Helmans Lose Lawsuit After Jury Finds Bounty Hunters Acted Legally

(Courtroom Gavel" by Joe Gratz, public domain)

The four-day civil jury trial in Kosciusko Circuit Court came to an end Friday with the Helmans losing their lawsuit against Barnett’s Bail Bonds Inc.; Lexington National Insurance Corporation; and bounty hunters Tadd Martin, Daniel Foster and Michael Thomas.

The four woman, two man jury returned after deliberating for 90 minutes and found the defendants were not liable for the allegations of negligence, battery, trespassing, residential entry or intimidation against Atta or Larry Helman.

The Helmans, of 9174 Doswell Blvd., Cromwell, sued the defendants after an Aug. 25, 2014, shooting at their house left Gary Helman dead, Larry seriously injured and Martin seriously injured.

Atta is the mother of twins Gary and Larry. They all three lived at the Cromwell home at the time of the incident, something the Helmans tried to deny during the trial about Gary living there. Evidence proved that Gary did indeed live at that residence since 2003 when he moved in after his divorce. He had all of his property there and it was revealed he paid a monthly amount to Atta to help cover the home’s expenses. Atta insisted Gary was a “transient” who lived nowhere but merely had a room there where he kept his things.

The reason that was an important part of the civil case is because it is illegal for bounty hunters to enter a residence to apprehend a fugitive – in this case, Gary, who was wanted on two felony and misdemeanor warrants for failing to appear in court – unless the person lives there. The person does not have to own the property for bounty hunters or bail bondsmen to legally enter the property.

Atta used Barnett’s Bail Bonds to bond jail Gary of out jail in November 2013. When Gary didn’t show up for court, Barnett’s tried to reach out to the Helmans, to no avail. It was then that Myra Barnett decided to hire Martin to produce Gary to the courts so Barnett’s would not be on the hook for the $25,000 bail that Lexington National Insurance Corporation insured.

When Martin, Thomas and Foster arrived at the Cromwell home on Aug. 25, 2014, Foster knocked on the front door of the home, announced he was there for a warrant on Gary, with the hopes of “flushing Gary out the back door” where Martin and Thomas were waiting. Larry was smoking a cigarette in the corner of the yard at this time, according to court statements, and Gary opened fired from inside the home, striking Martin twice. Martin went down on the back porch and was bleeding out, and Thomas fled. That is when Martin says Larry began rushing at him, so Martin shot Larry once. Atta Helman alleges that Martin assaulted her, but Martin said he merely moved Atta out of the way by her elbows because she was trying to prevent the apprehension of Gary, who was inside.

After Martin was down, and Larry was down, Gary riddled Martin with three more bullets and Martin fatally shot Gary, who was found dead in the home’s back bedroom.

The main point of the Helmans’ case was that Gary did not live at the home, therefore the entire situation was illegal.

The jury found that it was legal, and no liability was placed on any of the defendants from actions that day.

If the Helmans had won by the jury finding any liability on any or all of the defendants, the jury would have been tasked with figuring how much in damages to award the Helmans.

It was said many times during the four-day trial that the Helmans are “sue happy” and “do not abide by the law.”

The Helmans were represented by Bradley Colborn and Michael Misch, of Anderson Agostino & Keller, South Bend. Barnett’s Bail Bonds Inc. was represented by local attorney Jay Rigdon. Lexington National Insurance Corporation was represented by Angela Hall and Jason Rauch, of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Indianapolis; and Martin and Foster represented themselves.