VALPARAISO, Ind. — The pending release of a man who was convicted of a gruesome abduction, rape and murder of a 19-year-old woman in Valparaiso has brought up painful memories for those involved in the case.
Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford, who presided over the original case, was notified that Rodney Wood was eligible to be released Oct. 12 to a community transition program, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported (http://bit.ly/2cEds9p ).
Bradford blocked that move. But Wood, who went into prison at 16 and is now 42, is scheduled for release from prison Feb. 9.
Wood, Perry Miller and William Harmon, Miller’s then-19-year-old stepson, were convicted of abducting Christel Helmchen on Nov. 14, 1990, from her overnight job at a convenience store.
The trio took Helmchen to a rural Jackson Township construction site, where she was tied to a wall, beaten with a two-by-four and tire iron, repeatedly raped, and shot in the head.
“It was the most heinous crime I heard of,” said Porter County Juvenile Court Magistrate Gwenn Rinkenberger, who was at the heart of the case as a new county prosecutor at the time.
Wood confessed to participating in the assault and testified against Miller as part of a plea bargain agreement that resulted in a 60-year prison sentence.
Good behavior and participation in various prison programs allow inmates to significantly reduce the amount of time actually served.
“He was young and he cooperated,” Rinkenberger said of Wood’s lighter sentence. “That’s why he got what he got.”
She expressed hope that Wood has been rehabilitated after so many years behind bars.
“But, I don’t know,” she said.
Miller was ultimately sentenced to 138 years in prison, and Harmon was sentenced to 280 years in prison.
Information from: The Times, http://www.nwitimes.com