LINN, Mo. - Osage County Sheriff Carl Fowler remains convinced that Dale Helmig was, and is, the best suspect for the July 1993 murder of his mother, Norma Dean Helmig, 55.
Her body was found in the Osage River, near the mouth of the Maries River, on Aug. 1, 1993, during that year's record-setting flood.
Dale was charged with the murder the following year, convicted by a Gasconade County jury in March 1996 and sentenced to life in prison without any chance for parole.
But today, both technically and legally, Dale Helmig is a free man - considered as innocent of murder as every other person who never has been charged with one - because Osage County Prosecutor Amanda Grellner decided last month to dismiss the charges rather than retry Helmig.
He was released from the Crossroads Correctional Center in March, after the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City agreed with DeKalb County Circuit Judge Warren McElwain that Helmig "is factually innocent of the crime, and that his trial was tainted by error of a constitutional magnitude. ... Mr. Helmig is the victim of a fundamental miscarriage of justice."
In its decision upholding Helmig's right to a new trial, the appeals court did not endorse the "miscarriage of justice" finding.
Grellner was ordered to retry Helmig within 180 days - or drop the charges. And Fowler supported Grellner's decision. But, he said last week, during a 90-minute interview in the Osage County Courthouse ....