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A Virginia man serving a life sentence for killing his ex-girlfriend has been charged with two cold case murders, including one dating back nearly 35 years, after he allegedly confessed to the crimes from behind bars.
Investigators say they have now linked 52-year-old Charles Helem to the 1987 murder of 37-year-old Eige Sober-Adler and the murder of 19-year-old Jennifer Landry in 2002, according to a press conference from officials.
Helem is already serving a life sentence in Virginia for the 2002 murder of his ex-girlfriend, 37-year-old Patricia Bentley, who was found strangled to death in her townhome in Chantilly, Virginia, according to The Washington Post. Bentley, a school bus driver, had been a single mother to two sons.
Authorities said they were able to link him to the two-cold case murders after Helem, a former truck driver, confessed to the crimes while incarcerated at the Red Onion State Prison in Virginia.
“We now know even more about the danger this killer presented to the entire National Capitol Region,” Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said while announcing the latest connections.
Helem had written to Prince George's County Police detectives in 2010 and 2017 to claim he had knowledge about Landry’s case, however, he initially refused to speak to detectives.
“Detectives didn’t give up,” Prince George's County Police Chief Malik Aziz said during the press conference. “They tried again to interview him in 2021 and this time he agreed. During that interview, he verbally confessed to killing Jennifer Landry and spoke about an unsolved case here in Fairfax.”
Aziz said Helem picked Landry up in Washington D.C. and killed her “a short time later” in Mount Rainer. Her throat had been slit and she had been strangled, The Washington Post reports.
According to Davis, Fairfax County Police detectives went to speak with Helem about Sober-Adler’s case in October of 2021.
After allegedly confessing to the detectives, Helem was indicted in Fairfax County earlier this week on one count of murder in connection with her death.
“Detectives were able to corroborate this confession with details known only to the killer and yesterday, my office secured an indictment for murder in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano said during Wednesday’s press conference, adding that his office planned to pursue a “vigorous prosecution” in the case.
Davis, who referred to the murder as “brutal and cold-hearted,” said Sober-Adler was found murdered in a parking lot on Sept. 9, 1987.
Detectives later discovered her vehicle abandoned along Dulles Toll Road, leading investigators to believe she may have been killed after encountering car trouble or walking away from the vehicle.
“Sadly, both of Eige’s parents died never knowing what happened to their daughter,” Davis said Wednesday. “We hope this indictment brings some sense of closure to her surviving family members and friends.”
An autopsy would later determine that Sober-Adler died of a skull-fracture and cerebral hemorrhage, the local newspaper reports.
Investigators are now trying to determine whether other crimes could be linked to Helem.
“Now we know he killed in ’87, he killed twice in 2002, so we’re working backwards now,” Davis said of the “possibility” he could be involved in other murders.
Authorities credited the tireless work of detectives and prosecutors over the years with finally finding answers to the cold cases and continuing to pursue justice despite Helem’s current life sentence for Bentley’s murder.
“We all want our community to know that no matter how much time passes, we remain committed to finding answers for the families of crime victims,” Aziz said. “They deserve to know what happened to their loved ones.”
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