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Hope sprung eternal for a widow and widower who found each other after tragedy -- until death did they part.
Successful businessman Alan Helmick was still reeling from the death of his wife, Sharon, who suffered a sudden heart attack after 30 years of marriage. Alan struggled with grief and succumbed to a dark depression.
At a friend’s suggestion two years later, in January 2005, Alan took up dance lessons to keep himself busy. Soon, he was smitten with his dance instructor, 48-year-old Miriam Giles. Miriam had just moved to Colorado from Jacksonville, Florida, and was also reeling from tragedy: the death of her daughter in 2000.
“Miriam and Jack’s daughter died of an overdose,” former neighbor Aline Lee told “Charmed To Death,” airing Sundays at 7/6c on Oxygen. “It’s just really sad. She was the love of their life, especially Jack. She was daddy’s girl. It just devastated him. He went into a depression.”
Less than two years later, Jack Giles shot himself in bed and instantly died. Miriam was also in bed at the time.
Alan and Miriam found solace in one another, and things moved quickly from there. Within one year, Alan and Miriam were married.
Alan made all of Miriam’s dreams come true, starting when he bought Miriam her own dance studio. Nine months later, he bought Miriam her dream horse farm.
“I think she could be a chameleon,” said another friend, Stephanie Soule. “Miriam stated, ‘It took me a long time to find Alan. He was the only one with a portfolio big enough to suit me.’”
But soon both the dance studio and the horse farm were bleeding the bank accounts dry, and Alan began suffering financially. To add to his troubles, Alan’s son, Alan Jr., was also suspicious of Miriam’s intentions with his father. Alan and his son already had a strained relationship.
In April 2008, Alan’s finances tanked, which forced him to sell his company. At the end of the month, Alan took Miriam with him to collect a check from his interest in the title company. They attended the meeting and received the funds, but just as they got in the car to leave, Miriam excused herself to use the restroom.
As he waited for Miriam, Alan smelled smoke and then saw the back of his car was on fire. He fled to safety. When police officers arrived, they found a burnt piece of rope from the gas tank at the vehicle’s trunk. Someone intentionally tried to blow up the car with Alan still inside.
“It’s obviously not a vehicle defect,” said former police detective Shon Wells. “…it was obviously intentional.”
During questioning, Miriam alluded to Alan’s son, Alan Jr.
“He has had problems in the past, he’s had drug problems, he’s had run-ins with the law,” Miriam told detectives. “… he’s kind of a disappointment.”
Police suspected Miriam from the get-go. She had stopped at the trunk first, according to Alan. Then, she crossed four lanes of traffic to use the bathroom.
But Alan didn’t believe that Miriam set fire to the car. After all, they had prenuptial agreements, and Alan arranged it so his kids would inherit his money upon his death. There was no apparent motive.
Then, six weeks later, Miriam went into town to run errands. When Alan didn’t meet her for lunch as planned, she returned home and made a shocking discovery: The home was ransacked, and Alan was dead on the floor. Someone had shot Alan to death.
It didn’t take long for authorities to surmise that someone staged the crime scene to look like a burglary. Kitchen drawers and other places that don’t typically hold valued possessions were disturbed, while guns, jewelry, and other valuable items went untouched.
In a videotaped interview with police, Miriam, once again, alluded to Alan Jr.
“I do know Alan Jr. stole from him to support his drug habit,” Miriam told detectives. She claimed Alan Jr. was a rumored methamphetamine addict.
During the interview, Miriam provided detectives with receipts of the places she’d shopped around the time of the murder. Furthermore, a test confirmed that Miriam had no gunshot residue on her hands.
The widow said she became afraid in the days following the murder, fearing that whoever did it might come back. She told friends she’d seen strange cars around her home and heard things in the night. Those fears were validated when Miriam brought a friend home to find a greeting card under her doormat.
The envelope read, “TO THE GREVING [sic] WIDOW.”
The message continued inside the card:
“ALLEN [sic] WAS FIRST!
YOUR [sic] NEXT!
Afraid, Miriam hopped on a plane and returned to her native Florida. She reunited with her friend, Aline Lee, and within months of losing Alan, Miriam was back on the dating scene.
“[Miriam said] ‘I found this website,’” according to Lee. “And she even told me, ‘He’s gotta make at least over $500,000 a year.’ She’s a gold digger.”
Meanwhile, police back in Colorado were still investigating the murder of Alan Helmick. They turned every stone, and all leads kept pointing to Miriam. Alan Jr. was cleared as a suspect when police learned he was out of the state at the time of his father’s death.
Police focused on the mysterious greeting card sent to Miriam.
“This greeting card seemed very fishy, very hokey,” said Mesa City Asst. District Attorney, Rich Tuttle. “Police contacted the manufacturer of this card, and this exact card was sold at a city market close to the Helmicks' residence.”
Police obtained surveillance video from the store and examined activity around the time of Alan’s murder.
“Sure enough, we traced that card to being purchased by Miriam Helmick in the wake of Alan’s death,” said Tuttle.
Miriam later told police that she made up the card because she didn’t feel like authorities took the case seriously, and she was scared. She claimed she hoped the card would help police be more vigilant over her safety and the investigation.
Police become even more suspicious of Miriam’s actions when they dug into her past, including the 2002 suicide of her first husband, Jack Giles, who allegedly put a gun to his head with Miriam at his side.
An autopsy revealed that Jack died when a bullet entered the right side of his head.
“He was strictly left-handed,” Lee told producers.
Soon, Colorado police discovered that Miriam was the beneficiary not just for her first husband’s life insurance policy but for her daughter’s as well.
“I feel that Miriam did prey on, not only Alan, but I believe, without a doubt, that Miriam shot and killed Mr. Giles, her first husband,” said Detective Shon Wells.
According to Lee, Miriam collected Jack’s insurance after he died. Miriam blew through the money she received from her daughter’s death. Then, she spent all of the money she received from Jack’s death when six months later, the court ordered Miriam to give half of Jack’s insurance money to Jack’s child from a former relationship.
That’s when Miriam left Florida for Colorado and soon danced into Alan Helmick’s life.
“Miriam definitely conned Alan,” said Wells. “And I believe she sits and waits for the right man. They have to have money, and they have to be somebody that she can easily control.”
Authorities learned that earlier in the year of Alan’s death, she tried and failed to get a $2 million insurance policy on Alan without ever telling him. On top of that, Miriam had forged checks to steal Alan’s money.
On Nov. 8, 2008, Colorado authorities arrested Miriam Helmick in Florida for the murder of Alan Helmick.
During the trial, prosecutors brought up the forged checks and the car fire that Miriam was suspected of setting.
“Many of us at the D.A.’s office had just recently watched a movie, ‘No Country For Old Men,’” said Rich Tuttle. “In that movie, the villain blows up the car, and there’s a big explosion. We started thinking, ‘I wonder if she watched that movie.’”
“And lo and behold,” continued Tuttle. “Just a few days before the murder, we found that someone at the Helmick residence had in fact rented the movie, ‘No Country For Old Men.’”
The state also provided a motive: Miriam feared Alan was about to uncover she’d been forging checks and taking his money.
In December of 2009, a jury found Miriam guilty of first-degree murder.
She was sentenced to life plus 108 years imprisonment.
Police tried to charge Miriam for the murders of her first husband, Jack Giles, and their daughter. The case wasn’t strong enough, and their causes of death remain suicide by gunshot and drug overdose.
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