator John Harder said the assumption they were dealing with a DUI case was a mistake and that they’d have handled the situation differently had they known they were dealing with a shooting.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors maintained that Potter’s death and Richardson’s injuries were all because Helvey believed he was owed $90.

“Their lives were worth more than $90,” assistant commonwealth’s attorney Andrea Williams said during closing arguments Thursday night.

Richardson testified earlier in the trial that she and Potter had both been struggling with addiction around the time of the attack, and that Richardson had resorted to sex work to afford drugs. Potter would drive her to appointments.

In February 2018 a man, who Richardson would later identify as Helvey, made an appointment with Richardson at a hotel off Athens Boonesboro Road. After the March 2018 attack, Richardson told police that the February appointment had ended abruptly after 20 minutes when housekeeping kicked the two out of the room.

Helvey had paid $100 upfront for time with Richardson, but had been unable to perform sexually before the appointment ended, Richardson said. She gave Helvey $10 back and Potter had told him they would make up the rest later.

On March 23, 2018, Richardson got a text from Helvey’s phone number that stated he wanted the money. A second text told her she had 48 hours, and included a picture of Helvey holding a gun, prosecutors said.

Helvey’s defense attorney, Stephen Owens, argued that the information brought forward by the prosecution was not the full story. He said he believed that Austin Adams, one of the three men who’d been at the house with Helvey at the time of the attack, had more involvement in what happened than he let on.

Owens also told the jury that Adams may have collaborated with his best friend Jonathon Whitmoyer, one of the other men in the house, to frame Helvey.

Williams countered that, though Adams and Whitmoyer were “unlikable” after their failure to report what happened, it would not have made sense for them to conspire against Helvey.

The jury had the option to find Helvey guilty on lesser charges of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault, but ultimately convicted him on the most severe charges against him.

Helvey will be sentenced at a later date.