State News

Officials: No prosecution over paralyzed prisoner

Posted May 1, 2009

— The Department of Correction has released video footage taken on the night a paralyzed state prisoner claims he was beaten while in solitary confinement.

Medical records show inmate Timothy E. Helms suffered brain damage after sustaining injuries August 3, 2008 while at the Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville.

Helms was taken to Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory in a police cruiser on Aug. 4. The emergency room doctor wrote that the patient started a fire in his cell and officers had to subdue him by beating him on his body, face and head. Scans showed bleeding in his brain.

Officials: No prosecution over paralyzed prisoner Web only: Surveillance video from state prison

The video released Friday showed guards open the cell door where smoke was pouring out. Helms admits to starting the fire. 

Guards found Helms unresponsive and dragged him out of his cell into the shower area, which does not have cameras.

Officials said the shower area was the most immediate and secure place. Helms maintains that it was during that time he was beaten by prison guards.

"Their focus was on trying to get Helms out of there. You had 15 other individuals who had to be taken out," Department of Correction Secretary Al Keller said.

Keller contends that Helms was not assaulted by any employees of the Alexander Correctional Institution.

“Helms had numerous opportunities the night of the fire and the morning after to raise concerns about being assaulted. He never once complained about being beaten to any prison medical staff or to the local sheriff deputy who talked to him in the prison medical area that night,” Keller said Friday.

Department of Correction officials couldn't determine how Helms was injured, so they asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into it.

The SBI found the injuries Helms sustained to his head and back were not consistent with a beating by prison guards.

Department of Corrections Secretary Al Keller DOC: No charges filed in Helms' case

Helms' lawyer, Lynne M. Holtkamp, said it may take a civil lawsuit to determine what happened.

"The beating of a person is unlawful, regardless of where it occurs and who it is and who is doing it. Those who are responsible can and should be held accountable," Holtkamp said.

DOC officials said Helms has not filed a grievance in the case.

Helms was sent to prison for three life terms after a fatal drunken driving accident in 1994. He has been eligible for parole since 2004, and has another parole hearing on June 1.

Helms will have to stay in a prison hospital. Correction Department Secretary Alvin Keller overrode a recommendation of doctors to release Helms to a hospice. Doctors said he no longer posed a threat.

A grand jury did indict him on charges related to starting the fire in his cell.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Proud Young Grandma May 1, 2009

    I don't buy the prisoners story for one minute..

  • teacher-mom May 1, 2009

    I do not care what this man did; no one deserves to be beaten like that. Those prison guards are guilty, guitly, guilty and need to be behind bars.

  • Armando de Cabana Boy May 1, 2009

    Big deal. This man was not in prison because he was a nice guy. Setting a fire placed himself, COs and other inmates lives at risk. If you mess with the bull, you get the horns.

  • panthers254 May 1, 2009

    for the most part (not always), violent criminals often victimize women and children. liberals, throughout history, have a pretty good record for standing up for the rights of women and children. strangely, advocating for the rights of dangerous criminals will, in the long run, do detriment to the rights of women and children. i'm sure the criminals appreciate the support of liberals, and the women and children who are victimized by these goons, well, i guess their rights are not as important, hmmmmmmmm

  • jurydoc May 1, 2009

    "he probably injured himself on purpose" devilblue Do you have any idea how impossible it would be to inflict this level of injury on oneself? Brainstem injury and hemorrhaging from BOTH temporal lobes?? Get real.

  • jurydoc May 1, 2009

    Sorry G-man. In the prison I worked in there WAS solitary confinement. And, for the record, I was VERY good at it.

  • Conservative1 May 1, 2009

    The term varies around the state and country, but people know what is meant by "solitary confinement" so that may be used even if the prison term is technically different. Sounds like jurydoc knows inside information about the case. I hope this isn't the end of this, as this outcome couldn't have been part of the punishment that was decided by the court during his sentencing. Corrections officers have to follow the rule of law and keep their emotions in check and abstain from abusing prisoners. If the corrections officers get away with this, they are likely to do worse the next time, and maybe it will be done to someone out in the community.

  • devilblue May 1, 2009

    he probably injured himself on purpose

  • G-man May 1, 2009

    Big strong men with billy clubs can beat someone almost to death and that's okay? No, it's not. GORK

    No sticks were used. The video shows no beating. And your opinion shows a complete lack of knowledge as well. I would just love to see you control someone that has every intention of hurting you if they can.

  • affirmativediversity May 1, 2009

    So they have video showing this guy to be a liar. Why is that NOT THE END OF THIS???

    Is it such a stretch for even the most ardent bleeding heart that his murderer is also a LIAR looking to make himself some money in a lawsuit or maybe pressure DOC into giving him parole?

    Let him stay in prison and rot...maybe he should start thinking about the 2 people he killed (oh, and if he does scam the taxpayer of any money then it should go straight to his victims families)