A 54-year-old New Athens man made his first court appearance Thursday morning on DUI and reckless homicide charges stemming from a car accident that killed a Belleville couple in July.
Kevin G. Helfrich was arrested Oct. 17 and remained in jail Thursday morning on $750,000 bail — a bail that his attorney John Baricevic requested be reduced or modified earlier this month.
The bond reduction hearing, which was scheduled to take place Thursday along with his arraignment, was postponed.
Baricevic argued in his bond request that Helfrich is “confined to a wheelchair,” cannot drive or work and is “under the care of multiple physicians.” Helfrich was hospitalized for a lengthy period after the crash and Baricevic argued Helfrich is not receiving the extensive medical care he requires in jail.
The New Athens man was charged following a crash on Illinois 15 the night of July 8. A witness told police she was driving east when Helfrich’s GMC Sierra passed her car in the other eastbound lane — traveling west. Shortly afterward, the truck struck a vehicle behind her, a 2017 Kia Forte.
When officers arrived, they found Helfrich trapped underneath his steering wheel — he was unconscious but breathing. The two Belleville men in the Kia — John Bannister, 37, and Daryl Harton, 36 — were pronounced dead at the scene.
The men, described by family as soul mates, were out that night celebrating their anniversary.
In a search warrant released in October, investigators stated they found cold cans of Stag beer and prescription pill bottles in Helfrich’s truck after the crash.
The July DUI charge was the fifth time Helfrich has been charged with drunken driving in St. Clair County.
At a glance
Here’s a look at Kevin Helfrich’s previous cases:
- Oct. 27, 2000 — Helfrich was charged with DUI and improper traffic lane usage. Court records indicate prosecutors dropped the DUI charge due to insufficient evidence. He pleaded guilty to the improper lane usage charge. He was sentenced to a year of court supervision and $300 in fines and court costs. According to an officer’s sworn report, the man was seen “driving in the wrong lane and ran two vehicles off the road,” and the officer reported that he “stated that he had been drinking.”
- April 1, 2009 — Helfrich pleaded guilty to a DUI charge. In doing so, prosecutors dismissed an improper lane usage charge. In his sentencing, he was ordered to complete alcohol treatment, attend a victim-impact panel, serve two years of court supervision and pay $3,000 in fines and court costs.
- May 12, 2015 — Helfrich’s DUI charge was dismissed in a deal with prosecutors when he pleaded guilty to improper traffic lane usage. He completed alcohol treatment, underwent an alcohol evaluation, served one year of court supervision and paid $2,000 in fines and court costs. In that case, an officer’s report stated Helfrich “was observed driving on the wrong side of road, and swerving from left to right.”